School Marketing Insights: SchoolCEO Conversations Season 2 Recap

In the 99th episode of SchoolCEO Conversations, we take a look back at some of the best insights from Season 2 covering a wide array of relevant topics.

By SchoolCEO Last Updated: March 07, 2024

Episode Summary

In this special episode of SchoolCEO Conversations, we look back on many of the incredible guests we’ve hosted this season and share with you the best takeaways. From superintendents & communication officers to New York Times bestselling authors & TedTalk alumnus, hear insights on how to grow your district from the people that know best.

Episode Notes

In Season 2 of the SchoolCEO podcast we have had some of the brightest school leaders tell us about their work, inspiration, and strategies. Along the way, experts in influence, storytelling, culture building, hiring, and more from outside of K-12 have joined in to share additional perspectives. 

We’ve curated some of the very best comments and insights on how to build a high performing culture, the best way to reach your community, working with and across different generations, becoming a great leader, and how to hire teachers and staff. These insightful segments come from some of the most popular and most shared episodes.

Links to the full SchoolCEO Conversations Episodes:

Neel Doshi: Culture & Motivation in Education

Jeff Mayo: Marketing Your Schools' Employer Brand

Jonah Berger: Increasing Our Influence

Jeffrey Collier & Coty Kuschinsky: Collective Authorship

Julie Lythcott-Haims: On How to Raise an Adult

Karen Eber: How Storytelling Can Shape School Culture

Jennifer Hines: Making the Media Work for Your Schools

Dr. Donald Killingbeck: Building Your Brand with LinkedIn

Aurora Meyer: Crafting Meaningful Connections

EduOpenings: Helping Educators Discover Jobs

Dr. Melissa Thompson: How to Onboard Board Members

Michael C. Bush: Learning To Be A Great Place To Work

Debbie Critchfield: The Power of School Communications

Margaret Heffernan: The Big Impact of Small Changes

Dr. Joe Sanfelippo: Changing the Narrative

Andrew McPeak: Preparing Students for Real Life

Kim Lear: Understanding & Decoding Generations

Dr. Paul Coakley: Lessons for School Leaders

Greg Turchetta: Winning at School Communications

Follow SchoolCEO on LinkedIn or X/Twitter @school_ceo

Subscribe to SchoolCEO at for research, stories, and strategies for leading your schools. And if you have a story you’d like to share, email us at

Episode Summary

Tyler Vawser: In this episode, we'll play highlights from some of the best episodes that recaps the season and curates the very best comments and insights on how to build a high performing culture, how you can strengthen your communications efforts, the key to great storytelling, and how to support students, as well as how to work with and across different generations. These insightful segments come from some of the most popular and most shared episodes. If you're a frequent listener, it'll help jog your memory, and maybe you'll go back and relisten to some of your favorite episodes. If you're a new listener, this will serve as a helpful way to go back and find full episodes on the topics that are of most interest to you. 

I also want to say a special thanks to our avid listeners who have been supporting us and have been sharing the episodes throughout the past 14 months and leaving reviews on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts. Every review helps us reach more school leaders and help them better market their schools. For now, enjoy this recap of season 2 of SchoolCEO Conversations podcast. 

Let's start with culture. Joe Sanfilippo is one of the most sought after speakers in K12. In Episode 91, he gets right to the heart of what internal culture is and how we can shape it with positive storytelling.

Joe Sanfelippo: The whole thing that it comes down to for me is what do you do to recognize the greatness of colleagues? Acknowledge the greatness of colleagues and extend the greatness of colleagues. Okay. Recognize it, acknowledge it, extend it. Right. Simple, unique, repeatable. We keep coming back to it. So for me in my building, it looks like this. If I'm walking down a hallway and I see a second grade teacher doing great things, I walk into that second grade teacher's room to tell that second grade teacher that she's doing great things. I've recognized it and I've acknowledged it, and a lot of people do that. But when you do the third thing, when you extend the conversation to the 8th grade science teacher who has no business of being in the second grade hallway, and you tell the 8th grade science teacher about the great things happening in second grade. What inevitably happens is the 8th grade science teacher walks to the second grade classroom to tell the second grade teacher that she's doing great things. And the reason that he does it is because at some point, somebody did it for him and it felt good. And that's all we want to do, is live and work in a place that feels good

Margaret Heffernan: I see this both in schools and in the workplace. It is phenomenal the difference it makes when, you know, the teacher or the executive takes an interest in somebody.

Tyler Vawser: That's Margaret Heffernan in Episode 90. She's had more than 15,000,000 views of her TED Talks, and she's a 5 time CEO that specializes in talking about things like social capital and culture.

Margaret Heffernan: It is probably the most potent tool they have, And it may not be efficient to have a long conversation with somebody, but it may actually change their lives.

Tyler Vawser: Next, we have Neil Doshi from Episode 65. Neil is a 4 time speaker at SchoolCEO Conference and has researched the science of motivation and high performing organizations.

Neel Doshi: If you want a high performing organization, the reason why people are doing their work needs to be play, purpose and potential, not emotional pressure, economic pressure in inertia, it is culture. That is the machine that creates that outcome. A world where the reason why you're doing your work is play, purpose, and potential, not emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia.

Ultimately, when you really look at performance, Performance really isn't measurable. Actually, you can measure an aspect of near term performance outcomes, but you can't really measure performance in its totality. This is, by the way, one of the problems. Because what you measure as an organization is one of the strongest signals of what you value. It's actually worth saying that again, what you measure is one of the strongest signals of what you value. And you set that signal into your organization very deeply. So you could be saying all sorts of things as a leader about what you value, but then you have this measurement system in front of all your people that's telling them what you actually value, and that's what they're taking away from it. And so, because you can't fully measure performance, what's fascinating about our research is while you can't fully measure performance. You can measure motivation. And it's an incredibly predictive measure of future performance.

Tyler Vawser: Greg Turchetta is an experienced chief communications officer who has worked in 2 of the largest districts in the US. In Episode 97, he talks about how important it is to communicate the strengths of your district.

Greg Turchetta: School Districts cannot keep surviving the turbulence that’s going on. So brand and quality are the pathway back. Let the community know that this isn't a failure factory, that this isn't a place to where things constantly keep going wrong. And we just need to keep changing coaches like NFL teams to come through and try to win. What if you're already winning? You're just not telling people. There's no scorecard, there's no record to show you're actually winning. And that's what we do best. We have to prove we're winning. 

Urgency and quality. You have to use urgency to prove the quality of your district. You don't have time anymore. 

Tyler Vawser: Debbie Critchfield is the Idaho superintendent of public instruction from Episode 89 on how to craft effective internal communication.

Debbie Critchfield: You have to let your teammates know what's happening, what's going to happen, what's changed, what's new before you let the community at large. And the reasons for that I believe, really come down to valuing the people that work for you. Not only is it a respect thing that before we tell the entire community, we're going to tell the people that are going to be in charge with implementing and also you create ambassadors and champions for the thing that you're trying to do or accomplish. If you're explaining something, we're going to explain it internally first, because what is 100% going to happen? Is someone in a grocery store or someone at a barbecue in their backyard? They're going to get asked, because the first place people are going to go, hey, wait, you work at that school or you work in that school district? We heard that. Dot, dot, dot. I never ever wanted our own people to be the last to hear or the least informed or the least educated.  They become a part of the communication process and the tools that we have because we've informed them. Now they may not like it or they may follow up with hey, I want to have additional information. But at the very least I wanted someone to be able to say, yeah, I got an email about that and this, that, or the other. It's so critical to overall communication success.

Tyler Vawser: Aurora Meyer is a communications manager for Columbia Public Schools in Missouri from Episode 80.

Aurora Meyer: We don't expect our employees to be up to date on absolutely everything that's going on. They know what's going on in their buildings, they typically know what the events are in their buildings, and so they can speak to families about that when questions come up. But we don't expect them to necessarily know what's going on in other buildings. And so being able to share that information on a monthly basis is really critical to: Here are some other really great things going on that if you maybe don't want to talk about something that's going on in your building because you feel like you've cheerleader-ed that way too much lately and your amazing whatever has been the topic of conversation and you're looking for something else to talk about. That's part of why we called it sharing the gold is because there's tons of gold in every building. And sometimes just remembering that you're not isolated and that there's cool things going on and you can talk about them in other ways with other people is helpful.

Tyler Vawser: Next up, we dive into a common theme from Season 2: storytelling. Whether you're new to the concept or an expert storyteller, effective communication and culture building often hinges on the ability to bring people into a story that brings information along for the ride. We'll hear from Karen Eber, who is an expert on helping leaders use stories to build culture, doctor Jeffrey Collier, the superintendent at Saginaw ISD in Michigan, and Dr. Jonah Berger, a frequent SchoolCEO conference speaker, Wharton professor, and the New York Time best selling author. Here's Karen Eber.

Karen Eber: There's probably not one story that does everything. That's one of the misnomers I think people think, especially when you're thinking about a school or a business, you think, oh, what is the perfect story? Sometimes we hear things like, what's your origin story? I don't believe in those because they're very limiting and they're good for a context, but they might not be right for your context. What is right is the situation that you have. Recognize that you might have the story of who you are, and you might have the story of who you aspire to be or where you're going, or who your students and, and families aspire to be. Getting clear on that can be really helpful because in stories we connect with groups that we want to be a part of or that we are a part of, that we feel that sense of belonging, but we also connect to that aspirational, this is who I want to be or who I want to become. Schools have a wonderful opportunity, whether they're new or whether they've been around for some time, to share some of these examples of things in their history that embody who they are, the values that they uphold, what students can aspire to or experience. People love stories of greats. So what does a great school look like? What are these great moments that people can understand and connect with and say, I want that? You can get to these stories that are going to illustrate moments of, here's someone that upheld our values and what that looked like, here's where we're going, look at the distance that we've traveled from when we started, or even from, pick a moment in time, the pandemic to now. It all comes down to what it is you're ultimately trying to have the audience do, but you can absolutely connect them to it. The thing that is really powerful in storytelling is specificity. Sometimes telling the smallest story you can and then zooming out is powerful. 

Tyler Vawser: Next is Dr. Collier speaking about collective authorship and how Saginaw ISD is approaching the story of their district from Episode 72.

Dr. Jeffrey Collier: Well, I think storytelling in its own right is an absolute human activity. I think it's innately human. It's one of the things that helps bind and connect us. It helps us build relationships and networks. It allows us to get to know each other, to build trust, to build bridges. Really, we do that by getting to know each other's story. But when we talk about storytelling in its own right, even though it's still at the nexus, probably, of where this conceptual framework lives, when we talk about it, it sounds vapid. It sounds as if it's in an echo chamber or maybe a vacuum, that it doesn't have any substance or any meat on the bones. And when we talk about storytelling in its own right, I think, unfortunately, storytelling could be seen almost as a marketing or a branding initiative, only rather than an overall positive dialogue of the incredible work that's taking place.

Tyler Vawser: Dr. Jonah Berger joined me in Episode 70 to talk about how to craft effective stories. Not just stories that sound nice, but stories that bring the take home to your audience.

Jonah Berger: I think the challenge is there may be great stories within the organization, but how can we capture them not only because good stories are worth their weight in gold, but also because then everyone doesn't have to figure out their own good story. They can. Many of them can tell one of a few good stories that really get the point across. And so I talked about this as sort of story surfacing, not you as a leader, generating these stories yourself, but making it easy for other people to bring up these stories and capture them, right? So maybe you have a certain brand at your school or a certain value or cultural dimension that you say, this is us, this is who we are. Then every so often, why not ask people to submit examples of peers really doing something that showcases that attribute or that idea. Similarly, you can ask parents saying, “Hey, tell us about teachers that did this specific,” or ask the students, “Hey, tell us when another student or one of your teachers,” because maybe teachers don't know if other teachers are doing it, but ask to submit these stories. 

Now, some people aren't gonna submit them and some of them, they're gonna submit them, but aren't gonna be great. But if you get enough stories, there will be clear, better ones and worse ones, and then you can take those better ones. And push them back out to the broader community as examples that showcase what you're doing, right? If you think about great stories, they're not by chance, they're a great story, right? Either people heard a bunch of stories and only pass along the good ones or the bad ones never get told in the first place. And so it's fine not to just tell any story, but tell the best ones. But you gotta figure it out. Figure out what those best ones are, and then push them out to your community. So the next time someone says, “oh you guys say you care about X, but what does that really mean?” That person can say, “oh man, I've got this perfect example. And so they've got a handy example that proves their point.

Tyler Vawser: From your perspective, especially from your research, what do most people misunderstand about storytelling?

Jonah Berger: Yeah. I would say it's not just about telling a great story because you can tell a great story that doesn't lead to the take home point. If we're script writers or we're television writers or we're singers, then, our business is telling great stories. If we're schools, if we're leaders, if we're employees, we don't just care about great stories being told. We care about the take home of that being the right take home. And often I do workshops around storytelling. Someone will come up to me with the most amazing story. It's a really engaging, exciting, powerful story. And then at the end I say, okay, what's the takeaway of that story? And they go oh, “it's, X” or something. And I'll say, “okay, is X the takeaway? You want people to know about you or your business, your organization?” And they'll often go, “not exactly, we really want people to take away this.” And then I'm like “okay, X might be the story you just told me, it might be a great story that shows X.” But in some sense it doesn't matter, right? Because you're not just looking for great stories that show anything. You're looking for a great story. The great Trojan Horse story that the takeaway, the take home, the moral right is the exact thing you want people to take away. And so I actually would suggest don't start with the story. Start with the take. Start by figuring out what you want people to learn from the story and then figure out what stories do a good job of showing that. Of making that the moral, rather than just saying tell me some great stories, cuz you'll get some great stories, but many of them will have nothing to do with the take home you might care about.

Tyler Vawser: In addition to communications, another key topic of Season 2 was remembering and prioritizing the real reason behind all the marketing, and the communication, and the branding, the students. While it's essential to tell your district's story and to build a great culture inside, the ultimate aim is to be able to better serve more students and prepare them to thrive now and in the future. 

Dr. Donald Killingbeck, the superintendent at Hemlock Public Schools in Episode 78, reminds us who it's all for.

Donald Killingbeck: As educators, we're in the business of growing people. And for me, there's nothing more frustrating than to sit around a table with a group of either educational leaders or teachers or anyone and say, we don't have a product. We're not selling widgets. And for me, I get offended at that because, you know, what I tell people is every day I'm growing people. I'm in the business of farming better human beings. And so because industry needs it, our communities need it, our nation needs our kids to be better than we are. And as an educational institution, we're in the business of growing people. 

Tyler Vawser: Next, on Episode 92, Andrew McPeek shared insights into how to support the youngest generations, and the leaders and parents supporting them.

Andrew McPeak: When you spend a lot of time with kids, you realize a couple of things. One is the lack of ownership thing. I think kids are going through life and they feel like, I am living mom and Dad's life, I am living my teacher's life. My whole world has been designed by them. And what happens is they get through college, they get into their first job. Finally it's all up to them and they feel absolutely paralyzed. And that is reflected not only in the conversations we have with students, but also we do a whole lot with corporate America as well because they're hiring us all the time and going, please help us come and understand how to lead these Gen Z kids who are leaving college and coming into our workplaces, and they're saying the exact same thing. 

Kids are very intelligent, smartest kids we've ever seen. They have no idea how to function in our workplace. They don't know how to work on a team, they don't know how to show up to work on time. They don't know how to dress appropriately. They don't know how all these and those used to be called executive functioning skills. But to me, what I think is really happening, the sort of inspiration behind this is a generation of kids who are growing up in a world where we have so focused on academics, and I'm not a downer on academics, I think they're actually really important. But we've so focused on academics and we've lost sight of the need for some of these skills and we've lost sight of it in the face of a shifting culture that is making it harder and harder to find these skills naturally.

Tyler Vawser: I also want to share another short clip from Margaret Heffernan, who we heard earlier talk about school culture, share her perspective on what educators are really teaching students.

Margaret Heffernan: We don't know what skills people are going to need in the future. What we do know is that what will stand them in excellence. Stead is a love of learning. If they love learning, they will be able to learn whatever it is they need to know next. And so, you know, the meaning of learning gets lost when you, when you really put all of the focus on grade, what you want to focus on is developing people who love learning and know how to learn and get great joy out of learning. Those people will always be resilient because they have the greatest tool they need, which is the ability to learn and the ability to learn with other people and from other people.

Tyler Vawser: The next clip is from Julie Lythcott-Haims. In one of the best episodes of Season 2, Julie, who is the author of the books, How to Raise an Adult and Your Turn How to Be an Adult, dove into how school leaders, parents, and communities can come around students to help them thrive as adults. From Episode 73, this is Julie Lythcott-Haims.

Julie Lythcott-Haims: When I talk to those communities, I go back to your mission statement. What is it telling you you intend to do on behalf of these kids? And ask yourself, are we still doing it? In the face of parental over encroachment into the daily lives of teachers and kids and schools, are we still honoring our mission for public schools? We often don't have a mission and we've gotta figure out a different mission, you know, a way to sort of craft that overarching statement that becomes our North Star. Okay. I think when you have that kind, like this is what we're about, and that's the question you asked me, what are we actually about? What is our mission? I think we're trying to grow, we're trying to provide a community, a container, a set of experiences in which a young person becomes themselves, acquires skills, not just understanding of English and math and history and, science and et cetera, but a set of skills around responsibility, accountability taking, resourcefulness, agency, resilience.

And every year they're in our district, these 13 years, they can level up not only their understanding of how to write or how to analyze or how to think, but also how to be in relation to themselves in relation to other humans. So, you know, that's, it's this sort of lockstep process. Every year is an opportunity to build on the last, but I think being profoundly interested in, in each individual kid as a human, not as a test score, knowing that your job, Tyler, is to cherish every single kid in your district. And I think leaders must ask, who do I cherish and who am I not cherishing? And how do I know every teacher should be asking this? And the answer there for teachers is who comes back and visits you and who doesn't? What are the subset of kids you seem to sort of have a relationship with such that they come back when they don't have to. They darken your doorstep cuz they wanna see you, which kids are not coming back? Who are you there for, not as connected to? And what are you gonna do to work on whatever within you is failing to connect with those kids. 

And hey, those kids tend to be the kids who inhabit the greatest number of intersections in their identity. And a school leader must care about that and must go to their queer, poor kids, they're trans kids of color, the kids who inhabit the greatest intersections and say, “Hey, I don't wanna ask you to do any more work than you're already doing, but I want you to know it's my job to ensure you can thrive in this school. You can thrive in our district. And I can't know what it's like to be you, but it's my job to care. So if you ever feel like opening up to me about where in this school, where in this district you can be yourself and where you cannot. I will be all ears cuz it, cuz it's my job to ensure that every child can thrive here. And so I want you to know that your thriving is my mission.”

Tyler Vawser: In one of the last episodes of Season 2, Episode 94, generational researcher, Kim Lear, joined SchoolCEO to go in more depth and expand on her talk that she gave at our conference. In this clip, Kim discusses the generational questions from a workplace perspective, not the students, but the coworkers who are new to work and how different generations work and see things differently.

Kim Lear: Leaders really have to consider, am I delivering this feedback in a way that is going to motivate this person to improvement, or am I delivering this feedback in a way that's going to paralyze them? And what we often found with young workers is their decision to leave. An organization can often be pinpointed to like a first performance review where if their leader gives them some constructive or possibly negative criticism, which is fine, that's all part of learning. But if they leave that meeting feeling like maybe I was wrong, maybe I am not good at this, maybe I don't have what it takes compared to leaving having some clear next steps about how to improve, I think that that is one of the key pieces because people need feedback all the time. It's the only way to get better. But delivering that in a way that makes people want to work harder for you instead of disengage is tricky but so imperative.

From these generational lenses, we can understand shifting societal norms and values. We can understand why we can do something today, and it's totally acceptable. But if we did it 20 years ago, it would have been wildly taboo. And those things, the way that norms and values evolve, it's not totally random, right? There's moods change and priorities evolve, and those shifts can create some of those changes about how a new generation steps into adulthood with the different framework and different tools and different cultural expectations. And people within education, again, a reason I think that they inherently just understand this topic is because they see it all the time. I mean, you talk to a teacher who's been teaching for 35 years, and they can tell you immediately about with their students over your career, what is the same, right. Of course there's going to be so many things about students that are the same, and then what do you feel like is so different? And that is a generational conversation. That's inherently what it is. And so this lens matters because, one, it gives us some language to help us describe the reality of what we're seeing. And just in that language, it can be really powerful so that we can actually move to action once we have that. And it matters the same way that all forms of diversity matter. Right. It allows people to ask that empathetic question of, if I were born into a different time, would I see this differently?

Tyler Vawser: A big part of the superintendency is working with others and at the highest level, that means working with the school board. Back in April 2023, I had an opportunity to hear Dr. Melissa Thompson speak about how she prepares and onboards new board members to serve effectively in her district and to support the role of a superintendent. She gave some really keen advice on how to specifically help board members understand the inner workings of a district, what their role is, and how to help them be most prepared to be successful.

Melissa Thompson: You as the superintendent. You are the board's employee. And so that's obviously a two way street in terms of they need to value you and your work as a superintendent, but you also need to work hard at having those relationships with each and every school board member. And I feel like that needs to happen on an equal basis. You have to work hard at the relationship.

Tyler Vawser: Next, we're gonna look at recruitment and retention. While there's been teacher shortages for a long time, the pandemic made it all the more acute. Season 2, we are coming out of the pandemic, and we really focused on what are the things that you should be prioritizing, not just for a moment like a pandemic, but ongoing to build the best organizational culture that supports and keeps the best staff and also attracts them to your schools. In Episode 82, Dr. Howard Fields and Dr. Daryl Diggs jr. from St. Louis discussed, a website and an app that helps educators and districts alike streamline the job search process.

Dr. Howard Fields: I was able to recruit by being out there, like in the district where I was first the building principal, we didn't have a lot of people knocking on our doors to get there, but we created an online social media presence. Our reputation preceded ourselves in terms of me being out there. And we have a number of large businesses here in the St. Louis area, and people were relocating here. And sometimes if you're relocating in the summer, some of your other districts may have already hired. I may not have had an opportunity to hire. And so I was recruiting people and trying to do great work. And when I would ask that question, where I'm getting to, Tyler, in terms of how did you hear about us or what made you come to our school district? They would all say the same thing, hey, we saw your online presence. We saw this, we saw that. And that was something I tucked in the back of my mind. And so now with me being in HR, regardless of what you think about your school system, your building, or what you think about your leadership, the unspoken word is out there, and it can either help you or it can hinder you

Tyler Vawser: Here's another clip from Dr. Donald Killingbeck from Episode 78 about how telling his district's brand story has made it easier to hire teachers and staff.

Donald Killingbeck: You know, recently, I'm with leaders from all around the nation, and I say, hey, raise your hand if you have teacher vacancies. The room goes up, my hand goes down. Raise your hand if you're having trouble filling substitute teacher roles. The hands of the room go up, my hand stays down. Raise your hand if you are in need of bus drivers right now. Hands go up, my hand goes down. Now. Tyler, that's not because we pay the most. It's not because we have the best of everything. It's because there's something that most organizations I think, miss is that people don't work for a paycheck. People work for meaning, for purpose. 

Tyler Vawser: One of the earliest episodes of Season 2 was with Jeff Mayo, the superintendent at Arlington Community Schools outside of Memphis. Like other guests, he reaffirms the importance of culture in recruitment and how to view recruitment and retention in a holistic way. Here's Jeff Mayo from Episode 66.

Jeff Mayo: Recruitment and retention are two areas that are very dear to me because I spent the bulk of my career 20 plus years in the human resources space. So that's something that I felt very passionate about, obviously when I was in that role, and I stayed in that role that long. But I think primarily my role as superintendent, first of all, is to have an understanding of how important it is that you make your school district attractive to those individuals who may be considering employment or how do you make your school district stand out among the others. 

And I think one of the first things that, as a superintendent you do to commit to that is making sure that when you're developing your budget with your school board members, that you have a very strong emphasis on employee pay and teacher salaries because, you know, we, we know that's one of the things that attract individuals to be interested in your school district. It's not probably what makes them stay, but it is one of the things that is real attractive to people who've just graduated from college who may have student debt. And if you're, you're starting off in this, you know, pretty high salary, which our’s is among, you know, the top two, definitely top five in, in the state of Tennessee. And we have a very high average teacher salary across the board. When you factor in all of our employees, I think looking at that and especially being able to talk about the cost of living in our area, how manageable the cost of living here is compared to that salary. You know, I used to tell potential employees that you can come to our district and you can buy a house. You don't have to get an apartment, You can skip that because you're gonna be making enough money, you can make a house payment with that. 

So I think that's one really key factor is making sure that the budget supports and demonstrates our commitment to teachers and to employees when we're out trying to recruit. As far as retaining teachers, I think the salary will get them here, but I think also in retaining teachers. You have to make sure that you've created a climate and culture that is conducive to where people wanna work. Teaching is a very stressful job. It's a tough job. It doesn't end, you know, at the end of the day, it carries on after you go home each night. So teachers that are in this profession, people that are in this profession are willing to do that. And so in order to show your appreciation for the work that they're doing, I think that culture and climate has to be very clear to people that work in the district. Because in my mind, that's what's going to keep people here. You know, if they're not happy here, they don't feel like they're being appreciated or nurtured, in our school district, they may be willing to take $2,000 or $3,000 less and go somewhere else where they feel that they will get that. So that's one aspect. 

And I think the other piece of that is the superintendent has to empower the HR department to be creative with whatever tools they feel they need to use for recruitment and you know, making our district attractive. That's important as a superintendent, that you recognize the importance of that. You put the salaries in the budget and you advocate for that with your board members and you empower the HR department to go out and be creative with what they feel are best practices in order to bring that top talent to our district

Tyler Vawser: I wanna end Season 2 with a final section about being a great leader. You have a real challenge, any leader does, but especially those who lead an entire district as a chief executive officer or for someone that is a chief communications officer, you have an enormous task ahead of you, and we wanted to bring in leaders from other parts of the private sector and from schools to help guide the way. In Episode 86, Michael Bush, the CEO of Great Places to Work, joined us to share how he and his teams are helping more than 18,000 organizations worldwide to become better workplaces. This was our most popular episode of the entire season and for a good reason.

Michael Bush: We are talking about being what we call a for all leader, which is a leader that's in the moment present involving others, trusting others, not trying to solve every problem on their own, relying on other people through trust. Somebody can make a mistake because you're gonna make them. You just don't wanna be making the same mistake twice. We have to deal with this challenging situation, play the long game, educational institutions, see businesses can come and go out of business. We know that by running these companies, but in terms of the experience that we create, in terms of trust, it's the same.

We talk about it as creating a great place to work for be and for all leaders. Treat those big titled people the same as they treat somebody who is on the loading dock. That's the key. And in the survey, the people say that that she treats me the same, and I've only been here six weeks as she treats Sally, who's been here 16 years.

For us, a great place to work is one where there is a high level of trust, which means there's respect, there's transparency, there's fairness, there's equity. There are people who are caring about one another. People are feeling like they're working well as a team and that they're able to do more as a team that they could ever do on their own. There's a high sense of pride and pride as we define it is care. People feel like the people around them care about them, and they care about the people that are around them as well in a reciprocal way. So those things that I just named, that's how we measure trust. Because without trust, there is no engagement, there is no happiness, there is no job satisfaction. It's all about trust. 

Tyler Vawser: This next clip comes from Dr. Paul Coakley, who is the superintendent at Multnomah ESD in Oregon. Dr. Coakley's new book, A Reason For Every Season, Memoirs of a Black Superintendent, came out last year, and we discussed his own journey in education as well as lessons for other leaders,

Paul Coakley: I think that each state, each superintendent has something that they can share with the next person that’s gonna benefit you in the long run and also just remember that relationships are important, and large scale changes take time, and you shouldn't try to force them. But you have to have board support, for one, and you also need staff support. – One of the things that I've told some of my administrators that work with me is if no one's following you, then you're not really a leader.

Tyler Vawser: Finally, we have Jennifer Hines, the chief communications officer for Tyler ISD in Texas. She had this to say about her approach to leadership and the importance of being clear on your goals and keeping the team focused on those goals.

Jennifer Hines: I would ask others to kind of create that rapport. And it doesn't always have to be about business. How was your weekend? How are things going? And then ask about the future. What are three things that you think are going to be coming down the pipeline in the next six months that our department needs to be looking at? Where is something that you've maybe heard in the community that we could support an effort to make things a little bit smoother from a communication standpoint? 

So just kind of always having that ongoing conversation of the direction that you want your department to go and then the expectations of where they see your department going. Every year we have three things that we're supposed to focus on, and I literally have mine taped here to my desk so that every day on my computer screen, I can look at it and I can be like, Okay, are we doing these things? Everything that we're doing has to fall under these three things. And how do we do that? How do we do that on a large scale, not just the little bitty, check the boxes off every day? How are we doing big overarching projects?

Tyler Vawser: That's a wrap for Season 2. If you haven't left a review for SchoolCEO Conversations on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, we would really appreciate it. It's the best way to help others see the value of what you can find within this podcast as well as help them learn more about what's happening at and in the print edition of the magazine.

We're gonna be launching season 3 soon, and when we do, we would love your help in sharing it. It's gonna be a different format. We're excited to see where it takes us, and we hope that it's not just helpful to you, but it's a resource that you can share with building leaders, teachers, that you can share across the executive team staff to help everyone get on the same page about the importance of culture, brand, and school marketing. Thanks so much for listening, and take care. Until the next episode. 

If you'd like to support this podcast, the easiest and best way to do that is to first follow the show on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, and second to leave a review. SchoolCEO Magazine publishes original research, interviews, and more in our quarterly magazine that's read by more than 15,000 school leaders. If you work in K12 leadership, administration, or in communications, we'd love to start mailing the magazine to you. Go to, click subscribe now, and check the box to receive the print edition of the magazine. 

Just like more than 3,500 districts across the US, SchoolCEO is powered by Apptegy. SchoolCEO podcast is produced by the SchoolCEO team, and this episode was edited by Tanner Cox. You can follow SchoolCEOon Twitter and on Linkedin. And one more thing, can you do me a small favor? Can you share this episode with a colleague that would enjoy it? Or post your takeaways on social media and tag SchoolCEO when you do. Thanks so much for listening and take care.