2020-2021 Superintendents to Watch: Dr. Martin Pollio

Dr. Martin Pollio

Dr. Martin Pollio

Jefferson County Public Schools
Louisville, Ky.
Twitter: @JCPSSuper @JCPSKY


What does leadership mean to you?
When I first started at Jefferson County Public Schools in 1997 as a basketball coach and teacher, I quickly realized that leadership was one of my favorite parts of the job. I’ve always believed in the principles of effective coaching, whether I’m talking about athletics or teaching or administration. Developing a positive culture with your team is critical to achievement, because successful teams have a positive culture. There's just something that great coaches do that allows teams to build a culture where they have a passion for the team, they care for each other, they're focused on the things that drive positive outcomes together, they collaborate together. More than two decades later, this is one of the key principles that I employ as superintendent.

How have you integrated communication into your district’s strategic plan?
Communication is a critical component of ensuring our district is moving in the right direction. During my tenure as superintendent, JCPS has implemented a robust communications strategy to reach administrators, teachers, staff, school families and community members, through social media, daily emails, weekly videos, and prior to the pandemic, a monthly Superintendent’s Run open to anyone in the community. Beyond what we say and what we write, I believe a key component of communication is being present and being active – as a participant in civic and educational groups, at community events, listening to constituents, and being in schools on a regular basis. I’m proud to have visited all 168 schools in the first two years since leading the district, getting to know students as well as teachers, staff and parents. It’s a constant reminder of why we do what we do.

What communication initiative are you most proud of that have you implemented in your district?
I think my most important communication strategy is being very clear about what I always call the ‘North Star’ of our district – our three pillars. They are: Backpack of Success Skills, Racial Equity and Culture and Climate.

I talk about it as often as possible, whether at community meetings, in interviews, as part of weekly video wrap-ups, to staff members or in weekly emails to principals, to ensure everyone hears my voice and message on a regular basis. It’s so important that every school knows our North Star – from principals to teachers, staff and students. I sell that as often as possible throughout the community because it’s what we’re about as a district and what’s important to us here. During these unprecedented times, I believe it is even more imperative that our district speaks with a consistent voice on these initiatives. 

What communication tool  do you enjoy using the most in your profession? Why?
On a personal basis, I enjoy the immediacy and relevancy of communicating via Twitter. It offers me the opportunity to give important information in real time; lets the community hear directly from me on critical decisions, which is especially important during these unprecedented times; and provides a venue to share stories and videos of the incredible work that’s being done every day by our students and staff.

How have you used social media in your strategic communication efforts?
At JCPS we are extremely fortunate to have a stellar communications team that has helped roll out relevant, timely and innovative strategies to reach our families, staff and students as well as the community at large. As a result, JCPS enjoys a robust social media following that has been critical as we’ve moved to non-traditional instruction: more than 112,000 followers on Twitter; more than 30,000 followers on Instagram; more than 56,000 followers on Facebook. In addition to providing a space to give important information about school openings, meal sites, upcoming events and other vital information, our social media platforms serve as a way to share everyday stories of student success and teacher professionalism.