2020-2021 Superintendents to Watch-Dr. Russell Dyer

Dr. Robert Downs

Dr. Russell Dyer
Cleveland (Tenn.) City Schools
@drrusselldyer @clevecityschool

What does leadership mean to you?
I believe in practicing servant leadership. Finding ways to help others be better in their role and being an open communicator is important as well. Perhaps above all, the role of a leader to me is to maintain a positive outlook and disposition regarding the tasks you're presented with daily. There is a saying many schools used each day for morning announcements that I try to live out and instill in others. That saying is simply this, "Make it a great day or not. The choice is yours!"

How have you integrated communication into your district’s strategic plan?
Our recently adopted 2020-2025 strategic plan has four major components. Those include Student Success, Safe and Healthy Schools, Communications, and Engaged Workforce. We also have a strand dealing with Communication as part of our new Portrait of a Graduate. Our action steps for communication in the strategic plan include the following:

  1.   Develop a holistic communications strategy that encompasses brand identity, brand usage guidelines, and a comprehensive publicity handbook. 
  2.  Streamline internal and external communications in Cleveland City Schools by establishing clear and effective methods for disseminating information to all stakeholders. 
  3. Ensure that Cleveland City Schools is effectively communicating to every family in their native language.

What communication initiative are you most proud of that have you implemented in your district?
During the 2018-2019 school-year we rezoned all elementary schools in our system. As you can imagine, this is a daunting task taking much time and consideration. However, we implemented a plan that created multiple committees that all reported to a central leadership task force. That task force then communicated with the school board and general public regarding our rezoning plans. We utilized focus groups, social media., online surveys, local news media, as well as other efforts to ensure good communication throughout this process. The result was amazing and, from most accounts, this was the best rezoning in the history of our school system regarding positive outcomes for students and families.

What communication tool  do you enjoy using the most in your profession? Why?
Personally, I enjoy social media and video the most, but I find a lot of value in small group face to face meetings. These "face to face" meetings can be in person or even through online experiences. I believe it is important for me as the leader of our district to be visible to our employees, families, students, and the community of a regular basis. Our stakeholders need to both see and hear from me and to experience my day as I visit schools, civic clubs, etc. This is a big part of how I can share my excitement about the great things happening in our school system.

How have you used social media in your strategic communication efforts?
Our district maintains active accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I also use my own Twitter account for my professional endeavors. Whether you like social media or not, it is here to stay and it is a great tool to use and it costs nothing to implement. I highly encourage using these communication strategies on a consistent basis.