2020-2021 Superintendents to Watch-Dr. Todd Cummings

Dr. Todd Cummings

Dr. C. Todd Cummings
South Bend (Ind.) Community Schools Corporation
@drtoddc  @southbendcsc

What does leadership mean to you?

My definition of leadership comes down to two primary components: relationships and results. Relationships start with the ability to motivate a diverse group of people towards a common goal. 
This means taking the time and effort to understand a diverse group of priorities, problems, and solutions, and inspiring both trust and confidence from those people, while making oneself accessible, particularly in times of uncertainty. In South Bend (Ind.) Community Schools Corporation, there is a significant number of students living in poverty, which requires a willingness, at times, to lead from the heart as well as from the head.This can’t be underestimated as a leader. 
Finally, leadership means a willingness to take more than my fair share of blame for problems, and less than due credit for accomplishments. Hiring a great team, allowing others to shine, motivating them to continue doing good work and expect positive results follow.

How have you integrated communication into your district’s strategic plan?

In an effort to ensure the continuation of the corporation's upward trajectory, communication with key stakeholders is critical. I began the development of our strategic plan by holding outdoor community meetings throughout the city, encouraging all stakeholders to provide input on the district’s developing strategic plan. This series of meetings helped us identify four key strategic priorities for our plan: literacy, financial stability, community partnerships, equity and inclusion. Once our stakeholders helped shape these priorities, I ensure that we communicate the progress and plans for each of those areas. I accomplish this through weekly videos on our social media platforms, weekly letters to our entire corporation staff, and regular phone dialers and letters to families.

What communication initiative are you most proud of that have you implemented in your district?

I am most proud of the monthly "Talks with Todd" that I instituted shortly after I began my tenure as Superintendent. Prior to the pandemic when these events began, I met monthly at various locations around the city, inviting parents, teachers, students and community members to join me to ask questions, raise concerns, or simply listen. Anyone who attended had direct access to me.These were also offered in Spanish. "Talks with Todd" transitioned to bi-monthly online events during lockdown, and quadrupled "attendance" and participation. This is the communication vehicle I most enjoy. 

Though these were designed as a way for parents, students, teachers, and community members to have direct access to me, to ask questions and discuss concerns, I truly believe that I have also  benefited greatly . It reminds me of why I have devoted my professional life to education.

How have you used social media in your strategic communication efforts?

When I became Superintendent last year, one of the first areas of opportunity I recognized was that of communication, particularly social media. In addition to the formal social platforms of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which have proven extremely effective in disseminating district information, I have found also that my personal Twitter account provides a means for enhanced connection with broader audiences, particularly students. My communications team and I ensure that all messaging is aligned and tailored to the varied audiences and that social messaging is both timely and valuable. With the vast majority of our messaging during COVID was necessarily digital, it gave us the opportunity to thoughtfully curate the information that was pushed out on various social media platforms, and gauge the effectiveness and reach of those efforts.