Please Wait a Moment

2022 Superintendent to Watch: Josh Reitz, Ed.D.

The Superintendents to Watch award recognizes up to 25 school district leaders each year who have fewer than five years of experience as a superintendent and who demonstrate dynamic, fast-paced leadership with strong communication at its core. 

Josh Reitz, Ed.D.Josh Reitz, Ed.D. 
McHenry (Ill.) School District 15

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership, to me, is primarily about motivating others to do something new, move forward or reach their ultimate potential. It’s best cultivated in an environment of trust, support and open communication between all stakeholders. Because this can be a tough path, it is also essential to have a clear and collectively embraced mission, an exciting and forward-thinking vision and a unified sense of purpose where goals are identified strategically and achieved collaboratively. Leadership is demonstrated through words but, perhaps more importantly, it’s modeled through behaviors reflective of a unified and embraced set of core values. It is about encouragement, relationships, positivity and attending to the personal and professional growth of individuals.

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

Ongoing communication was vital for the creation of our district’s strategic plan and will remain essential as the plan becomes a living and breathing component of our daily operations. District 15’s strategic plan was accomplished through a collective effort of many talented and dedicated individuals. Clear channels of communication and ongoing opportunities for feedback were important as stakeholders representative of students, parents, staff, board members, community members and district administrators all came together for a common purpose. A key focus area of the plan is high quality and timely two-way communication that fosters transparency. The district is working to create a digital platform available to stakeholders to access the strategic plan, communicate updates on progress and showcase the many important accomplishments and tasks we do everyday. Additionally, we are leveraging digital and social media to share key aspects of the plan with all of our stakeholders.

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

As McHenry School District 15’s superintendent, I am proud to have had the opportunity to build a strong communications team to share our school district’s story, be transparent and establish strong and trusting relationships with our entire learning community. I started by successfully advocating for a brand new role in District 15, hiring our first ever communication and digital media coordinator. This person, along with the assistant superintendent and my executive administrative assistant work collaboratively with me to provide high-quality and timely communications while striving to effectively showcase the many initiatives taking place throughout our district. We have been able refine our communication practices leveraging a variety of marketing tools inclusive but not limited to all social media outlets, commercial radio, timely newsletters, in house and external video development and community promotions.

Anisa Sullivan Jimenez

Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, APR
Director of Communications
Oconee County Schools
Watkinsville, Ga.

Alma Mater:

B.A. - Mississippi State University; MPA - University of Georgia

I believe school PR/communications is what I was born to do! One of the biggest decisions a parent can make is where to send their child to school, and it’s an honor to share with our parents the engaging work that their children are doing under the guidance of world-class teachers and leaders. On any given day, in any given school, there are many stories to be told and I take that charge seriously. As school communicators played a key role in COVID-19 communications, storytelling was more important than ever – not only did I share information with parents about our protocols, but I also made over 80 visits to schools last year and told a variety of stories about how students were thriving with both in-person and distance learning options. I also worked with principals to determine best mitigation practices and helped make those pervasive, because positive action must be the foundation of what we are ultimately communicating. School public relations is incredibly complex and I love that each day brings a new challenge.

My greatest school PR success was completing 11 nationally-innovative school communication audits using a process of research, planning, implementation, and evaluation. I am now in phase two of this project and am attending school council meetings to garner feedback from parents about school-level communication and how I can better support the work of their schools. One of the most significant findings is that as students take more ownership of their learning, they also take more ownership in parent communication. Therefore, next steps are to better prepare parents for this transition and to also determine best practices from exemplar teachers and coaches at the secondary level so we can strike the right balance with parents feeling informed and fostering student independence.

My greatest school PR challenge is overcoming rigidity. Like many PR professionals, I am detail-oriented and a self-described perfectionist. It’s a blessing and a curse to see when something is one pixel off, but the greatest challenge I have faced in my 13 years in this field is to learn to be more flexible. I might have an aversion to Comic Sans or Curlz, but it’s not the end of the world if those are a font favorite elsewhere. What’s more important is the bigger picture – staff and parents feeling well-informed and students growing and learning in positive school cultures. Instead of telling someone their website isn’t formatted properly, I now make a 2-3 minute screencast if I think there’s a quick tutorial I can offer to provide ongoing professional learning. By being much more flexible, I have deepened relationships and become better at supporting the most important job that occurs in our school system: teaching.

My favorite part of my job is the relationships. I often say that there is no substitute for showing up, and that’s why I make so many school visits each year. From getting to hold a gorgeous monarch butterfly to watching a vibrant student musical to seeing 3-D printing in action from engineering students, I have witnessed countless unique opportunities, and these experiences are just a small piece of what our students get to take part in each and every day. If I didn’t take the time to form relationships, I wouldn’t know that what students value is knowing that the photos I take may show up in their yearbooks. I wouldn’t know the myriad of annual activities that teachers do across our schools because I wouldn’t have witnessed them firsthand. I wouldn’t know about the families of our principals or what they believe makes their school unique. All of that is invaluable because at the end of the day and at the end of this career, relationships are what will remain – both professionally and personally.

The communication tool I use the most is Canva! I would be a brand ambassador if they asked! I am not very mathematically-minded and it can be challenging for someone with an eye for good design – but not an eye for rulers and gridlines – to be a graphic designer. However, Canva has made it possible and I am able to create aesthetically-pleasing graphics with short turn-around times. I have trained communication ambassadors at our schools how to use it as well. Right after Canva, the tool I most use is iMovie. I am completely self-taught in videography and using iMovie and Canva together has made me someone who can add “videographer” to their list of expertise.