2018-2019 Superintendents to Watch-Dr. Sean Doherty

Dr. Sean Doherty
School District of Clayton 
St. Louis, Mo.

In the School District of Clayton, students don’t only know Dr. Sean Doherty by name; they know him because they regularly see him in their classrooms. He meets with students — and often it’s the students who request the meetings — to ensure their voices are always present in any decision-making process. 

According to his colleagues, Doherty “is always in tune with the pulse of our community. Whether it’s making time for a phone call or burning the midnight oil replying to parent concerns via email, he is committed to always being ready to listen.”

This commitment is evident in how he has guided the development of the district’s 2019 strategic plan.  Doherty’s vision for the plan was to work backwards by first developing a profile of a graduate and then putting structures/steps in place to ensure students are able to leave high school with those identified characteristics and attributes. He engaged the community and gathered information through face-to-face listening sessions, where he worked with groups of 10 participants at a time. 

Next, the district partnered with the online platform ThoughtExchange to ask the question, “what are the most important attributes we need to develop in our graduates to be successful and why?” More than 700 students, staff, parents and community members participated in this step of the process.

Doherty embraces his role as the district’s lead learner. He has redefined what it means to be visible as a superintendent. 

Whether it’s making an appointment with a fourth grade student to see his or her science project or having a conversation with a high school student who wants to take on a leadership role to help the district, Doherty’s door — and mind — is always open to two-way communication and feedback.