- Desert Sands Unified School District (California) Superintendent Scott Bailey is fostering creativity, innovation and positive culture in his district by taking roles in student-directed videos spoofing the television show "Undercover Boss," using the platform to draw attention to the inner workings and hard work of staff in the district’s central nutrition services facility and its transportation services, District Administration reports.
- Bailey, who has served in the 752-square-mile district since 2017, has also furthered tech integration and narrowed the digital divide by working with district leaders and community partners to build an expanded network, retrofit microwave towers to fill broadband holes, and send some students home with mobile hotspots. Other accomplishments have included improving mental health services coverage and fostering innovation with an annual "Shark Tank"-inspired contest that awards micro-grants for good ideas.
- Though Bailey has a strong academic and educational background, he draws much of his approach from collaboration and communication lessons learned while managing a large farm, as well as insight gained about emergency planning, customer service and employee recognition from networking with a vice president at MGM Resorts International. The district now has a 92% graduation rate and a 98% teacher retention rate.
Through his efforts, Bailey has developed stronger relationships with students, drawn attention to the efforts of staff members who often receive little recognition, and humanized his leadership position, making him more accessible to students and staff.
He's not the only district leader to master this: Fall Creek School District Superintendent Joe Sanfelippo has drawn national attention to his school district by using social media to spotlight the work of staff.
Efforts such as this help develop a more positive district culture, which can filter down into improving individual school culture, as well. In a social-media-heavy world, the use of videos and creative marketing can help enhance the perception of schools and districts. Some have developed clever snow day videos, for instance, which have not only made leaders seem more accessible, but have drawn positive attention from the community at large.
Building a positive school culture matters because it helps create an environment in which students and educators thrive and are eager to attend. While popularity is not necessarily required, accessibility is — and using tools that allow students and teachers to feel they can approach school and district leaders with problems and positive ideas can help districts and schools move forward.
Building a positive school culture can not only help students in the present, it can provide a model for how they handle issues in their own lives in the future. Involving students in discussions about improving school culture can often help improve these efforts.