Matt Utterback, the winner of The School Superintendents Association (AASA) National Superintendent of the Year award took time out of his busy post-award celebration to chat with Dr. Rod Berger at the AASA National Conference in New Orleans. Utterback expressed a great deal of humility in his acceptance of the award, believing wholeheartedly that it was a district-wide community effort.
He also discusses the need for districts to explore new means of communicating with ones’ school community. It’s easy to see why Matt Utterback is not only the ASSA National Superintendent of the Year but one of the more important voices in public education today.
Matt Utterback: I think one of the things we can do as superintendents and (I can do as a national superintendent) ─ is raise the awareness of the needs of our students.
We need to tell our stories. We need to talk about our successes. We need to talk about our kids and our communities.
When we talk, folks have a greater understanding of the value of public education, how it’s really a core part of our democracy, and how it’s critical to the future of our country.
Dr. Rod Berger: How has the role of superintendent changed and can we do a better job of communicating what and who a superintendent is and personalize the role and the position so the community feels connected?
I’ve talked to a lot of people who either don’t remember their superintendent when they were growing up, or they looked at them more as “city managers” — as opposed to professionals who understood teaching and learning and were engaging and understood the value of marketing and branding districts.
MU: I’ve often been told that the superintendent is one of the most challenging and difficult jobs in our country. It certainly is complex. You need to be a visionary leader who can guide and lead a strategic plan in the mission of an organization. You also need to understand what I call the “rocket science” behind teaching and learning in how students learn. You need to be able to manage people and budgets.
But you also need to be that community ambassador. For many communities, the public schools are the core of a public community. As a superintendent, you need to be in tune with what your community’s dreams and wishes are for the education of their children.
Dr. Rod Berger, a respected leader in education communications, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic’s District Administrator, andForbes. As an industry personality, Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and others.