Submitted by Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools
Director of Schools Dr. B. J. Worthington was presented with the Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award last week by the National School Public Relations Association at its 60th annual national seminar in San Diego, Calif.
Worthington’s selection recognizes him as practicing superintendent of schools or CEO of an education agency, service center or intermediate unit for outstanding leadership in school public relations and communication.
When Worthington took over the reins of the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System (CMCSS) in July 2012, he had been preparing for the role of Director of Schools for most of his career. He rose through the ranks of CMCSS as a teacher, principal and administrator, earning respect for his leadership as he did and distinguishing himself as a dedicated and caring educator who understands the importance of building strong relationships.
From the beginning of his superintendency, Worthington made communication a key component of his leadership style. His entry plan relied heavily on face-to-face communication with both internal and external stakeholders. He started the 2012 school year by meeting with all 4,100 employees, visiting the school system’s 39 schools as well as support departments, which sent a powerful message and was enthusiastically received by staff. He set an expectation for himself and his senior staff to engage in as many communication opportunities as possible with all groups of staff, students and the community.
Worthington’s commitment to communication has increased during the 2012-13 school year with an expansion of the stakeholder groups that meet with administrators on a regular basis. He redefined what is considered “diversity” to create multiple groups from a minority representative stakeholder group, to ensure that those who may have been marginalized or largely ignored in the past now have a voice. In addition to a multi-cultural/multi-ethnic group, CMCSS now has stakeholder groups of parents of special needs students, military dependents, and English Language learners. He continues to devote the time and resources needed to meet with and listen to these stakeholders and take their concerns back to staff so that needs are addressed.
Over the years, CMCSS has faced some difficult budget issues that impacted the school system’s relationship with the County Commission (which approves the annual budget) and elected officials in the City of Clarksville. Worthington has reached out to elected officials and community leaders to deepen communication with them and restore relationships, resulting in a level of trust that has never been higher. He understands that building “trust equity” is necessary and character is critical to success, as evidenced by the community fully supporting CMCSS’ “100% Graduation” campaign.
After NSPRA conducted a Communication Audit for the district in September 2012, Dr. Worthington embraced the feedback and recommendations and charged the Communications Department with leading the charge to collect “bragging points” to share, create meaningful opportunities for him and the leadership team to share CMCSS’ message, and design a communications plan so that information can be widely shared. He uses feedback from the community and research data in identifying more educational opportunities for the district’s 31,000 students.
With a leadership style that embraces everyone and a welcoming and engaging persona that builds trust and confidence, Dr. B. J. Worthington embodies the core values and commitment to public schools and effective communication that this award honors.