New Lakota Schools superintendent goes digital to reach out

In just a few days as the new leader of Southwest Ohio's largest suburban school district, Matt Miller already has done more to engage Lakota residents through social media than previous superintendents have done in years.

The digitally savvy superintendent has already started the first district-wide Lakota Schools Twitter account — a social platform he has been active on for years with Ohio’s Mentor Schools, and with 1,907 followers to date.

His Twitter postings are already heralding Lakota student and school program successes, as are his Facebook postings, which have 745 followers.

An Instagram account, Miller tells the Journal-News, will soon do the same.

His YouTube video of his speech – where he dramatically pushes over a large stack of textbooks he dismisses as antiquated while holding a "funeral" for the term "21st Century learning" — has been viewed by more than 2,500.

But Miller, who was selected as one of the National School Boards Association’s “Top 20 To Watch” in the nation, isn’t stuck behind a keyboard.

His first weeks – he is working part-time now but officially begins on Aug. 1 – include numerous school visits, meet and greets – Wednesday he traveled to the West Chester Township headquarters of the influential Reach Out Lakota charitable organization – and introductions throughout the 16,500-student district.

The 45-year-old school leader, who is one of only two Ohio superintendents invited to join the national League of Innovative Schools, also plans to soon start a “listening tour” to further familiarize himself with Ohio’s eighth-largest district.

But it’s the first-time Lakota flags he is planting in the digital world that is drawing attention, and that’s not by accident, said Miller.

“Social media is a great way to connect with the students, staff and the community about all the positives that are going on in the school district,” said Miller, a Cincinnati native who recently moved his family into the Lakota school system.

“It’s a great insight into the school district,” he said.

“I’m trying to build my Lakota presence, and one of the ways I’m doing this is through social media. It takes 10-15 seconds periodically throughout the day to give a little snippet into what the kids (students) are doing and what the staff is doing and just promoting all the positives that are out there that are going on in our community,” he said.

It’s the type of innovative, high-energy leadership Lakota school board members cited for hiring Miller away from Mentor Schools in February to replace former Lakota Superintendent Karen Mantia, who was granted medical leave last year and replaced by Acting Superintendent Robb Voglemann.

“I think Matt Miller’s outreach on social media is great,” said Lakota Board of Education Vice President Todd Parnell.

“Matt’s use of Twitter and Facebook is very effective, I think. It is so refreshing to see a superintendent that wants to connect with the whole community. I think social media is just another avenue for Matt to share the energy and enthusiasm he brings to Lakota,” said Parnell.

But Miller is also adept at the old-fashioned, face-to-face, said Peyton Gravely, director of fundraising and donor relations for Reach Out Lakota, after Miller stopped by for a chat and a tour of the community assistance group that works closely with local schools.

“To have Matt here and to form a relationship with him early in the game will be very beneficial not only for Reach Out Lakota but also for all the families within the Lakota school district,” said Gravely.

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