- Michael D. Clark Staff Writer
Middletown City Schools’ new leader paused during a recent tour of the district’s $96 million school construction site to do something no other superintendent of the Butler County district has ever done while on the scene: He tweeted a photo on Twitter.
And then he posted it on Instagram.
Meet Marlon Styles Jr. — the most active-on-social-media school leader this city has seen.
And it’s not just a social media addiction reflex all too common in today’s digitally addicted world, but rather action with purpose, said Styles, who became Middletown Schools’ new superintendent on Aug 1.
“As a district, modernization is our main focus,” said Styles, a former top Lakota Local Schools official who was hired away from that district in May.
“We are utilizing social media, specifically Twitter, to communicate and connect with the community,” said Styles, who added that “recognizing the great things that are going on around the district daily, we are growing a culture of excellence in Middletown school district.”
And he has the full backing of the district’s governing board that hired him.
In a rare, joint statement released by the Middletown Board of Education in response to a Journal-News request for comment, board members stated: “We are pleased that Mr. Styles is utilizing social and print media and is providing transparency and opportunities for community feedback and interaction.”
Though in recent years Middletown has been among the lower performing school systems in Southwest Ohio, the district’s bright spots are not being shown to city residents, said board members who have tasked Styles — and other district employees — with being more active on social media.
“(The) school board believes that it is an expansion of the strategic planning goal area on communication and appreciate Marlon’s leading voice in disseminating the efforts of our district. It is also part of a more intentional plan to clearly articulate our district’s strengths while being forthright in addressing our challenges,” school board members said.
“The district realizes that we are part of a community based team that must work together. The best teams are built on a foundation of trust. Trust is earned and nourished through honest, rational and clear modes of communication,” the school board said in the statement.
The social media push is also part of Styles’ new “Middie Modernization Movement,” which he has been rolling out since taking office.
“My quick adoption and utilization of social media was an important piece of the overall district communication plan and the Middie Modernization Movement,” he said.
And he is looking for the same from Middletown Schools staffers when it comes to using social media avenues in their own professional development.
“Educators can modernize their instructional approaches by gathering resources, join and participate in online professional chats, and collaborate with educators locally and across the country,” Styles said.
“I believe one of the most effective leadership qualities I have learned is to model the way,” he said.