5 Questions with Lakota’s new superintendent

Hamilton County native Matt Miller says he didn’t only take the top Lakota Schools’ job because it was a chance to return home, but more because of the unique opportunities offered by leading Ohio’s eighth largest school system.

Miller was hired last week by the governing school board of the Butler County district after what board members described as an impressive series of interviews.

VIDEO: Lakota hires new leader

The 45-year-old Miller is now back at his job as superintendent of Mentor Schools in northern Ohio, but starting in June he will begin working part-time as Lakota’s new leader and then occupy the position full-time on Aug. 1.

Miller recently made time in his schedule to talk with the Journal-News:

1. When Lakota School students, families, residents, business and community leaders look back on your first year as superintendent, what areas of the district will they have seen the most impact and what forms do you anticipate those impacts will take?

“I hope the Lakota community will look back on my first year as a time when Lakota continued meeting the needs of all different learning styles and challenging students to explore every avenue that might lead them to their own definition of success. Of course, I think it’s important that this work be done with the understanding that we must maintain the financial stability Lakota has worked so hard to gain in recent years. I anticipate my first year being filled with lots of learning and information gathering and small changes where I see there being the biggest potential for impact. I’m afraid it’s too early to anticipate what form that might take though.”

2. What’s at the top of your to-do-list once you start?

“Building relationships and making connections is certainly one of my main priorities starting out at Lakota. I’ve been fortunate to meet people from so many key stakeholder groups already, both internally and externally. Even before my official transition in June, I plan on being in the district and surrounding community to do as much of that as possible. Especially in a district as large as Lakota, I believe it’s important to understand the current landscape so that I can help build on the district’s biggest strengths. That includes spending time inside the schools and classrooms. The learning environment is vital to student engagement and success and I want to see those spaces from a student and staff perspective.”

3. What programs or other aspects might you bring from Mentor Schools that you think will thrive at Lakota Schools?

“Lakota already provides a great value to its families and the community it serves, so I’m excited to see how continued innovation and even stronger community engagement can spur even more student opportunity. It’s also important that I listen to our teachers, support staff, and students to hear what challenges they face and ideas they have to build on current best practices. I’m passionate about harnessing the expertise and enthusiasm of Lakota’s educational leaders and embracing and supporting their creative ideas. I’ll take a special interest in learning more about how Lakota can continue infusing digital learning resources into the classroom, too.”

4. On a personal level, why is this move back to your home area important to you and your family? What strengths do you believe your familiarity with Southwest Ohio will aid you during your initial adjustment to the job?

“The idea of coming back ‘home’ was what first attracted me to Lakota, but even more important was that it be the right fit for my experience and the skills I think I have to offer. Lakota is a district that has the right combination of a strong school system, a forward-thinking staff, supportive parents, and a deeply involved business community. There aren’t many school districts in the entire state of Ohio that have the positive make-up of the Lakota community. Being back in the Cincinnati area and closer to family is more of a perk to being part of a district like Lakota Local Schools.”

5. How will you know your first year is successful? What metrics will you measure to evaluate your performance and that of the district?

“I really think my first year will be successful if I’m able to build relationships that maximize student exploration and opportunity and at the same time increase instructional momentum. It’s important to me that the community can pinpoint all the reasons why Lakota is one of the best school districts in Ohio. Those kinds of results won’t be because of me, rather the collaborative spirit I hope I can inspire among administrators, teachers, support staff, and the larger community supporting our work. That’s not something you can measure with a rubric or on a state report card either. The best results we can deliver are students who walk across the stage at graduation with a clear vision for college, a career, a military enlistment or whatever they might define as personal success.”

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