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HomeEducationWhy this college superintendent provides his bonus again yearly

Why this college superintendent provides his bonus again yearly

How do academics captivate their college students? Right here, in a function we name How I Train, we ask nice educators how they strategy their jobs.

If his college neighborhood had to decide on between himself and its 9 remedy canines, David Snowden jokes that “the director of colleges must go.”

Now in his twenty third 12 months as chief of Franklin Particular College District, south of Nashville, Snowden has championed the canine program since Mattie Grace grew to become the college system’s first skilled remedy canine in 2018. 

5 years later, every of the district’s eight faculties has a canine companion on web site, as does its central workplace, to supply emotional help to college students and employees.

Snowden says this system is widespread — and wanted. Even earlier than the pandemic, college and employees have been seeing a rise in pupil nervousness, melancholy, and psychological misery.

However the entire consolation and pleasure introduced by the pups wouldn’t be financially doable if Snowden hadn’t donated his efficiency bonus again to his house district to assist cowl the associated fee. It’s a follow he’s completed yearly since coming to his suburban district in 2001 — to acknowledge and reward the collective work of the scholars, academics, and employees who encompass him.

“It takes a crew effort to achieve success,” he defined.

In all, Snowden has returned a few quarter of one million {dollars} in bonus cash to pay for numerous wants through the years, whether or not to rent tutors, purchase chargers for Chromebooks, or present water bottle refilling stations throughout the pandemic.

His colleagues name him a “true servant chief,” however his friends throughout the state lately gave him one other title: Tennessee Superintendent of the Yr. Due to the consideration bestowed on him in September by the state’s superintendents group, Snowden will signify Tennessee in February in San Diego on the nationwide competitors sponsored by the American College Superintendents Affiliation.

In a latest interview with Chalkbeat, Snowden talked about why he selected a profession in schooling, how he tries to carry out the greatness in others, his technique for coping with destructive politics, and what provides him hope for the longer term.

This interview has been frivolously edited for size and readability.

What led you to a profession in schooling?

Apart from my dad and mom, probably the most influential and galvanizing individuals in my life have been academics and coaches. Any and all successes I could have had, each personally and professionally, are instantly associated to their help and mentorship. With my very own profession, I needed to supply college students with those self same constructive influences to assist them grow to be as profitable as doable.

Inform us about your personal expertise as a pupil and the way it impacts your work right now.

Rising up in rural Mississippi, I used to be a mean pupil who loved college however struggled with self-confidence. Thankfully, I had academics who supported and impressed me to realize greater than what I assumed I might. With these influences, I grew to become a reasonably good pupil by highschool. However these early struggles nonetheless resonate with me as I watch our nice academics positively join with and encourage college students every day. Each little one isn’t going to excel on the very highest ranges, however we all know each little one may be profitable with the assistance and help of nice academics.

Describe an interplay with a pupil or instructor that made a long-lasting impression on you.

After I was an assistant highschool principal in Pascagoula, Mississippi, my preliminary interplay with this specific pupil didn’t make a long-lasting impression. Nevertheless, the notice I acquired from her 20 years after she graduated made me notice that we, as educators, can have a constructive impression on the lives of scholars, even after we don’t instantly see the fruits of our labor. 

This younger lady was continuously late to highschool and sophistication and appeared to have a horrible perspective basically. I attempted to get by her powerful exterior however by no means thought my counsel resonated. After I wrote her a detention notice, she routinely wadded it up like trash as she left my workplace. She managed to graduate from highschool, in order that finish outcome was constructive. Quick ahead 20 years. I acquired a notice from her (written on the again of a detention discover, no much less) thanking me for all of our interactions by the years and the recommendation I had given her. She wrote that she by no means would have graduated, had it not been for these “powerful love” conversations and my help. I nonetheless have that notice!

What’s the very best recommendation you ever acquired, and the way have you ever put it into motion on the job?

“Be your self.” “Do your absolute best every day.” “Pay attention greater than speak.” 

Leaders shouldn’t attempt to be somebody they aren’t. Irrespective of how exhausting they could attempt, most individuals can see by the facade.

Doing our greatest means to by no means settle for the established order and to at all times be open to new concepts and progress.

I attempt to be a great listener and to mannequin considered one of Stephen R. Covey’s rules of extremely efficient individuals: “Search first to grasp after which to be understood.” If somebody doesn’t perceive an individual, there is no such thing as a means they’ll successfully handle their downside, difficulty, or concept. After we are engaged listeners, we perceive higher.

A group of children greet a man in a conference room.

Kindergarten college students at Moore Elementary College shock Snowden at a 2023 management crew assembly to congratulate him for his Tennessee Superintendent of the Yr award.

Courtesy of Franklin Particular College District

What’s one factor you’ve learn that has made you a greater educator?

A few years in the past, I learn “Good to Nice,” by Jim Collins, about why some firms grow to be nice, whereas others merely stay good. It made me notice the significance of at all times striving for steady enchancment. “Good is the enemy of nice,” he wrote, so we all know if we’re not bettering, we’re regressing. He additionally mentioned that it’s a must to be prepared to “face the brutal info” of why you aren’t the place you wish to be so as to obtain greatness. You will need to create a tradition of collaboration and belief to ensure that steady enchancment to happen.

In schooling, as we continuously analyze and make the most of information, we should do our greatest to find out the basis causes of our successes, in addition to what’s on the root of areas that want bettering. 

What have been the largest challenges for you as a faculty chief throughout the latest college 12 months, and the way did you handle them?

The negativity we heard from some corners about public faculties and public college educators in Tennessee was undoubtedly a problem. These feedback weren’t based mostly on truth however got here from individuals who wish to disparage public schooling — in my view, for their very own profit. We responded by accentuating the constructive features of public schooling at each alternative and highlighting the work of public college academics in our district and throughout the state. Our faculty board members additionally spoke out publicly in regards to the unfair and unfounded assaults on public schooling.

What have been the largest rewards?

One of many greatest rewards centered on the resolve of our academics and leaders to work collectively for pupil success, regardless of the difficult political setting. Our dad and mom have been nice companions and supporters as they gave our academics perks frequently and ceaselessly volunteered their time. And we noticed continued native investments in amenities for our college students, together with a brand new state-of-the-art performing arts heart, a brand new gymnasium, and a brand new athletic complicated. All of those amenities present our college students with high-quality venues to showcase their items and skills.

Many college students are going through heightened challenges with psychological well being. What do you suppose are the basis causes, and the way is your crew serving to to help them?

Faculties are a microcosm of society, and we’re seeing the struggles of many individuals from all walks of life. This was true even earlier than the pandemic. 

A man pets a dog inside of a school building, while the dog’s handler watches.

Snowden checks in with Blake, a remedy canine at Franklin Elementary College, and his handler, artwork instructor Jennifer Alvarado.

Courtesy of Franklin Particular College District

We offer coaching associated to trauma and the way finest to assist people and teams of scholars to beat the residual results of antagonistic occasions. Being higher knowledgeable in regards to the results of trauma is vital so we are able to acknowledge these indicators and supply particular help.

By means of a partnership with an area clinic that gives behavioral well being counseling providers, we now have a psychological well being therapist at each college in our district, most of them 5 days every week.

In 2018, we launched a remedy canine program with one canine at Johnson Elementary College. The preliminary plan was so as to add a canine every year. However seeing the clear constructive impression, we fast-tracked the initiative and now have a remedy canine in every college. We also have a canine on the central workplace to supply help for each college students and adults.  

How do you deal with your self whenever you’re not at work?

The aim is to remain energetic, whether or not it’s strolling or understanding. I get pleasure from taking part in golf, which provides me a chance to take in some Vitamin D whereas attempting to enhance a not-so-good golf sport. My spouse, Kathy, and I prefer to journey, so we’re at all times desirous about our subsequent journey.

What provides you hope at this second?

My hope at all times lies in individuals and their human spirit. Though there’s a substantial amount of divisiveness right now in our society, we consider that by perseverance, love, and character, we’ll return as a society to that place of mutual respect and understanding. Clearly, that doesn’t imply everybody will agree on each difficulty, however we are able to disagree with out being unpleasant. As educators, we’ve to mannequin how finest to work together and successfully talk with one another to boost our neighborhood, state, and nation.

Marta Aldrich is a senior correspondent and covers the statehouse for Chalkbeat Tennessee. Contact her at



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