Servant Leadership Evident in Kenton City Schools

A guest post by Kelly Obarski, ED. D., proprietor of Global Teaching Solutions, and evaluator of Kenton City School District’s Straight A project.

Have you ever seen someone plan a team dinner, order it, make sure it is delivered, and check in to make sure the team has everything they need? Your answer is probably yes, and most likely you have done it yourself. But have you ever seen a superintendent clear plates and serve dessert to her administrative team while they were engaged in professional development? I have!

Back in March I had the honor of spending the day in Kenton City Schools conducting focus groups, interviewing teachers and administration about professional development. Kenton is a small town in the middle of the state, not quite rural but well outside of any metropolitan area. The district is leveraging a recent investment from Ohio’s education innovation program, the Straight A Fund.

As I moved throughout the buildings and asked questions, I heard honest answers about the strengths and challenges of the three different professional learning experiences. Kenton’s initiative is, perhaps unwittingly, aligned with the core principles of Servant Leadership. The superintendent has partnered with EnvisionEdPlus to customize professional learning for teachers that embodies the personalized learning she desires for her students. It is to be self-paced, interest-based and relevant – providing individualized support embedded in teachers’ day-to- day tasks.

Servant Leadership encapsulates putting a person’s, organization’s, or community’s needs at a higher priority than one’s own. While this might not be a leader’s first reaction in many circumstances, it is a character strength that can be honed by making a conscious choice to serve, and then acting upon that choice. In Robert Greenleaf’s own words, “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.”

Jennifer Penczarski truly underscored her approach when she cleared plates and served dessert to her team. She put the district’s needs above her own and served in a way that both humbled me and made me want to work with her.

It seems that everywhere I look there is turbulence. Husbands and wives are arguing about politics, brothers and sisters are refusing to talk with one another, and even one of my friends refuses to speak to me because of my vote choice. But there is a common purpose that can bring us together; our students, our children, the next generation of young adults who will ultimately rule our government and take care of our health needs. It starts in the schools and it starts with the administration. It is happening at Kenton City Schools!

Who do you influence?

What simple act can you do to serve your team?

Who are you going to serve today?

Leading through service is a core principle of Global Teaching Solutions, based in Treasure Island, Florida. Dr. Obarski can be reached at 

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