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 

Our Courses

Image Course Description Price Created On Last Updated On categories_ID
Supporting Families (Level 1) Consider the differences between engaging and supporting eight types of parents or family members you might encounter. Reflect on your past experiences with each of those types. Create and implement an action plan to improve your support for families who need it. 0.00 2020/07/17 2022/03/24 6
STEAMing Up Literacy (Level 1) The content in this course is designed to begin your understanding of STEAM integration (design thinking) and apply this knowledge to your own classroom. You will have the opportunity to implement a mini lesson and receive feedback about your lesson. Two “office hours” will be available to chat with the instructor and others enrolled in this course. 0.00 2021/01/09 2022/03/24 5
Trauma Brain (Level 1) The brain is constantly changing and molding in response to the environment. These changes impact student learning. This is especially true in terms of trauma. This training is designed to help participants learn what goes on in the brain and how they can set up a learning environment for each of the students in their class. 0.00 2021/01/30 2022/03/24 4
STEAMing Up Literacy (Level 2) The content in this course is designed to begin your understanding of Problem Based Learning(PBL) and apply this knowledge to your own classroom. You will have the opportunity to implement a mini lesson and receive feedback about your lesson. 0.00 2021/02/23 2022/03/24 5
High Quality Literacy Instruction (Level 1 & 2) Core content includes an overview of Ohio’s Plan to Raise Literacy Achievement, evidence-based literacy practices, and resources and tools for literacy instruction. Participants will create, implement and improve two classroom-based literacy strategies (in-person, blended or remote). 0.00 2021/02/23 2022/03/24 5
Supporting Families (Level 2) In Engaging Families Through Support - Level 1, you learned about eight types of parents/caregivers and reflected on your past experiences with each type, culminating in a plan to better engage specific types as partners in their children's education. During this 8-hour asynchronous course you will delve deeper in your understanding of the eight types of parents/caregivers by speaking with individual family members you work with, discovering what they need from you and your program, and implementing an action plan informed by the actual families you serve. Doing so will give you sustainable skills and strategies to build stronger family engagement year after year. 0.00 2021/03/07 2022/03/30 6
Differentiated & Engaged Instruction (Level 1) Differentiation is effective instruction that is responsive to the learner’s preferences, interests and their readiness. It could be explained as a framework for thinking about your teaching and your student’s learning. This course discusses differentiation as an effective teaching tool. Included are many resources and strategies to help meet the learning needs of each student. Participants will learn through various articles, videos, examples, strategies and resources to adapt lessons to meet the needs of each student in their classrooms. 0.00 2021/03/18 2022/03/24 5
Trauma Brain (Level 2) This course gives an advanced understanding of the brain. including differences between “active” and “relational” based brains, trauma-related behaviors, and strategies to reach and teach trauma-impacted students so that they can re-engage in learning. Participants will learn about the range of thinking that a brain does, explore how students fit into the range of thinking, and discover healthy ways of engaging the full range of thinking. 0.00 2021/05/31 2022/03/24 4
Differentiated & Engaged Instruction (Level 2) This 8-hour, self-paced course is facilitated by Laurie Trotter, an EnvisionEdPlus Instructional Specialist. The course explores advanced differentiation as an effective instructional method that is responsive to the learner’s preferences and interests. Create, implement, and improve a lesson plan to engage all learners. Participants will learn through various articles, videos, examples, strategies, and resources to be able to be proficient in starting to adapt lessons to meet all needs of students in their classroom. Prerequisite: Differentiated and Engaged Instruction (Bronze Badge). 0.00 2021/05/31 2022/03/24 5
Creativity Belongs in the Classroom (Level 1) Encourage lifelong learning, improve focus, reduce anxiety and enhance thinking in your classroom or program. Creativity is a learned and trained process for getting the most out of higher level thinking and problem solving of your students. Learn how to embed creativity easily into your lessons, using strategies that will help unlock your students ability to be innovative thinkers and problem solvers. This course is appropriate for anyone who works with youth and also satisfies the HQPD Gifted competencies of A, B, and D. 0.00 2022/01/14 2022/04/10 5

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