Craig Hockenberry

9 months ago · 3 min. reading time · visibility ~100 ·

chat Contact the author

thumb_up Relevant message Comment

Craig Hockenberry Superintendent: A Leader Seeks and Incorporates Feedback

Craig Hockenberry Superintendent: A Leader Seeks and Incorporates Feedback

Craig Hockenberry Finding Our Values

Craig Hockenberry Superintendent: A Leader Seeks and Incorporates Feedback

By Craig Hockenberry

Three Rivers School District is a welcoming and nurturing small-town school district, even though it encompasses three villages. When I arrived as Superintendent, I was not totally surprised to find they had not done the work of identifying their core values and creating a strategic plan for the future.

I had this in mind as I started my listening tour. Speaking in churches and meeting on the occasional dining room table, I learned that residents were fiercely proud of the district. When they identified a community swimming pool as a need - something they lost when the old high school was recently rebuilt - we found a way to combine resources and put one in a new recreation center.

So we started the core value work by creating space and time to write. On a Sunday, with time compensated in personal leave, my full administrative team and others met at the Cincinnati Observatory for a full day of brainstorming, writing, and wordsmithing ... and catered meals.

At the end of the day we had summed up our past, present, and hope for the future in these three identified values. We would …

- Cultivate Excellence

- Inspire Innovation

- Nurture Inclusion

Hockenberry: Getting authentic feedback

We were working with a parent of Three Rivers students, Tim Urmston, who was the founder and CEO of SEEK. He had helped lead Fortune 500 companies through visioning and crafting core values, and his expertise had led us to identify values that resonated with our team.

He cautioned me that finding these statements was not the real work.

We had a room full of people who believed in them because they wrote them, and because they were from the community. We knew they captured the spirit of who we were and who we wanted to be.

But for core values to really resonate, there had to be buy-in from the larger community.

We needed to elicit authentic feedback from our constituencies.

Our building administrators agreed to go back and speak to their Parent Teacher Organizations, to attend community meetings, and to vet these core value statements at their staff meetings. The goal was to get meaningful community feedback.

Craig Hockenberry Putting that feedback into the mix

The administrators diligently took these statements to the community. They got valuable feedback that provided powerful insight to the spirit of Three Rivers schools.

Perhaps my favorite part of working with this core values process was learning how deeply the Three Rivers community valued diversity.

As a rural community, Three Rivers was almost entirely white. However, because we were public schools, we knew the importance of valuing every child as they arrived at our doorstep. We had a large population of students with special education needs, and they were our children.

When I hired the district’s first ever black administrator, Ceair Baggett, he was welcomed.

In the listening and feedback process, we learned that the members of the Three Rivers Community truly value diversity. We learned that they were eager to give their students diverse experiences.

We were urged to hire black and immigrant employees whenever possible. Our parents knew that many of their children would work in Cincinnati or other cities, and experience with a diverse set of people would prepare them for the reality of working in the larger world.

It’s possible that I expected something different. I could not have hoped for more. Three Rivers was really committed to being diverse and welcoming to all.

This feedback was carefully collected and funneled back to SEEK. They incorporated the feedback into the descriptors that accompanied each phrase. In this way, the voice of the larger community was included in the core values statements.

They truly represented our values and our voices.

Superintendent Hockenberry: Communicating the core values

We knew that we still had hard work ahead. We needed to present the information in an unbiased way to the community.

Sure, the Board and I could roll them out at a Board meeting, but we needed a trusted member of the community.

Again, Tim was the right person for the task. He had worked the process from the beginning, and represented an important voice in the community - he was not just a facilitator, after all, he was a parent communicating our values.

Once you have identified what drives you, this must be shared with everyone in the district. One reason these values are important is because they give everyone a sense of what is important to the organization as a whole.

We put banners in the villages, featuring the core values and pictures of our students. We placed similar banners in our school hallways. We incorporated these values into our lessons, so we could grapple with what they meant to us as individuals.

And the core values served a larger purpose. Now every person had something to point to if there was a dispute about how something should be handled, or how to move forward in a conflict.

We would …

- Cultivate Excellence

- Inspire Innovation

- Nurture Inclusion

And this could now happen in every corner of the district. From a student’s desk to the central office receptionist’s waiting room, these values could help guide our decisions and unify us like never before.

And they would also lay the path to creating our first ever district strategic plan.

thumb_up Relevant message Comment

More articles from Craig Hockenberry

View blog
7 months ago · 3 min. reading time
Craig Hockenberry


Craig Hockenberry Listens During Strategic Plannin ...

7 months ago · 1 min. reading time
Craig Hockenberry



7 months ago · 2 min. reading time
Craig Hockenberry