Douthitt seeks to be a ‘servant leader’ in district

Published 3:38 pm Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Darren Douthitt believes in having a plan in life and leading by example, qualities he wants to bring to the position of Butler County Schools Superintendent.

Douthitt, currently an assistant superintendent for Lee County Schools, shares his views and experiences during his interview with the Butler County BOE Saturday.

“I think you need to develop a plan, hire good people, train all district employees, set high expectations and enforce board policies,” Douthitt said during his opening PowerPoint presentation before the board.

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He described himself as a “by-the-books” kind of person with a transformational leadership style.

“I see myself as a servant leader. I use my head, my hands, my heart to lead people,” Douthitt said.

Exemplary work ethic, sound judgment, unquestionable integrity, visibility in schools and community, excellent health, firm disciplinarian, perpetual learner, immeasurable passion, consensus builder and impeccable communication skills: these are the traits Douthitt promised to bring to the table if chosen as the county’s new superintendent.

“I would see myself as the head cheerleader . . . and be responsive to the board and stakeholders 24/7,” he said.

Douthitt said he believed in full transparency in terms of sharing information about the system with the community and hopes to establish a close working relationship with the board.

“I want to know your kids, your grand kids, where you live and I want you to know my family . . . it’s sort of like a courtship. I’ll visit you, come to your church, take advantage of opportunities to get to know each other. That way we can better help move our kids to where we want them to be,” Douthitt said.

He said community support would be vital in the educational process.

“You know, Mayor McLendon said he would be willing for his property taxes to be doubled in order to help Butler County schools. I would hope everyone would be as willing to do that, but it was refreshing to hear a mayor say it,” Douthitt said.

“I will actively seek out support for our schools in the community, whether it’s to provide supplies for our teachers or shoes for a child in need. We all have to be willing to collaborate.”

Douthitt said a positive relationship with the media was very important.

“The media can make you or break you. Some boards try to hide things and that is wrong. I’ll be the first to call them. You have to establish mutual trust,” he said.

He said the system has to be willing to help its children overcome obstacles.

“When I was in Birmingham, I had students who had never been outside their neighborhoods. I made it a regular thing to take them beyond those barriers. To this day, I will pull money out of my pocket to help a student,” Douthitt, raised with nine siblings by his widowed father, said. “When you grew up unable to do things, you want to help others.”

According to Douthitt, professional development courses should be in place to help all district employees right down to the custodian. “Everyone deserves training,” he said.

The candidate said he had already started gathering data on the system and looking for solutions for the district’s needs.

I will inspect what I expect . . .visit the schools, talk to the students, they will tell you some things. We also use a lot of technology in Lee County to provide us with updated knowledge and feedback,” he said.

Douthitt anticipates the recession and proration could create a hiatus on technological innovation in schools.

“And I hate that, because I believe technology puts us on the cutting edge in the classroom. Learners really need this. So we’ll have to find grants, look for innovative ideas and find other ways to keep technology in our schools,” Douthitt said.

“It’s vital to maintain interest in the classrooms. And we have a lot of new teachers who have this technological know-how to put to use.”

Douthitt sees himself as firm, fair and consistent in terms of discipline.

“Discipline should also be swift. A child misbehaves today, discipline them today,” he said.

“Either we can handle them within the district, or they are going to get handled in jail, and that bothers me. However, if a child continues to be a problem in the school, they cannot stay. They are interfering with the right of another child to learn.”

As a student, sports “helped me want to go to school and stay in school,” Douthitt said. “And I definitely didn’t want to get in trouble. So sports are important . . . but if we have to cheat to play, to win – that’s wrong.”

In terms of budget and finance, he said it’s important to get input from the smartest minds and methodically work through all the minutia.

“You must have budgeting priorities and analyze all expenses. If you don’t want someone who is willing to do the right thing for the district and make bold decisions – including possible consolidations and reconfiguring – then leave me in Lee County,” Douthitt said.

He said schools should be welcoming and courteous to the community, and strives to set an example in his own conduct.

“I will sit down and talk with people, establish a rapport. I do not meet a stranger,” Douthitt said.

“I will work hard as superintendent – it’s about progress, the children, the community.”