Here’s how Lakota’s superintendent makes sure to hear from the community

It was mid-day coffee served up recently with side dishes of probing questions, complaints and compliments for Lakota’s school leader.

First-year Superintendent Matt Miller sat down with more than a dozen Lakota district residents at a West Chester Township coffee shop recently as part of a series of coffee chats he has initiated since taking over Ohio’s eighth largest school system in August.

Miller talked a bit to begin the informal, lunch-time event and then fielded questions ranging from busing to learning technology.

It’s the latest outreach program for the most publicly accessible Lakota superintendent in recent years. In the less than the half-year Miller has been on the job, he has launched numerous public and social media efforts – including the school system’s first Twitter account.

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His enthusiastic embrace of accessibility comes easily for Miller.

“I enjoying listening to what our stakeholders have to say and speaking candidly with our community members,” he said.

“We have had parents of Lakota students and those who do not have children attending our schools, but who live in West Chester or Liberty Township, come to the coffee chats. It’s a relaxed environment, and our guests are the ones who guide the direction of the conversation. I always walk away learning something new and hope I have been able to answer any questions they may have.”

The coffee chat earlier this month at Einstein Brothers Bagels was the fourth so far this school year. The locations are rotated between the 16,500-student district’s two townships of West Chester and Liberty.

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The recent chat included questions about the prospects for returning busing to high school students – which have been missing since 2011 as part of sweeping budget cuts – to the possibility of all-day kindergarten.

Lakota parent Tim Boellner was among those asking and listening.

“It’s great,” Boellner said. “It gives people who probably wouldn’t want to come to a board meeting — and wouldn’t want to speak in front of a group – the opportunity to say their piece or give input.”

“He (Miller) seems to be more open to new ideas,” he said.

Fellow Lakota school parent Kay Caccamo attended her first coffee chat, saying “I didn’t really know what to expect.”

“He (Miller) is very open and accommodating in looking at everyone’s situations and what’s best for the district as a whole,” said Caccamo.

The next coffee chat is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 3, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at Liberty Township’s Beans & Brew at 7051 Yankee Road.

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