Creating Opportunity Through Purposeful Visibility
Friday, March 13, 2020
by: Lisa M. Harrod

Section: From Contributors

Lisa M. Harrod, superintendent of Manteno Community School District No. 5 in Manteno, Illinois, with students

Creating Opportunity Through Purposeful Visibility

Manteno School District prides itself in “Going the Extra Mile...and Then One More Step.” The district has focused on using Growth Mindset to keep administrators and staff motivated and engaged in strategies for never-ending improvement.

Lisa grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and her passion for education and desire to make a difference was ignited by her parents, who were both educators. Her father was a high school football coach in the Chicago Catholic and Public Leagues. Her mom was an administrator in the field of special education. She understood her parents' belief that every student whom you are fortunate to teach brings the ability to make a lasting impression and difference in that students’ life. That is something to consistently build upon each day.

Lisa lives in Manteno with her husband, Jason, and her three children, ages 13, 12 and 6. She loves working in the district her children are in and finding purpose in being a mom. She loves attending activities and watching all of the students in her district shine. She credits them for helping her find a balance that is meaningful and full of appreciation for all life has to offer.

Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk

Manteno School District prides itself in “Going the Extra Mile...and Then One More Step.” The district has focused on using Growth Mindset to keep administrators and staff motivated and engaged in strategies for never-ending improvement. 

Manteno has been blessed with a Board of Education that makes every decision in the best interest of students without agendas or competition. This support and trust allows the district admin and staff to pursue excellence and think out of the box for students.

Purposeful Visibility

Lisa believes in purposeful visibility, finding unique ways to become involved in the buildings and interact with students. As a member of a strong community, it is important to her to have staff members and students see that leadership is about relationships built on trust and truly becoming invested in those you serve. She is proud that teachers can contact administrators at the district office or buildings to assist in furthering curriculum differentiation or rigorous instruction, help out during projects, and mentor students. This all-hands-on-deck leadership is a win-win for all stakeholders. Some of her favorite moments include volunteering in classrooms each week and meeting students for lunch as part of classroom incentives. 

Obtaining a Climate and Culture You Are Proud Of

Lisa and the administrative team have worked hard to follow her philosophy of 90 versus 10. Ninety percent of people see the big picture and where you are headed, as long as you take the time to show them how you will arrive there together. Ten percent are programmed for negativity. Through coaching and support, you hope to change the fixed mindset, but you must focus your energy on those that collectively believe in what your organization is capable of. 

Lisa believes that if you take care of people, they will give their best to students. She consistently reminds others to take care of themselves and the district works hard on wellness incentives and other areas to support educators.

Leadership through Valuing Resiliency: Social Emotional Support and Nurturing

Lisa feels one of the most important areas she can share with others is the ability to recognize what resiliency is and its importance in overcoming challenges and obstacles. This is a message she shares with students in the classroom and leadership groups she facilitates during advisory, after school groups and in the Leadership Academy at the high school. She believes there is power in resiliency-building as a lifelong skill. She credits the teachers in the district for allowing her to spread this message by working directly with students and making time for mindfulness groups as well. The teachers also do a phenomenal job working to create classroom communities and foster independence. This group effort helps address the social emotional needs of students in an effort to educate the whole child. 

Creating Opportunity

Lisa is proud of the commitment to excellence by the Board of Education, staff and community to consistently create opportunities for staff. They held their first annual “Excellence in Education” showcase last year to provide an inside view of opportunities afforded to students. In 2021, the district will hold a Skills Day, during which students will be exposed to a variety of topics aimed at making the transition to adulthood easier.

It sounds cliché, but Lisa truly believes in passion and energy as contagious, and feels blessed to be able to do what she does on a daily basis. “The role of a superintendent can be challenging but by becoming involved and learning to find joy and positivity in each day, your focus and resolve remain strong.”

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