Shively values balance as school chief
Shively admits he misses the classroom and daily interactions with students and other teachers. He started out as a chemistry teacher at Paducah Tilghman and was quickly given leadership roles - first as science department coordinator, then school-based decision-making council member, assistant principal and then assistant superintendent.
Though on occasion he has no choice but to close his office door to get things done, he prefers to keep the doors open and get out and about whenever possible. He's found a new voice through his Twitter account, @dshively44 and his blog, which allow him to keep in touch with students and parents even when he can't see them face-to-face as much as he'd like.
In his first year as superintendent, somewhere between moments of deep thought behind closed doors and moments of connection with students and teachers, he kept coming to the same question: How do we craft a school system that meets our community's needs?
Shively spearheaded a strategic planning process to find answers. Through extensive research, he and his team have worked to balance students' individual, immediate needs with the overarching, long-term needs of the community.
Throughout the year they gathered over 1,600 surveys from students, parents, faculty and staff. They asked community leaders and the local business community for input. It was a massive undertaking on top of already-heavy duties for a first-time superintendent.
In addition to fulfilling his new administrative responsibilities, last school year Shively also completed 21 hours of doctoral coursework and 17 days of out-of-town administrative training, culminating in rave reviews from both his advisers and the Paducah Board of Education.
In their end-of-year evaluation of Shively's performance, board members said he was accomplished in his cultural, human resources, managerial and influential leadership, and exemplary in his strategic, instructional and collaborative leadership.
Despite the difficulty of balancing his roles as a husband, father, superintendent and student, Shively doesn't regret for one moment taking on the massive strategic planning project, too. The end result was worth it, he said. Throughout the process he kept reminding his team of something former Paducah Schools Superintendent Vance Ramage told Shively when he was a school-level administrator years ago.
"You make poor decisions from bad information, and you make great decisions from good information," Ramage told Shively, "so always make sure you have good information."
The district distilled the feedback they'd gathered from the community into a new vision: To know each and every student by name and need.
Assistant Superintendent Will Black also learned a lot through the strategic planning process, as well as from working closely with Shively. They compliment each other well, Black said. With Shively's secondary education background and Black's background in elementary education, as a duo they have a deep understanding of the range of challenges facing Paducah schools.
Black met Shively years ago, long before they worked together, but Black said he knew immediately that Shively was someone he wanted to work with in the future.
"He does have a good sense of humor," Black said of Shively. "In education, you're dealing with a lot of variables, sometimes too many variables, some that you can't control. It can be overwhelming at times. He helps to maintain a healthy sense of humor and balance."
Shively's scientific, analytical approach to solving problems while never forgetting the importance of the qualitative, human heart of his work is something special, Black said.
"He's taught me a lot in terms of how to build systems that help align the schools and processes that support teachers as they make instructional decisions, but he's a good manager of detail as well," Black said. "He strikes a good balance between brainstorming big ideas and at the same time executing those ideas by being detail-oriented. He really does embody both strengths. And he's interested in making changes that last. There's wisdom in that."
Shively said he didn't necessarily set out to be superintendent of Paducah Public Schools, and he knows it's a title he won't always have, but he's proud to have it now and wants to make his time count.
"I value what Paducah Public Schools does for children," Shively said. "I know that regardless of what my sons' talents are, our schools will be able to meet their needs and develop their strengths. I truly value that as a father."
One of the biggest strengths Shively sees in Paducah schools - both as an administrator and as a father - is their diversity.
"Our kids will have the ability to communicate and understand and empathize with people who have different backgrounds than they do, that bring different ideas and beliefs to the conversation," Shively said. "As an educator, I'm excited about the possibilities that I've seen, some of the doors I've seen open this year. I think we offer something very special in Paducah, and I want that for my children."
Contact Genevieve Postlethwait, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651.