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New District 833 superintendent gets to know board members with training session

New Superintendent Keith Jacobus took his seat with the District 833 School Board on Tuesday, July 17, for the first time.

South Washington County School Board members and district administrators hope special training will help them excel following a leadership transition.

As he continues to familiarize himself with the district, new Superintendent Keith Jacobus recently brought in a facilitator to lead administrators and the seven board members through personality assessment and communication exercises. No similar training had been done in the district in recent memory.

Jacobus, who had used the training in his previous job as an assistant superintendent in Osseo, said it was important to hold the session now as he begins his tenure in District 833. He started the job in July.

The training will help his administrative staff and board members better understand his leadership style and personality type, and vice versa, he said. The district will face big issues in the future and a high-functioning leadership team will be critical, he said.

Participants answered a questionnaire as part of the DiSC assessment, which identifies personality and behavior traits. They shared that information and discussed ways to effectively communicate with people who have differing personality traits.

"I think it was really beneficial for us to get a feel for what styles (we are) and where we sort out," Jacobus said.

The training with a facilitator was held privately because no school district business was discussed or acted upon by the board, Jacobus said. The closed-door training allowed participants to be more open and candid.

Board Chairwoman Leslee Boyd said the training allowed the group to learn about each other and the varying communication styles. She said it will be helpful for board members if they want to use it. For instance, knowing someone is analytical in their approach to solving problems may change how you communicate with that person, she said.

Board member Marsha Adou said the training was beneficial. It will help board members interact with each other as well as with Jacobus, she said.

The training was helpful particularly because Jacobus went through it too, said board member Jim Gelbmann.

"Where the inclinations of all of the other board members didn't surprise me, I don't know Keith well enough (to know his personality characteristics)," Gelbmann said. "I think that was helpful for the board members, as opposed to waiting for a year of experience in dealing with Keith to figure out what his hot buttons are and how he likes to communicate."

Gelbmann also said it could improve communication among board members.

"If we want to be influential with our colleagues, it will help us understand what type of approach is more likely to resonate," he said.

The district is trying to move beyond a contentious period during which Jacobus' predecessor, Mark Porter, was dismissed and a public survey revealed concerns about district leadership and the school board.

Jacobus said his decision to hold the training stemmed from his belief that administrators and board members need to "come together as a team" as he settles in, not from anything in the district's past.

"I think it's important to do these types of training to make sure that we're highly effective," he said.

Jacobus plans a follow-up session to work further with administrators and the board on the personality assessment tool.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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