Caledonia — Since joining the Caledonia Community Schools team as superintendent in 2018, Dedrick Martin has become the lead author in writing the district’s story.
Michele Zoet, his administrative assistant, said “Improving overall communication between the schools and the community has been one of Martin’s goals since his first day in the district.”
Martin said telling a common story, as well as building trust and opening the door for questions and communication guided him through a period of rapid community growth and changing demographics.
“When I became the superintendent, communication was one of the issues identified by the board and community, getting the wrong information or misinformation over social media,” he shared in a previous interview with SNN.
Almost five years later at the Jan. 16 CCS Board of Education meeting, Martin received the honor of Michigan School Public Relations Association’s 2022 Superintendent Communicator of the Year.
The award recognizes a practicing superintendent for outstanding leadership in school public relations and communications. Martin received nominations from administrators, teachers and community stakeholders.
“This was a surprise,” he said at the meeting. “The story of the district is one with a proud history of excellence that stumbled upon challenging times. I am fortunate to work alongside a dedicated team who successfully build and foster safe, quality learning environments for all students to thrive.”
He added: “This award is a testament to the collective effort of talented administrators, teachers, and staff who are focused on building a positive climate and culture at CCS.”
Martin’s first order of business as a new superintendent was to collaborate with his team to establish the district’s new direction and launch multiple initiatives that centered on purposeful communication.
He put himself in the hot seat for “Dialogues with Doc” sessions, hosted at various times and locations to accommodate more parents and members of the CCS community.
Last year, the district launched an app designed for families to get reliable information directly from the district and help keep students, parents and staff connected with calendars, extra-curricular updates, access to grades and more.
In presenting the award, MSPRA Awards & Recognition committee member Katie McClintic said, “It was clear to MSPRA’s expert panel of judges that Dr. Martin understands the value of year-round, ongoing communication and demonstrates excellent personal communication skills such as ethics, honesty, openness and active listening.”
Zoet explained how under Martin’s leadership the district has developed new branding standards including common colors, logos and email signature; plus a communications handbook and added a full-time communications director, Kelly Clark, in 2020.
“I have a lot of good ideas, but Kelly brings them to life,” Martin said.
Clark has enjoyed becoming part of the process toward positive change.
“The trust Doc (Martin) has placed in me from the beginning is amazing,” she said. “It’s a district-wide effort, and I enjoy getting to see the positive things we do as a district for our students and teachers.”
Dirk Weeldreyer, a previous interim superintendent at CCS, said Martin has transformed the effectiveness of the district’s communications with students, staff and families.
“Dr. Martin is a thoughtful and ethical leader who understands and demonstrates the crucial role that an effective communications strategy plays in the success of a school district,” he said. “He is moving the district in an exciting and positive new direction.”