Super Social Superintendent of Greenwood
Writer & Photographer / Marc Sirkin
If you happen to be at a Greenwood schools band concert or cross-country meet and see Superintendent Kent DeKoninck’s eyes glued to his phone, he’s not checking his Facebook status. More likely, he’s on Twitter, proudly tweeting to the world the accomplishments of his students and teachers.
Dr. D, as he is known, is 52 years old and originally came from the small town of Columbia City, Indiana, about 20 miles northwest of Fort Wayne. When he was in high school and college, computers weren’t widely available, let alone the Internet. His first exposure to computers came when he worked in Culver as a guidance counselor from 1992-1997. It was there where he remembers first having access to the Internet and using email.
Fast-forward nearly 20 years and Dr. DeKoninck’s students have never known a time without desktop computers and the Internet. Social media is commonplace. But to most of those of Dr. DeKoninck’s generation, a tweet is what a bird does, not a method of communication.
Prior to starting as Superintendent at Greenwood, he had never used Twitter, but had seen other superintendents starting to use. So in September, 2013, two months after starting his tenure as Greenwood Superintendent, he posted his first tweet, and he was hooked.
Since 2013, he’s tweeted more than 6,600 times, now averaging about 30 tweets a week.
“I try not to be addicted to it,” he said. “I just don’t have that kind of time.”
He doesn’t tweet about personal things, though he has been known to tweet an occasional “Happy birthday” to his daughters or “Happy anniversary” to his wife.
“It shows I’m human and proud of my family,” he said.
He also avoids politics and other controversial subjects.
“I try to keep from embarrassing myself,” he said. “I don’t want to say something really dumb that will come back to bite me.”
Rather, if you check Dr. DeKoninck’s Twitter feed, you’ll see tweets such as an update from Friday night’s football game, photos of Greenwood robotics students at the Endress + Hauser Career Community Forum October 6, or photos from a recent middle school/high school choir concert. You’ll also find updates and photos from classes at every Greenwood school, at which he tries to make an appearance at least once a week. He doesn’t go to the schools because he has to, but because he loves to.
“For me, it’s just being selfish,” he said. “Being around the kids is what I enjoy most about my job … I’m visible at the schools because I want to see the kids. I got into this business to be a teacher. If I don’t see the kids I lose sight of that.
“If I don’t get to the buildings I start to get grumpy, but once I get out to the schools I’m a completely different person.”
It’s at the schools where Dr. DeKoninck can interact with the students and get to know them, and they get to know him. He then posts their accomplishments on Twitter.
“I try to highlight the kids,” he said. “They enjoy being the subjects. They appreciate me coming to class or other events. They’ll say ‘Hey Dr. D. How ya’ doin’?’ I enjoy engaging in conversations with the kids. It’s what makes my job fun.”
It’s the elementary students who really enjoy seeing their superintendent in their classroom.
“They’ll see me and ask to get their picture taken,” he laughs.
In addition to students, teachers also appreciate him making appearances in their rooms. He’ll often stealthily pop into a classroom to observe and take photos, but not to criticize.
“Teachers know I’m not in their classroom to scrutinize what they’re doing,” he said, “but to celebrate what they’re doing.”
Parents, as well, seem to appreciate the tweets.
“They can see I’ve been in that classroom,” he said. “They can see I have a pulse on what’s happening. They see I’m engaged and interested in what’s happening.”
When Dr. DeKnoninck began tweeting in 2013 he was excited when he discovered he had 100 followers. He now has more than 2,100 followers, and believes the tweets are a great way to publicize not only the accomplishments of the students and teachers, but also what Greenwood Schools has to offer.
“I want to show the good things happening in our district,” he said. “I do many things for community outreach, and social media is one more piece. We’re competing for kids with other school districts, and I want to make people aware of what Greenwood has to offer.”
You can follow Dr. DeKoninck on Twitter by searching for @Greenwoodsupt.