A superintendent is the CEO of a school district. That means he or she holds executive power over the institution’s daily functions, from making budget decisions to influencing how the school district’s operations function on a day-to-day basis.

However, in many ways, the superintendent’s most critical function is as an ambassador to the community. For a school district to be prosperous, the administrators, teachers, and staff must significantly engage the public. Without parents and other community members who support school districts, students cannot reach their full academic potential.

Top performing school district superintendents develop a proactive community outreach plan. That starts with meeting key stakeholders within the community, such as business owners, parents, college presidents, city government officials, state lawmakers, and more.

One New Jersey superintendent took things a step further by putting together a formal Community Planning Task Force. Larry Leverett, head of schools in Plainfield, New Jersey, managed to get 225 people to join his planning body. The members were split up into six design teams. Their goal was to develop a detailed framework for the school district’s strategic plan.

Leverett also did something unusual. He opened up the “stats book” of the school district to inform all community members about key school metrics, such as test scores, condition of facilities, financial data, and more. Too often, superintendents prefer to keep the public in the dark about such essential data. However, Leverett said that “the sunshine of full transparency is the cure for what ails a school district.” Informed people can act proactively when they know what they’re dealing with, he said.

The method proved successful for Superintendent Leverett. Within two years, the district voters supported a referendum calling for $34 million to upgrade buildings and add student learning technology.

The Plainfield example is a testament to the power of superintendents who get out into the community and engage with everyone they can.