Matthew Miller’s tech-driven initiatives have made a tremendous impact in Lakota Local Schools, and recently earned him the NSPRA’s 2019 Communication Technology Award for Superintendents.

Each year, the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) honors a district superintendent with its Communication Technology Award for Superintendents. This distinction is given to an administrator of an American or Canadian K-12 school system who shows exceptional leadership in implementing technologies that improve communication and engagement among stakeholders in their districts.

The superintendents who have won this award in the past have all gone above and beyond in their efforts to utilize technology in their schools, and have managed to establish cultures of transparency while implementing their innovations. This is no small feat, as educational innovations — particularly technological ones — often polarize both teachers and administrators. As such, candidates for the NSPRA award are judged not by their proposed ideas, but by how effectively they have been able to roll out their forward-looking programs.

Last month, Lakota Local Schools Superintendent Matthew Miller was named the recipient of the NSPRA’s 2019 Communication Technology Award for Superintendents in only his second year serving the district — a truly remarkable accomplishment.

A Commitment to Technology

Even before joining Lakota Local Schools, Miller had built a reputation as a tenacious, tech-savvy superintendent. He first made headlines during the 2015-2016 school year, when he was working as the superintendent of Ohio’s Mentor Public Schools.

Tech giant Apple tried to force the district to pay a higher price for student laptops by prohibiting it (and other districts) from buying from third-party sellers. But Miller wouldn’t allow his district’s hands to be tied. He proposed that the district use school funds to buy Best Buy gift cards for students so they could purchase laptops themselves, effectively circumventing Apple’s policy. Apple ended up backing down from the ensuing standoff, and Miller walked away having saved his district over $200,000.

When Miller was hired as Lakota’s superintendent in 2017, he wasted no time bringing this same tenacity to the 22 schools in the district. In his first year, Miller launched a half-dozen new social media and technology programs, including the district’s first Twitter account and a series of YouTube videos that highlighted news and events in Lakota schools. To accompany this increased digital presence, Miller also invested in a mobile app that provides parents with real-time insights into day-to-day school operations. The app offers a wealth of helpful assistance for parents, from school directions to important contact information and even an event calendar that parents can sync with their personal calendars.

Further, Miller implemented a 1:1 device initiative that offered laptops to more than 2,500 students in the district’s four junior high schools. These students are now better able to connect with their peers and teachers as they work on assignments from home. Although other districts experimented with similar initiatives around the same time, Lakota was the only district in Butler County that undertook this kind of program on such an ambitious scale. What’s more, Miller was able to roll out this initiative using only funds provided in the district’s general operating budget!

Finally, Miller bolstered this device initiative with the introduction of a WiFi connectivity program called WE Are Connected. The program partnered with local businesses to make more public WiFi networks available to students. More than 25 local stores and restaurants came on board to collectively foster a digitized learning environment that encouraged students to look at their phones and computers as powerful educational resources. Miller wanted to send a message to students that, in the 21st century, they can learn anywhere — not just in a classroom.

A Proud Partner

Miller’s wide-ranging initiatives have been overwhelmingly successful, and continue to be developed and adapted across Lakota Local Schools. His accomplishing so much in just two years speaks volumes to the passion and competence he brings to the district.

As Lakota’s EMIS reporting partner, we’re incredibly proud of Miller’s achievement. Like Miller, we at Vinson are committed to leveraging technology to make education better for students, and are thrilled to see the Lakota community reaping the rewards of doing so.