Making an Impression

March 08, 2005 1 min read

School district employees in Scottsdale, Ariz., are enjoying some fancy new descriptions for their jobs.

John M. Baracy, the superintendent of the 26,000-student Scottsdale Unified School District, decided to break with convention by changing the job titles of several employees in the district office last month.

The district’s receptionists, for example, are now addressed as “directors of first impressions.”

“What we’ve found is it reinforces daily what these positions and organizations are about,” Mr. Baracy said of the new titles, unanimously approved last month by the school board.

The changes are meant to promote a culture in the workplace that places “schools, teachers, and students first in all that we do,” he said. “We’re doing it to state what we value in our district and ensure that we walk the talk.”

The former director of food services is now the director of nutritional services and wellness, reflecting schools’ increased awareness of the importance of healthy eating. And bus drivers are now called transporters of learners, underscoring what the students are going to school to do.

Superintendent Baracy and members of his office staff designed the titles themselves. They modeled the receptionists’ new title after a similar job name seen at a bank.

Mr. Baracy also switched to newfangled job titles four years ago, when he served as the superintendent of Arizona’s Tempe Elementary School District.

Karen McKee, a director of first impressions, said she thinks the title change is wonderful.

“I do feel that when people come into the office, we are the first people here, and you have to be courteous. It’s a nice conversation-starter for people coming into the lobby,” she said.

The titles also act as daily reminders of each employee’s responsibilities.

The superintendent now is looking for candidates to fill a new position: executive director for exceptional customer experiences.

The new employee will act as the district’s ombudsman to help improve transportation and food services.

Whether the new titles will help the district improve customer service, or simply prove confusing for parents and others with whom the schools do business, remains to be seen. But so far, parents haven’t complained.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 09, 2005 edition of Education Week