Superintendent Demetrus Liggins knows well how what happens in and around Fayette County Public Schools is of broad interest in the Lexington community. As the head of our schools, he also recognizes that he is always in the public eye. “When you take the job, you become the face of the district, the voice of the district, and everything you do matters,” he told a lunch gathering of the Thoroughbred Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
More than a dozen PRSA members gathered on Feb. 21 at the John D. Price Administration Building for their regular networking event and latest guest speaker. Liggins talked a bit about his Texas childhood and background in education, leading to his becoming superintendent here in July 2021. Since ours is the second-largest school district in Kentucky and a major employer in Lexington, Liggins has grown accustomed to the spotlight. He is no longer surprised when people recognize him in the airport or at the grocery.
“It really is about connecting with people and having those personal experiences,” said Liggins, who called the superintendent position a “communications job.” He also shared three lessons learned about public relations:
- Decide if it is our story to tell. For instance, the sudden death of a student is unrelated to our schools. Sometimes it is our story to share, sometimes not.
- Know your audience. When sending out communications about a tax increase, for example, tailor it accordingly. Families want to know their children will be in a safe, innovative environment. Taxpayers want to know the impact on their wallet and home values. FCPS employees want to know how the move affects their requests for increased salaries.
- Life is a people business. Liggins described an unruly third grader he taught in Texas and shared how he gradually connected with the boy and his extended family. “You really have to meet people where they are, and you have to grow with them,” he said.
Posted Feb. 21, 2023