A shepherd staff sits in the corner of Scott Dill’s office. It’s a constant reminder of the type of leader he wants to be. The type of leadership portrayed in the book, “The Way of the Shepherd.”
Dill says the book changed his life. He has modeled himself after the philosophy of servant leadership as an administrator. He says it is the blueprint to who he has become. His professional playbook.
He has loaned his copy of the book to many people around him. The administrators at the Houston School District recently began studying it together. They discuss it at weekly meetings.
It’s the type of leader Dill says he will be as the face of Houston Schools.
“The shepherd uses the staff to guide a flock, protect his flock and when necessary, a staff of correction when we need to guide and redirect,” Dill said. “Those are my expectations for myself and what I want from my people.”
Dill, who has been the middle school principal since 2007, was hired Sunday as the new superintendent of the Houston School District. He will complete the remainder of the current school year as “acting superintendent” — a position he was assigned in December after Dr. Dan Vandiver requested a professional leave of absence. Vandiver later resigned.
“I feel very blessed to have this opportunity to work in this time at this place with these people,” Dill said. “I recognize the school and community have gone through a rough patch. But fortunately for all of us, these storms don’t last for long.
“This is a good school district. I want us to take that next step and be a great school district. I want people to look at Houston and think, ‘That’s where I want my kids to go to school. I want to teach there. I want to be a part of what’s going on there.'”
A California native, Dill moved with his family to Humansville, Mo., when he was five years old. His parents purchased a farmhouse and 40 acres to raise cows, horses and other farm animals. “Everybody laughed at us because we were California farmers,” Dill said.
It was during high school that Dill determined he wanted to enter the education field. He was inspired by a science teacher.
“He was probably one of the most dispassionate people I’ve ever met in my life,” Dill recalled. “I patted him on the back once to wish him ‘happy birthday,’ and he turned around like he was going to karate chop me. But he was so knowledgeable.
“As I thought about the direction for my life, I wanted something purposeful. I wanted to make an impact.”
After graduating from Humansville High School in 1991, Dill enrolled at Missouri Southern University. He transferred to Southwest Baptist University and graduated in 1997 from Southwest Missouri State with an undergraduate degree in social studies and library science.
Dill’s first teaching job was the library media specialist and technology director at Macks Creek Schools. During his 10-year stint with the district, he began pursuing his graduate degree through SBU.
He said he was surprised in 2007 when the Houston school board selected him from a talented pool of candidates to be the next middle school principal.
“Coming to Houston has been one of those watershed moments in my life and career,” Dill said. “When I came to Houston, I felt at home almost immediately.”
Five years later, Dill’s name again stood out when the school board was filling a position. One of 13 candidates for the vacant superintendent position, Dill and four others were interviewed Saturday as finalists. Dill received a phone call later that night from Dr. Tom Dunn, school board president, offering him the job.
Dill revealed Monday afternoon that he had applied for the superintendent’s job at Macks Creek before the position at Houston became available. He was offered that job and turned it down — with no guarantee he would be extended the same position at Houston.
“I knew where I wanted to be. Come what may, I was going to stay in Houston,” Dill said.
That includes his family. His wife, Amy, is completing her second year as elementary principal. They have two daughters, Maura, 6, and Caroline, 10, who are in the first and fifth grades.
“They factored heavily into my decision,” the 38-year-old Dill said. “We’ve had other opportunities. But I want my kids in this school district. I’ve seen the quality of education and know the rigor and excellence students receive. I want my kids educated in this community. There’s a reason I chose to be here as well.”
Dill, who was hired with a 6-1 vote, said he plans to be visible in the community as “an unceasing voice for the good things that are going on in this district.” He said the public should expect to see him at ballgames and community events. He is the keynote speaker at next month’s annual chamber banquet.
“I have visited with and met superintendents all across the country,” said board member Sharon Horbyk. “I believe he will be one of those superintendents who is considered a superstar. He has a passion for education, kids and the community. I think he is the total package.”
Dill’s approach is a direct reflection of “The Way of the Shepherd.” He said it forms his personality both at home and work. Shortly after he was hired as middle school principal, Dill was sharing his leadership style and goals for himself as a leader with his stepfather. A few weeks later, he surprised Dill with the staff.
It was the first item he moved over from his old office to his new one in the superintendent’s building.
“I’m not promoting Scott Dill. That’s not what this is about,” Dill said. “I’m promoting the Houston School District. I’m promoting these kids and the value of the work my teachers do.
“If my needs are met along the way and my career advances, it is because I’ve taken care of my people and put them in positions where they can do great things and help kids.”
I’m not promoting Scott Dill. That’s not what this is about. I’mpromoting the Houston School District. I’m promoting these kids andthe value of the work my teachers do. If my needs are met along theway and my career advances, it is because I’ve taken care of mypeople and put them in positions where they can do great things andhelp kids.”