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The Globe profiles the School District of Clayton's new Superintendent Dr. Sean Doherty and new Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. Timothy Dilg.
August 29, 2016
Last November, when Dr. Sharmon Wilkinson took a medical leave from her position as superintendent of the School District of Clayton, she knew who to leave the District in the hands of – then Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. Sean Doherty.
“I felt honored that [Wilkinson] chose me to lead the District at that time,” Doherty said.
For the remainder of the 2015-2016 school year, Doherty continued his duties as assistant superintendent of human resources in addition to his new role as interim superintendent for the remainder of the 2015-2016 school year, Doherty continued his duties as assistant superintendent of human resources in addition to his new role as interim superintendent for the District.
As a colleague and friend to Wilkinson, seeing her have to leave her position was challenging for Doherty. Even so, he was up to the task of being the interim superintendent.
“I felt deep sadness for [Wilkinson], but I also am a person that when things like that happen, I know that I am going to give 110 percent so that we continue to do the work that is important.
Doherty began his career as a third grade teacher in the Webster Groves School District and served as a principal in the Parkway School District prior to serving as principal of Captain Elementary. Doherty spent four years at Captain before he became the assistant superintendent of human resources two years ago.
He utilized his leadership skills and focus gained from his extensive background in education to ensure that the District would keep afloat in the wake of Wilkinson’s departure.
“My energy had to be in making sure that the District knew that we were still moving forward, even in [Wilkinson’s] absence,” Doherty said. “I needed to be present, I needed to make sure that my voice was out there, I needed to make sure that people knew who I was because I wanted their to be confidence that our District was moving forward even in the absence of our superintendent.”
Doherty’s presence was certainly noted by the Board of Education. In May, when Dr. Wilkinson formally resigned from her superintendent position, the BOE unanimously nominated Doherty to be the new superintendent of the District, a role that he assumed on July 1.
Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. Timothy Dilg credits part of his decision to pursue a career in education to some of his favorite high school teachers and administrators.
“All of [my teachers and principals] impressed upon me that relationships are the key to success in life and that if you invest in other people, the return you receive from them will be tremendous,” Dilg said.
This impression has been long-lasting, as Dilg enters the School District of Clayton with the job description of someone who spends a large amount of their time working with administrators and educators throughout the District to ensure the success of students both in and out of the classroom.
On July 1, Dilg assumed the role as assistant superintendent of human resources, filling the position vacated by Doherty, who is now the superintendent of the District.
As assistant superintendent of human resources, Dilg has the responsibility of running the human resources department in the District, which, according to their website, works to ensure that the District, “hires, develops, and retains the highly skilled and motivated workforce required for effective teaching and student learning in all of our school communities.”
Prior to joining the School District of Clayton, Dilg was the principal of St. John Vianney, an all-boys private catholic high school in Kirkwood for five years.
In May 2015, Dilg was named the High School Principal of the Year by St. Louis Association of Principals.
In addition to his role as an assistant superintendent, Dilg is a member of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Leadership Missouri program and is a graduate professor at Southwest Baptist University.
Q&A: Sean Doherty, superintendent
Q: What does being the superintendent of the Clayton School District mean to you?
A: It means being the lead learner of the District. It means being someone who always asks, “Where do we want to be in five years and how are we going to get there?” and “How am I going to collaboratively work to build a collective efficacy with our staff and with our community about, ‘What is the possibility?’” With also making sure that we are recognizing all the good things that we are already doing. I think it’s going to be important for me to establish really positive relationships, not only with our Clayton School District community but also the community of Clayton. It’s this sense of leading the District towards what’s possible and making sure that I’m not just being the visionary person, but that I am also being able to put some systems in place to make it happen.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be in a leadership position?
A: It was only after becoming an assistant principal that I realized my capacity for leadership. Even when I went into that role, I thought to myself, “I’ll try this for a year and see what happens.” I saw the impact that I was able to have with students, teachers and parents. It energized me. One thing led to another and here I am today in Clayton.
Q: When you were a teacher, who were the administrators that you looked up to?
A: When I was a classroom teacher, I had a principal who I would consider a multiplier – someone who grows others as leaders. He modeled for me the importance of establishing positive relationships, being in classrooms and developing a strong sense of community. I appreciated that he helped me not only become a stronger teacher, he also invested time in developing me as a leader – often helping me see qualities in myself that I did not recognize. He was a servant leader.
Q: What are some times that you, as an administrator, have faced a challenge? How did you overcome this challenge?
A: As a leader, I am faced with challenges on a consistent basis. When faced with a challenge, I consistently make sure that I take time to listen and process all aspects of the concern. It is critical make informed decisions. Also, it always comes down to what is in the best interests of our students. I believe that challenges are good – they are an indicator of change.
Q: How did you feel when you were unanimously elected for the superintendent position in the spring?
A: I felt such a sense of pride. Honestly, I thought of my mom and dad in that moment. I was just thinking of these people who never had a college education; they finished high school and that was it. I thought about their legacy and having me be the superintendent of Clayton. I really felt that I made them proud.
Q: What are the fundamentals to making the Clayton School District effective and successful?
A: I believe the fundamentals would be strong relationships with all students and their families, a sense of collegiality among the faculty and a mindset of continuous improvement for everyone.
Q: What are your plans and goals for this school year and beyond?
A: With it being my first year this year, I want to ensure that we continue our work on the District’s strategic plan. But I also want to look at taking a lot of opportunity to get a lot of input this year so I can start looking at where we want to go. We have this tremendous sense of community in Clayton and I think it’s an untapped resource. We have all these different companies and businesses and opportunities for our students to have some really relevant experiences in a real world setting. So I think about how I can start laying the groundwork for that. What I have always done in terms of taking on a new leadership role is I take it as an opportunity to explore, to learn and to listen. I will take what I learn from this year and see where we want to go. I am going to be spending a lot of time with people, getting input on what’s going to help us move forward. I never want to be the type of leader saying, “Well this is what I think we are going to do and this is what we are going to do, you better come along.” I think that you need to build a collaborative efficacy so people feel that they have a buy in to what we are doing.
Q: Years from now, when you are no longer the superintendent, how do you want people to remember you? In other words, what do you want your legacy to be?
A: I would want my legacy to be someone who always put students first, someone who challenged the givens and looked at how we could do things differently and better for students. But also, someone who was always a teacher first and a learner first, someone who was able to develop collaborative relationships, not just with teachers and administrators, but also with students. I am hoping that people look back and say, “He was always someone who put the best interest of our students first and always someone who was forward thinking and looked at the possibilities and made it happen.”
Q&A: Timothy Dilg, assistant superintendent of human resources
Q: When the opporitunity for being the new assistant superintendent of human resources was presented to you, what attracted you to it?
A: I felt that it was an opportunity for me to grow as a learner and also got me back to my public school roots, being a public school product myself. I viewed it as an opportunity to cast a greater net on the reach and impact that I could have on kids. It’s what attracted me to leadership positions, to go to a classroom, to a principalship, to now an assistant superintendent role. I just want to do the most good for the greatest amount of people that I can.
Q: Specifically for the role as assistant superintendent of human resources, why did you go after that role?
A: I think the most important things in schools are people, particularly the educators who are working with our students each and every day. I am probably a little bit envious that I do not have that role as a classroom teacher anymore. As a high school principal I was fortunate to recruit, attract, retain and develop some of the most spectacular educators. Each and everyday I witnessed their powerful influence in bettering the lives of all students. To now have that capacity for the entire school district is exciting, it really energizes me and motivates me to do my best work because I know the difference that one teacher can make in the life of students.
Q: What was your initial reaction when you found out that you got this position?
A: I was very excited, overwhelmed and was in a state of disbelief that I had gotten this position. It became a difficult struggle that I had to deal with in saying goodbye and resigning my position as principal of Vianney; that was probably one of the most emotionally difficult decisions I have had to make. I love that community and the work we have done together in the last five years has been amazing and has required a lot of sacrifice from a lot of people. While I was very excited to be coming here and growing in my career, I felt as though I was abandoning a community. I was fearful of how people would respond to my leaving. The kids, the parents, the teachers. It was very emotional. Ultimately, I left excited to grow as an educator and confident that Vianney is in a great place to continue their tradition of developing Men of Character and Accomplishment.
Q: What made you finally decide that you wanted to leave Vianney and come to Clayton?
A: I think that as a leader, one of my mantras has always been to leave a place better than I found it. I think we constantly have to self-reflect as leaders as well and ask ourselves, “Are we the person doing the most good for the organization? And are we what is needed at the time that it’s needed?” After a lot of reflection and a lot of talking with my wife, family and friends, I have no doubt in my mind that I was the right person at the right time when Vianney hired me to be their principal. We have done some amazing things in the past five years and I think that I am very comfortable with where I have left the school. Certainly, there are still more things that need to be done. But I also think that it’s time that they have a new voice, a new leader and someone who can carry them to the next stage of their advancement. I also saw this opportunity here at Clayton to bring my voice, my strength and my experiences to a really amazing school district. I’m excited to be part of Clayton’s history of excellence and look forward to learning how I can educate, inspire and empower others through my work. I believe I’m the right person at the right time to lead Clayton as the assistant superintendent of human resources.
Q: How do you hope to connect with students in the District?
A: I hope to be visible and present. Certainly there are employment responsibilities that will need tending to throughout the district, but I want to also become an invested member of the Clayton community. To-do so I will be visible at co-curricular and athletic contests. I plan to visit with students during lunch and free-periods to hear their stories and share in their journey. I would be open to exploring opportunities to speak with classes and organizations. Mostly I want to be available to people and a resource and advocate for their life-long growth.
Q: What does being the assistant superintendent of human resources mean to you?
A: It’s overwhelming. I am a first-generation college student. As we were growing up, my dad worked two or three jobs and still tried to coach our little league baseball teams and soccer teams. I recognize the sacrifices my parents made and I’m hopeful this makes them proud. Unfortunately most of my grandparents are all deceased and do not know that I have ascended to a role like this. One of things I did when I was named assistant superintendent [of human resources], I went to Jefferson Barracks Cemetery to where two of my grandfathers and one grandmother is buried and reflected, probably let out far more tears than I care to admit. I really think they’d be proud.