Elementary students’ faces light up as he enters the cafeteria. Sharing hugs with the little ones, the children laugh at his Olaf socks and quirky jokes. Red Oak ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Goddard makes an effort to relate to each student before lunchtime is over.

He’s brought a district-wide movement of putting one’s best foot forward and leads by his actions. You may find him at Red Oak High School’s theatre performances or opening car doors in the cold for elementary students.

Goddard embodies the new spirit of the hawk and carries empowering energy with him to inspire all surrounding.

For someone with so much responsibility, he spends most of his time with the students, finding a way to relate on their level, and, ultimately, inspiring them to bigger and reach higher.

Donald T. Shields Principal Shondra Jones said Goddard is practically famous on her campus. She said weekly, he visits the students and opens car doors in the morning. Usually, Goddard will show up on campus without notice, but she’ll know his presence based on the volume of the students.

Goddard is not a typical figurehead, as he goes the extra mile to visit campuses and catch up with the students. “He gets the kids riled up in the hallway in the morning. He may show up during the lunch periods and get them hyped up,” Jones explained.

“He’s very hands-on, passionate, he’s energetic, giving, loving and has the heart for servant leadership and not for professionals only but the students as well. You can tell that he’s all about the kids,” Jones elaborated.

In the year Goddard has worked with ROISD, he’s instilled the ideals of the four talons. In this model, he encourages students and faculty to live by this daily.

The four talons include:

1.    Be one percent better, love tough, preparing students for academic readiness

2.    Opening students to the challenges of learning through G.R.I.T. Growth, resilience, integrity and tenacity

3.    Promote fairness, respectful and well-rounded characteristics through R.E.A.C.H., respect, encourage, appreciate, communicate and honor

4.    Leave a legacy. We before me. Service to others before ourselves

Through the four talons, Jones noticed how these ideals are part of what Goddard resembles.

“He at first told us what he’s all about and he’s actually walking his talk. He’s all about the kids, and he’s shown he is. He’s about building people up. He brings opportunity for leadership. He’s positive even when circumstances aren’t so positive. He finds a light in everyone. So, he’s modeling for us what we should be modeling for our students,” Jones elaborated.

Goddard has brought a layer of positivity and visibility that’s important for the community to see the leader of the district connected. Jones joked how the staff can never figure out how Goddard is everywhere at once.

Though working with Goddard, Jones expressed how his leadership has ignited a fire inside her and everyone else in the district. She agreed that the staff has bought into the four talons and all that Goddard represents.

Jake Mullican is an FFA advisor at Red Oak High School and mentioned the new change in leadership extends support to all programs in the district.

“He’s very good at being out and about in the community as well as in the schools. It’s not uncommon to run into him in the hallways, or he’ll just stop into the classroom or the shop to check up on us,” Mullican shared.

Mullican expressed how Goddard is community-oriented and puts the students first in everything he does. 

Mullican chuckled as he described his first impression of Goddard, who is a former collegiate football player, and explained his stature could be a little intimidating. Mullican pointed out he’s six feet tall himself but still looks up to Goddard — just to put the superintendent’s size in perspective.

“But at the same time, he has a heart of gold and always has that smile on his face. He’s always got a good handshake for you too,” Mullican said. 

Despite Goddard's towering stature, the little ones are never scared of him. The superintendent will accentuate his large hands wearing Mickey Mouse gloves ready for a high five. 

The FFA instructor emphasized on the little things Goddard does to make the staff feel important. Throughout the day, Goddard will poke his head into classrooms to see what everyone is up to. If a teacher isn’t present, then Goddard will write a note on the board, leaving an inspiring message for the class. Goddard also emails moving articles and memos the beginning and end of the week to everyone he works with.

“I’ve worked in other districts and just never had that, so to be able to see the superintendent making those visits and putting his face out there — he’s at all the games, football, volleyball, basketball, the theatre performances, our stuff — he’s out there,” Mullican said.

For one student, Goddard has inspired him to put his best foot forward every day. Lawrence Robinson is the president of Red Oak High's student council, a member of Health Occupations of America, is the founder of Hawk Male Leadership and is a member of the National Honors Society.

He first introduced himself to Goddard June of 2017. “You could tell that he knew how to work a room. He warmed up the whole place with his spirit. I’ve never seen that before, not only out of an employee or faculty member but in a person.”

When Robinson established Hawk Male Leadership, Goddard proved to guide students supporting the newly founded organization. 

Robinson agreed that Goddard made an immediate impact in his life. After being elected the second time as student council president, he admitted there was some senioritis settling in at the beginning of the year. But through Goddard’s energy and presence, Robinson’s flame was reignited.

Goddard inspired Robinson to do his absolute best in his final year of high school. Robinson relates to the four talons, especially the idea of being one percent better every day. Through this motto, Robinson said he expects nothing less than his best.

“Some students are afraid to go up to their superintendent and ask, ‘hey, can we have this?’ but like with Goddard, I can go up to him, shake his hand and ask him.”

Robinson pointed out that Goddard puts in the effort to identify with each student. He stressed the importance of filling the gap between the student and educator so a relationship can be reached. 

“He’s very direct in trying to shape the culture,” Robinson affirmed. 

He elaborated on Goddard’s hands-on leadership, referring how the superintendent embodies the four talons. Goddard loves tough to better each student. He also mentioned how Goddard is leaving his legacy.

“He’s in the front, leading the change he wants to have for the district. He’s trying to shape his vision that we all like to be part of,” Robinson said.

“We’ve never had this district-wide effort to change the culture,” Robinson added. “He’s trying to implement the four talons and try to promote that everywhere more rather than only in the elementary schools.”

Joy Shaw was born in Red Oak and is a proud alumna of ROISD. She has served as a trustee on the ROISD school board and was involved in the hiring of the district’s superintendent.

Shaw shared that hiring a superintendent is somewhat of a daunting task due to the demanding responsibilities the job entails. But in the end, she said, “I think we were having a really good day when we hired him. What you see is what you get with Dr. Goddard. He is the genuine oracle.”

Shaw commented how Goddard’s character is outgoing, hands-on and caring. She added he serves as a wealth of information, which sometimes disguises the meat of what he embodies. Goddard deep down is a fun, loving guy who wants to play with the kids.

“And you wonder if this guy could ever be serious enough to run a school district and he definitely is. But it can sometimes be misleading to people because he is so involved with the students and staff,” Shaw elaborated.

Working with Goddard on the school board, Shaw said his leadership style is cooperative, and he takes criticism very well. When approached with an issue, he’s eager to talk about it to fix it to his best ability.

Shaw said how Goddard wants to do what’s best for the district and takes into account everyone’s concerns, perspectives and expectations before finding solutions.

“I think he’s so positive with the staff,” Shaw expressed. “He has really changed the morale of the staff at Red Oak ISD and that makes a big difference because when staff morale is up, the kids do better. So, that’s a big plus.” 

Speaking from an alumna perspective, Shaw said, “I am very proud to know that we have somebody as superintendent of schools that I had a part in hiring that is doing such a great job for us. I am just so pleased because this is my school district and it makes a difference in how you feel about it.” 

Ashley Ford | Facebook | Twitter | 469-517-1450