Intentional Impressions

Glenn Robbins knows you only get one chance to make a first impression. So he checks his ego at the door and confidently walks into the room in his version of a power suit. That’s why people notice.

Whether it’s an Elf on the Shelf suit, a leprechaun mascot suit, a patterned camouflage dress suit, or a Star-Spangled Banner suit, he’s hard to miss. However, even he admits others have overlooked him.

“I’ve worked with some people who didn’t know for two or three weeks, and they didn’t realize I was the superintendent,” he said. “That was my point. I wanted them to know I’m just a regular human being trying to bring smiles.”

Whether he mentions or not, he’s clearly communicating the philosophy and role he embraces as CEO of Brigantine Public School District. CEO, that is Chief Energy Officer.

Robbins was one of more than a dozen superintendents and school leaders featured in the Social Media Lounge at AASA’s National Conference on Education held Feb. 16-18 in San Antonio where he raised eyebrows for not wearing one of his famed suits that are regularly featured on his Twitter account. It was all to raise awareness about the importance of school leaders taking an active role in engaging their communities.

“I’ll be honest, too, when I first did the first suit, I didn’t know how others were going to react,” said the former history teacher. “Then I got a couple of texts from board members, and they’re like, you do not realize the amount of power and trajectory: you’re changing people’s lives and for the better. So they really bought into that, too.”

Even his scholars have noticed.

“We have Wacky Wednesdays (where) the kids come up with every Wednesday is a different thing,” he said. “If I’m not in character, they’re calling me out right away like, ‘You! Why? What’s going on?.”

Besides the suits that he finds online, Robbins wears two hats as the superintendent and the principal of the 400-scholar PK-8 school, located just three blocks from the Atlantic Ocean in Brigantine, N.J. Robbins began his time as the leader of the seaside town just weeks before the world shut down in March 2020 due to the onset of COVID-19. Under his distinctive leadership style, Brigantine Public School District has made “tremendous strides and changes” in its at-risk programs and curriculum.

With a cinder block office filled with an assortment of colorful costumes, Robbins urged school leaders to be intentional in this work and offered three pieces of advice for Chief Energy Officers:

Tips for Chief Energy Officers

  • Encourage, support, and empower the great strengths that your staff have and help them reach their utmost potential.
  • Find mentors – several of them – whether it’s someone older in the game or younger.
  • Check your ego at the door.

“It’s not about you. It’s about the staff. It’s about the kids, and it’s about the community. It is never about you,” said Robbins. “The bigger purpose in life here is for the success of others. That is your goal as a leader.”