Communications Director - Stanislaus County Office of Education
How long have you been in school PR and what has changed?
I began my career in school PR in 1990, so I’ve been in this field 32 years and plan to retire at the end of December. So much has changed over the years. When I started, we didn’t have cell phones, internet, websites, or social media. I recall personally going out to media outlets to introduce myself to the reporters, so they’d get to know me a little. News moved a lot slower, so we had a chance to get ahead of stories. Not so much today. I’ve seen tremendous changes in CalSPRA as well. When I first joined the organization, I belonged to the Northern California chapter, and we called ourselves CalSPRAN (the N stood for north). There were approximately 20 members at my first meeting.
What was your path to school PR?
I attended San Diego State University (Go Aztecs!) and San Jose State University (Go Spartans!), receiving a BA in Communications/Advertising from SJSU. After graduation, I went on to work as an Advertising Sales Coordinator for a high-tech publishing company in Palo Alto and later became Marketing Manager at a tech company. When I got married and moved to Modesto, I landed a job at the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE), where I’ve been ever since. SCOE was a 2–3-year plan for me, but it ended up being such a great place to work that I never left. It’s much more fun to highlight kids and great school programs than it is to write about computer boards and widgets!
What do you like most about what you do?
I love my job, the people I work with, and I look forward to coming to work every day. Our Communications team has the privilege of sharing the positive stories of what is happening in education in our county with the community, and that’s one of the things I like most about this job. Getting out to schools to highlight our County Teachers of the Year so we can share their stories is also a highlight. We have a talented team, and it will be my colleagues and friends I’ve made through professional associations that I will miss the most in retirement.
What do you find challenging?
I’m the “honorary” Director of Fun at our office, and sometimes it’s difficult to wrangle people into having fun. I know – hard to believe! This is when “forced fun” techniques are implemented. Once you get people on board for the fun (I’m thinking about a lip sync team I recently put together for our Staff Kickoff that no one wanted to do), they have a blast. Having fun together is great for team building.
Tell us about a project you are proud of and the impact it had
I'm proud of the marketing campaigns we’ve done over the years. One was an Attendance Campaign called “Every Day Counts.” We followed the four-step PR process, and at the end of the first year of the campaign, results were extremely positive;school districts in Stanislaus County improved their attendance rates overall, bringing an estimated $2.6 million in additional revenue to those districts. The following year, districts’ attendance rates continued to improve, bringing in another $1.2 million in revenue. This campaign, along with a couple others we did over the years, received a California Gold from CalSPRA and a Gold Medallion Award from NSPRA.
What advice do you have for new PR professionals?
Make your position, and the work you do, indispensable to your organization. Be the person people trust to go to in an emergency. Be the person people go to for advice and to bounce ideas off, and be honest in your feedback. Make sure to network and join local communication groups in your county, as well as CalSPRA and NSPRA. Above all, I would tell people new to the profession (or any profession) to have a positive attitude, be a team player, and have fun at work. Having a great attitude and making the most of every day will get you far in life and in your career.
SCOE partners with local schools and the community to support quality education for 107,091 students in Stanislaus County and several thousand more in regional programs throughout the state. SCOE, which is located in Modesto, employs 1,145 staff and manages a $302 million budget. For the third year running, SCOE was named a great place to work.