News

Board sets aside $55,000 for new position

In a step that some hope will improve district communications with the community, Oak Harbor School Board approved a salary schedule and a job description for a full-time communications director position.

With that approval, the district can start advertising for the position in hopes of having someone hired by July 1 at a salary ranging from $50,000 to $55,000.

School district Superintendent Rick Schulte said that the new communications director should be on board by July to help prepare for the 2004-2005 school year.

The new position was one of the major recommendations in a communications audit that the school district released in February. The audit found that a person needs to be brought in to ensure a consistent message gets out to the community.

“The whole purpose of hiring this person is to improve our community outreach,” said board member Kathy Jones.

Peter Szalai, president of Oak Harbor Education Association, supported hiring a communications specialist.

The communications director position will provide public relations services to the school district, advise the school board and superintendent, establish training, and produce specific components such as a Web site, a newsletter and employee publication, according to the job description.

The salary is a bit higher than the school district paid for similar positions in the past. However, Schulte said the lower salary typically attracted recent college graduates with a journalism degree but lacking in experience.

“We’re looking for something broader than a journalist,” Schulte said.

The school district is looking for someone with a minimum of three years public relations experience in a school setting who possesses a bachelor’s degree in public relations or mass communications.

The salary the school district is offering is about average compared to other similarly-sized school districts.

A similar position in the Bellingham School District earns pays $60,000 a year while in Mount Vernon the position pays $42,000.

However, the school district will have some additional expenses to account for when the communications director starts work.

Schulte said that the benefit package could run an additional $15,000 to $20,000. He added that district also has to account for some clerical support and a budget for such items as publishing and Web site development.

Although he hasn’t developed a comprehensive budget, he said the position could cost between $120,000 to $150,000 a year.

Schulte said that the estimated cost was written into the district’s strategic plan. It’s possible grant money could help offset the costs.

The district’s next step in hiring a communications director is to advertise for the position.

Schulte said the district will place ads into local papers, job boards and contact such organizations as the Washington School Public Relations Association.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.com.

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