New Oak Harbor communications officer now speaks family’s language

At last, Conor Laffey can attend a family function and no longer get teased about being an outcast.

“The entire family is basically in education,” Laffey said.

“Everybody used to look at me at Christmas and say, ‘What’s your deal?’”

Laffey finally answered his family’s professional calling this summer by becoming the new communications officer for Oak Harbor Public Schools.

It’s a career move that puts him smack dab in front of educators quite often — just like when he’s back home in Prosser.

Laffey, who turns 32 Saturday, started his new role in August after spending six years working as the sports and activities information director for the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association in Renton.

The WIAA is the governing body for high school athletics in the state.

At the WIAA, Laffey traveled extensively during state tournaments. He handled media relations and produced press releases and state tournament programs, among other responsibilities.

In Oak Harbor, he gets to settle down and become intimately acquainted with one school district and work closely with both administrators and teachers.

He’s tasked with handling school district communications and publications. That includes overseeing each school’s website and being a spokesperson for the school district.

“Every day is kind of a fun, new day,” Laffey said. “I’m learning a ton.

“Being close to education the last six years, there’s a lot that I learned from the outside. Now being completely invested, it’s a whole new world. It’s really opened my eyes to what’s all involved and what goes into starting off a school year and making sure all the needs are met for students.”

Working in education is something that’s part of the Laffey family’s DNA.

His parents and two of his sisters chose education as career paths. Both of his stepparents did the same.

His father, Pat Laffey, who’s retired, once served as assistant superintendent of the Prosser School District and was executive director of special education for the Yakima School District.

Conor’s mother, Anita Quinn, is a science teacher at Prosser High School. She’s in her 41st year of teaching.

“We are an education family,” Quinn said.

As a teacher and coach, Quinn said her four children grew up in a school environment. Conor is her only son.

“He learned how to ride his bike in the hallway,” she said.

A three-sport athlete at Prosser High, Laffey went on to Washington State University with the idea that he’d become a sports broadcaster.

Then, as a student, he got in front of a camera to conduct an interview and froze.

“I knew this was not going to be for me,” he said.

Public relations became his pursuit, and he got involved working with WSU’s sports information office.

After receiving an undergraduate degree at WSU, Laffey earned a master’s degree in athletic administration at Marshall University, figuring he’d probably go the route of becoming an athletic director.

He landed a job as assistant director of athletic communications at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.

“I fell in love more with the PR side of things than the administration side of things,” he said.

“That got me interested in coming back to Washington.”

During his time with the WIAA, he spent part of his summers working as a counselor for a student leadership group and enjoyed the experience.

“That got me to thinking that I really liked having an impact on students and having more of a service attitude,” Laffey said. “What better way to do that than working for a school district and being inside a community.”

Laffey said he’s been on the go, trying to visit each school in Oak Harbor and meet with each administrator, and meet with other groups.

In Oak Harbor, he’s not far from family. One of his sisters, Joelle Dodd, lives in Blaine and is a second grade teacher in the Lynden School District. Her husband Jay Dodd is football coach at physical education instructor at Blaine High School.

Laffey’s oldest sister, Kelsey Myers, is the assistant dean of enrollment services at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

Around Christmas, Laffey and his siblings will gravitate back to Prosser. It’s a tradition that’s taken place for 25 years.

This time, Conor Laffey will have a lot to talk about.