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District leaders hope to better connect with members of the community

FILE PHOTO - Interim school superintendent Ryan Carpenter created a new position within the district's leadership focused solely on communication, which he hopes will increase community engagement. With a new communications coordinator position, leaders in the Estacada School District hope to better engage the community with the district.

Ryan Carpenter, who will serve as the district's interim superintendent beginning in this summer, said the position would focus on developing a long term communication plan for the district, as well as "(bridging) the gap between community members, families and the district."

"One of our weaknesses, and it's been a weakness for a long time, is our ability to communicate efficiently and effectively to our stakeholders and families in the district," Carpenter added.

Currently, the district's communication is managed by principals and building secretaries. Although they use automated phone call systems, newsletters and social media, Carpenter feels the reach isn't as broad as it could be and hopes to improve this by adding a position that focuses on communication exclusively.

"Part of our barrier is that most people in this business are educators, and we don't have marketing backgrounds," he said. "We're totally focused, as we should be, on our number-one priority to get our students to learn and grow."

He noted that several elements of the school district, such as the career technical education programs offered at Estacada High School, often fly under people's radars.

"The truth of the matter is, our high school offers more CTE programs than most schools of our size," Carpenter said, citing the high school's business, manufacturing, culinary arts and journalism programs. "Yet any time we do any town halls or listening sessions, we constantly get the feedback that we need more CTE programs."

Carpenter also cited the school district's failed bond measure as inspiration for creating the position. Last November, 54 percent of Estacada voters did not support the $55.1 million general obligation bond.

"The community really gave us some valuable feedback in our failed bond effort, and the number-one piece of feedback we got is that the district has not done a good enough job of communicating what (they're) doing currently and have already done to improve the infrastructure and the facilities of the Estacada School District," Carpenter said.

In order to better share these ideas with families in the district and other community members, the district's communications coordinator will be responsible for posting to social media daily. Additionally, they will create newsletters, write speeches for the district leaders, speak to news media and develop a long term communication strategy for the district.

"We're hoping to do a better job of communicating some of the victories and great things that are happening in Estacada, that we as a community and school can take pride in doing," Carpenter said

The position will focus on communication within the district, as well.

"We have a large group of people working in the district, and it's important for Clackamas River teachers to know what's going on in the transportation department," Carpenter continued. "The school district is vast, and has so many different elements. We would like to see this person be the bridge to clue in all of our stakeholders about what's going on."

Carpenter added that he expects the addition of the communications coordinator position to be a cost neutral

shift, since the size of the district's business and finance

department has been reduc-

ed.

"Through the reorganization of the (district's) leadership team, we've created space

for this position to exist," he said.

District leaders will soon interview applicants for the position, and the selected candidate will begin in July.

"One of my top priorities as I step into this superintendent role is to really unify the community and the school district and vice versa," Carpenter said. "I really believe that effective communications, and bringing in this new position, can be a real conduit to streamlined teamwork."

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