Beaverton schools communications officer calls it a career
Longtime Beaverton School District spokesperson Maureen Wheeler has retired after 30 years of service.
"It's been a great career and I'm very grateful," Wheeler said. "I'm going to miss it, and I support the team going forward and I'm here if they need it. But they've got a great group of people there, and they do a great job."
After growing up in Southern California and earning a public administration degree from the University of Southern California, Wheeler moved to Oregon in 1980, and after volunteering within the district at Bethany Elementary School and serving as an elected committee school member for a number of years, she was offered a position as a community resource coordinator. From there, the mother of two worked her way into her public communications position and through what would become a three-decade tenure as part of the Beaverton school system.
During her time, Wheeler navigated generational and technological advancements, most notably social media. In recent years, she spearheaded the district's use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She spoke not only to the tangible benefits of social media, but also the downside of what can be a harmful tool in the wrong hands.
"What was really important early on was that we established a code of engagement and reserved the right to remove inappropriate behavior," she said. "I think there's a lot of bullying that goes on, and we do have to intervene at times. Certainly there's a dark side, but there's also great positives in it."
Wheeler has also seen the district grow from a predominantly white community to a majority-minority district.
Over the last 30 years, the area has seen tremendous growth in the Latino, East Asian and South Asian populations, and while Wheeler said the added diversity has been a plus, it also means the educational system has had to work to adapt and keep up.
"It's been a great thing to see the community grow in that way, but it's also provided us a number of challenges," she said. "We had eight language specialists on staff."
When asked what Wheeler would remember most about her time at the district, she cited the continued support of the community. She's always felt that it was important that the community members understood that the schools belonged to them, and she believes the Beaverton School District is fortunate that it's been afforded the support that school staff need to do their jobs. She is also proud of what she's helped accomplish during her tenure, primarily community outreach campaigns and new school construction.
Wheeler said in retirement, she plans to spend time with her family, including two grandchildren, and eventually do some traveling as well. But she's also not done helping out.
"I do still want to be very much engaged, and I'm going to serve on some boards in the community," she said. "I'd like to assist when needed. There's lots of opportunities to be engaged, but on my terms."
Wheeler said the part of the job she'll miss is working alongside her co-workers.
"I'm going to miss the team and it was an honor to serve all of them," Wheeler said. "I going to miss that, but I have relationships with all of those people, and I know how to get a hold of them, and they know how to get a hold of me."
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