When Joey Prechtl first visited Central Oregon in 2019, he fell in love with the region and the endless outdoor recreation possibilities.
So, when he tired of the high-demand broadcast journalism field and began looking for a public relations job, he jumped at the chance to work for the Jefferson County School District.
Using federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding, 509-J leaders created a brand-new communications coordinator position earlier this year and put out a call for applicants. They hired Prechtl this spring, and he began with the district May 17.
Prechtl brings six years of broadcast journalism experience to the Jefferson County School District as the new communications coordinator.
"Joey is a great fit for this new position at 509-J," said 509-J Superintendent Ken Parshall. "His broadcasting and journalism background, as well as skills in use of technology and social media, align very well with the need to communicate on an ongoing basis with internal and external stakeholders. He has already made an impact, publishing content on a weekly and even daily basis."
Prechtl was raised in Colorado, graduating from high school in Colorado Springs in 2011. He attended University of Colorado there, studying communication, and then transferred to Colorado University Boulder. In 2015, he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in broadcast journalism and an additional field of study in communication.
His first TV job out of college took him to Presque Isle in Northern Maine, where he was a news reporter for about a year and a half. He then worked as a general assignment broadcast reporter in Grand Junction, Colorado. He produced and anchored up to four shows a day on weekends and was a reporter on weekdays. After 18 months there, he moved to Pueblo, Colorado, and was a bureau reporter for a TV station.
"Pueblo was my beat, whether it was the sheriff's office, the city, the county, crime, fire department – no matter what was happening in Pueblo, I was looked at to try to turn that and get that for the newscast," Prechtl said.
After six months with the bureau, he moved to Boise, Idaho, where he worked for two years as a broadcast news reporter, mostly covering politics and the Idaho Legislature.
"COVID really changed everything for reporting," Prechtl said. "It definitely got more hostile towards reporters, especially during the pandemic, and the pandemic also had its toll on me as a reporter."
With encouragement from his girlfriend, Makayla Baron, he began looking for a public relations position. They had visited Central Oregon last year, and she also loved the area, so the 509-J job was a perfect fit.
Baron just wrapped up two years as a special education teacher in Payette, Idaho, and joined him in Redmond, where they currently live. They look forward to lots of camping, hiking, kayaking and bike riding – as long as their pup can come along.
Prechtl said it's a rare opportunity to be the first communications coordinator for a school district and to help grow and build a new communications department. He aims to tell the district's story and highlight the good things that the district is doing. A top goal is to grow the presence of the district on social media. He wants the community and families near and far to know what kids are doing in their schools.
"Another thing I've been trying to work on is making sure the public is aware of all the ways we are trying to be fiscally responsible and trying to get more funding into the district," Prechtl said, noting the many grants the district receives.
He oversees internal communication with district staff and leaders and helps communicate with families. He looks forward to getting to know and listening to the Hispanic and Native American communities and making sure their concerns are addressed.
In his first month, Prechtl has enjoyed meeting the principals, visiting schools, profiling district activities and seeing the bond between teachers and kids.
With his girlfriend being a teacher, Prechtl understands how hard teachers work.
"Being a teacher doesn't end when the school day is over. They bring the work home, and they do lesson plans and are constantly trying to find ways to better help their students learn and grow and succeed," Prechtl said. "Having the opportunity to communicate that out to the community, I thought, was a fantastic opportunity for me in the next step in my career."
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