IMESD's Communications Director earns national awards

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IMESD Director of Communication & Print Solutions Casey White recently found out she has received two prestigious awards from the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA). White was chosen as an NSPRA "Front-Runner," which goes to just four school public relations professionals around the country each year (White won for the Northwest region) for outstanding work and leadership in school public relations. She also received the NSPRA "35 Under 35" award for being one of the top 35 school public relations professionals in the country under the age of 35. Read more about White's awards in a Sept. 28, 2012, East Oregonian article written by Kathy Aney.

Casey White has never been one to spend a lot of time thinking inside the box.

Several years back, White decided to shift from journalism to public relations, but found little opportunity outside of big cities. White, her feet firmly planted in Pendleton, cranked her imagination into overdrive.

  “If I wanted to stay in Eastern Oregon, I needed to make my own opportunity,” she said.

The former East Oregonian reporter penned her own job description and pitched George Murdock, then superintendent at the InterMountain Education Service District. She told him she would handle communications, a then non-existent position at the agency, which provides an array of services to schools in Umatilla, Morrow and Union counties.

Murdock decided to give White a shot.

She dove headfirst into the world of public relations, making it up as she went.

Zooming ahead to present day, White, 31, recently learned she is the recipient of two heady public relations honors — the “Front Runner” and the “35 Under 35” awards, both bestowed by the National School Public Relations Association to leaders in the field.

Over the last six years, White’s department of one has grown to seven as she bolstered communication between schools and their employees, parents and the public.

Her team helps schools communicate in cases of inclement weather, tragedy or emergency or if the public needs to understand the latest educational developments, such as Eastern Promise or proposed school bonds. Her team develops websites, writes newsletters and runs the ESD print shop.

The InterMountain ESD is the only one in Oregon to provide public relations services to school districts.

White’s days sometimes start before dawn, especially if roads are treacherous. Her crew notifies media of school closures, updates school websites and sends out Facebook and Twitter messages, such as during one ice storm when every school in Morrow and Umatilla counties decided to close. The team also gears up during emergency situations (such as the death or serious injury of students or teachers) and even writes explanatory letters for students to carry home to parents in their backpacks.

“The communities are so tight-knit and connected to the incident,” she said. “It’s nice to have a third-party person take the weight off their shoulders.”

Murdock, who now works as superintendent of the Douglas ESD in Roseburg, isn’t sorry he hired White.

“Schools have a lot of stories to tell, but they didn’t often tell them,” Murdock said. “Her good work led to school districts realizing the value of communicating with the public and with parents.”

Current Intermountain ESD Superintendent Mark Mulvihill said he isn’t surprised White is being honored, calling her “a dynamic force” who works behind the scenes to help school districts communicate more clearly and effectively.

“She’s not only extremely talented, but she’s a visionary — she sees things before they happen,” he said. “She’s the glue that holds us together.”

The Front Runner award is awarded to four individuals, one in each NSPRA region. The 35 Under 35 award goes to emerging school public relations leaders under age 35 nationwide. White will pick up her awards at next summer’s NSPRA conference in San Diego.


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