The National School Public Relations Association has declared the second Friday in May as National School Communicators Day and in 2023, that date falls on May 12. Owensboro Public Schools Public Information Officer Jared Revlett, our district’s “School Communicator” talks about the top stories from this past year that he has enjoyed promoting in our community.
Being a “School Communicator” was a profession that I didn’t even know existed six years ago. It wasn’t until my sister sent me the job description for the Public Information Officer at Owensboro Public Schools as a way to try and persuade me to return to my hometown that I first learned about it.
The past five and a half years have been both challenging and incredible. Each and every day, I get the opportunity to share the incredible stories that come out of Owensboro Public Schools to bring awareness to the amazing work our students, teachers and staff are doing with the world.
To celebrate this year’s National School Communicators Day, I want to share with you my favorite stories from the 2022-23 school year. These stories are listed in chronological order from the start of the school year until now and are not in any particular order of favoritism.
Newton Parrish Food Service Earns KY Nutrition “Team of the Year”
If you know me, you’re aware that I haven’t missed too many meals in my life and perhaps the root of that is because of the relationships I had with the cafeteria staff throughout my entire education career.
For many of the students in Owensboro Public Schools, the meals they receive at school may be the only meals they get each day. That is why our food service staff and the relationships they build with our students is so important.
This year, the staff at Newton Parrish Elementary was selected as the “Team of the Year” by the Kentucky Nutrition Association. The staff at Newton Parrish used creative marketing, communication and interaction with staff and students to increase participation levels of students eating breakfast and lunch at school. Through their efforts, participation increased more than 20 percent from year to year.
Our food service employees are often one of the first interactions students have with school staff each day and their efforts to build relationships with students and encourage them to come to school for breakfast and lunch has paid dividends in student performance throughout the school year.
Estes 3rd Grade Student Donates School Supplies in Memory of Brother
Far too often, as we grow older, we lose a little bit of that spirit of helping others and caring for your fellow neighbor, but stories like Greyson Brooks make your giving heart start beating again.
Prior to the start of the school year, Greyson Brooks, a student entering third grade at Estes Elementary, took it upon himself to organize a school supply drive in memory of his brother Wyatt who passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) a few years ago. The 2022-23 school year would have been the year that Wyatt entered Kindergarten at Estes and Greyson wanted to find a way to make sure his brother was remembered.
Greyson alone donated $350 worth of supplies to the school, but his story garnered national attention being featured on the TODAY Show and in Southern Living Magazine that led to even more donations pouring in. One individual in Virginia, with absolutely no connection to Owensboro Public Schools, called the district and donated $4,200 to Estes Elementary through the Foundation for Excellence…$350 per year to cover the cost of supplies every year until Wyatt would have graduated from Owensboro Public Schools.
This story still tugs at the heartstrings and shows how the efforts of just one student can turn into something much larger that makes an impact on every student coming through Estes Elementary for the next decade.
Cravens Students Learn Sign Language to Support Deaf Classmate
I’ve always been jealous of those who are able to speak more than one language. I took two years of Latin in high school (why, I don’t know) and two semesters of Spanish in college. To this day, I can’t speak a full sentence of Latin and can’t do much more than tell you my name and ask where the bathroom is in Spanish. Needless to say, as a School Communicator, my skills are limited to the English language.
However, communicating in other languages is something we continue to strive to do better in our district and perhaps there’s no better inspiration than our students at Cravens Elementary.
Zariah Williams, a second grade student at Cravens Elementary, was born deaf, but has never let that stop her from a desire to learn and be at school. However, when she tried to connect with her classmates, many didn’t know sign language. That’s when several students approached principal Cortney Cliff to ask if the entire school could learn sign language to find a way to connect with Zariah.
Eventually, it was decided that over a two-week period, the entire school would learn the Pledge of Allegiance in American Sign Language one piece at a time with the ultimate goal of learning it in full. Although it was just a few sentences, it ignited a passion in the students at Cravens to learn more.
Now, all throughout the school are different photos showing how to sign various words in sign language so the students can continue to learn and communicate even more with Zariah. This story was so much fun to tell because it was completely generated from the students, everyone learned something new, and it helped Zariah feel like she was truly accepted by her classmates and created a fun school culture for her.
iMiddle Students Donate Care Packages for Refugees
When I was in high school, Hurricane Katrina displaced thousands of people from Louisiana, several of which landed in Owensboro. This was really my first experience with “refugees”, but to myself and my fellow classmates, these were just new kids who moved to our town who spoke our language. While they were displaced from their home, the transition seemed relatively smooth to the outside viewer.
However, in August of 2021, with the war in Afghanistan coming to an end and more than 1.6 million refugees fleeing the country, this was the first time that many in our community had experienced an influx of individuals relocating here from a different country. In August of 2022, nearly a year after the end of the war in Afghanistan, Owensboro saw approximately 350 refugees from Afghanistan come to our community seeking a new life and a fresh start, but they were doing so with no connection to anyone and many didn’t speak English, so communicating was hard.
However, showing kindness is a universal language and students at Owensboro Innovation Middle School wanted to find a way to welcome our new friends to our community and organized a drive to create care packages for those who arrived here. Many of the refugees had to leave Afghanistan with just the clothes on their back, so students wanted to collect items that not only provided necessities such as hygiene products, but also things that could help the children acclimate to their new home such as toys, soccer balls and art supplies.
Now, many of these students who came to Owensboro as refugees are full-time students in our district and are classmates with those who helped organize the care packages for them. What started out as a way to help others turned into a way to develop a friendship with someone new and welcome them to their new school.
Buskill Wins Milken Award
There are few stories that I have to sit on for a long time, but this was one that had to remain more classified than a document from the White House.
Several months before it was actually presented, I was notified that one of our teachers, Charlotte Buskill, at Newton Parrish Elementary was to be presented with the Milken Award. The Milken Award is a prestigious honor that only one teacher from each state is selected to receive each year. Part of the award is a $25,000 unrestricted prize that is given to the recipient.
I was told that the Milken team would select a day to come, organize the dignitaries that would attend, and would contact the media to notify them without my assistance. The only other person I was allowed to tell was the superintendent. We had to keep it a secret from literally everyone else in the district and to this day, I’m proud to say that until the award was presented, Dr. Constant and myself were the only ones who knew.
We had to plan an entire assembly at the school without telling the principal the real reason we were there. We framed it up that the Commissioner of Education was coming to present an award to the school for their outstanding test scores during the COVID-19 Pandemic…all of which was a lie.
At the assembly, Buskill was surprised with the award and was almost at a loss for words. She became the 60th Kentucky recipient and the second from Owensboro Public Schools, joining Estes principal Ryan Williams who received the award in 2012.
Buskill shared her story of how growing up with dyslexia and the incredible teachers she had in her life helped grow her desire to pursue a career in teaching.
While this was such a fun story to tell, I didn’t enjoy the pressure of having to lie to literally everyone I worked with until it was time to reveal the secret, but seeing the reaction of Mrs. Buskill and especially the reaction of her students made it worth it.
Constant Named KMEA Administrator of the Year
He might kill me for putting this one on here, but as difficult as being a School Communicator can be at times with legislative issues, pop-up crises, and Facebook comments (that I don’t allow him to read), it doesn’t hold a candle to being a superintendent throughout the past three years and I know how much this award meant to him.
Owensboro Public Schools has a long history of success in the Fine Arts and Dr. Constant has long been a supporter of each discipline in our district which is why the Kentucky Music Educators Association recognized him as the Administrator of the Year.
Dr. Constant was nominated by Owensboro High School Band Director Abe Barr for the Region 2 Administrator of the Year and after winning that award, he was automatically entered into the statewide recognition that was presented at the KMEA Conference in February.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of the recognition was the number of educators from other districts that came up to him and expressed their appreciation for his support of the arts in our district and how they wished their district supported them the same way. That says a lot about the program we have in Owensboro Public Schools and how our mission of every art for every child pays off in more ways than one.
These six stories aren’t the only ones that have been told this year. They are only some of my favorites. Our media partners both locally and from afar do an outstanding job in assisting me in telling our district’s story and I couldn’t be more grateful for their partnership.
Not every story is a good one and just like every other district across the country, we have to take the good with the bad, but we do our best to highlight the incredible things our students and staff are doing.
I hope that when you turn on the TV or open a newspaper or read a story online that you feel like you are a part of the Owensboro Public Schools family and that you are proud of the work our students and staff put in each and every day. While it may be School Communicators Day, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the effort of our students and staff and for that, I am incredibly grateful that I get to share their stories.