Palo Alto school district Superintendent Kevin Skelly has hired the former public information officer of the Santa Clara Unified School District to fill the new position of communications coordinator.
Tabitha Kappeler-Hurley was an English teacher and vice principal at Santa Clara's Wilcox High School before moving into the district's public information role in 2004, where she also directed career-technical education and a program to promote female participation in math and science.
She will join the Palo Alto Unified School District in mid-July, reporting to Skelly at an annual salary of $129,957.
Kappeler-Hurley said she views her role as making district affairs "clear and concise for everyone," whether they be "school events, big things they're doing, curriculum implementation or difficult things to explain.
"I'll do a lot of outreach and listening to make sure everybody's clear on the various efforts," she said Monday night. "As much as I can help the administrative team do that, it will be a good service."
The Palo Alto Board of Education in March allocated $150,000 to create the communications job, saying the position was needed to handle the many requests for information directed at an understaffed district office. Critics said the position was unnecessary and that district officials should speak for themselves.
Palo Alto has employed a full-time communications officer in the past, but the position was eliminated in budget cuts.
Santa Clara Unified is a K-12 district with an enrollment of 15,000; Palo Alto's enrollment is 12,500.
The 2009-2010 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury questioned the Santa Clara district's management of school bond funds as well as a mortgage-assistance program for teachers. Kappeler-Hurley said all concerns raised by the grand jury had been rectified, many of them even before the grand jury report was published.
More recently the Santa Clara district has suffered an exodus of the superintendent, several other top staff members and six principals amid allegations of micro-management and intimidation by school board members.
Kappeler-Hurley said she left Santa Clara in January "to look at some different options for personal growth.
"I wanted to get back into telling the story about public education and was happy to see this (Palo Alto) position advertised," she said.
In the middle of her 14 years with the Santa Clara school district Kappeler-Hurley left for three years to live in Texas, where she worked as a teacher in the Houston area and for six months as an analyst for the City of San Antonio.
Kappeler-Hurley, who grew up in the southern California agricultural town of Brawley, holds degrees from San Jose State University and earned a credential in educational administration from Santa Clara University.