Two years after creating a communications-coordinator position, the Palo Alto school district will reassess its needs in the wake of a vacancy created by the resignation of Tabitha Kappeler-Hurley.
The job, which has garnered criticism from some people who feel it is an unnecessary expense, was authorized by the Board of Education in 2013. Kappeler-Hurley was hired that July at a salary of about $130,000.
She said she is leaving Palo Alto to work for the Milpitas Unified School District as coordinator of human resources. Her last day will be Wednesday.
"Although there have been some challenging times and topics, there has been an overwhelming amount of positive accomplishments to share," Kappeler-Hurley wrote in an email. "Working alongside the dedicated staff members and parent volunteers in Palo Alto has been a wonderful experience for me both professionally and personally."
McGee said that his leadership team would meet this week to reassess the district's communications needs.
"Right now, it's on the organizational chart," McGee said of the position. Before posting the job opening, however, the team will consider potential changes to the job responsibilities, such as a greater focus on strategy, social media or other communications tasks, he added.
When the position was created, the board asserted it was necessary in order to handle the many requests for information directed at an understaffed district office. But critics said that the funding would be better spent elsewhere and that district officials should speak for themselves.
Late last year, school board member Ken Dauber criticized one task Kappeler-Hurley was spending time on: gathering and categorizing all media coverage related to the district by "win," "lose" or "tie." The practice was considered a metric for one of the board's five overarching goals for the year: "to anticipate, respond, and promptly resolve distracting and disruptive eissues in order to maintain focus on the District's vision."
At a December school board meeting, Dauber called for the practice to be discontinued.
"I don't think we should be necessarily monitoring the tone of those articles," he said. "We really should be focused on how do we ensure that we are working to communicate effectively facts about the district and that we are responsive to the media and so forth."
Three months later, the district dropped the responsibility from the communications coordinator's to-do list.
This week, McGee complimented Kappeler-Hurley on her work.
"She's done a good job. I hate to see her go," McGee said, noting that she was particularly accessible and responsive in situations calling for crisis communications.