For what is believed to the first time in the school’s history Riverside Brookfield High School now has a full-time public relations person.
On July 11, the RBHS District 208 Board of Education voted 6-0 to approve hiring Kiley Fletcher to the newly created position of coordinator of public relations and community engagement.
Fletcher, 21, began working at RBHS on Aug. 1. She is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois with a degree in advertising and a minor in public relations.
“I started to minor in PR and then I kind of realized that I wanted to take more of the PR route than traditional advertising,” Fletcher told the Landmark in a telephone interview last week before starting work at RBHS.
Fletcher had been working since January as a public affairs account associate at well-known Chicago public relations firm Jasculca Terman. Fletcher was chosen from a field of 20 applicants. She will be paid an annual salary of $65,000.
Fletcher, who grew up in Palatine and graduated from Palatine High School, is excited to begin work at RBHS.
“I just kind of want to set a high standard for this position because I’m the first one in this role,” Fletcher said.”
The genesis for creating the position came from a consultant’s community survey and report done last year by the Wisconsin-based School Perceptions consulting firm. The firm evaluated RBHS communications efforts and saw room for improvement.
One finding that concerned school officials was that 58% of respondents to a survey, who were not RBHS parents or staff members, said that their preferred method of receiving information about the school was from the Landmark newspaper. Only 24% of staff and just 8% of RBHS parents said the same thing.
“I think that we can do a better job of getting information out and advertising all the good things that are going at the high school,” said RBHS Superintendent Kevin Skinkis.
While Skinkis said he thought the Landmark’s coverage was fair, he said there are other things going on at the school worthy of attention that don’t make it into the newspaper.
That will be one of Fletcher’s main jobs.
“I think Dr. Skinkis and everyone else on the team kind of wants to have those positive stories, and part of my job is to find what those stories are and put them out into the community,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher will supervise the school’s social media accounts and the school’s communication with parents. She will work to develop relationships with involved parents.
“They are a big stakeholder when it comes to making sure everyone can access information easily and everyone can be on the same page,” Fletcher said.
She will also work to improve the school’s website and boost its social media accounts.
“We want to grow our presence on social media and we want to improve the overall functionality of our website,” Skinkis said.
It is not unusual for high schools these days to have a communications professional on staff. Lyons Township High School and Oak Park and River Forest High School have long had such positions.
Some schools like to funnel all communication with the news media through their PR person while others permit school staff to talk with reporters unsupervised. Skinkis told the Landmark that school administrators will still be able to talk to the news media.
“You can still contact the administrators you’re looking for,” Skinkis told the Landmark. “Whether or not they call you back or they work with her to get you a response, I don’t want you to think that you cannot contact us because there should be opportunities for us to provide a direct quote to you or answer to you.”
One of Fletcher’s responsibilities at Jasculca Terman was to help put together the firm’s FYI School News newsletter to clients. While doing that Fletcher became very interested in school news and started thinking about eventually working for a school district.
Fletcher thinks that her youth, she is only four years removed from high school herself, will help her relate to students at RBHS. She has been researching RBHS and will continue to learn more about it as she starts her new job.
“It’s exciting but it can be a little nerve-wracking,” Fletcher said.