School dedicates $160K to community relations

Butler County’s largest school district is slated to spend more than $160,000 during the upcoming school year on efforts to increase communication to residents and maintain a public image, according to recent Lakota board actions.

Most recently, the Butler County Educational Service Center approved a one-year contract for a Media and Community Relations Project Manager for the Lakota School District. Hired in the position, Lauren Boettcher will receive a $60,000 salary from Aug. 1, 2012 to July 31, 2013.

Boettcher will report to Randy Oppenheimer, the district’s executive director of media and community relations consultant. Oppenheimer’s position was also contracted out by the district on a one-year basis. His contract — valued at $67,000 — runs July 16, 2012 to June 30, 2013.

Oppenheimer previously served as community relations director for Fairfield City Schools from 2000 to 2002 and from 2007 to 2011. Superintendent Karen Mantia said previously the position is a critical one for the district.

“It’s much more than just sending out information about the schools, although that’s important,” Mantia said. “We also need to do a lot of listening to our community and that’s what Randy is known for. We were very pleased to find someone with his skills.”

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Assisting Oppenheimer, Boettcher’s duties will include developing and executing the district’s communications and public relations strategies; responding to reasonable parental and community inquiries; maintaining a strong public image on the district website by redesigning the website and posting relevant, timely information, according to the job description from the Butler County Educational Service Center.

The position of webmaster was vacated earlier this year by Sue Tyburski, who served with the district from Aug. 1, 2005 until resigning July 31, according to the Butler County Educational Service Center.

Since October 2011, the district has been contracting the PR services of Elliot Grossman, president and owner of Ashire Communications. Grossman remains with the district at a rate of $60 an hour.

The community relations role at Lakota was previously held for 3 ½ years by Laura Kursman — who agreed to a $90,000 separation agreement last year after she made legal accusations against the school system.

The school board also approved this summer a $40,000 contract with Cincinnati-based Citizens for Civic Renewal, a company that works with large governments and institutions to engage with their communities. Jeffrey Stec, executive director of CCR, said a series of “community conversations” between school officials and residents will lead up to establishing a “team of stewards” reflecting the whole community.

District voters have rejected three tax levies in the last two years. Earlier this summer, the board decided it would not place another tax levy in front of voters until more community engagement was completed.

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