Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Jackie Penman speaks What It Means To Be Communications In The School Board

I chose to write on Jackie Penman's visit to our public relations class. She currently fulfills the manager of corporate communications position with Hamilton Wentworth District School board. Her responsibilities include taking care of internal and external communication issues on a daily basis. Some of her duties include, but are not limited too issues management, media relations, design, website, multi-media and publications. 
Some crisis management issues she has had to deal with in the past included stories such as the five boats full of high school students capsizing in high winds along the waterfront in Hamilton. About 90 rowers, from a handful of different Hamilton-area schools, were on the water at 7 a.m. when the wind suddenly brought gusts of up to 90 km/h. She was away on vacation when duty called. She kept in contact and arranged meetings via email and telephone. Fortunately, none of the students were seriously injured and she was able to calm the waters from a far.           
Other issues include students suicides. Having to deal with the emotions of other students, faculty and family can be very difficult because it is a sensitive time and depending on the speculated reasons, some will blame the school for the child's death. Especially in a case where bullying is speculated, people tend to pass blame and ask why was nothing done to save their child's life? An interesting point Penman touched on was the fact that bullying is not only the schools business, but it is also the communities. Social media has changed the dynamics of bullying. Some children use to be able to leave the harassment at school and find peace at home, however social platforms like Facebook and twitter have allowed the harassment to follow them home and there is a sense of no escape. Teachers and faculty cannot monitor bullying in the home and that is when parents need to step in and be aware of what is going on. How do you explain that to a family who has just lost their most precious possession?
Penman has a lot on her plate and the few examples she shared with us are huge responsibilities both emotionally and mentally, while keeping focus of HWDSB's goal to make their school board the choice for students, parents and employees.

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