High School Communications Coordinator Connects

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From left: Garden City Public School Board of Education President Angela Heineman; Garden City Public Schools Public Information Coordinator Dr. Catherine Knight; Garden City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen (Photo by NYSPRA Vice President Bill Cameron)
From left: Garden City Public School Board of Education President Angela Heineman; Garden City Public Schools Public Information Coordinator Dr. Catherine Knight; Garden City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen (Photo by NYSPRA Vice President Bill Cameron)

Catherine Knight honored by public relations association

When The New York School Public Relations Association (NYSPRA) announced that Dr. Catherine Knight, coordinator of public information for the Garden City Public Schools, had been named the 2016 Communicator of the Year, it was a point of pride for Garden City Public School Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen, who nominated Knight.

“Dr. Knight’s straightforward style and understanding of the issues of the day add to her credibility: she is seen not just as the district’s public relations spokesperson, but as a knowledgeable observer of the education scene,” Feirsen said.

The NYSPRA’s Communicator of the Year award, which is in its first year of existence, is meant to recognize school communications professionals who demonstrate a commitment to strengthening relationships between public schools and the students, families and communities they serve. The award honors those who recognize that communication and public relations are a critical component of school leadership. The award was presented during a luncheon that was held during the 97th Annual New York State School Boards Association in Buffalo, at which Garden City Public School Board of Education President Angela Heineman, Feirsen and Knight also presented a session workshop.

For someone who has worked in public education since 1987 (and is going into her ninth year with the Garden City District after arriving in 2008), receiving this award is both humbling and gratifying, particularly for someone with such a passion for working with young people.
“I’ve always loved teaching. That was always and still is my first love,” she said. “Any time I get the opportunity to mentor any of our kids here—I’ve had a couple of interns and a couple of student-journalists that I’ve worked with and that’s always thrilling for me. My true love is really with the kids.”

Knight is truly an unsung hero when it comes to her role in promoting and sharing the many student and staff achievements generated by a high-performing district like Garden City. While she prefers to be away from the limelight and instead focus attention on those that she writes about, Knight’s role ensures that parents are aware of district policy changes, awards and honors being bestowed on students and educators while maintaining this flow of information on print, social media and web platforms. It all comes out to roughly 300 pieces being published each school year. And while Knight clearly loves her job, she isn’t blind to the challenges involved with being the district’s information gatekeeper.

“Coordinating all the needs for communication is the most difficult part [of my position]. I’m traveling amongst the schools, documenting great lessons the teachers are doing or great achievements that the kids are doing, but in the meantime, I still have quite a robust schedule of newsletters that have to be done, website updates that have to be done, events that are upcoming that need planning and coordination,” she explained. “Social media needs to be monitored. There are so many things. Those keep happening even while I’m in the field working documenting the great things that are going on. But the biggest personal challenge is not letting anyone down. I want to make sure that I sustain the brand of the district at the absolute highest level so that our students, the kids, really get the best benefit from a highly supportive community who believes in the school district.”

Thanks to the efforts of the nonprofit membership organization that is the NYSPRA, the public may now have a better understanding of the role that school communications professionals and administrators like Knight play. It’s a part the longtime Garden City Public School District employee readily embraces.

“As the award’s first recipient, I am genuinely humbled,” Knight said. “It takes tremendous knowledge of the issues surrounding public education, the continuum that forms an individual school district’s ethos, vision, and mission, and a passion and dogged determination for what we do to pull down the hours and decorum needed for effective communication in today’s public schools.”

—Monica Lester contributed to this story

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