The MPUSD Communications Team
(Left to Right: Communications Specialist Marissa Schwartz, Chief of Communications and Engagement Marci McFadden, Confidential Administrative Assistant and Graphic Designer Isai Ogarrio-Martinez)
By: Marci McFadden and Marissa Schwartz
The MPUSD Communications team is honored to win 11 awards for work on impactful initiatives across our school district at the 2023 CalSPRA Conference held March 1 - 4, 2023, in San Diego. The California School Public Relations Association supports school districts and county offices across the state.
These awards are for the MPUSD community. They honor students, parents, teachers, staff and community members who deeply care about public education on the Monterey Peninsula.
Awards of Merit
MPUSD eNews: Our weekly MPUSD eNews (internal electronic newsletter) provides information about the school district, its schools and departments to MPUSD administrators, teachers and staff members.
Our eNews is emailed each Tuesday at 5:30 a.m. This newsletter has been in consistent production for nine years, and received a visual redesign this year.
Dangers of Fentanyl: This campaign was created to help educate students, parents, guardians, family members and friends of students, community members and community stakeholders about the dangers of fentanyl, a synthetic drug being added to illegally manufactured prescription pills.
District leaders wanted to share information from experts in emergency medicine and youth mental health. We aimed to educate parents, students and staff about the risks of fentanyl through video storytelling and town hall discussions.
Why MPUSD: The ‘Why MPUSD’ video series promotes experiences of individuals who either work, teach or attend an MPUSD school. We understand the incredible value of each person in our school community. The Communications department receives nominations or selects one person to highlight each week. The campaign began on January 6, 2022 and 48 individuals were highlighted in 2022.
Standards-Based Grading Campaign: The purpose of this campaign was to provide clarity on MPUSD’s current grading system for parents and guardians. Our standards-based grading system was initially implemented in the 2019-2020 school year.
After the initial launch, we realized our stakeholders including principals, teachers, staff, parents and students, needed more information about how the grading systems works. Parents and students were accustomed to the old A-F method and struggled to understand the new system.
During the same school year as the rollout, the global pandemic hit, closing down schools and making it even more difficult to communicate about the new grading system because stakeholders were focused on other more pressing issues such as implementing distance learning.
Overall, the idea was to ensure parents/families have easy access to learning more about the grading system to explore when they have questions and need answers.
Braver, Bolder, Brighter: The purpose of this campaign was to inspire and reinvigorate MPUSD all staff in the 2022-2023 school year and bring them together for an in-person Back-to-School Kickoff event.
The 2021-2022 school year was an intense year for teachers, staff and administrators as it was the first year returning to full, in-person instruction with COVID-19 still present. Accordingly, it was clear that the district needed to develop an internal campaign that rallied and compelled MPUSD all staff to continue their commitment to serving students and their families.
Each spring, the district’s Educational Services department sets the theme for the upcoming school year. The department identified the theme “Braver. Bolder. Brighter.” inspired by America’s First National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb.”
Gorman delivered during the Biden-Harris presidential inauguration in January 2021. Specifically, this campaign focused on this quote: “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
This campaign is specifically centered around the development of the school year theme and the kickoff event.
Principals of TikTok: The overall purpose of this social media tactic was to show students, teachers, staff and the community who MPUSD’s school principals are and that they have school spirit. MPUSD typically posts to its social media platforms several times a day and this video of principals showing their school spirit generated a “viral” amount of videos on each platform.
2021-2022 Direct Mailer: The purpose of the Making a Difference in the Lives of Every Student on the Peninsula eight-page direct mail brochure was to inform and create awareness among stakeholders of the school district’s highlights and progress during the 2021-2022 school year.
MPUSD is incredibly proud of the work it has accomplished to support students and families, and this direct mail brochure was a way to summarize and hit the high notes of the work.
High School Showcase Video: This campaign highlights the wonderful educational and extracurricular opportunities at all three of MPUSD's primary high schools during its open enrollment period.
The district's open enrollment period for high schools is mid-November to mid-December. Leading up to this period, the district wanted to share as much as possible in a short video to help incoming middle schoolers decide whether they wanted to attend their home high school or transfer to a different school.
Awards of Excellence
Vision 2025: Reconfiguration of Schools: The purpose of the “Vision 2025: School Reconfiguration and Consolidation” campaign was to educate MPUSD stakeholders about the need to reconfigure and consolidate schools within the district.
While not planned to extend more than 18 months, this campaign spanned four school years (2019-present) due to the complex nature of the initiative and an interruption by the global pandemic in the spring of 2020 which shifted the focus and priority of this campaign. A majority of the communication and community outreach efforts pertinent to this CalSPRA nomination occurred between 2021-2022.
Restart 2021: The purpose of this campaign was to provide a clear understanding and information about re-opening all of the MPUSD schools in the 2021-2022 school year following the global pandemic, as well as highlight the efforts the district had done and would continue to do to support students, teachers, staff, and families.
COVID-19 closed MPUSD schools in March of 2020 and while some students in secondary grades returned to a hybrid type model in the spring of 2021, the fall of 2021 would be the first time all students, teachers and staff would return to full-time in-person instruction.
Rising Star Award
Communications Specialist Marissa Schwartz: Marissa Schwartz has been a welcome and incredible addition to the Communications department. Prior to entering the public education arena, Marissa previously served as a broadcast news journalist, before joining the MPUSD team as a communications specialist in September 2021.
She was brought into this newly created position to help the district grow its social media presence and coordinate and enhance the district and school websites; but her initiative, creativity, drive and experience in multimedia journalism has expanded the role into so much more. It cannot be understated that in just 15 months Marissa has demonstrated exceptional quality and quantity in the work she produces for MPUSD and its schools to better inform students, parents/guardians, teacher, staff and community at large.