Jefferson City Public School officials announced the hiring of two new department heads Thursday.
The district has hired Ryan Burns in a new role as director of communications. The district also announced it will appoint Frank Underwood as its new director of facilities following the retirement of longtime director Bob Weber.
Burns will begin her new position July 1. Underwood's new position is effective in December following Weber's retirement.
On Monday, the JCPS Board of Education voted unanimously to approve Burns after she was recommended by Superintendent Larry Linthacum.
"The district has a number of new and exciting changes on the horizon which will require us to adapt and change some of our communications strategies accordingly," Linthacum stated in a news release. "We are thrilled to welcome Ryan to our team. She has demonstrated that she has the experience and skill set we need as we become a premier school district."
School Board President Steve Bruce added, "From the school board's perspective, this is a good example of the quality of people that Larry is attracting to the district. Ryan will round out a great team of professionals we have."
Burns has worked for the past 4 1/2 years as the director of communications for the state's Office of Administration, where she serves as media contact. Prior to joining OA, Burns served as the communications manager for the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"As a Jefferson City native, I came of age in the public school district, but I also quite literally grew up in the halls of Jefferson City High School where my parents worked as teachers throughout my childhood," Burns was quoted as saying in the news release. "To transition the professional experience I have acquired over the past decade into a career in education with Jefferson City Public Schools is an honor, and I am so delighted to have an opportunity to give back to our community and make an impact at JCPS."
In her new role for JCPS, Burns will spearhead the district's communications efforts approaching the completion of the new Capital City High School, scheduled to open in 2019, and renovations of Jefferson City High School. She will lead the existing Office of School Community Relations and be responsible for formulating a communications and branding plan for the district.
Burns' salary will be $92,960.
Amy Berendzen has been the district's director of school-community relations and will now take the title of public relations manager. Her salary will go from $98,575 to $75,000.
Mallory McGowin will continue in her role as communications and marketing specialist.
"We just want to make sure that we have clear expectations for each of our departments. One area we've looked at is our school and community relations department, with regards to the responsibilities, the titles and so forth," Linthacum told the Board of Education at its February meeting.
Linthacum said there used to be a third position in the department. Terra Parris was the executive assistant and transitioned to serve in a part-time capacity after her retirement in June 2016; she continued to work part time until the second semester of the current school year.
That's when some of the conversation about restructuring started.
He added that the restructuring in the communications department is the latest in a series of such reviews and alterations, including changes in the past year of creating the district's chief of learning position and a district-wide activities director.
Linthacum said the restructurings are about asking if the departments are set up the way they need to be to ensure JCPS can become the state's premier school district.
Linthacum emphasized the communications department in particular will have to be more proactive given the anticipated increase in events and activities with the addition of Capital City High School.
Linthacum said Berendzen helped create the position of public relations manager and described its responsibilities as leading the district's "difference maker" initiative, duties with the Miller Performing Arts Center, and playing a supporting role with developing social media and the district's website.
In announcing Underwood's promotion, Linthacum noted Underwood is no stranger to the school district as he was First Student transportation location manager from 2010-17, "guiding the safe transportation of thousands of JCPS students daily." In October 2017, he joined JCPS as the new safety/security and transportation coordinator, the position he currently holds.
"We are proud to promote Frank to this new role," Chief Financial and Operating Officer Jason Hoffman said. "He brings 25 (plus) years experience in facility management and supervisory expertise. Frank had also served on numerous building design and floor planning committees and has been the project leader for the construction of several new retail stores in Missouri."
Underwood's salary will be $87,600.
Linthacum emphasized the school district will actually be spending $75,000 less in administrative salaries with the restructuring of the communications and facilities departments.
"I think what we're doing with these two departments, and in all areas of the district, shows we are working to be good stewards of our district patrons' money," Linthacum said.
This article was edited at noon May 21, 2018, to correct when Frank Underwood will start his new position as director of facilities.