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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Meet the D 49 P.R. person

Joe Cole is a familiar face to many. The new Falcon School District 49 community relations coordinator has anchored the Fox 21 evening news since it started in March 2001.Cole said many people approach him trying to figure out why they recognize him. Others just stare, he said.These days, Cole’s notoriety is concentrated in eastern El Paso County. Cole joined D 49 on Sept. 19 as the new spokesperson – a role that will allow reporters and others easier access to the district. “Before me, if journalists wanted to feature anything on D 49, they had to call the specific school principal, central administration, or whomever, and hope someone called them back before deadline,” Cole said. “Now they call me, and I coordinate all of it. I am the first responder of sorts.”Cole also will act as a liaison between the School District Accountability Action Committee and the D 49 Parent Teachers Association and the community. “The goal is more open communication among the district, committees and community,” he said. “We want all communication to be conversation friendly. Acronyms are great when you understand what they mean, but for an outsider like me and many in the community, we need to speak in language that everyone understands.”Internal communications is another of Cole’s responsibilities. “It’s my job to ensure that all employees know and understand what’s happening in the district,” he said.One of his first challenges is reviving the Falcon Flyer, a quarterly newsletter featuring information on the district. Residents used to receive the newsletter via their mailboxes, but eventually it went online only. “We are revising the newsletter and will mail it to all those who are part of D 49,” Cole said. “There are many people who do not have access to a computer or didn’t know that it was published online. I want to have the first edition for this school year out by Nov. 1.”Although D 49 has struggled with funding, the public relations person is a vital piece to good community relations. “Almost every district in southern Colorado has a community relations person,” Cole said. “The community response has been positive. Many people have said this position was very much needed, and I talk to parents, the media, employees and any community members who have questions regarding the district.””I think the community recognized the district needed someone to act as a liaison between the district and community,” said Superintendent Steven Hull. “We are a large and growing district, and it’s important that we get information out both externally and internally.”Hull said he chose Cole because he has a “tremendous talent for working with people … exceptional public relations skills … and a great media background, which gave him the edge over other applicants.”Cole paved his way through education and experience.He grew up in Phoenix, Ariz., and received a baseball scholarship to the University of Alabama, where he majored in communications with an emphasis in broadcast journalism. After he graduated, Cole worked as an anchor at a station in Oregon. In 2000, Fox recruited him for its television news launch in the Springs.During his days at Fox television, Cole met his wife, Shannon, and they now have a 6-month-old son, Joshua.”Josh changed everything,” Cole said. He soon decided a morning anchor position might fit better with his new role as a father. “I felt that I was missing out on too much with Josh.” Cole said he began putting out feelers in other states, hoping for a morning anchor job but realizing that the “best positions financially are in the evening news slots.””Also, to move up in broadcasting you need to literally move on,” Cole said.Before he moved on, however, he found out about the D 49 community relations position from his wife and father-in-law, who had the inside information. Shannon Cole has a master’s in education and prior to Joshua’s birth tutored at Classical Academy in School District 20. Her father has taught in School District 12 for 34 years.Cole pursued the position, and now credits the new superintendent for his decision. “Dr. Hull sold me on the position,” he said. “There are so many great things happening in the district, and I wanted to be a part of it. It also allows my family to put down roots, something you can’t do in traditional broadcasting.”Cole is working under a one-year contract, but said he hopes to be with the district for a long time. “This is such a great opportunity for me,” he said. “The morale is very high in D 49 among all employees. My goal is to change the perception that D 49 is simply an overcrowded, under-funded school district without much to offer students. While it is true that we need more buildings and to do that the mill levy must pass, this district is thriving and doing many great things. It’s my job to be sure the community knows that.

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