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DPS hires Trustem for new community relations position

Dickinson Public Schools hired Sarah Trustem to fill the new role of community relations coordinator. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

Executive Director of Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce Sarah Trustem will become Dickinson Public Schools' first community relations coordinator on April 15.

"With no one having been in this position prior, I really think it needs the right person and felt I could do justice for that," Trustem said. "I also worked in the school district previously as a teacher and really enjoyed being around children and working in education, so an opportunity to use my educational background and public administration and still be in the school district was very exciting."

The position will encompass four roles in one: community relations coordinator, academy coordinator, volunteer coordinator and grant writer.

Superintendent Shon Hocker said the community relations portion will be the biggest part of Trustem's position and will focus on promoting positive things happening in the district and helping the district better communicate with the community.

"Oftentimes, unless the community is actually clicking on the details of those (school) board agendas, they're not getting to see and read and understand the accolades, the accomplishments of some of the kids, programs and teachers," he said.

The misinformation about a potential shooter at Dickinson Middle School impressed upon Hocker the importance of such a role.

"The issue that we had at the middle school with the rumor mill flying all over Dickinson Classifieds, it reiterated to me the importance of monitoring those and nipping those kinds of things earlier," Hocker said.

He said Trustem will likely be monitoring social media and posting information.

Hocker said another large portion of Trustem's responsibilities will be as academy coordinator, which will help Dickinson High School establish its academy program. Trustem said she will act as a "liaison between the district and local businesses."

"A coordinator ... needs to be able to create those relationships with businesses, the manufacturers, the companies in town, with the school," Hocker said.

For this aspect of the job, Trustem's experience with the Chamber will be beneficial.

"I'm really going to be able to use the relationships that I've created over the years to help build that and be a great resource for the schools, and also for the businesses to have a contact within the district as well," Trustem said.

Trustem will also be in charge of the grant writing. Hocker said there are large and small grants out there that she could apply for on behalf of the district.

"Having a specific, dedicated grant writer will help us bring in additional resources to the district, some dollars maybe that we've never had before," he said.

Hocker said money she can secure for the district in the form of grants will help offset the cost of her position, which pays $78,000 annually.

"Generally speaking, if we can pursue three or four of those grants—even if they're 20, 30, $40,000 annual grants—you can see that it will pay for the position, almost," he said.

Trustem will also be in charge of managing community volunteers.

"An example: if we're looking for a volunteer to come in to one of our elementary schools once a week and read with kiddos or something, it takes some work to organize that," Hocker said. "If it's going to be a consistent volunteer ... we'd want to make sure that you're screened and vetted, (have a) background check, you're safe to be around the kids. We need somebody to be able to take the lead on and organize that."

Trustem's first task will be a trip with other members of the district to a school in Nebraska with the academy model, during which she will get to meet that school's academy coordinator.

When she returns, she'll spend time getting to know employees in the schools and the district and work on a communications plan.

"Really understanding what the needs of the district are, and the community and crafting the duties from that—I think that's going to be the biggest challenge is really discovering what is needed from this position," Trustem said.

Hocker said it's possible that the district may need to split the responsibilities into different positions later on, or at least the academy coordinator position.