Keeping connected: WHS grad returns to head district’s communication efforts
WORTHINGTON — Parker Sandhurst has spent a significant amount of his 25 years within Independent School District 518.
The 2012 Worthington High School graduate recently returned to the place he says has had a huge influence on his life. Sandhurst started last week as the district’s new communication coordinator — a position recently revived for the first time since being cut nearly two decades ago.
“I’m happy to be working at the system that helped me so much throughout the years,” Sandhurst said.
Sandhurst’s duties will include a wide array of responsibilities, but they’ll all be centered around communicating with district employees, parents, students and district residents across a variety of messaging systems.
“I’m taking over what used to be piecemealed out to other people who have a lot of other things to do,” Sandhurst said.
He described his role as the “hub of the wheel” where the spokes go both in and out.
“If there’s any information that needs to come in, it will come to me — the hub,” he said. “It’ll then go back out to whoever needs to receive it, whether in the community or within the district.”
He’s working on creating what he called a style guide. The intent is that information recipients will be able to clearly identify where the messages are being sent from, as well as unify messages and create consistency from Prairie Elementary all the way through the high school, he said.
Sandhurst said he’s excited to get newsletters for each building up and rolling, as well as continuing more traditional styles of communication like newsprint and general mailers in an effort to reach everyone “affected by what’s going on in the school district.”
He’ll also head the communications and the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) committees to communicate the district’s efforts regarding developing how it may handle threatening situations, said Superintendent John Landgaard.
Between finances and the continuous need for communication, Landgaard said the timing was right to act on the district and Board of Education’s five-year goal to hire a communications coordinator after the position had been cut in the early 2000s.
“It’s related to the need to communicate more and that’s been evident with the referendums and trying to help people understand the district overall,” Landgaard said. “So it’s one of those things to help tell our story better.”
After graduating from WHS, Sandhurst attended Minnesota West Community and Technical College for one year to finish his associate’s degree. He then pursued a degree in communications studies at Minnesota State University in Mankato. He also graduated with a minor in economics.
With family rooted in Worthington and his fiance, Emma Jirele, working as the Jackson County Central middle and high school music director, Sandhurst returned to his hometown in 2017 and worked for American Family Insurance in Worthington.
While Sandhurst considers the insurance gig a good opportunity, he said becoming the district’s communications coordinator better aligns with his education and what he’s passionate about: making connections with people.
“It’s exciting to me that I get to go out and work with different people every day and make sure everybody knows what’s going on,” he said. “It’s also awesome that I get to do that in the school district that afforded me so many opportunities, and to see this district continue to succeed in so many different ways and making sure people know the different ways it is succeeding and going above and beyond. That maybe happens every day, but doesn’t always get the chance to be told.”
Now in his second week on the job, Sandhurst is still getting acclimated into his new role at the district. He admitted that it was a little strange to visit some of the district’s school buildings he once frequented but hadn’t returned to in quite some time.
“The wave of nostalgia came over me,” he said about a recent trip to the middle school. “To reintroduce myself to teachers and administrators that had an effect on my life 12 years or so ago is a cool experience.”
Sandhurst stressed that he’s a resource for the community and district residents as much as he is for the district.
He encourages residents to reach out to him with questions, concerns or to be heard.
Individuals may reach Sandhurst by calling the district administration office at 372-2172 or emailing Parker.Sandhurst@isd518.net.