Gail Pinsker started this past week in her post as the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s public relations officer, a new full-time position that officials hope will improve communication within the district as well as with parents and community members.
Pinsker, whose appointment was approved Dec. 12 by the education board, began her job Jan. 12 and spent her first few days meeting colleagues, visiting campuses and familiarizing herself with the issues facing the district.
She arrives on the Westside after a four-year stint as the public relations officer for the Hart Union High School District in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Pinsker has worked in public relations and marketing for about 20 years and has been active in public education as a consultant for school fundraising and education technology, nonprofit leader and PTA representative.
Pinsker graduated from Cal State Northridge in 1983. The youngest of her three children is currently a junior at Cal State Fullerton.
Pinsker discussed education in general and her new job in particular during an interview with the Daily Press.
Daily Press: Why did you take this position with Santa Monica schools?
Gail Pinsker: I heard about this opportunity from the California School Public Relations Association. I was interested in the fact that it was a new department for a high-performing school district in two communities that I enjoy visiting. I thought it would be a great place to work as well as be involved in the community. I’ll be relocating to the Westside in the next few weeks – my house in Santa Clarita is in process of being leased. I want to be living and breathing nearby the community I’m serving. That’s very important to me.
DP: Generally speaking, what are your goals for this position?
GP: I feel very strongly about two-way communication with all stakeholders, not only in the district – with parents, board members and students – but also the community at large. I’m hopeful that I can bring my communications expertise to the district to enhance the communications that are ongoing in the district now, assist with a strengthening of the factual information disseminated from the district and make sure all stakeholders are aware of what the district is doing.
DP: How did you get involved in the education field?
GP: I’ve been a public education advocate for more than 20 years. I’ve spent 17 years in PTA groups, not only at the school-site level but at the council level as well. I’ve previously served on two education foundation boards and held sales and marketing positions in school fundraising and education technology. Whether it’s sports or reading, public education is a strong area of interest for me, and that has spilled over the last 20 years into (my profession) as well. That’s what brought me into the education field – it’s not something like, ‘Oh, this looks like a great corporate job.’ This is my passion. I feel very excited to share that passion with the community while strengthening the communications systems of the school district.
DP: How familiar are you with Santa Monica?
GP: I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and I used to come to Santa Monica as a kid. I’ve also spent time here as an adult: I’ve brought my kids here to Third Street Promenade and I’ve come here for weekend getaways because it feels far away but it’s not really. I enjoy bike-riding, so I’m looking forward to bringing my bike and getting down to the beach more than I have. All of the shops and restaurants and local retailers available here, I’m starting to get to know. And I’ve always been involved in nonprofit organizations, so I’m looking forward to exploring that out here and going to Chamber of Commerce and other business association events as well.
DP: Why is public education important to you?
GP: I know some parents make a choice to put kids in private schools or charter schools, but I’m happy to talk to anyone anytime about the opportunities available at a public school versus a private school, whether it’s extracurricular activities, athletics or the highly qualified teachers who are fully credentialed. I’m happy to have that conversation with any parent who is comparing school options. I feel very strongly about public school options and opportunities for learning and college and career readiness.
DP: What will you be doing in your first few weeks on the job?
GP: I want to start understanding the unique diversity of the district and the culture of the two cities it serves and learning more about the communities and the uniqueness of each school site. I’ll be working closely with the superintendent to start understanding the district’s budget and the many things going on: the bond measure and what that’ll be used for, the Local Control and Accountability Plan and Common Core State Standards. I really want to dive deeper into the district and meet the leaders of the district and community as well.