Neilson named to Balto. Co. schools post

New communications chief had been a city spokesman

August 15, 2002|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

Douglas J. Neilson, a veteran of television news who has been spokesman for Baltimore City schools, was named to a new position in the Baltimore County school system overseeing its communications.

"The whole way I'm looking at it is, `What does this mean to the children in the school system?'" said Neilson, 50, of Ellicott City, who was unanimously appointed to the post by the school board Tuesday night.

Neilson was spokesman for Baltimore schools in 1990 and 1991 under then-Superintendent Richard Hunter. Since 1997, he has served as director of marketing and public relations at the College Savings Plans of Maryland, an independent state agency that manages funds where parents can invest money for their children's college education.

His appointment to the $101,970-a-year job of chief communications officer follows a study that found problems in the Baltimore County schools' communications with the public and employees. The study recommended adding the post.

Michael Franklin, president of the PTA Council of Baltimore County, said Superintendent Joe A. Hairston has "much improved" outreach and Neilson's hiring, though not necessary, should help.

In the new job, Neilson will oversee the existing communications office; its staff of six is responsible for everything from answering calls to speaking to the media to writing the district newsletter. He said he would meet with Hairston today to sign a contract and set a starting date.

Hairston said he recommended Neilson because of his experience in the private sector and public education, which will enable him to deliver positive news about the district and deftly handle crises.

"One of the major problems we have in public education is getting out accurately the story of what we are doing. We are victims of misinformation," Hairston said. Donald L. Arnold, president of the school board, said Neilson could change that.

A 1975 graduate of Temple University, Neilson worked as a cameraman and editor for television news stations in Harrisburg, Pa., Baltimore and Washington, in addition to working in public relations and marketing, sometimes for his own consulting firm.

He was chosen from among 125 applicants. According to the job description, he will serve in the Cabinet of the superintendent.

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