Coronado Unified School District (CUSD) is welcoming a new role for the district – Public Affairs Officer. Coronado local and past school board member, Maria Simon, will be taking on the title and taking the lead on the CUSD’s public communications strategies.
Simon and her family have been members of the Coronado community for over 20 years and she is no stranger to the school district, having gotten involved as a parent early on. “I first became involved with the school district in 2003 when my daughter was in kindergarten and I went to my first PTO meeting at Village Elementary. I was nervous to go to that meeting but I think I volunteered for something that very first time. Probably the Harvest Hoedown! I never looked back,” Simon recalled.
She would later become the PTO President of Village Elementary and then the Coronado Middle School (CMS) PTO President, volunteering her time to run events for the students and help the schools.
In 2012, Simon took the next step and ran for the school board where she was elected that term and again in 2016. “I was Board President for three years. When I first ran, my own kids were at Village, CMS, and CHS, (Coronado High School)” she explained.
She went on to talk about what she thought the focus of the board should be from her experiences. “I think the two most important things for the governing board are: fiduciary – to understand public school funding in the state and our district budget. That’s not the fun part, it’s complicated, but it is so important in allocating money and for the long term success of the district. And second, to create and then support long range goals through allocation of resources. It’s actually not a fun job, and it’s a bit thankless, but it’s very rewarding.”
As Public Information Officer (PIO) for CUSD, Simon will be helping with both internal and external communications strategies for the district, which will also focus on public relations, community engagement, and media relations. “CUSD has never had a PIO before and it is a part time position so we will define the role to best serve the district’s needs,” Simon mentioned. “I have held similar positions with the San Diego Museum Council and healthcare non-profit organizations so some of the strategies cross over from other industries.”
Simon also brings her past experience with PTO, serving on the school board, and as a writer covering the school board meetings for the Coronado Eagle & Journal to the new position. “I know how the district works – programs, people, departments, schools sites. And through my involvement on the school board I understand the guidelines that our decision-makers must adhere to,” she told me.
While a new writer, Sarah Steindl, will be taking over for Simon in covering the school board meetings for the newspaper, Simon hopes to continue contributing to the paper in other ways and hopes to bring that experience of engaging with the community to her new position.
“As a journalist for the [Coronado] Eagle, covering the school board, and city council too, has been a great experience. Trying to condense hours and hours of meetings and information into readable and relevant summaries is a great exercise,” Simon said with a touch of humor. “It has also made me recognize the necessity of access to information.”
As she begins in her position as Public Information Officer this week, Simon looks forward to putting the spotlight on the exciting things happening within the school district for the community. “There is so much to celebrate and be proud of at CUSD. That will be a big focus,” she told me. “Also, there is a lot of parent engagement right now coming out of the pandemic, which I think is great. It is important to provide accurate and timely information to our school community and I will work on that – making information easy and accessible.”
Having been so involved with the schools for many years now, I asked Simon what it is that has motivated her to keep taking a hands on approach in supporting and remaining engaged with the school district. “I love young people, I love their energy and really love watching them make mistakes and grow,” said Simon. “I believe there is nothing more important than preparing the leaders of tomorrow but it’s a process, not a rush. Since I am not an educator I guess supporting the education system lets me do my part.”
Simon can recall many moments throughout her involvement in CUSD that have been rewarding for her, be it visiting Sacramento as a school board member to represent and advocate for the Coronado district or being able to hand her children’s diplomas to them as they graduated.
“But mostly it’s just the people I got to know,” Simon mentioned. “Some of my best friends today, I met at the Village [Elementary] drop-off gate, or PTO meetings or some volunteer thing; fellow board members over those eight years; teachers and staff members that I’ve known for almost two decades; the amazing people in the District Office; and our administrators that work harder than anyone. I have had the privilege of wearing many hats in CUSD over the past 18 years and I am so excited about my newest PIO hat!”
Simon is familiar with the challenges she’ll be facing as she steps back into an active role as part of CUSD. In the ever-evolving landscape of public education where there will always be new questions to be answered, but she looks forward to helping find solutions.
“Coronado schools have a tremendous legacy and we have big shoes to fill to continue that for the next generation of students,” she said. “I guess that’s what’s important to me – to be part of preserving and continuing that legacy.”