Nancy Dudenhoefer spent a lot of time in classrooms with students during her 10 years as the communications director for Kyrene School District.
Special to AFN

As with any large organization, school districts often rely on one person to be their voice.

No matter what their title might be, their job involves many duties, such as dealing with the media, developing and executing internal communications, orchestrating public events and getting messages out to parents en masse.

For a decade, Nancy Dudenhoefer has been that voice for Kyrene School District. Last week, the Ahwatukee resident announced she was leaving the district to become development director for public radio stations KJZZ and KBAQ.

“While it’s an exciting opportunity for me, I’m sad to be leaving behind my colleagues at Kyrene,” Dudenhoefer said. “As Kyrene launched programs, established social media, and developed a sponsorship program, the media coverage of Kyrene has been invaluable to me and the district and, for that I’m very grateful. Working in a school district has afforded me a family-friendly work environment while my children attended Kyrene and Tempe Union schools.”

In announcing her departure, Kyrene Superintendent Jan Vesely said:

“Kyrene is losing a leader who exemplifies Kyrene spirit. I know many of you have personally experienced her expertise and enthusiasm, sharing a fond partnership with her over the past 10 years as her work has created success stories across Kyrene.”

Vesely went on to note some of Dudenhoefer accomplishments: “invited enrollment through positive marketing of school and community education programs and events”; “established Kyrene’s social media presence”; implemented “key initiatives such as employee recruitment, program specific events, and parent information nights”; “coordinated and championed district-wide events” and maintained relationships with community organizations.

Vesely said future communications duties will be executed by a team that includes Susie Ostmeyer, chief information and accountability officer, as well as Bonny Dolinsek, Lauren Clark and Sharon McGrath. Ombudsman Rosalie Hirano will cover governmental relations and Joelle Green will remain business development coordinator.

Dudenhoefer exhibited mixed emotions in the wake of the announcement, proud of her work yet wistful as she recounted some of her on-the-job memories.

“I’m proud to have spent the last 10 years of my career working in what I consider to be the highest-performing school district in the state and one from which both of my children have gone on to become successful young adults,” she said.

“I couldn’t be more thankful for having had the opportunity to serve the Kyrene community and tell the amazing stories from inside the walls of our wonderful public schools,” she added. “There’s a reason every real estate ad mentions Kyrene School District – our schools are an incredible asset to this community.”

Asked for a couple of her memories, she recalled how singer and TV star Paula Abdul dropped in at Altadena Middle School in 2011 to visit an 11-year-old student, Kendal Glover, who was to appear as a solo finalist on Abdul’s show, “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Public relations representatives for the show weren’t happy that Dudenhoefer had tipped off the media to Abdul’s visit. But – true to the concern she has always had for Kyrene students – Dudenhoefer had no regrets.

“Your paper got the story and the community had fun following Kendal’s progress on the show. Now she’s a successful freshman volleyball player for the Georgia Bulldogs,” Dudenhoefer told AFN.

Indeed, Dudenhoefer said one of the highlights of her decade with Kyrene has been following the success of its alumni.

“Each year when Tempe Union releases its list of Flynn Scholars, a majority were educated at Kyrene schools,” she said. “We have alumni attend Purdue, Notre Dame, MIT and Stanford – just to name a few. Just last year, I witnessed Devon Kennard, who plays for the New York Giants, return to Akimel A-al Middle School and give an inspiring speech to eighth-graders about the importance of their high school careers.”

She fondly recalled duties outside students.

“It’s always been fun to represent Kyrene at Ahwatukee’s premier events like the Easter Parade and Festival of Lights,” she said. “I have to say even those who don’t have children would enjoy Kyrene student performances – the Arts in Kyrene are alive and well, something the community should be proud of. “

And she specifically cited the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce and its support for the district.

“I’ve been a member since 2002, when I worked at the Ahwatukee Foothills News, and in 2008, I was honored as a Volunteer of the Year. In 2013, I was lucky enough to be named a finalist for the Palo Verde Award and attend the western-themed gala at Rawhide,” she added.

Dudenhoefer also said the district staff and teachers have left an indelible impression and generated a lot of respect.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that while I enjoyed visiting classrooms and seeing the children learn, one hour is my limit,” she said. “Teachers are patient and humble people, admired individually but as a profession not respected as they should be.

“And principals are incredibly dedicated people – responsible for up to 1,000 students and staff daily. Their job is 24/7, leaving little time for family and friends. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that to a person, Kyrene has the most hard-working staff devoted to maintaining the schools, transporting children and providing the most efficient and effective support to teaching and learning.”

 

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