Waxahachie Independent School District has a new, but familiar face in the role of Public Relations Director.
Candace Ahlfinger, who once served in the same role for the district from 1994 to 2006, was re-hired for the position in September, after the resignation of Nicole Mansell earlier this year. Before she returned, she served at the Associate Superintendent for Communications and Community Relations for Pasadena ISD from 2006 to 2012 and the Executive Director Communications and Public Affairs for Richardson ISD between 2012 and now.
“I had the opportunity to leave, but Waxahachie is home,” she said. “It was just a great opportunity to be part of the community again. We’ve never sold our home. Our children went to school here. My parents live here. It was just a great opportunity to be back. I think a lot of the reason I came back is I see the plans that are being discussed in Waxahachie ISD. It’s a great district and there are so many things going for it. It’s a great community.”The goal for her department, she said, is always going to be in line with the district’s goals. Sharing those goals play a big part in her roles as the liaison between the community and the administration and staff.
“I want to keep the community aware of all the great things that are going on in this schools, along with problems that may be happening, as well as challenges and solutions so that we can all work together,” she said. “I want to help draw people into the schools because a community is only as good as it’s school system. It’s a great community, it’s a great school system, but only by working together is it going to get better.”
Although the territory is familiar to her, she said she’s still had lots to learn in the first few weeks back.
“In some ways it has been more difficult to come back, because people think you know everything,” she said. “Things have changed, and for the better. There’s also a lot more types of communicate, and the little things are sometimes what is difficult, like trying to find a password.
Not only does Ahlfinger alert parents and students through phone calls and emails to issues that may arise, she also helps operate the district’s Facebook and Twitter pages to push out news, events or alerts. Though tricky at first, she’s becoming more and more familiar with social media, she said.
“It’s been very interesting trying to get back into the community, to learn what all has gone on,” she said. “And start the evaluation of here is where we are, what do we need to do, how can we improve and what do we need to change, and what relationships do we need to build.”So far, she wants to work closely with the Waxahachie Daily Light and radio station KBEC 1390, because those outlets are often the local source of information for the community, she said. She’s also focused on building relationships inside the district to help teachers, principals and staff better, as well as getting involved with outside establishments like churches, Rotary, Junior Service League, Partners in Education and the Education Foundation.
“You know, how can I help the Education Foundation?” she said as an example. “Because we all know that funding for schools has been more and more difficult through the years, and there’s a lot of innovative programs and ideas that our teachers have that they want to implement, that there may not be funds for. So how can I help build that relationship, so people can be more involved with that foundation?”
Relationship building lines up with both the district and Superintendent Jeremy Glenn’s goals, Ahlfinger said. Administrators having a visual presence as well helps with that process, be it at a football game behind a concession stand, at the annual Legacy Run, or even at the scene of a police-related incident, she said.
“Glenn’s enthusiasm and ideas are some of the reasons I wanted to come back,” she said. “I think he has what’s best for students in mind and I think Waxahachie is ready to take those steps. We want our schools to have the reputation that if you graduated 100 years ago, 50 years ago, 10 years ago or you’re graduating next year, that our schools have a reputation that ‘Wow, you graduated from there,’ and you can go to which college you want to go to or the tech school you want to go to. We all want our schools to maintain that reputation and to maintain, you have to move ahead. I think Dr. Glenn has that vision, and I’m very excited about that. He has a great administrative team and his vision is that we’re going to be seen.”Ahlfinger is the true definition of a servant leader, and she has a passion to see young people succeed, Glenn said. That’s part of what stood out to the district during the interviewing process.“During her 20 career year, she established herself as one of the premier public relations directors in the state of Texas,” Glenn said. “She is an educational leader and her efforts in public education will have a lasting impact on improving schools. Ms. Ahlfinger is a true teacher, motivator, coach and role model.”