Doherty Graduate Leads D11 Communications

Devra+Ashby+is+a+Doherty+graduate%2C+and+now+she+helps+lead+the+Communications+Team.

Devra Ashby is a Doherty graduate, and now she helps lead the Communications Team.

Birdie McGee, Staff Writer

The current Chief Communications Officer for D11 is Mrs. Devra Ashby, who is a former Doherty graduate.

Mrs. Devra Ashby graduated from Doherty in the 90s, and she said about her time here that, “When I was there [Doherty] in the early 90’s, the courtyard and building addition closest to Barnes Road was not there. We used to sit on the ledge near the windows and socialize. We’d also sit on the Spartan statue base (yes, it was still there). The auditorium was the same as it is now and that whole wing was very memorable for me since I was a choir and drama nerd.” 

She didn’t always set out to become the Communications specialist for D11, however; she wanted to be on Broadway, and even went to college for a year on a music scholarship before she moved back to Colorado!

She settled upon PR (public relations), while going to school at UCCS. “When I was in college, I got the opportunity to work at the local CBS station, KKTV, in the mail room as a courier. I started volunteering in the newsroom during my off time and eventually became an editor.” After this she got a job as a TV news anchor in the small town of Grand Junction, Colorado. She describes how after a few years in the news anchor business, in both Grand Junction and Colorado Springs, she wanted to settle down and start a family, and how the business was not really conducive to having a family, and so she moved on to public relations. (Which she stated is the natural progression for many journalists.)

As to how she got her current job in D11, she said, “At the time, my mom was a teacher in D11 and she sent me a job posting for a media specialist for the District. It was more job security, so I started working for the District. A couple years into my employment with D11, the Communications Director (a long-time mentor and friend) decided to retire. I was hired to be her replacement and I’ve been in my current role now for over a decade.”

But what exactly is the job of a Chief Communications Officer? “..[The position] is to build trusting relationships with all stakeholders (students, families, staff members, the public, elected officials, the media, etc.).” She also had to say this about her job, “I oversee a communications department responsible for video production, graphic design, branding, the websites, mass communications/notifications, and social media. And, I’m usually the main spokesperson for the District when the media have interview requests.”

Her job, however, has been impacted by COVID-19, as have many jobs.  “In March 2020, our school district went remote and there were so many unknowns. It was even more imperative to keep staff members and families updated on daily operational changes, technology updates, and health and safety measures being taken. Our video production department has only increased their workload by helping stream meetings and events across the District to lessen in-person activities. People have heavily relied on our regular communications to know what’s changing during an ever-changing pandemic.”

I then asked her about snow days, and how decisions were made for delays and other weather related things, as one of her roles is to communicate out that information to us. She said this, “The safety of our students, staff, and families is top of mind when we make the difficult decisions about school closings, remote learning days, early safety dismissals, and delayed safety starts. Sudden weather changes are part of what we expect in Colorado. To help us ensure the safety of our students to the best of our abilities, School District 11 has appointed supervisory personnel to drive sections of the District whenever a storm is forecasted. We assign the driving sections because, as we all know, the weather at Doherty High School can be totally different from the weather at Chipeta Elementary School or Mann Middle School.” She also said, “The supervisory personnel report on weather and road conditions, especially noting poor visibility, poor traction and other hazardous street conditions, wind chill factors, and snow accumulation. These on-the-street supervisors report their findings, and the Superintendent is briefed on the conditions. These reports are used in addition to the reports from the U.S. Weather Bureau and the Colorado Springs Street Division, and in coordination with neighboring school districts. After all the data is examined, a decision is made for either a delayed start, a remote learning day, a full school closure, or school as usual. All of this usually begins the night before a storm is predicted to hit and is accomplished by 5:30 a.m. so that the decision may be reported.” But, on the night of a storm she says that she usually gets very little sleep because, “Our conversations usually start the night before a decision is made and we are usually up by 3:30 a.m. monitoring the weather. Notifications go out at the latest by 5:30 a.m. I also spend some time moderating social media accounts for the District during inclement weather. Thankfully, much of what I do for inclement weather can be done remotely, so I am usually at my dining room table working on messaging.”

Since she has a background in journalism and communications, she recently joined our journalism class as a guest speaker via Webex. Doherty Junior Marynn Krull said about the visit, “I learned a lot from Devra Ashby’s visit. It provided a lot of insight into the variety of directions a career in Journalism can take. It was also really nice to hear some tips about ways to grow in my writing and to become more effective in the journalism process. I’ve implemented some of her tips, and it strengthened my interest in journalism as a career.”