New Hanover County Schools Obtain Fourth Director of Communications in Two Years

New Hanover County Schools reported on Monday that Joshua Smith, who previously worked as a public affairs officer for the US Marine Corps, has been hired as the new district communications officer. Smith is the fourth person to hold this position in the past two years.

Smith replaces Michelle Fiscus, who served for less than two months, from April 12 to June 2 of this year. Prior to Fiscus, Ann Gibson held the position for just under a year, from March 9, 2020 to February 26, 2021.

Valita Quattlebaum served much longer, taking the post in November 2013 and serving until 2019, when she stopped handling communications, but remained on the district payroll until September 2020.

Long-time media coordinator Brandon Shope, who helped ensure some continuity for public document requests and other media inquiries between communications officers, also recently left the NHCS; Shope has taken over the post of communications specialist at the Wilmington Police Department.

Fiscus could not be reached for comment. After deciding to leave the district, Gibson said she was choosing to move to be closer to her family during the pandemic. During his time in limbo, Quattlebaum did not respond to requests for comment.

Quattlebaum’s slow start coincided with a spate of revelations about convicted former teacher and child molester Michael Earl Kelly, a string of resignations – including Assistant Superintendent Dr Rick Holliday former Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources John Welmers, Principal Human Resources Robin Meiers, and General Counsel Wayne Bullard – and the contentious $ 226,000 separation agreement with Superintendent, Dr. Tim Markley.

More on this from Port City Daily: Between public “separations” and discreet resignations, half of the top NHCS administration has left.
The district has not seen a dearth of public crises since then, including resentful debates about closing – and then reopening – schools during Covid-19 and, more recently, debates about teaching fairness and diversity (called “critical race theory” by opponents) and the adoption of a transgender athlete policy allowing college students to compete regardless of what gender they identify with.


Joshua Smith, NHCS new communications director.

Despite the considerable challenges faced by former communications chiefs, the administration appears to have high hopes for Smith.

“Joshua Smith is a seasoned communications professional and an exceptional addition to our leadership team. I look forward to Mr. Smith leading the district’s communications division while using his vast experience to engage with all of our community stakeholders, ”NHCS Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust wrote in a statement released today. .

According to the NHCS, “Smith brings extensive experience in managing strategic communications, public affairs and training activities in the US Marines. He has been responsible for communications strategy at headquarters in Washington, DC for the past two years, having served as a public affairs officer, instructor, and director of communications strategy for the 22nd Expeditionary Unit at Camp Lejeune, Carolina North, between 2010 -2019.

Smith officially begins work on Monday, June 28.

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