Better Advocate on the Outside Than the Inside

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 13, 2013

Dear Editor,
    Re: “A Failure to Communicate” [News, Feb. 8]: While I appreciate Richard Whittaker’s perspective on the Austin Independent School District and the Department of Public Relations and Multicultural Outreach, I offer my own perspective as staff member 25 out of the 26 who quit.
    For 11 months in 2012, I proudly served as the assistant director of community engagement and multicultural outreach. I was charged with leading a team of seven professionals to actively engage all of the district’s constituencies in real and meaningful ways. I ultimately left the position last November after a period of medical leave brought on by exhaustion and overwork.
    Some might say that my departure was the fault of the district or my boss, Alex Sánchez, but I know better. It was a perfect storm made up of my own passion for education coupled with a hard work ethic common among the children of immigrants. Added to that foundation was an unwavering department-wide focus on equal access in an out-of-date bureaucratic structure struggling to meet 21st century demands. This all took place in a district haunted by the trauma caused by a reduction in force and extreme austerity measures imposed by the state.
    While I appreciate Whittaker’s note on the “engagement” efforts of individual staffers from the communications side of the PRMO shop, he failed to highlight the comprehensive portfolio of engagement that extends far beyond those of media relations.
    Every person I worked with at AISD was a committed professional eager to serve all children, parents, and caregivers. Attempts to do so in this day and age with an outdated infrastructure and the reeling impact of cuts to education dollars make for the messy and chaotic work detailed in this article. Whittaker’s depiction is not necessarily false insomuch as it is incomplete.
    As a native of El Paso, the desert is my home terrain. Even so, I recognize the gargantuan effort it must take to right the course of an ocean liner, especially when that ship holds the key to our collective future and our most precious resource.
    As No. 25, I will continue to extend one hand to the district and the other to the community, and I know I will be an even better advocate on the outside than on the inside. I hope others will do the same.
Marisa Y. Limon
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