A viral video of Scott Saywell, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ superintendent, announcing a snow day has received an award from the Canadian Association of Communicators in Education. (SD68 photo)

Nanaimo’s singing superintendent wins award, though not a Grammy

Canadian Association of Communicators in Education recognizes SD68 for communications initiatives

A viral video informing students about snow day cancellations was among three communiqués for which Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools was recognized this month.

The Canadian Association of Communicators in Education recently handed out its Bravo Awards recognizing excellence in school public relations. A YouTube video of Scott Saywell, Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district superintendent, and accompanying guitar, singing about school closures in February, was given the Coup de Coeur award, while the district’s #ReconciliAction: Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ Journey to Reconciliation received the award of merit for communication piece electronic/traditional. The district also received an award of distinction for its NLPS Ed Talks podcasts.

RELATED: Nanaimo school district adopts reconciliation policy

RELATED: Vancouver Island schools, colleges closed Feb. 12

Saywell was assisted by Dale Burgos, school district executive director of communications, privacy and community engagement, for the schools-closed-due-to-snow video and the superintendent said he drew inspiration from a singing school official’s video from the U.S.

“I had a number of people send me that video and say, ‘Well, you have to do something like this.’ So one thing led to another and in a weak moment I guess, we decided [to do it],” said Saywell. “You know, [cancelling school] is always contentious. Whatever way you call that, you have people who aren’t happy with the decision, so it’s a difficult position to be in. The video speaks for itself I guess. It went a little bit viral there, which was interesting to me … the communications department did a really good job of following up with some really funny tweets.”

Saywell credits all the awards to Burgos, who also sits on the CACE executive, and the district communications department, and said communicating with parents and students is undergoing an evolution.

“When I took on the job I also knew that … if you want to get to the masses, you send out a short YouTube video and people will not necessarily read a letter that I send out to all staff, but they will watch a video,” said Saywell. “I think you just have to use the media that’s available to you at the time, so Dale and the team, we’ve started to send out all kinds of videos for all kinds of reasons and YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and other platforms, it’s the way to reach people.”

The #ReconciliAction video deals with the district’s goal of reconciliation with indigenous peoples, while the Ed Talks podcasts deal with various aspects of the school district, highlighting programs and student initiatives, for example.

A panel of judges comprised of public relations workers from non-educational disciplines, decide award winners.

While there are no singing superintendent videos currently in the works, Saywell is quite certain more will hit social media in the future.

“It certainly did start off as something I did on a bit of a whim, but I think I’m stuck now because people keep asking me for more,” Saywell said.


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Dale Burgos, SD68 executive director of communications, privacy and community engagement, and school district colleagues Shauna DeBodt, Tiffany Skibinsky, Karen Matthews and Scott Saywell, were recognized for the work by the Canadian Association of Communicators in Education at its Bravo! Awards. (Submitted photo)

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