Pamplin Media Group – School district’s new communications team sparks controversy | Panda Anku

In the midst of a communications drought, the hiring of a media company is a cause for concern.

The Newberg School District is once again embroiled in controversy — this time over how it has communicated with voters, or more specifically, how it hasn’t.

Since the beginning of the year, there has been a significant staff turnover in the district, especially at administrative level. Greg Koskela, the district’s former communications coordinator and bond manager, is one of the recent graduates after being placed on medical leave in early summer and never returning. His absence has left Newberg public schools without a spokesman.

As the school district searched for his replacement, parents expressed concern about many unknowns for the upcoming school year, such as bus schedules, school start times, new hires, and most importantly, where to find this pertinent information.

Then, on August 4, without prior notification to parents and families, a new district Facebook page appeared. Originally titled the Newberg Schools Discussion, it was quickly renamed the Newberg Public Schools Community Forum. In the forum’s first post, the site’s administrator described the site as a place “for community members, teachers, staff, students and their families to meet for civil conversation, to ask questions, to seek or offer support, etc.” .

The district’s other Facebook page, Newberg Public Schools, which has served as a means of communication between the district and constituents, is listed as the forum’s administrator.

Immediately people started asking questions on the forums, specifically about who is running the site.

It wasn’t until August 9 that the operators of the site, who for several days identified themselves solely as the district’s new communications team, officially introduced themselves as a digital media company called Bridge & Bolster LLC.

“We are here for a transitional period while the Newberg School District searches for a permanent director of communications…” the post said. “We’re here to answer your questions about anything school-related! We are working with Superintendent (Stephen) Phillips and his team at the District Office to provide timely answers to your questions. If we don’t answer your question right away, please note that we do everything we can to ask the right person so we can give you the right answer. We are new, learning and appreciating your patience…”

The next day, commenting on a forum post, Bridge & Bolster officials identified themselves as Rosalie Lynn Ayers-Etherington and Michelle Ann Walker of McMinnville and provided a link to prove the company’s registration.

According to the information, Bridge & Bolster had been registered as a business since July 28, just seven days before the founding of the new district forum. However, Ayers-Etherington said she and Walker worked as independent contractors in the “digital media and communications spectrum” for several years.

“We met a while ago, realized we worked well together and decided to bring our businesses and talent together,” said Ayers-Etherington. “Bridge & Bolster is that company.”

Ayers-Etherington also said she and Walker were hired by Phillips and have an 11-month contract with the district.

What Ayers-Etherington didn’t mention, however, are the duo’s ties to current school board members.

In a Jan. 17 Daily Wire article about the school board’s controversial ban on political symbols in classrooms, Ayers-Etherington is described as co-founder of one of the groups opposing the recall effort against school board chairman Dave Brown earlier this year have Vice Chairman Brian Shannon.

Walker has also been linked to anti-recall efforts after she hosted and moderated livestream Q&A sessions for Shannon and Brown through her organization’s Open Schools USA Facebook page during the recall election.

In addition to potential conflicts of interest, Ayers-Etherington’s husband, Isaac Etherington, has also been accused of racism by forum members after a screenshot resurfaced of him allegedly showing an “OK” sign – a gesture sometimes used as a symbol of white power will — during a two-minute speech he delivered at a Zoom school board meeting last year.

Superintendent answers

On August 15, District Mother Jim Anderson emailed Phillips some of these concerns, specifically focusing on the district’s overall poor communication with voters.

“First and foremost, I want to acknowledge your statement about a lack of communication in the district,” Phillips said in his follow-up email. “I agree with you and understand your frustration at the lack of transparency. Please note that my priority is to establish a consistent, clear, honest, and two-way communication process between myself, staff, students, parents, and community members. I have been working diligently with district staff and with Bridge & Bolster LLC to get these processes organized and ready before our school year begins.”

To improve communications going forward, Phillips said the district will provide weekly digital newsletters, update videos and press releases for local media. The district’s website will also be updated, he said.

Phillips also attached the district’s 11-month contract with Bridge & Bolster LLC and clarified that the district had opened the communications coordinator position twice, but did not receive much interest as the applicant it was seeking to hire declined the offer.

“Bridge & Bolster LLC reached out to me and asked if they could help,” Phillips said in the email. “Hiring you for 11 months not only saves the district a significant amount of money, but also gives us more time to find the right person to be the communications coordinator. Although this LLC was formed towards the end of July, it is led by two professionals in the field of digital media and communications…These two women (Ayers-Etherington and Walker) have extensive resumes with more than ample communications experience.”

As compensation for services, Bridge & Bolster receives $7,000 a month, which is “well below the salary we would pay a salaried communications director,” but no health benefits or PERS, Phillips said.

“This company is a temporary solution in our search for a permanent director of communications,” said Phillips. “We are grateful to have them here… The main reason for the decision to hire Bridge & Bolster was the need to get our communication channel going, especially with the school year ahead. This company has some great ideas on how we can build community, build bridges and find ways to work together. I’m confident you’ll feel more comfortable if you give them some time when they’re here.”

Addressing the district’s new Facebook page, Phillips said, “It was created to provide a place for parents and community members to engage in respectful dialogue and discussion.”

However, Phillips said the district will use many different methods to communicate with the public, not just the new site.

Regarding the allegations against Isaac Etherington, Phillips said he did not know the man personally, but Phillips included a letter that Etherington sent to the board shortly after the OK sign went on. In the letter, Isaac Etherington condemned racism and denied knowing the negative connotation behind the gesture, explaining that he is expressive with his hands when speaking.

As of August 18, Phillips has not responded to Anderson’s questions about Ayers-Etherington and Walker’s past ties to board members.

Phillips appears in the video

On August 22, Phillips announced in the first of his promised weekly update videos that the District would open a bidding process for the temporary communications position currently held by Bridge & Bolster.

“Just so everyone knows, this was always planned as a pilot…” Phillips said of the position in the video, reiterating its 11-month duration. “This was a cost saving for the district. We thought we would save about 50% of what we budgeted for this position, but social media has taken off a bit and we just want you to know we were listening… Everyone who qualifies applies please, and we’ll go from there.”

The bidding process was opened on August 22nd and will end on September 6th at 3:00 p.m. The new contract runs from October 1 to June 30, 2023.

For more information on the communication position, see To place a bid or have questions about the bidding process, call or email Tabitha Renne at 503-554-5041 This email address is being protected from spam bots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more information about Bridge & Bolster LLC email the team at This email address is being protected from spam bots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Phillips at This email address is being protected from spam bots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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