The Rockwood School District communications team will have a new leader in February.
Mary LaPak, 51, of St. Louis will start as the district’s executive director of communication on Feb. 1.
The district’s Board of Education voted 6-0 to hire her for the position on Dec. 17. Board member Lynn Midyett was not present during the closed session vote.
LaPak will succeed Alex Fees, who resigned in September, according to the district’s website.
LaPak’s salary will be $139,594.65 a year, district officials said.
“We look forward to welcoming Ms. LaPak to our Rockwood school community,” Superintendent Mark Miles said. “She has a heart for children, and she understands the need for open, honest and ongoing communication with all members of our school community.”
Fees was promoted to executive director of communications in July 2019 after working as the communications coordinator since 2017.
Before coming to Rockwood, Fees had a 25-year career as a TV reporter and worked for the Mehlville School District in communications. He said he has returned to KSDK as a reporter.
Fees’ salary was $137,971.45, according to district officials.
LaPak has been the chief communications officer for the Wentzville School District since 2014. She began working for that district in 2009 as a community relations specialist.
She said she got into public school communication when her five grown children – Tom, 28, Katelyn, 27, Dustin, 25, Shane, 23, and Benjamin, 19 – were in school.
“I was very invested in the (Wentzville) school district and wanted to learn more about how it worked,” she said. “So, I was following things closely, and I saw that their communications person was retiring.”
LaPak has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y., and worked several years for newspapers in New York and Pennsylvania.
While LaPak ended up with a journalism degree, she originally went to school seeking an education degree.
“I went to school thinking I was going to be a school teacher and went for education, and decided to start taking some journalism classes and really just fell in love with it,” she said.
LaPak said her passion for education was a driving force for her search for a job in public schools.
“I feel very much at home here, even though my background is not in education,” she said. “Again, having raised five children and also just a love of the classroom has definitely helped me. I love working with people who are all student-focused,” she said.
LaPak said one of her favorite parts of working in communications is solving problems.
“You may go into work and feel as though you know how the day is going to go and you quickly have to pivot to do maybe some emergency communication or assist a building with an issue that they’re having,” she said.
LaPak said she and her husband, Christian, moved to downtown St. Louis last year, and she heard about the vacancy at Rockwood by word of mouth.
“When it came up, I thought it was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” she said.