We’re going Behind the Business with Wayde Byard, the Public Information Officer at Loudoun County Public Schools, and a popular public figure, especially during the winter months here in Loudoun. We can nickname him “Chief Snow Day Officer.” Thanks Wayde for answering a few questions!
What was your first job in LCPS and when did you start?
I became the public information officer for Loudoun County Public School in June 2000. It is the only job I have held with the school division.
Have you always wanted to be involved in education?
My dad was a superintendent, my mom a teacher, my wife a college dean; so I’ve always been around education. I think the educational lifestyle has been forced on me whether I like it or not. It has always been the world I’ve lived in.
How do you see changing technology and a younger generation of parents affecting the way that you manage communication for LCPS?
There’s a lot more “damage control” when it comes to correcting unsubstantiated rumors. People’s ability to comprehend the implications of technology has not caught up with their ability to use it. Too many people take what they see in cyberspace at face value; no matter how absurd it is. Thus, you will have rumors that the superintendent is issued a Mercedes by the school division or that we have “secret” plans for redistricting accepted at face value. Conspiracy theories abound and running them to ground is hard. Also, people are much less civil online. When we had the missed weather call on Jan. 6, we got more than 1,500 e-mails, many containing vitriolic messages. We responded to each one. A common reaction was “I didn’t realize an actual person read that.” You should always communicate as if you are speaking to a person face-to-face. Electronic communication is permanent and there are some words you don’t want to be associated with the rest of your life.
What’s your favorite part about being the Public Information Officer, other than calling almost 100,000 school children on snowing mornings :) ?
Doing something to help connect a child to a dream. Recently, the robot for one of our robotics teams, Robo Loco, was stolen the night after they qualified for a world competition. Working with the Chamber and our business partners, we got them the help they needed to rebuild their robot and get it to the world competition in St. Louis. That was truly gratifying.
One of the weirdest parts of my job is having students take selfies with me. Every time I got to a high school, someone wants a selfie that’s online before I get back to the office. I’m beginning to feel like the “Where’s Waldo?” of the 21st century. (And why anyone would want to be associated with a face like mine truly baffles me.
Outside of the office, what is a hidden passion of yours that most aren’t aware of?
I am the world’s greatest undiscovered screenwriter (I say this on the basis of having won several state and national awards). I’ve had several close calls with Hollywood and have done some short films. Unfortunately, an obstacle always seems to pop up before I get my big break (agent went to jail, favorite producer died). I console myself with a shelf of trophies, an over-sized Styrofoam check (courtesy of the Virginia Film Office) and, my favorite, a glow-in-the-dark T-shirt from the Maryland Film Festival, which allows me to bask in the glow of my success when I turn off the light and go to bed. I also have a very eclectic group of acquaintances from actors to pro football players to the man who co-wrote “Blazing Saddles.” (He’s always good for a laugh, though his sense of humor is really out there. There are some things that never left the writers’ room for “Blazing Saddles” that you still can’t put on film today.)
Thank so much for spending a few minutes with us, Wayde! Visit the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Website here.