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Mary Ladd Leaves PCPS After 36 Years

After serving the Ponca City Public School district for the past 36 years, former Public Information Coordintor Mary Ladd has retired.
Ladd started her career with PCPS in 1985 as a secretary at Jefferson Elementary School. The building was condemned so they had to move to the Mertz training center in metal buildings on Highway 60 while Union Elementary was being built. She was there two years before being transferred to the Central Administration Building.
When Ladd moved to the Central Administration Building, then located at 613 East Grand, Dr. Larry Robinson was superintendent. She was hired as his secretary and as the district attendance coordinator. After an investigating audit of the district, Dr. Robinson left the district and Dr. Tom Smith, retired former Oklahoma City Superintendent, was named as interim superintendent.
After an extensive search the board hired its first district female superintendent, Dr. Wynona Winn. Ladd worked with her for two and a half years before she left the district. Dr. Winn was replaced by Dr. Bill White. Ladd continued as his secretary and also served as the board clerk. The district’s Public Information Coordinator position had been eliminated when Dr. Winn was in Ponca City and the district added public relations to Ladd’s list of responsibilities.
After serving in that capacity, the district named Ladd as the Public Information Coordinator for the district, along with administrative assistant to the superintendent. Ladd continued to work with Dr. White for 10 years until he retired. He was followed by Dr. David Pennington for several years until he left the district and Shelley Arrott was hired.
“One main thing is I’ve always loved children and always wanted to help them,” said Ladd. “My dad was a teacher and my mom was a school secretary. It was just always a part of my life. I always wanted to go into marketing and communications and was thrilled I ended up doing what I ultimately wanted to always do.”
“I loved being out at the schools all the time taking pictures and videos and writing articles. I loved working with community leaders and media and always had a great relationship with them. I worked hard at having a great relationship because I felt it was so important to get the positive news out about our schools,” said Ladd.
“I really trained myself for this job. I took a lot of classes on my own in journalism and marketing and read a lot of books. The district has always had excellent teachers and administrators and so many of them were unsung heroes in their classrooms. I felt we needed to let the community know just how excellent this school system was,” she said.
One memorable event Ladd attended was when Dr. White was superintendent. “The state implemented a new law allowing veterans who had to leave for war come back and get their diplomas. We had a graduation ceremony and it was so neat … I cried and cried,” she said. “I got to meet so many of those men and they were so appreciative. That was really a wonderful thing to be a part of.”
Ladd said under Dr. White’s reign the district had an education channel. “No one does that anymore because of social media but I did start our channel here in Ponca City.”
Ladd is also an advocate for support staff personnel. “Teachers get a lot of accolades but the support staff doesn’t always receive that. I felt like I was representing everyone and wanted to speak on their behalf. I helped start the support employee recognition program. I wrote the guidelines and all of that. This program has evolved over the years and Shelley has made that something really nice.”
Ladd also developed and designed criteria on how to be a board and minutes clerk. “I presented it at the state level several times.”
She also later presented how public information coordinators could work with members of the media. “I took Kristi Hayes, who was the education editor at the time at The Ponca City News, and Phil Turney from WBBZ with me to some conferences. I basically taught other public information coordinators across the state how to best work with the media.”
During her time at PCPS Ladd also won countless awards from the Oklahoma School Public Relations Association for her publications and work.
Ladd said five years ago she was going to work part-time because of her health issues and the district offered her the option to work from home. “That was a dream come true for me because I could continue my job yet stay at home and physically take care of myself. I had to come in for a few meetings but I was mostly able to do my work from home at that time,” said Ladd.
“Serving the students and staff members of PCPS system has been a dream come true for me. I always found inspiration for my job by believing I was contributing in some way to the success of our students and staff. I worked hard on telling their stories and shining a light on their accomplishments. It was always important to me to make sure our students and employees felt appreciated and valued. I was blessed to have the opportunity to work with so many excellent administrators and educators, and I always enjoyed serving as liaison and primary source of contact for the community and news media.”
“I have seen a lot of technological changes in the classroom and in the way we delivered the district’s message. We started with typewriters, mimeograph machines, and printed materials and finished with computers, tablets, white boards, smartphones and digital communication.”
Ladd retired from PCPS on April 30, 2021. “My husband is very ill and I wanted to be able to devote my time to him. I know this district is in good hands with the staff they have here.”
“Mary Ladd is the ultimate Ponca City Wildcat!” said Arrott. “Her love for our students, staff and district is immense, and if there had been a way to avoid complete retirement, she would have done so. She cannot imagine her life without being a member of TEAM PCPS, and it is hard for us to imagine being a Ponca City Wildcat without Mary. I know if you ask anyone, they will tell you that Mary’s positive attitude, kindness and respect for everyone is renowned!”
“I have known Mary for a very long time, but I worked hand-in-hand with her when I became superintendent. Mary’s number one goal as public information coordinator was to highlight great things occurring in our district. She worked tirelessly to communicate with all stakeholders to stay up-to-date and informed about great happenings, and she presented these great things to the public and the media in the most positive light,” said Arrott.
Arrott said in the last four years, the district has faced some unprecedented events in which communication was critical.
“During the 2017-2018 school year, the historic teacher walk-out occurred, and we faced a global pandemic during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school year. With both of these events, communication on these issues became a full-time duty on top of all of her other duties! We spent many hours on the phone and via email developing communication releases and information, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning especially throughout the global pandemic. When you work with someone so closely for that amount of time, you develop a strong relationship and bond. Sometimes we laughed and cried at the same time! Mary is just that person who makes the best out of a stressful situation and these characteristics are contagious. I appreciate her for being such a dedicated and dependable employee, but more than that, I appreciate the true treasure of her friendship and her good heart. Even though she is retired, Mary will be part of my life forever!”
Photo Caption: Mary Ladd is pictured with her husband, Jim. Ladd retired on April 30, 2021, after serving Ponca City Public Schools for the past 36 years.