Joan Boiko serves as Communications Manager of the Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD) and is slated to receive the inaugural “Helene Galen Excellence in Education Award” from the Women Leaders Forum (WLF) of the Coachella Valley on January 31st. A long-time supporter of WLF, Boiko keeps in constant contact with every high school counselor in PSUSD, making sure that students learn about the benefits of joining WLF’s Young Women Leaders Mentoring and Scholarship Program. Boiko, whose two daughters are graduates of the program and received scholarships, manages the district’s newsletter and has been deeply involved in the success of the Digicom Student Film Festival, the Pinnacle Fund Foundation and promoting the new Helene Galen Performing Arts Center at Rancho Mirage High School. Joan Boiko is also the past president and a founding member of Soroptimist of Palm Springs and has raised thousands of dollars over the years supporting women and girls in the Coachella Valley.
KB: Joan, you’ve said you knew you wanted to be a journalist from the time you were about 10 years old—that you always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives through writing. Why do you think that is? Did you grow up in a literary family?
JB: I have always loved to write, and I have always loved sitting and listening to people’s stories. My mom was a lyricist for many years, and her brother wrote really great poems, so I suppose it’s in my blood. I wanted to take my love and affinity for writing and use it to make a difference in people’s lives. I think that’s why most journalists choose the career they do. It certainly isn’t for the money.
KB: You then went on to serve as editor of your college newspaper before serving as the editor of a community newspaper and then reporter for the Bridgeport Post and Bridgeport Telegram in Bridgeport, Connecticut. What was your favorite kind of story to cover?
JB: Writing education stories was always my favorite stories to write. I loved the education beat. I sat with the superintendent of the school district I covered in Trumbull, Connecticut each and every week and was eager to share the great things going on there with our readers. I was never the person who wanted the front page byline about a murder or rape (though I wrote a couple of those too). No, what I wanted to come under my byline was the stories about teachers who are touching the lives of their students through what they share in their classrooms.
KB: And what brought you to Palm Springs from the East Coast?
JB: The Post-Telegram was sold shortly after my parents moved from Long Island to Phoenix. I was unhappy with the new ownership, and I missed my family too. The paper offered a buy out, so I took it and moved to Phoenix. But it was 1989, and the economy was poor in Phoenix at that time. There were no jobs for me. After six months, I expanded the search and found my way to Palm Desert where I became the editor of the Palm Desert Post for 10 years. It was here that I met my best friend who after a year and a half become my better half and the most wonderful husband and father to our children that I could ever hope for. Ira and I have been married for almost 23 years, and I am grateful that the job search brought me here…and to him!
KB: I love it! And now you serve as Communications Manager for the Palm Springs Unified School District. What do your responsibilities include? What are the highlights of a typical week for you?
JB: I couldn’t possibly list EVERYTHING, so I’ll attempt to hit the largest areas: internal and external communications (media liaison, communicating with staff, website postings, crisis communications); writing and editing of District Supplement published every two months; host of “You Learn Something New Every Day” weekly radio show; participation in Superintendent’s Cabinet; preparing and scheduling community presentations by Superintendent and Board of Education members; liaison with Chambers of Commerce and local civic organizations; coordination of Principal for a Day and Teacher of the Year programs; coordination of District Health Fair; coordination of Lighten Up (similar to “Biggest Loser”) program for staff and Healthy & Fit competition at high schools.
Highlights of a typical week include visiting schools and seeing the great things going on in our classrooms, chatting with interesting guests on our radio show and sharing great news about our kids or staff with media.
KB: Tell me more about your radio show, “You Learn Something New Every Day.” What topics do you cover and how can our readers listen in?
JB: The focus of the show is, of course, Palm Springs Unified School District, I usually have two sets of guests with one being district staff members and/or students and the other representatives for community partners. We talk about programs, activities and news in our district and give our partners the opportunity to talk about the great work they are doing and contributions they are making to our schools and our students. The show airs live on Progressive Talk 1450 KPTR AM on Wednesdays from 6 to 7 p.m.
KB: You’ve mentioned that you always knew you would do something in education. Why do you think that is?
JB: Of all the assignments I had in my journalism career, the ones that I have enjoyed the most and found most fulfilling revolved around educational activities. To me, there is nothing more important than education and no people who can have a bigger impact on the future of our children than teachers. I could never teach because I lack the patience, but I have always wanted to contribute to the education of our children in some way. I thought maybe I would run for school board and that would be that contribution. I still might do that some day. But when I saw the ad in the newspaper for this job, I just knew that this was the perfect job for me. I could combine my journalistic interests and talents with my passion for education. I was right!
KB: Sounds like a perfect fit indeed! Joan, in addition to WLF, are there any other civic or philanthropic activities or groups with which you’re involved?
JB: I am a member of the Board of Trustees for United Cerebral Palsy of the Inland Empire, and I am a founding member, past president and current co-secretary of Soroptimist International of Palm Springs. I am also a mentor with the Ophelia Project at Raymond Cree Middle School.
KB: When you’re not hard at work, what activities do you enjoy in and around Palm Springs?
JB: I enjoy shopping, bike riding, concerts and hiking
KB: Joan, what is it that you love most about the community of Palm Springs?
JB: What I love most about the Coachella Valley is how philanthropic so many of our citizens are either through personal financial contributions or through the work that they do to raise funds through civic organizations. While there are some very wealthy people who work, play and/or live here, we also have a tremendous amount of poverty. As an example, 83 percent of our students in Palm Springs Unified School District are eligible for free or reduced lunch, which means that their families are at or below the poverty level. It is wonderful that so many people give of their time and resources to help those less fortunate. I can’t think of a place I would rather live or people I would rather surround myself with.