At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Birchwood School recognized the importance of effective communication as the key to holding their community together and maintaining the academic excellence and character development for which they are known. Their efforts began with an email crafted by eight unmasked administrators in a 10 by 12-foot office mingling in a now unheard-of way as they swapped seats to edit the message. This was the beginning of what earned the Birchwood team a 2021 APEX (Awards for Publication Excellence Competition) Award of Excellence in the category of COVID-19 Media- Education and Training.
Their strategy quickly evolved into a Sunday video series produced by the Head of School and math teacher, Charles Debelak, and a designated webpage called “Communication Builds Community.” By the Fall of 2020, this webpage housed all the material designed to educate and train the different audiences within the Birchwood community - teachers, students, and parents. There were links to the Sunday Video Series, a 2020-21 Restart Playbook, videos from the school nurse about the research behind the effectiveness of a variety of masks, and videos demonstrating the new morning entry protocol and bathroom use for students.
The effectiveness of the communication strategy facilitated a successful return to in-person education in the fall of 2020. Over the summer the school had been transformed to meet the latest health and safety protocols and the videos allowed students, teachers and parents to easily navigate their new daily routines.
This was the 33rd year that APEX has been awarding businesses for publication excellence. There were nearly 1,200 entries in the competition. One hundred Grand Awards were presented to honor outstanding work in 13 major categories, with 471 Awards of Excellence recognizing exceptional entries in 100 sub-categories.
Congratulations to the team that earned this prestigious award and deepest gratitude for holding the Birchwood community together over the last year: Charles and Helene Debelak, Claudia Bixler, Tim LaBar, Nurse Maribel Morales, Cindy McNaughton, Brenda Spicer, Lisa Samarin, and Linda Miyares.