Panebianco Has Helped Highlight Countless Students, School District
After more than two decades of capturing the growth and achievements of students, highlighting the hard work of staff members and crafting the message of Jamestown Public Schools, Cathy Panebianco is ready to enter the next chapter of her own story.
“I have been lucky to do a job that I really love with amazing people who all care deeply about providing the best education for the children in Jamestown,” she said, “I hope in some small way, I have helped to showcase their amazing accomplishments.”
Panebianco is retiring after her long service as the district’s communications coordinator.
Dr. Kevin Whitaker, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, said Panebianco has been instrumental in the school district’s decisions and that finding a suitable replacement for her will be challenging.
Panebianco has covered the school’s educational and sporting events, individual achievements, board meetings, personnel appointments, capital projects and yearly budget.
During her time at the school, Panebianco has developed personal connections with the students.
“One of the things that has been so great about Cathy is that she has a knack for connecting with kids,” Whitaker said. “She is able to connect with her photography subjects in a very close and meaningful way.”
Panebianco’s experience with the district has given her a different perspective of the next generation.
“Often people focus on the negative about our youth, but Jamestown students are some of the most intelligent, thoughtful, caring and creative people in our community,” she said.
Whitaker said during Panebianco’s time with the school district, she has been able to communicate and report on a wide range of topics because of her ability to make connections. He said she has also developed positive relationships with other staff members.
“Staff members know that she is a person who can help to publicize and celebrate the great things that they do,” he said. “Between coaches and staff members, she’s got great relationships with everyone. She’s viewed as a friend, a colleague and a positive voice.”
Dana Williams, Jamestown High School principal, said Panebianco is one of the best people to work with at the school.
“She has done such a great job helping promote Jamestown High School, and the JPS district as a whole,” he said. “Every time we have needed help getting information out, Cathy has done the job enthusiastically and professionally. I can’t say enough good things about Cathy, but it has been a pleasure working with her.”
Whitaker described Panebianco’s ability to communicate the district’s messages as fundamental to the voice of the school.
“What she has been able to do is help to craft our message that goes out, and she is a great sounding board,” he said. “The difference that she’s made is she’s able to tailor messages to the people who we want to have hear them in a way that those people appreciate and understand.”
Panebianco’s hard work has not gone unnoticed by her fellow staff members.
“She is an incredibly hard worker,” Whitaker said. “She views her job as communication and transparency.”
As a result, Whitaker said Panebianco has been willing to work late nights, weekends and even on vacation.
“Her best quality not only is commitment and hard work, but a desire to make sure that we are communicating clearly and effectively with all of our constituent groups. She cares so deeply about that, that she’s willing to sacrifice personal time in order to get that right.”
Panebianco said the key to being a successful communications coordinator is listening. Her advice to the next person in that position is to listen to students, staff and the community.
Whitaker said the district has been fortunate to have a communications coordinator like Panebianco.
“She is a special person,” he said. “You just don’t find people like that. She combines this work ethic with a sincere desire to help kids and to help our school district and to help our community. It’s going to make a huge hole when she leaves us. When she’s gone, it’s going to be different because she left such a mark on this place.”
Other staff members echoed Whitaker’s remarks.
“Cathy is the best, and she will be missed by everyone at JPS,” Tina Sandstrom, chief director of schools, said. “She is highly respected and loved in our district by staff, students, families, and colleagues. Her talents and passion shine in the work she has done to showcase to our community all that is wonderful about the Jamestown Schools. We are so thankful for her leadership and her service and wish her a very happy retirement.”
Panebianco is excited about the next chapter of her professional career.
“I am looking forward to really concentrating on photography in the next chapter of my life,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to relaxing with my family and just enjoying life.”
While Panebianco is ready to focus on her career in photography, her retirement is bittersweet.
“I will miss the people,” she said. “I have been lucky to do a job that I really love with amazing people who all care deeply about providing the best education for the children in Jamestown. I will miss the conversations but look forward to seeing what they all do next. I know it will be amazing.”
Reflecting on her long career with the school, Panebianco said the school’s mission is what kept her committed to the district for 22 years.
“There are so many dedicated individuals in the Jamestown Public Schools who don’t get credit for all they do every single day and I just want to take the time to thank them all,” she said. “I know who you are, I have seen what you do, and you do make a difference.”