Patti Caplan's job has changed a lot in the past 25 years.
When Caplan became the public information officer for the Howard County Public School System in 1987, her office would mail news releases on Friday with the hope media outlets would receive them by Monday. The office would field more than 100 phone calls a day, many from Realtors asking to check addresses against school attendance areas.
Now, news releases are emailed daily. Caplan's office receives an average of 150 emails a day and the school system's website — which includes attendance areas for the public and Realtors to check — is seen by more then 7,000 visitors daily. More than 42,000 people are on subscription lists for emails.
The advent of new technology and the never-ending news cycle has made the spokeswoman's job more challenging as well, she said.
"This job, it can be the all-consuming type of job, a 24-hour job if you let it," Caplan said. "It's certainly never boring ... You can't stay stagnant."
And so first order of business when Caplan retires at the end of the month is to simply relax.
"I'm just going to take time to decompress, to think, just experience no stress for a while," she said. "Then we'll see. I just have to rediscover some old passions, like for art. The great thing is the opportunities here are endless."
Caplan, 63, said the part of her job she'll miss most — the thing she found most fulfilling — is helping Howard educators and administrators address issues concerning communication, whether it's reaching out to parents, the community or the media.
"I've always blessed to work with wonderful people who are invested in the topic," Caplan said. "What's stressful is the speed of which things happen, to the point of where you can't always stay ahead of it. It's hard to take a strategic approach anymore because things pop up so fast, things go viral so fast, and the community gets information so fast — information that is not always accurate."
Caplan, whose first job out of college was as a teacher in Iowa, has also seen the education system change over the years, and remembered the effect of the 1983 report, "A Nation at Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform." Since then, she said, two sides of the same coin have affected education.
"Now, it seems there's a deliberative attempt to discredit public education and label public schools as failing," she said. "It's terribly unfortunate. We know here that not all public schools are failing. The other side of that is an increased push for accountability. Are there issues? Yes, but there are also systems like these that are really working."