50 years and counting, OCDE’s employee newsletter is all about ‘What’s News’

“A color-sound film strip entitled ‘The School Nurse’ will be previewed at the annual banquet of the Orange County School Nurses Association on May 17. Ed Mikesell and Margaret Williamson have been working on the sixty frame film strip since January. …”

Those sentences are lifted from the very first edition of the Orange County Department of Education’s long-running employee newsletter, published on May 8, 1967. That happens to be just a few weeks before The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. More to the point, OCDE’s official staff bulleton made its debut exactly fifty years ago this month.

Page 1 of OCDE's first employee newsletterBack then, it was called County School News, and it consisted of only two hand-typed pages. In fact, there were no pictures in that first edition — only a calendar listing and a handful of briefs about an art exhibit, a charity campaign, a science fair, an honor choir, a couple’s 34th wedding anniversary and the aforementioned “color-sound” film strip. All are printed in a staid courier-like font, with page 2 stories separated by circular designs and snowflake graphics.

These days, OCDE’s internal newsletter is called What’s News, and it’s since transitioned from printed pages to a blog-style website.

Of course, if you’re not an OCDE employee, you probably haven’t heard of What’s News under any of its earlier names or formats. But as that first edition will attest, the publication has endured in one form or another for five decades, serving as a pipeline of news and information for all OCDE staff.

Janice Trop, a publications support specialist in OCDE’s Communications and Media Services unit, has produced every issue of What’s News since November 2000. As such, she’s become our go-to historian, and she’s the one who first took note of the milestone.

Trop recently showed us a few past issues from her file.

“It was first printed on white and then ivory paper,” she says. “Then someone decided to change the color every month. They would use pink, blue, red, green, orange — just about anything. No color was too bright. This lasted for about 20 years. In 2009 it went online as a PDF, and that was the first time photos were in color. About two years ago it became a blog.”

Popular features nowadays include the Employee of the Month column, the staff birthday calendar and “Pets Corner,” which allows staff members to show off their furry — and sometimes scaly — companions.

And it all started with a simple two-page flier, published 50 years ago.

“It is fascinating to look through old issues and see the changes throughout the years,” Trop says. “There certainly have been a lot.”