The Octagon

Communications director, school parent, grandparent says farewell after two decades

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(Photo used by permission of Julie Nelson)
Freshman Amy Nelson, parent volunteer Julie Nelson, freshman Beth Nelson and president of the Board of Trustees Jamie Nelson work the 1994 Rummage Sale. Julie chaired a committee of volunteers who organized the Classics Rummage Sale, raising $120,000 for scholarships over 10 years.

“Whether it was a school day or vacation break, Julie gave voice to all aspects of school life,” former director of development Wendy Ross said about communications director Julie Nelson.

Now, after 22 years at Country Day, Nelson is retiring.

“I started as a parent in 1986 when my husband and I moved from Brooklyn, (New York) to California,” Nelson said.

“My (twins Beth and Amy, both ’98) came to kindergarten. Then, 10 years later, (the school) hired me.”

Nelson said that she was originally hired part-time to manage the database in the development office. After a year, the communications director job opened up, and she has held it ever since.

She hated the database job, Nelson said, but she enjoys what she does now, which includes managing the school’s communications and email systems. She also creates flyers and programs for all-school events, is the school’s historian and archivist and maintains a photographic record of school events.

One aspect of the job that she particularly loves is that every day is unique.

“I like the difference between when the kids are here and when they are not here and when it’s summer and when it’s not,” she said.

“There is this cyclical fun part (about it). Sometimes you’re by yourself and there is nothing going on, and sometimes there are hundreds of things going on.

“Some days I am taking pictures for the first grade spring tea, and another day I am making an advertisement for Sactown Magazine.

“I would hate it if every Monday or every Friday was the same.”

Nelson said that helping to organize and facilitate events has been a highlight of her career.

“I was trying to clean out my files the other day, and I came across a file called the Artists’ Picnic,” she said.

“I remember doing all of the flyers and the publicity for it. There was a woman that worked here that was the musical director, Wendy Frampton Holly, and she pulled together this day of music, art and a picnic.

(Photo used by permission of Nelson)
Former director of communications Melanie Slootweg, who left in 1996, and current director of communications Julie Nelson stand in Geeting Hall.

“It was family-oriented and very well attended for about five years, similar to the fall family picnic, except it had something more than a bounce house. It had art and music.”

Nelson said that another great aspect of her job has been that her family is part of it.

“(My daughters) went to school here and were Lifers,” Nelson said.

In fact, Nelson’s daughter Amy Wells now works with her mother in the front office and is married to head of high school Brooke Wells.

“(And) my husband (Jamie, now the high school tennis coach) was president of the (Board of Trustees) in the ’90s,” Nelson said.

“So for a time, all four of us would be on campus at any one time.”

She said she also enjoyed being a parent here.

“I chaired the auction twice, (and) I was president of the Parents’ Association (PA),” Nelson said.  

“I had a wonderful time volunteering, doing all the fundraisers, all the parties, but not working full time.”

According to Ross, who retired in 2015 after 27 years at SCDS, Nelson has been an essential part of the school’s community.

“The headmaster who hired me (Doug Crone) told me how much I was going to like the SCDS community,” Ross said.

“Two of the first people I met in the summer of ’88 were Julie and (her) husband Jamie – I immediately knew the headmaster was certainly right!

“At the time, Julie was a leader in the parent body where she was the PA president.  She became my lifeline as I sorted my way through this new community.”

And Ross said that Nelson’s dedication has been vital to the school’s success.

“She was the development office dream of the dedicated, hard-working, smart and talented volunteer,” Ross said.

“No task was too great or menial – she could do it all!”

Ross added that one of Nelson’s greatest contributions has been her work on the annual auction, saying that she “has been the brains and energy behind the success of the auction all these years.”

Furthermore, Ross said Nelson’s personality made her a great colleague.

“It was a joy to come to work every day and be greeted by her sunny disposition and good cheer,” Ross said.

“Not to mention the confidence of all jobs impeccably done.”

According to Ross, Nelson’s project that will continue to have the greatest impact is the history she researched, compiled and wrote.  

She said that this legacy will serve as a gift to “past, present and future Country Day generations.”

“This stand-alone commemorative volume (“Sacramento Country Day School, 50 This We Remember, 1964-2014”) will be a rich resource to our ongoing growth and history,” Ross said.

And Ross said that Nelson’s role at the school will be hard to replace.

“She will be missed by every corner of the school community – she was a lifesaver for us all!” Ross said.

“I always said (that) when she retired, she would be leaving a cavernous hole that could only be filled by three to five additional people!”

Even though Nelson has loved  working here, she said that she is looking forward to retirement.

“Everyone says I should have a retirement plan,” Nelson said.

“I don’t. I just want to sleep in, wear shorts every day and walk the dog.

“I have worked almost my whole life. I worked at a bakery when I was 15, and I have worked since then. It will be very nice not to (have to) answer an email on a Saturday.”

However, Nelson said that she will remain connected to the school.

“I have three grandkids here (Parker Himes, kindergarten; Sophia Wells, second grade; and Spencer Wells, pre-K) and one more coming,” she said.

Originally published in the June 6 edition of the Octagon.

—By Anna Frankel

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