Michelle Khouri is go-to person in Whitehall-Coplay School District
The first thing you notice upon meeting Michelle Khouri is her infectious enthusiasm. She just oozes a “how can I help you” attitude.
She is a lifelong resident of Whitehall Township, and love of her community runs deep.
Khouri is the registrar for the Whitehall-Coplay School District.
“I’m probably one of the only people in the school district who comes in contact with everyone in the community,” she said. “When they come to register a child for school, I’m the first person they meet. I want their visit to be a great experience. I want them to feel welcome and leave with a smile on their face, knowing they can contact me with any question they might have.
“I take my position as a community resource very seriously,” Khouri said. “If there’s any way I can help someone, I want them to feel comfortable contacting me.”
That’s not just part of the job description for Khouri.
“My lifelong mission has been to be a part of this tight-knit community,” Khouri said.
After sending her children through the school system, she accepted a part-time job as a secretary at Steckel Elementary School in 2011. She said the job offer from the school district made her feel like she had “won the lottery.”
By 2013, Khouri had worked her way into the registrar position. Since then, her enthusiasm and attitude have led to administrators adding strategic community issue planning and community relations to her responsibilities.
Her lifelong residency in the township and the contacts she has made as the school registrar have made her the go-to person when a school district family hits what she calls “a bump in the road.”
“Where can I get some food pantry help? Where can I find a donated coat for my child? Where can I find shelter? Who can help me with a broken-down vehicle?” are typical questions Khouri is asked. And she is dogged in tracking down the people or agency that can provide the needed help.
“They know that I know the system, and if I don’t know who is best suited to provide assistance, I’ll find someone,” Khouri said.
The presence of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year, Khouri said, has led to circumstances of unemployment and need many people would never have imagined. Because of feelings of independence and pride, many people against expressing a need for help, there are few places people feel free to reach out to, Khouri said.
“They can call me and know their requests for help are confidential and will be kept private,” Khouri said.
Khouri said the resource people she reaches out to have been understanding and willing to help. She sees that as an extension of the sense of community she has always seen in Whitehall Township.
One Whitehall Township resident and parent of children who have gone through the Whitehall-Coplay school system said of Khouri, “She seems to be wherever there is a need.”
That reputation has not escaped the notice of the school district’s administrators.
Dr. Lorie Hackett, superintendent of Whitehall-Coplay School District, said of Khouri, “She is an invaluable asset to our school district.
“Her dedication to her role and her support in meeting our students’ needs is evident in so many of the community outreach initiatives she has developed over the years. She truly is the epitome of what folks here in Whitehall mean when they describe someone as ‘Zephyr Tough,’” Hackett said.
Because of the restrictions imposed over the past year by COVID-19, Khouri has not had the face-to-face contact with residents she found so useful before the limitations were imposed.
That has not slowed her down, though. She works the phones as people reach out to her and she then reaches out to the community resources where help can be found. Some have described her as the community “fixer.”
While she waits out the time until her face-to-face meetings as school registrar can more closely resemble what was once “normal,” Khouri is using her time to develop even more ways to help students and their families.
“I’ve got a lot of proposals to present to our administrators that will widen what we can offer to our community,” Khouri said. “It’s just a matter of getting past this pandemic.”