TSPRA Communication Matters Summer 2020

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Summer 2020 | www.TSPRA.org


Funding for schools is decreasing drastically nationwide. Most districts are facing possible cuts in personnel, programs and more. There is a way for your district to provide an added beneďŹ t to the families in your district while adding much needed revenue for new or existing programs.

School Revenue Partners provides school districts sponsorship revenue generated from local businesses who want to sponsor weekly e-newsletters, websites, mobile apps, and other communication channels utilized by the members of your community.

855-790-0001 www.schoolrevenuepartners.com


Summer 2020 | www.TSPRA.org

500 N. Central Expy, Ste. 231 Plano , TX 75074

2020-2021 OFFICERS PRESIDENT Veronica Castillon, APR Laredo ISD

NORTHWEST Kenneth Dixon Lubbock ISD

PRESIDENT-ELECT Veronica Sopher Fort Bend ISD

FAR WEST Melissa Martinez, APR, CPC El Paso ISD

IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT Monica Faulkenbery, APR Northside ISD

SAN ANTONIO Kim Cathey Floresville ISD


AT-LARGE POSITION 1 Rebecca Villarreal, APR New Braunfels ISD


AT-LARGE POSITION 2 Stephanie De Los Santos HCDE

GULF COAST Craig Verley Mission CISD HOUSTON/BEAUMONT Kim Hocott Pearland ISD EAST TEXAS Jamie Fails Willis ISD NORTH CENTRAL Megan Overman, APR, CPC Eagle Mt.-Saginaw ISD WEST CENTRAL Kyle DeBeer Waco ISD CENTRAL Corey Ryan Leander ISD

AT-LARGE POSITION 3 Sherese Nix-Lightfoot Lancaster, ISD PARLIAMENTARIAN Beth Trimble, CPC Red Oak ISD Texas School Public Relations Association 406 East 11th Street, Suites 101-105 Austin Texas 78701 Phone: 512-474-9107 Fax: 512-477-0906 For questions, submissions and advertising, contact TSPRA: info@tspra.org Copyright 2020. Texas School Public Relations Association. All rights reserved. Summer 2020 | www.TSPRA.org


Summer l 2020 | Volume I, No. 1 MANAGING EDITOR GRAPHIC DESIGN Tracie Seed tseed@tspra.org EDITOR Veronica Castillon, APR Lardeo ISD COMMITTEE CHAIRS Veronica Castillon, APR Laredo ISD Stephanie De Los Santos Harris County Department of Education COMMITTEE Art Del Barrio Pasadena ISD Adam Holland La Porte ISD


Cissa Madero Pearland ISD Sheleah D. Reed, APR Aldine ISD TSPRA STAFF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Linsae Snider lsnider@tspra.org PROGRAMS MANAGER Janet Crock janet@tspra.org COMMUNICATIONS & MARKETING MANAGER Tracie Seed tseed@tspra.org CONTRIBUTORS



Summer 2020 | www.TSPRA.org

Adam J. Bennett, Kristyn Hunt Cathey, Clif Cotton, Christina Courson, Stephanie De Los Santos, Monica Faulkenbery, APR, Ian Halperin, Patti Pawlik-Perales, Sheleah D. Reed, APR, Sylvia Rincon, Tim Savoy, Melissa Tortorici, Rebecca M. Villarreal, APR, Andy Welch, Kristin Zastoupil

Summer 2020 | www.TSPRA.org




t is with great pride that TSPRA debuts Communication Matters, a publication aimed precisely at our 1,021 members. The quarterly magazine will be emailed directly to your inbox and will also be posted on TSPRA’s website. It’s the first publication devoted solely to the Lone Star State’s hundreds of school PR professionals. Of the thousands of publications in print around our country, none is dedicated to addressing the needs and challenges facing the school PR professionals south of the Red River and north of the Rio Grande. Four times a year, you will discover a profusion of useful tips and ideas on planning a campaign, strategies for promoting your school district, and the best solutions for a crisis you may have never faced before such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Best of all, the magazine will feature our members and let you become acquainted with those you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. All of it will be captured on our pages with eye-catching photos and quality articles. Even as it offers a wealth of ideas, Communication Matters will also strive to answer the tough questions faced by TSPRA members. And every issue of the magazine will celebrate our triumphs and bring our stories to life with inspiring words and attractive pictures. From the first day of class when school bells rings to the last refrain of Edgar Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” Communication Matters will be there every step of the way.

This magazine is one of three strategic initiatives developed by your TSPRA Executive Committee. Along with professional development and networking opportunities, career resources, and assistance with certification, the magazine is an added benefit for our members. I would like to recognize the hardworking members of the Magazine Committee for their efforts in publishing what promises to be a quality magazine. I would like to express my thanks to Stephanie De Los Santos, Harris County Department of Education; Art Del Barrio, Pasadena ISD; Adam Holland, La Porte ISD; Cissa Madero, Pearland ISD; and Sheleah Reed of Aldine ISD, for their service on the Magazine Committee. I am also so grateful to TSPRA Executive Director Linsae Snider, Programs Manager Janet Crock, and Communications & Marketing Manager Tracie Seed for their invaluable role in making our first issue a reality. Along with our friends at School Revenue Partners, annual sponsors of our conference t-shirt, we are anticipating the magazine will be a money-maker for TSPRA with funds derived from advertising sales. We sincerely hope you enjoy our first issue and ask you to help spread the word about our magazine. Perhaps you’ll like our new periodical so much that you’ll want to contribute in some way to future issues and see your byline on our pages. We truly believe that Communication Matters is a unique publication designed with our members in mind. It’s one more way that TPSRA improves public education via quality communication services. Enjoy your first issue. Veronica Castillon, APR TSPRA President


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39% REPORT A SALARY RANGE OF $81,000-120,000






Texas School Public Relations Association 512-474-9107 www.TSPRA.org *Source: TSPRA membership data & results from October 2019 member survey




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FEATURES 20 In the Spotlight A look at this year’s Professional Awards recipients 24

Authentically Empowered Sheleah D. Reed, APR, Aldine ISD relfects on her career as a communications professional with some life lessons.

DEPARTMENTS 10 In a Minute Industry facts, figures & fun 12

14 Q & A Platinum Award Winner Kristin Zastoupil, Forney ISD Executive Director of Marketing & Communications

Crisis Communications A comprehen sive guide created by TSPRA mem- 16 bers 28

On the Cover Christina Courson, Executive Director of Communications & Community Services Lockhart ISD


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Member Moment Get to know your fellow TSPRAns

Point of View Christina Courson, Lockhart ISD shares her views.

18 EduLege Top news in school communications 30

5 in 5 Tips & tricks from industry experts


TSPRA Talk What’s new and happening in TSPRA


Key Communicator Meet this year’s recipient, Andy Welch.

TSPRA Conference

Don’t Miss It!

Feburary 22-25,2021

Denton Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton, TX

Distinguished Speakers

KEYNOTE SPEAKER Judson Laipply “The Evolution of Dance”

Julie Jones Professor University of Oklahoma & Chair of the National Press Photographers Association News and Video Workshop

Andrea Gribble Social Media Storyteller Founder #SocialSchool4EDU

More information 9 www.TSPRA.org

Summer 2020 | www.TSPRA.org

In a Minute

by Tracie Seed

Like This

Social media is an integral part of a successful communications and marketing program, and video is a key component. While there are several tried-and-true post ideas to put on your social media calendar (#motivationmonday, #throwbackthursday), coming up with fresh ideas can be challenging. Here are some tips to get your creative juices flowing:

• • • • • • • •

• Teachers sharing a unique talent • Third graders sharing what they learned Foreign language students saying “hi” in that language Student interviewing principal #WisdomWednesday highlighting thoughts from students Art students showing and explaining their artwork Highlight the school’s mentoring/buddy program Teacher, admin & student thank you to parents Interview foreign exchange students Athletes sharing what teamwork has taught them

Source: SocialSchool4EDU.com

Tidbits & Trivia The first public school in the U.S. was the Boston Latin School, founded in 1635. A Hornbook is a wooden panel that students used to learn lessons, such as the alphabet. A piece of transparent horn was placed over the lesson to protect it. In 1910, only nine percent of people had a high school diploma.

National Celebration Days

August 16: Tell a Joke Day August 24: Waffle Day September 5: Cheese Pizza Day

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September 6: Read a Book Day October 7: Inner Beauty Day September 9: Teddy Bear Day October 13: Train Your Brain Day September 19: Cheeseburger Day October 16: Dictionary Day

r a m m a Gr Ti me

Hyphens can be tricky to know when to use one and when not to. Here’s the scoop: Use a hyphen if it’s needed to make the meaning clear: small-business owner, better-qualified candidate, little-known song, tight-knit group.

In the age of technology, the majority of us use our smartphones every day to help us with our jobs, including taking photographs at school functions on the fly. Here are some tricks to making the most out of your digital-camera photographs. When you’re able, use your feet to zoom into your subject for a clearer shot. Use the Burst Mode for action shots to capture the perfect image. Change your depth of field with Portrait Mode for professional-looking headshots.

Examples: • The new computer program is user-friendly. • She is a better-qualified candidate for the position. Use a hyphen in modifiers of three or more words: a know-it-all attitude, black-and-white photography, a sink-or-swim moment, a win-at-allcosts approach. Examples: • Johnny is an up-and-coming track star. • What are your tried-and-true methods for studying? Source: AP Stylebook

Use the edit mode to crop photos and fix lighting before using. Whenever possible, take photos without a flash and in natural lighting. Mix it up a bit! Take both horizontal and vertical shots. Move around to get different angles to give yourself more options. Watch your background. No telephone pole sticking out of someone’s head! Place the light in front of your subject rather than behind.

TSPRA traces its origin back to the summer of 1962 at the annual convention of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) in Denver, Colorado. Summer 2020 | www.TSPRA.org


Getting to know your fellow TSPRAns Cristal Isaacks

Public Relations Specialist Levelland ISD What did you do before this job? I taught elementary for 32 years. I have been in Levelland ISD for 30 years now. Something TSPRA colleagues need to know about you: This is my first year in this position, but I’ve been in Levelland ISD for a long time. This job of getting our word out about what all our educators do is so refreshing. Something TSPRA colleagues would not expect to know about you: I know how to drive a tractor! Something on your bucket list: I would like to parasail.

Montreal Williams

External Communications Coordinator DeSoto ISD What did you do before this job? I worked for Terrell ISD as the Multimedia Specialist and prior to that I worked for Snappy Salads as the Communications & Marketing Manager. Something TSPRA colleagues NEED to know about you: I like to think of myself as a “Jack of all Trades.” I think my ability of being flexible and adapting to any situation is key. Being able to write, shoot and edit videos and photos, graphic design and more are things I think are great skills to have. Something TSPRA colleagues WOULD NOT EXPECT to know about you: I am an unofficial chef. I cook a lot at home and for others.

Want to be featured? We want to know you! Email info@ tspra.org

Something on your bucket list: I would like to travel to Egypt one day to visit the pyramids. Also, I would like to bungee jump from the Sky Town in Auckland, New Zealand.

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More photos available at www.TSPRA.org

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Q & A with Platinum Star Award Winner Kristin Zastoupil Forney ISD Executive Director of Marketing & Communications by Tracie Seed


s an educational communications professional for 17 years, with 14 in K-12 schools, Kristin Zastoupil has been the executive director of marketing & communications with Forney ISD for almost two years. This year, she and her team, TSPRA members Dana Curry, Larry Coker and Bubba Willis, created a campaign “Forney Family,” which won them the Platinum Star Award at this year’s conference. After her team’s win, we had a chat with Zastoupil to learn more about her process and any tips she might have.

chance for my family to move to a great district and raise my kids, and it was actually closer to our extended family. Forney Family was born, and I took the idea to my team at Forney ISD. They brainstormed and expanded beyond just the idea to an incredible unity campaign. The district was about to release its core values, and this tied in beautifully with relationships first at the heart of our district values. Q: How long did the process take from A to Z? Who else was a part of your team?

A:The idea started in late June, and we kicked the campaign off in early August with the start of school. It keeps growing, so it’s still going from June 2018. Our communications team, who are also TSPRA members-Larry, Dana and BubbaA: It was a 2 a.m. wake-me-from sleep pitched the idea to our leadership team, and it brainstorm. When I first took the position in was embraced by the entire district. Our first Forney, being a two-high-school town, we step was internal PR by getting staff to embrace knew we needed a campaign to bring our the idea. We’re the largest employer in the community together. I kept asking myself county, and I’m a huge advocate for internal PR what brought me to Forney, and it was first. Dana then shared with our new community family. A sense of family that the partnership groups, pastors and principals, district and my coworkers provided, a PTO presidents, service organizations, retired Q: How did you come up with the concept for your piece and why did you produce it?

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teachers, city and county leadership, and it just expanded outward into the community from there. Q: Why did you decide to enter it in the Platinum category? A: We felt this was a unique unity campaign that is truly working to bring our community together. While it was district-led, it’s bigger than just Forney ISD, and that was our hope. It spread like wildfire, and now you can see yard signs, stickers and T-shirts throughout our community. It’s permeated the culture to create a new, more positive culture. And it’s still going and we’re still brainstorming new ways to promote Forney Family. Q: What does it mean to you to have won the Platinum Award? A: I’ve always loved that the Star Awards were a professional critique of our work. It gives great feedback to let us know the quality. But I’ve always been a little intimidated by the Platinum Award. It seemed large bond campaigns won quite often. I really wanted to enter this because it was different, and in my 14 years in TSPRA, I hadn’t had a concept like this grow to such a huge campaign so quickly. It was because of a great team and leadership that saw the vision for it, and we grew it together. I wasn’t sure others outside our community would grasp the difficulty we had bringing our community together, and why/how this worked so well. It was a huge honor and shock when Forney Family won platinum!

community members, parents, grandparents, as human. They want to know there are caring people making decisions about their kids. What better way to do that than embrace them as family? Laugh with them, cry with them, and show them you are human. My favorite quote from Scott Stratten goes right along with this. “We don’t expect perfection. We expect accountability.” Humanizing your PR strategies builds trust, and when a mistake is made (because we’re all human), the public can give you the grace to fix it, apologize and move on without losing trust. Q: Is there anything else you would like for us to know about your piece or about entering the TSPRA Star Awards? A: Forney Family may have been a 2 a.m. thought, but it was my team and leadership that made it come alive by brainstorming all of our strategies and tactics, then executing the plan and embracing the concept. It would not have been the incredible campaign it still is without a lot of people behind the scenes. Thank you isn’t enough for all their hard work but winning a TSPRA platinum award for our team was a nice bonus!

Q: What tips do you have for other districts who want to produce a similar piece? A: Focus on what humanizes your district. I feel like I preach “humanize your PR” a lot to my team. Most audiences see a district as a big, inanimate entity. It’s important for them to see the faces that do the work every day, and not just teachers. They need to see you, your superintendent, your board, your leaders - as

Charles Willis, Kristin Zastoupil, Dana Curry, Larry Coker receive the Platinum Star Award at the 2020 Annual Conference in Austin, TX.

Summer 2020 | www.TSPRA.org


CERTAINTY IN UNCERTAINTY by Christina Courson Executive Director of Communications & Community Services Lockhart Independent School District


found an empty oversized leather chair in the lower lobby next to the semi-circular staircase. It was far enough away from the crowds at the TSPRA conference but close enough that I could return to the sessions as soon as I finished.

district hoped to accomplish with this message. We wanted to assure people we were on top of developments and would prioritize the health and safety of our students and staff.

“We are aware. We are on it. We will

Nearby, fellow TSPRAns typed on their laptops, update you frequently.” and others paced the halls with their cell phones, providing guidance to leaders back home. In situations of uncertainty, we can overcome paralysis in the moment by pivoting and focusing The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instead on the things of which we are certain. just finished a press conference announcing sig- These are steps we already know to take, but in nificant developments about the novel coronavi- the moment, it is easy to forget. Here are three rus in the United States. Everything was about to thoughts to hold fast if you need help getting change. With this breaking national news, it was unstuck. just a matter of time before local media would seek examples of potential local impact. Parents “We are aware.” and staff would soon ask what we were doing about it in Lockhart ISD. Acknowledge the challenge. In a time of instant In our supportive environment of fellow TSPRAns, we regularly lean on each other and ask for examples of letters on any given subject for inspiration, but on February 25, 2020, there wasn’t a ready example COVID-19 letter because this was completely new territory. How could I describe how we were going to keep people safe from something about which we knew very little? I began typing, then deleting. I struggled to find the words. I took a deep breath and tried a different approach. I reframed and asked myself what the

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access to information through social media, push notifications, and email alerts, people are well-connected. As communication professionals, we face greater pressure because of the speed of information. This means there is often not as much time as we would hope to develop a message that rises to the occasion. The longer it takes for us to craft and share our message, the silence becomes quickly filled with rumors and reactions--things that are difficult to untangle.

plement additional measures as we learn more.” Identify a gateway for questions and concerns. Letting people know whom to contact provides a gateway for questions and concerns, encouraging two-way communication and building trust. “If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact your child’s school nurse or our LISD Health Services and Wellness Coordinator Shelly Weber at Shelly.Weber@lockhart.txed. net.”

Even when we do not have the answers, we can “We will update you frequently.” begin by acknowledging the challenge before us. Communicate frequently--even when you don’t “As you know, the Centers for Disease Control have anything new to share. Since the first letand Prevention has recently shared information ters in February, districts across Texas continabout the concerns for public health within the ue to navigate so much uncertainty related to United States due to the novel coronavirus. COVID-19. In spite of not having all the answers, Understandably, it is an issue for which we are all by continuing to communicate, we demonstrate concerned and are following closely. ” we are thinking of the people we serve, seeking new information, and maintaining transparency “We are on it.” throughout the process. Share what the district is doing right now. While new to COVID-19, Lockhart ISD was not new to best practices in disinfecting and cleaning to prevent the spread of other viruses. I shared what the district was already doing, providing what was certain until we could learn more.

“Last week, I shared with you in a video message that we expected to receive guidance from the Texas Education Agency regarding the reopening of schools this fall. I received notification TEA would not release that information today as was anticipated.

“Health experts continue to study the virus to understand the full nature of its transmission and best practices for prevention, and we are in contact with our local health department to ensure we are learning as much as possible as information becomes available on how we can keep our Lions and our staff safe.

Thank you for your patience. We will update you as soon as the Governor and TEA release guidance for the upcoming school year, and will continue to track updates related to COVID-19 activity in our area.”

Here are some of the preemptive measures we are currently taking to help control the spread of flu and other potential viruses…”

There remains a great deal of uncertainty ahead. TSPRAns will continue to meet the challenges together, as we always do, but if you find you are feeling a moment of paralysis, remind yourself to pivot and focus on communicating the things that are certain in the uncertainty.

Share what the district will do. In cases when we are unsure of the long-term, reassure parents and staff by sharing what the district will do in the short-term. This provides confidence that we are taking the matter seriously while also working Christina Courson is the executive director of communications and community services for Lockhart Independent School Distowards better solutions. trict in Central Texas. In that role, she spearheads the district’s “We will continue monitoring recommendations by the CDC and local health department and im-

communication program, cultivates community support and trust, leads the community education department, and provides counsel to district and campus leaders in change management.

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by Andy Welch

EduLege Extra Some of the timely issues that have been addressed in recent editions of EduLege

Father Knows Best… Governor Greg Abbott says that only local school boards—not local health officials—can decide how to open schools this fall during the coronavirus pandemic. "The bottom line is the people who know best ... about that are the local school officials," Governor Abbott said during a news conference in San Antonio. Texas educators and parents have been frustrated and confused about the conflicting messages that have been issued by Governor Abbott and Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath in recent weeks. Under the state's guidance—first issued by Attorney General Ken Paxton and then endorsed by Governor Abbott—local health officials can only intervene in school operations if there is an outbreak once students return to campus, at which point they can temporarily shut down a school. However, the governor says local school boards are free to consult with health experts in making their decisions to return on-campus learning.

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“Nothing is stopping them from doing that, and they can fully adopt whatever strategy the local public health authority says," Abbott said. The governor also says that in preparation for the new school year, the state has distributed to schools more than 59 million masks, more than 24,000 thermometers, more than 565,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, and more than 500,000 face shields. He promised schools “will have their (personal protective equipment) needs met at no cost” to them, with the state picking up the tab. That’s a hollow boast, according to the Texas State Teachers Association. “The governor’s optics today on PPE is a drop in the bucket, compared to what will be needed if schools are forced to reopen before it’s safe,” TSTA President, Ovidia Molina said. “59.4 million masks are roughly 11 masks per student. That might get students through the first week of school.”

If UT researchers are right, there are going to be lots of five-day school closings in Texas… Millions of Texas families face an excruciating choice:

Should their children attend when local school districts reopen their classrooms and risk being exposed to the coronavirus? Or should they stay home and lose out on in-person instruction? Texas districts must offer on-campus instruction if they want to continue receiving funding. Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton have decreed that local health authorities may close schools only if COVID-19 is spreading through their buildings, but not in advance. Districts may also close campuses for up to five days to sanitize after a COVID-19 case is confirmed, and will be funded for providing remote instruction. If a new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin is correct, there will be a lot of school closings in the coming months. Based on current infection rates, the UT study finds that more than 80 percent of Americans live in a county where at least one infected person will show up to a school of 500 students and staff in the first week of oncampus instruction. The student does not differentiate as to whether the infected persons are students or adults. •In Cameron County, in the Rio Grande Valley, 13 students, teachers or staff are projected to show up at a campus with a 500-individual population, according to the UT study. •In Victoria, along the Coastal Bend, 10 individuals would be infected at 500-individual campus. •In campuses of the same size, the UT study also projects 17 confirmed cases in Val Verde schools at Del Rio; 11 confirmed cases in Ector County campuses; five cases in Dallas; and four cases at Lubbock campus. “It’s meant to guide schools so they can anticipate when it might be safe, or easier, to open and bring kids in,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, an epidemiologist at UTAustin, who led the research team. The study also makes projections for campuses with a population of 1,000 students, teachers, and staff. The projections are based on the estimated prevalence of the virus in each US county, which is drawn from a New York Times database of cases, and estimates that five people may be infected for each known case. Those estimates reflect current levels of infection

around the country and are likely to change— improving or worsening—in individual communities over the next weeks and months. The estimates assume that children are as likely to carry and transmit the virus as adults—“a large assumption, given the unknowns about children,” said Spencer Fox, a member of the research team. “This is meant to be a rough guide, a first step,” Dr. Fox said.

A major failure… Israel now admits that it is a textbook example of how not to reopen schools in the midst of a global pandemic. Confident it had beaten the coronavirus—and desperate to reboot a devastated economy—the Israeli government invited the entire student body back in late May. Within days, infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school, which quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single school in Israel, possibly the world. The virus rippled out to the students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods, ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives. Other outbreaks forced hundreds of schools to close. Across the country, tens of thousands of students and teachers were quarantined.

Israel’s advice for other countries? “They definitely should not do what we have done,” said Eli Waxman, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science and chairman of the team advising Israel’s National Security Council on the pandemic. “It was a major failure.” The lesson, experts say, is that even communities that have been able to control the spread of the virus need to take strict precautions when reopening schools. Smaller classes, mask wearing, keeping desks six feet apart and providing adequate continued on pg. 20 Summer 2020 | www.TSPRA.org


continued from pg. 19

ventilation, they say, are crucial until a vaccine is available.

Normally, this would be the lead item. But these aren’t normal times… To the chagrin of a growing chorus of state legislators, parents, and educators, Texas students will still have to take the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness tests next year—but Governor Abbott says 5th and 8th grade students will be able to advance to the next grade, even if they fail the state assessment. The governor also said that Texas school districts and campuses would continue to receive A—F grades, based largely on students’ test scores, “albeit with certain adjustments due to COVID-19.” The governor’s statement did not elaborate on what those adjustments would be. Texas high school students must also pass a five specific STAAR exams in order to graduate. Abbott’s statement did not mention waivers for those students. Governor Abbott suspended the 2020 STAAR testing regime in March, as Texas classrooms closed amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Education Commissioner Morath has lamented the fact that the state has lost its most important academic benchmarks for the 2019-2020 school year. Other states are seeking permission from the US Department of Education to waive similar exams, something advocacy group Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment have asked of the Texas Education Agency. “To judge a student in the middle of a pandemic just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do,” said Heather Sheffield, TAMSA president. “We should really be focusing on students’ health and their well-being right now rather than an A—F grade,” Sheffield said. Among the legislators who are calling for a full STAAR

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time-out next year is State Representative Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, who is in a tough race for re-election. “Continuing the pause in testing will allow our public schools, administrators, and teachers to continue focusing on the health, safety, wellness and learning of our students,” Representative Meyer wrote to Morath. Meyer, who serves on the House Public Education Committee, says that his office has been inundated with calls from constituents who are concerned about the added stresses the tests would place on their children during the pandemic. A pair of researchers at the University of Texas College of Education also believe that the state should reconsider its decision to restart standardized testing in the upcoming school year, and instead, should use the pause to develop a more innovative and cost-effective testing system. “As educational researchers and former school administrators, we recognize the inherent value of testing and maintaining a system of accountability,” wrote David DeMatthews and Lebon Daniel James III in the Austin American-Statesman. “If used appropriately, standardized testing data can help the state support and improve struggling districts and schools. Yet, the current testing and accountability system in Texas is costly and inefficient, and it has not led to narrowing achievement gaps.”

How to irritate an educator… Particularly galling for many Texas educators has been the state’s “Do as I say, not as I do” behavior. As state officials push to compel teachers back to the classroom, the offices of the Texas Education Agency remain all-but-closed—with most staff working from home to protect their own health. “Well, if it’s safe enough for students to come back, isn’t it safe enough for you to go back to work? And if the answer is, ‘No,’ then they need to reevaluate how they’re treating their students,” said Mario Piña, an eighth grade Austin teacher. “Student and teacher safety is Number One.” Those sentiments prompted this widely circulated post on Facebook and other social media platforms:

More time for Early Voting… Governor Abbott has extended the early voting period for the November presidential elections in response to COVID-19.

These steps are good but nowhere near good enough.

The governor says the early voting period will begin on October 13, and end on October 30, giving voters nearly one more week than usual to cast their vote before Election Day on Tuesday, November 3. Abbott is also allowing voters to turn in mail ballots in person on Election Day. Democrats and voting rights advocates have pushed the governor and Secretary of State Ruth R. Hughs to do more to ensure people can vote safely in November’s presidential elections, when a massive turnout is expected. Those advocates said extending the early voting period was the least the Governor could do under the circumstances. “These steps are good but nowhere near good enough,” said Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of Common Cause Texas. “Other states are doing so much more, while Governor Abbott is doing literally the least he can. We need swift and decisive action from either the Governor or Secretary of State to avoid a complete meltdown at the polls in November.” Zenén Jaimes Perez, communications director for the Texas Civil Rights Project said, “Now, let everyone vote-by-mail and make sure counties don’t have to shut down polling locations the night before election day because of a shortage of poll workers. Start recruiting now.”

A bright spot… Texas’ all-important sales tax revenue actually increased slightly in July, when compared with to the same month last year.

collected $2.98 billion in sales tax revenue in July, or 4.3 percent more than in July, 2019. That revenue, which mainly reflects purchases made in June, was “better than expected, despite the high unemployment due to the pandemic,” Hegar said. “The increase was due to a surge in collections from the retail trade sector,” he said, noting that the sales taxes paid on e-commerce purchases “were up sharply,” as Texas consumers increased their online shopping during the pandemic. However, revenue collections from other major state taxes were still significantly lower last month. The oil production tax, for example, was down 40 percent from the same month last year, the comptroller reported, while the hotel occupancy tax was down 42 percent from July 2019. The natural gas production tax, meanwhile, was down 71 percent from July, 2019. Hegar warned that the positive news from July sales tax collections could be short lived, because certain federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic expired at the end of July. “With about 1.3 million Texans with continued claims for insured unemployment and another 184,000 receiving benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program in June, it's likely that consumer spending was significantly supported by enhanced benefits provided by the federal CARES Act and related legislation enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," he said. Sales tax revenue is easily the state's largest source of funding and is the driving force to the legislature’s budget-writing process. State legislators will be facing a herculean task when they write a new twoyear state budget in 2021, because of declines in revenue, brought about by the coronavirus and the plunge in Texas oil and gas production. Long-time TSPRA member Andy Welch, the retired Communication Director for the Austin Independent School District, compiles and writes two issues of EduLege every week during the school year, copies of which are typically distributed by the state TSPRA office to members on Mondays and Thursdays. That schedule is altered for holidays, and for winter, spring and summer breaks—and when he needs the occasional day off. Email any questions, suggestionss or concerns to Andy at andywelch1@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @welch_andy.

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar reports that Texas Summer 2020 | www.TSPRA.org


In the Spotlight Meet this year’s Professional Award recipients. by Tracie Seed

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR Kelsey Purcell, Friendswood ISD

Award sponsored by O’Connell Robertson


espite the name of her award, Rookie of the Year, Kelsey Purcell, communication specialist at Friendswood ISD, is no newbie to communications. With a degree from Midwestern State University, she is set to earn her master’s degree in Advertising and Marketing Communications this December from Webster University. While at Midwestern, Purcell says, “I wrote for my school newspaper, produced a short documentary, wrote a memoir titled Refuse to be Silenced, and interned with a local students, show off our amazing organizations/ digital marketing agency and the Alvin ISD teams/programs and are a huge hit with our Communications Department.” community.” While Purcell says her time in the school A self-proclaimed storyteller, Purcell also communications field has been a short two launched a weekly Student and Staff Spotlight, years, it’s not hard to see that her success which highlights district community members. has shone brightly. Her newsletter won Best She says, “[They] do not have to be a star in Category in 2020 TSPRA Star Awards and athlete/coach or make straight A’s, rather, the her #ChallengeAccepted video series has articles simply show that everyone has a story…I garnered tens of thousands of views. “The love hearing about and telling people’s stories video series features our Superintendent everyone has one!” accepting a challenge from our students, and it can be anything!” she says. “This year, we’ve had everything from softball to special Olympics to math facts to a bake-off against culinary arts. These videos are great PR for our Superintendent, they highlight the talent of our

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BRIGHT IDEA School PR Happy Hour; Erin McCann, CPC, Crandall ISD & Justin Dearing, Carroll ISD Award sponsored by Huckabee Talking is a big part of school communications, just ask Erin McCann, CPC and Justin Dearing, both of who host PR Happy Hour podcast. These 20-minute (give or take) episodes come out twice a month, are available nationally and are downloaded more than 200 times each. Dearing, assistant director of communications for Carroll ISD, taught video production and radio broadcasting for seven years prior to entering the school communications field. In addition to the Bright Idea award, Justin was the recipient of NSPRA’s “35 Under 35” recognition. “Winning the Bright Idea Award for School PR Podcast was very special to me. This is an idea that I had quite some time ago and to see it come to fruition and also be as successful as it has been very fun. I appreciate that people see the need for a continuation of the great conversations that happen at TSPRA and NSPRA and think that the avenue we are

trying to provide for that adds value to their daily work.” Director of digital media and marketing at Allen ISD, McCann has worked in education for more than 13 years, with six years in school PR. “I didn’t know it was possible to genuinely love work until I found my way to school PR. I love what I do!” she says. Also a NSPRA “35 Under 35” recipient, McCann, also earned her Certified Public Communicator certification in 2019. As for winning the Bright Idea Award? McCann says, “Winning this award means so much to me. This project started as a shared passion to continue networking and great conversations while growing skills in audio production. The fact that so many people are connecting with our work and that our peers selected us to win this award is the highest level of validation.”

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PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT Ian Halperin, Wylie ISD No wonder Ian Halperin, Wylie ISD’s executive director of communications and community relations, has so much experience under his belt. In addition to his past as a newspaper photographer for many years, he changed careers to school PR in 1996. “I’ve photographed every US President since Ronald Reagan, plus four Super Bowls,” he explains. As far as his communications job, he says, “[I] celebrate the many accomplishments of our students and staff, ensure our message is heard above the clatter and promote the district to our many stakeholders.” Halperin has been a friend of TSPRA for 24 years and counting. He served as president between 2016-2017, has chaired Rookie Boot Camp and has served as mentor to many members throughout the years. When asked what it means to win this award, Halperin quips, “It means I’m old. LOL. I would not be where I am professionally without the support and friendship of my TSPRA family. I am grateful for opportunity to share knowledge and help grow our organization and the profession.”

M O S T VA L U A B L E MEMBER Tim Carroll, APR, Allen ISD

Award sponsored by Intrado School Messenger As a TSPRA member since 1995, Tim Carroll, who recently retired from Allen ISD as its Chief Information Officer, has been in school PR since 1981, 25 of which were spent at Allen. While he has been “producing a radio show and/or writing a newspaper column as a hobby for many years,” he says that he has plans to teach PR classes at Texas A&M in Commerce. Showing his professional patina, Carroll says, “I literally started in school PR before desktop computers and social media. I had a typewriter and copy machine. News release[s] were driven to the newspaper office until Fax machines were invented. I had one of the first Mac SE computers in our town. PageMaker and laser printers changed my life!” As the MVP 2020, Carroll explains that he is in good company. “[I’m] Very flattered to receive the award – when I came here in 1995, I remember long-time pros like Bonnie Ellison and Larry Ascough that we all looked up to. It’s an honor to be included in those ranks.”

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MAKE YOUR MESSAGE CLEAR AND EFFECTIVE TO STUDENTS, PARENTS AND THE COMMUNITY. www.walkerpromo.com Click PPE david@walkerpromo.com • 800-373-0770

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chief s i e l t i t y “M tions a c i n u m com that t u b , r e c offi truly does not .” define me

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by Sheleah D. Reed, APR Chief Communications Officer Aldine ISD


jumped into school communications the way I have learned to do so many other things in life—all in and headfirst. This time, it was for the state’s largest school district — Houston ISD (HISD). On the day of my interview, news dropped that a top official was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. My start date was delayed because an ice storm hit the area and shut down fingerprinting for several days. And if that wasn’t enough warning, on my first day, I learned that we were closing campuses in minority neighborhoods. This was a warm welcome to my new role; however, it was one that I was eager to take on. My days at HISD started at 5:30 a.m. with calls of bus accidents and some days ended after midnight, especially on those days of Board Meetings. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I could go through my resume of school communications jobs— HISD, Spring ISD, HISD again and now Aldine ISD—but that’s boring. The truth is while each role has been a different assignment, with different communities, and different objectives, the goal has remained the same: Tell the district’s story. Tell the story of teachers, staff and students, and most importantly—tell the story of achievement despite challenges with funding, tough environments,

and new leadership. While learning to tell the stories, I have also been fortunate to pick up a few lessons along the way. Here are few lessons I’ve learned along the way: Be yourself. When I was recruited back to HISD, the chief operating officer said he was looking for someone to help rebrand nutrition services after the district ended a 22year contract with a service provider. He explained the role and his goals. I reminded him, more than a few times, that I had no experience in food services and that I had packed my lunch as a child. I will never forget his response, “I know that, but your communications experience, your personality, your approach to life and your drive makes you the perfect person for the job. You’ll figure the rest out.” His remarks continue to keep me grounded today. I recognize the power that being my authentic self has in helping me connect, communicate and lead both professionally and personally. I won’t lie and say that authenticity is easy. There are times I don’t agree with the group, and there are times (more than I want to admit) that I am pushing my team to approach a project in a different way, to think beyond the way we’ve always done things in order to better serve others. While working in Nutrition Services at HISD, I approached school lunch with this attitude. I sat in meetings with the “real lunch ladies”, and learned about federal guidelines and meal planning. Then I pushed back on ways we could use those guidelines to get more students to opt-in to school lunch. This meant asking people who usually stayed at the office to get out to the cafeterias. This meant being open to talking to reporters and even changing the names of the menu items to words that were fun and festive. The meetings weren’t always easy. I was out of my element and usually outnumbered; but, in the end, I think it worked. Although I’ve moved on from the role, the team is still rocking and rolling. School lunch is booming without me, but I know my voice is still at the table when decisions are being made.

I could have approached the job differently. I could have remained silent. That wouldn’t have benefited anyone. Every life experience is important to the conversation. Diversity of thought and experience allows conversations to be richer and discussions to be deeper. Your voice and thoughts matter. You matter. Work harder than anyone else. My brother learned how to build a website using a new platform in less than 12 hours — no manual, no instructions. He just locked himself in a room and did it. Since then he’s been called on by companies across the world for his expertise on the platform. I asked him why he did it that way and he said, “It’s a chip on my shoulder. I’m trying to prove a point to myself.” It’s a strong possibility that the chip is part of our genetics. I will work harder than most people, go above and beyond to get a project completed. I’ve pulled my fair share of all nighters and then brought breakfast to the early morning meeting the next day. I’ve been the only person of color and the only comms professional in a meeting where everyone expressed their opinion on how to message something to black parents. I’ve rewritten statements about fights on campus — removing the word brawl —and pitched a story to the media about a star student athlete who had great SAT scores AND happened to be Black. I left the race part out on

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purpose when I talked to the reporter. I bring up color simply because it’s still a factor today. It is still what leads the conversation. I’m aware that people see me as a black woman, and I am even more aware that oftentimes, everyone believes they can do communications. This is why I pursued my APR accreditation. Although I had great work experience— an undergraduate and a master’s degree in communications—I wanted another set of credentials to help separate me from the pack. To separate me from being a practitioner to being someone who could lead strategic conversations and execute comprehensive plans, rather than just cross items off a to-do list. I knew that having those letters behind my name brought more to the table. It wasn’t an easy journey. I squeezed studying in wherever I could and carried flashcards in my purse. When I stood on stage and was pinned in 2018, a realization hit. I was the only Black APR in school communications—number 25, but the first Black one. I wasn’t at all surprised, but I recognized even more in that moment why it was important to have the credentials. Believe it or not, it had been on my vision board since 2010—before I entered school communications and led marketing and communications for Prairie View A&M University. I stumbled upon a communications professor at Florida A&M University who had an APR and a doctoral degree. After reading her bio and her trajectory, I wanted the same magical credentials so no one ever wondered if my word choices were right

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or if my suggestions were valid. Shine your light. Surprise! The letters behind my name didn’t magically change the world. Just as my working longer hours on more projects didn’t automatically get me the seat at the table. People still edit my writings and offer their suggestions. I’m sure most communicators, regardless of their expertise, still value others’ input. In fact, I know they do. I’m in a few GroupMe chats, several group chats, and yes, even in Twitter Chats. It’s the talk. Although I have been afforded a seat at the table, it was not always that way. I’ve learned about new initiatives through email, and I’ve been called in to “fix” a few things. Many of you have had to craft a media statement because a colleague made a bad choice or didn’t think something all the way through. It comes with the territory. As I sit at the table, as Chief Communications Officer for Aldine ISD, I understand the importance of helping other women, especially other Black women, make it to the table of their choice. Every day I work hard to show up and represent voices who might not ever get to see the table. I shine a light on sensitive subjects and overlooked audiences. I carry out necessary conversations. One of the hardest tasks of my career was helping our superintendent draft her thoughts following the death of George Floyd. Nothing I studied on the test or read in a book prepared me for that. I pushed my supervisor—someone who is so well known, respected and revered—to put some hard words on paper. It took us more than a few days to get the tone down, to make peace with the message and to hit ‘publish’. I toyed with the idea of nixing it, but I knew it had to be done and I knew it had to be done right. People needed to see that there was a plan to address the low test scores and differences in how Black students were treated in our district. The APR behind my name gave me the courage to do it, but it was the reminder that I was placed in Aldine to shine my light on things and bring promise to others that helped me to make it happen.

Leadership matters. The opportunity to lead several departments and serve on a district leadership team comes with much responsibility. I would be remiss to not understand the weight that my position holds. I fully realize that every decision I make has consequences and that I must live with those consequences that can make you lose sleep at night. Rather than choosing insomnia, I’ve decided to lead the best way I know how. Many people would say they are servant leaders, maybe even transformational leaders. I haven’t found the right word, but I lead by engaging, listening and learning from others. Then I take their words and ideas, and give it back to them in a way that helps solve a problem and plan for upcoming challenges. I try to provide a different perspective that may not have not even been considered. I hope to influence them to be the leader they can be.

“I have learned that I do not have to do it all, even when I know I can.”

Throughout my career, I’ve seen both good and bad leadership qualities that I’ve promised myself to never repeat. I’ve tried to avoid the cycle and reflect often on how to get better faster. As I’ve grown in leadership, I’ve reimagined what my version of effective leadership should look like. Not only to benefit my team and those who I work with, but also for myself.

I have learned that I do not have to do it all, even when I know I can. Instead, I’ve learned that it is important to rely on the strength of others and cheer loudly. My goal every day is to stretch my teams’ talents so that they are empowered to step out of their comfort zone and work confidentially. My title is chief communications officer, but that does not truly define me. Each day my role allows me to be a mentor, coach, listening ear, cheerleader and most importantly a strategist—which I think is somewhere in the brochure about being an APR.

Summer 2020 | www.TSPRA.org


Crisis Communicat

Crisis communications support for communications profes

By the 2019-2020 Crisis Communication Ad Hoc Committee: Patti Pawlik-Perales, Alamo Height ISD, Chair; Ian Halperin, Wylie ISD; Tim Savoy, Hays CISD; Sylvia Rincon, Southside ISD; Melissa Tortorici, Texas City ISD; Kristin Zastoupil, Forney ISD; Monica Faulkenbery, APR, Northside ISD

PRE-PLANNING • • • • • •

• • • •

Make a list of your audiences ahead of time. Break them into internal and external. How you respond to each will be different. Work with district leadership to secure buy-in on plan in advance of crisis. Consider having scripts prepared that only need name/location updates. Consider using prepared holding statements before putting out misinformation in order to communicate as quickly as possible. Activate your "dark" website page with updated information. Have a recorded message Caller ID number for alerts to aid with the return calls following a Black Board or School Messenger robocall. ("We have activated our alert system. For additional information, please refer to our district website and social media accounts.'') Have a firm framework procedure in place regarding the reporting and internal communication flow when a crisis occurs - emphasize time sensitivity. Back-up plan for down communication. Campuses/Departments have designated roles. Make sure everyone understands their roles.


Understand the circumstances; define the problem. Create a brief summary for yourself and your team that details just the facts that can be used for all communications (Staff, Parents, Media, Board, Staff answering calls, etc.). • Remember the three things people want to see from an organization in a crisis: authority, information and empathy. • Coordinate with police, fire and emergency personnel to release accurate information. • Own what you own, remember to address the response and what your district is doing.



• • • • • • •

Remember to seek updates from your subject-matter experts every hour to keep community updated. Communicate to your audiences (Employees & Board, Parents, Media) and keep the news media informed, as needed. (Media may follow your social media accounts to gather information and details.) Utilize your crisis communication team roster, key communicator lists and media contact sheets. Anticipate needs: clerical support to answer phones. Utilize other staff members to monitor social media. Note trends, topics that may need to be addressed once things slow down. Note all incoming calls, including a media log. Identify press conference sites away from crisis location. TSPR Remind team members of their assigned roles. A ready peers ar Expect chaos. Expect the unexpected. Stay calm. e the T to help! C SPRA all offic 512-4 74-91 e at or em 07 ail info@ tspra .org • Provide a timetable for future plans when possible. • Debrief after to better prepare for the future. • Have a recorded message Caller ID number for alerts to aid with the return calls following a Black Board or School Messenger robocall. • Consider a universal statement or email letter so that you can save time not having to create a media statement vs. parent letter, etc. • Don't make promises/policy in crisis mode. Stay true to what makes your district special.


Top five tips that industry experts want you to know.

ELECTRONIC MEDIA PRODUCTION Clif Cotton Assistant Communications Director, Digital Media Denton ISD

Be flexible: This is without a doubt the most important tip I can give. I have shot thousands of things during my career and I’ve never had one shoot go exactly the way I thought during my mental preparations. Often times, flexibility can lead to a much better end product than you thought when you left the office for the shoot. Go where the story takes you. Don’t take the story where you want it to go. Use the right tool for the right job: We recently had a coach that was making a surprise announcement to his team. I knew it would make a great video, but I didn’t want to ruin the surprise by showing up with my big camera. I shot the video on my phone and this short little video has gotten more than eight million views across various platforms online. It was a great boost to the school community and our Athletic Department because it showed how much those kids and this coach mean to each other. Keep the main thing the main thing: Ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish with this video or photo shoot?” Make sure you shoot video or pictures that tell that story the best. The Braswell video is an example of that. I knew the player

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reaction would be the best part of this video so I made sure to hold the reaction shot on them a little longer than normal. I wasn’t worried about capturing everything happening in that moment. I just want to make sure I captured what I thought were the most important things. Know your limitations: Every project is not Saving Private Ryan. Sometimes getting a project turned quickly is the most important thing. Do the best you can in the time allotted. Always remember the feels: You’re trying to get your audience to feel something in every video that you do. Remember what feeling you are trying to give the viewer and remember that when you’re shooting and writing.

ONE PERSON STAFF Kristyn Hunt Cathey Media/Communications Specialist, Public Relations Port Arthur ISD

Create a Communications Plan: You need a document that lays out exactly your position and what you are responsible for doing. How does your position align with the district’s goals and mission? Make it clear to your supervisor that it is a fluid document. Take an account of the communication being sent out internally and externally. If it’s working, then keep it. If not, then don’t. Create a survey for your parents and staff. For example, Facebook is the #1 mode of communication preferred by our parents and we have less

than five percent that follow Twitter. Based on those results, we are eliminating Twitter and putting all of our focus on improving the content on Facebook. Evaluate the effectiveness of everything you create in your department. There is no need to give life to something that isn’t benefitting your stakeholders. Develop a Communications Ambassador Program: Reach out to your campus principals and ask them to recommend at least two people that will be responsible for taking photos, submitting articles, updating social media, etc. You will manage all of the social media in the district, but this will allow our campuses to feel some sort of ownership over the news coming from their campus. It’s time for an internship program! Before I began working in the district, I was a full-time communications professor. What many of our students needed then and now were internship opportunities. Smaller cities typically don’t have as many options as a larger, metropolitan city would. You can use this to your advantage! Reach out to your local college/university and offer an internship to the communications, marketing or English departments. These students are sometimes more well-versed in technology than we are! They can take photos, edit videos, manage social media, copy edit articles and more and yes-this can all be done virtually! Don’t reinvent the wheel. I burned out very early on in my position because I was creating many documents on my own. That is, until I became a member of TSPRA and NSPRA. Both organizations provide their members with access to their document vaults that are full of examples anyone can use. Create a Google Drive folder and save those documents so that you can be ready if and should you need them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Someone else has done what you need to do. Use free apps like Canva, Hootsuite, etc. Free is always good! You cannot do it all and that’s okay. I had to remind myself of this more and more since Hurricane Harvey in 2017. I was a mom of a six-month old when 90 percent of our city was devastated due to this catastrophic storm. Having to deal with the unknown on your job and at home is something I never thought I would

ever encounter and yet; here we are! There is only much you can do in one day before it takes over your life. The 2020 TSPRA conference’s overarching theme was on finding that “work-life-balance.” Truth? I haven’t found it yet, and due to COVID, I don’t think others have either. But that’s okay. We cannot be good to our jobs if we aren’t good to ourselves. Set manageable goals. Take it day by day before building up to week by week. TSPRA afforded me the honor of meeting colleagues that are now my friends. I have a group that I chat with on a daily basis. We bounce personal and professional ideas off of each other. We hold each other accountable. Find that tribe. In the words of my dearly departed grandmother, Bessie Frances, “Remember-whatever you put on your plate, you have to eat.” If you can’t commit to doing it all, don’t put it on your calendar. You’ll be held accountable and there’s no one else to take the heat but YOU!

GRAPHIC DESIGN Adam J. Bennett Brand Experience Manager Coppell ISD

Who is your audience? Who are you trying to reach? For school districts, there are several audiences to consider — students, parents or guardians, employees and community or business partners. Larger districts may want to drill down the audience even further to reach specific demographics, i.e. gender, age, location, family income, etc. Knowing your audience is an important consideration as you determine what type of graphic you will create. What story are you trying to tell? Think about creating an infotainment graphic. One that is informative and also entertaining. This may be the first impression the audience has of your organization. You want to draw the viewer’s attention and curiosity. You want to make sure the graphic entices them to want more. You also want the graphic to

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inspire an individual to take action. This could happen by taking a survey, signing up to volunteer or visiting your website for the first time. Branding is much more than just a logo. Think about being consistent with color scheme, fonts, logos, iconography and even your district voice. Your district’s brand should encompass the attitude, uniformity in the choice of words used and core values of your organization. It is essentially who you are, and your graphics should reflect this. Using the established colors, fonts and images for your district are just as important as having one voice in your writing. Your visual brand is essential to continue establishing trust with your audiences. What platform will you use to post your content? The platform you choose will determine the size of your graphics. Most platforms, whether in print or digital, have specific size requirements. Using the correct sizes and resolution allows your image to be displayed at the highest quality. For graphics that are printed, a 300 DPI (Dots Per Inch) and 4” by 6” image minimum is recommended. For digital graphics, a 72 or 97 DPI is advised. Be sure to test your digital images on computers and mobile devices, including iPads and mobile phones. Responsive design also should be considered for digital images, meaning these images enlarge or shrink when moving from desktop to mobile. It is important to stay up to date with current trends of graphics and graphic design. You do not want to be stagnant and recreate the same graphics over and over again. Find an organization or a designer that you like both in school district communications and commercial entities and follow their work online, via social media and more. Keep a sample file on your computer or device and in your office of work that you want to emulate.


By Stephanie De Los Santos, Director of Client Engagement Harris County Department of Education TSPRA VP At-Large Position 2

Establish your goals and objectives. First, it is important to grasp that goals help you achieve your overall purpose and objectives are the actions taken

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to help you achieve those goals. An example goal may be to increase awareness about a new program offered by your organization. In order to achieve that goal, an objective could be to promote the new program at various events and conferences. Goals and objectives are vital for an effective branding strategy. Know your target audience. When you know your target audience, you are able to create a more targeted brand strategy. Depending on who you are trying to reach, whether it be parents or legislators, you want to ensure your brand strategy is relevant and caters to your target audience. Keep your message simple. A key concept to remember when branding your organization is … less is more. Eliminate the unnecessary extras while keeping your message aligned with your goals. Always stick to what works and remember quality outweighs quantity. The effectiveness of your message is not dependent on the quantity of words used, but of the quality of your content. Sometimes it only takes three words to make a lasting impact. Make sure your branding represents who you are. It is important to analyze the current reputation of your brand. You can do this by asking yourself: “How does your target audience perceive you?” “What do they think about your brand?” “Do they know you have a brand?” Answers to these questions can be found through polls or surveys. The results will help strengthen your brand. Be consistent. When you are consistent with your branding, people will not only recognize your brand, but you will build trust with them. It is important that the consistency of all marketing pieces (same logo, color, images and messaging) is implemented across the board in your organization. Have a style guide available as a reference and be sure to stick with the established guidelines.


By Rebecca M. Villarreal, APR Director of Communications New Braunfels ISD TSPRA At-large Vice President, Place 1

Please note that these tips may need to be slightly modified due to the current pandemic. Connect with new businesses. New businesses often have a broad marketing budget and plan for their launch. If they provide a youth-related service or something that would benefit your employees, don’t hesitate to reach out to them to share your marketing and advertising opportunities. Get to know your local non-profits. Get to know who they are and what programs they fund. If they have a program that directly benefits your families, parents will be more receptive to receiving information from them in the future and possibly forge a stronger relationship. Find a mutual benefit. Every year your needs will change and so will the local business climate. You have to identify those needs whether it be monetary or in-kind and find a way to connect. Show your appreciation. This is something we don’t always do enough of or in the right way. A lot of times we spell out what they will get in return, but it does not have to stop there so be creative and make then feel appreciated in a way that resonates with them. Stay engaged. Rather than just reach out to your community partners once or twice a year, find ways to get them in your schools and stay engaged. Probably the most rewarding thing you could do is recruit them and/or their employees to serve as volunteers and mentors in your schools.

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Important Dates

SEPTEMBER 1 Deadline for Nominations for 2021-2022 TSPRA Executive Committee 1 Deadline for appointments to the 2020-2021 Nominating Committee 6 Labor Day/TSPRA offices closed 9 Portal opens to submit #TSPRA21 conference proposals to present 11 Portal opens to submit 2020 Star Awards entries 15 Financial Records & Procedures Committee conducts member review of TSPRA financials 15 TSPRA leadership & committee members expected to have 2020-2021 dues renewed 16 TSPRA Newsletter resumes weekly 30 #TSPRA21 conference registration opens OCTOBER 1 TSPRA Executive Committee meeting 1 Nominating Committee meets 2 #TSPRA21 conference scholarship applications available 2-3 2020 Key Communicator presented at TASA/TASB Convention 12 Columbus Day/TSPRA offices closed 29 Last day to submit #TSPRA21 conference proposals to present 31 Last day to renew 2020-2021 dues without late fee


NOVEMBER 2 Deadline to submit 2020 Star Awards entries

Ashley Berrones Harlingen CISD

Kyle Heimbinger Greenville ISD

Jason Moody Brownsville ISD

AndreAnna Tate Irving ISD

Kristen Breaux Huffman ISD

Dayna Hernandez Klein ISD

Jennifer Orchard Beeville ISD & EF

Rebecca Taylor Ingleside ISD

Nicole Butler Fort Bend ISD

Veronica Johannsen Brenham ISD

James Teafatiller Shepherd ISD

Kyle Boberg Fort Bend ISD

'Tyquita “Ty” Jones Forney ISD

Amy Rames TASB Texas Association of School Boards

Claire Garcia Irving ISD

Corey Krick Farmersville ISD

Skyler Hefley Tyler ISD

Jeannie Meza-Chavez San Elizario ISD

36 Summer 2020 | www.TSPRA.org

Ruth Reyes San Benito CISD Debra Sanchez-Treese Harris County Department of Education *as of 8/10/20


ince 1981, TSPRA has recognized a Key Communicator for outstanding contributions to public education through effective communications. The recipient may be a legislator, educator or a professional in another field who has improved school communications, or a member of TSPRA who has contributed outstanding service to the profession of school communications across the state of Texas. Recipients have included leaders from business, media, PTA, politics and education. This year’s award goes to Georgetown, TX resident, Andy Welch.

Director for the Austin School District, where two of his first assignments were to coordinate a districtwide realignment of all campus attendance boundaries, and the recruitment and hiring of Superintendent Pat Forgione—who remained at the helm of the 80,000-student district for an unfathomable 10 years. Soon after Dr. Forgione’s retirement—and following the brutal legislative session that resulted in $5.4 billion being cut from Texas school districts—Mr. Welch also retired in 2011. However, with the 2013 legislative session approaching, TSPRA Executive Director Linsae Snider recruited Mr. Welch to write a loosely defined newsletter named EduLege for the organization’s 1,000 members, to help keep them informed of the issues that they must confront on a daily basis. Many TSPRA members also provide EduLege to their administrative team and campus educators, to help keep them updated on issues of importance. Now in its eighth year, Mr. Welch estimates that he has written over 850 editions of EduLege.

Andy Welch was born and grew up in San Benito in the Rio Grande Valley, where he received an outstanding public-school education. It was as a teenager that he first witnessed the headaches of school administration, when his dad, a Main Street merchant who served as a San Benito School Trustee, would return home from Monday night board meetings, and would almost literally bang his head in frustration on the kitchen table. Andy Welch and his wife Lisa Price Welch live in Georgetown with their adorable dog Boudreaux and Soon after graduating from Southwestern University in their snooty cat Ziggy. When he’s not writing EduLege, Georgetown, Mr. Welch began a decade-long career as Andy enjoys gardening and playing the piano. Andy a State Capitol reporter, providing daily news coverage has two married sons, and a precocious five-year old to newspapers and radio stations across Texas. In 1983, grandson who, despite his young age, is “much smarter he joined the staff of newly-elected Texas Agriculture than me.” Commissioner Jim Hightower where he headed-up the agency’s communication team. In 1990, Mr. Welch switched from promoting Texas foods, wines, and organic produce to explaining state tax policy and TSPRA Professional Awards Committee: revenue estimates, as he became Communication Director for newly-elected State Comptroller John Chair: Traci Marlin, Midway ISD Sharp. Committee: Craig Eichhorn, APR, Alief ISD; Melissa Tortorici, Texas City ISD; Keyhla Calderon-Lugo, It was in 1998 that Mr. Welch accepted what he calls Edgewood ISD; Matthew Jones, Castleberry ISD “the hardest job I ever had,” as Communication Summer 2020 | www.TSPRA.org




Why choose your neighborhood public school district for oncampus or online schooling?


In spite of political rhetoric to the contrary, public schools have never been more successful than they are today. Teeming with highly skilled, professionally trained educators who love kids, the public schools are more prepared than any other modern options to properly educate your children, whether it occur live oncampus or online from home. Either way, every public school student is taught by certified, professionally degreed educators and supported by a host of other specialized educators, including counselors, diagnosticians, librarians, speech therapists, music and theater teachers, art teachers, coaches, and more. We hear a lot from politicians and the media about why parents should consider alternatives to their neighborhood public schools, with little if any regard for the benefits of choosing public schools. We’ve compiled some of those here for your consideration. --SCOTT & LESLIE MILDER Founders Friends of Texas Public Schools

PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS are highly skilled, compassionate, professionally trained educators who are adept at connecting with children and nurturing their love of learning. Like automobiles, children are complex systems. Parents can drive them, but it takes a skilled mechanic to make them learn on all cylinders! PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS have objectivity, trained to spot and address learning challenges. Parents struggle to be objective while teaching their own children. PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS are trained to identify children who may have learning challenges and can involve parents, counselors, and other learning specialists as needed. PUBLIC SCHOOLS have many support resources available to your children, including diagnosticians, speech therapists, counselors, and content specialists. CHILDREN need adults in their lives who they trust in addition to their parents. CHILDREN need structured time away from home, and when that’s not possible, professionally structured time at home while learning on a virtual platform. CHILDREN thrive on routine, which is often difficult to achieve at home for a sustained period of time. PUBLIC SCHOOLS offer extracurricular and co-curricular enrichment programs, such as arts, music, athletics, clubs, and activities. PUBLIC SCHOOLS teach children a certain degree of independence. Children keep track of their class schedules, move from one class to another, buy their lunch, and engage in club activities. PUBLIC SCHOOLS are tuition free for all of your children. PUBLIC SCHOOL students have ample opportunities for social interaction with a microcosm of their world.

© 2020 Friends of Texas Public Schools | All Rights Reserved | www.FOTPS.org

Download this & Spanish version: https://www.fotps. org/still-best-choice AND

Public schools remain best choice amid pandemic MORE reasons to choose your neighborhood public school district for oncampus or online schooling!

PUBLIC SCHOOLS offer students leadership skills development opportunities through clubs and activities, such as student council, debate, language, chess, dance, robotics, art, and too many more to list here!

PUBLIC SCHOOLS teach children to persevere.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS offer students many opportunities to engage in community service projects.

PARENTING and teaching can be overwhelming, especially with multiple children.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS generously and lovingly serve all special needs children.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS give you and your child much-needed time apart.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS are held accountable to state performance requirements.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS foster your child’s independence.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS are governed by locally elected boards of trustees who serve as stewards of taxpayer resources and the public trust.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS have rigorous and regimented schedules that teach children the art of self-discipline.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS deliver a challenging and robust, carefully crafted curriculum and are held accountable to state performance requirements. PUBLIC SCHOOLS prepare students for many of life’s realities, such as co-existing with people they may or may not like, teamwork, collaboration, and navigating a wide variety of personalities and challenges. PUBLIC SCHOOLS teach children about winning gracefully and losing graciously.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS teach children about delayed gratification.

CHILDREN are more resistant to learning and receiving formal instruction from those who parent them. PUBLIC SCHOOLS provide free transportation to and from school. PUBLIC SCHOOLS provide free and reduced-lunch options for low income families. PUBLIC SCHOOLS are a safe place for children during the day while parents go to work.

© 2020 Friends of Texas Public Schools | All Rights Reserved | www.FOTPS.org

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