TSPRA Communication Matters Fall 2021

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Fall 2021 | 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 benefit 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 2

Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

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

CENTRAL AREA Marco Alvarado Lake Travis ISD

2021-2022 OFFICERS PRESIDENT Veronica V. Sopher Fort Bend ISD PRESIDENT-ELECT Rebecca Villarreal, APR New Braunfels ISD IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT Veronica Castillon, APR Laredo ISD EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Linsae Snider TSPRA


NORTHWEST TEXAS AREA Kenneth Dixon Lubbock ISD FAR WEST AREA Melissa Martinez, APR, CPC El Paso ISD SAN ANTONIO AREA Kim Cathey Floresville ISD AT-LARGE POSITION 1 Corey Ryan Leander ISD AT-LARGE POSITION 2 Stephanie De Los Santos HCDE

GULF COAST AREA Craig Verley Mission CISD

AT-LARGE POSITION 3 Sherese Nix-Lightfoot Garland ISD


PARLIAMENTARIAN Donald Williams Mansfield ISD

EAST TEXAS AREA Jamie Fails Willis ISD NORTH CENTRAL AREA Megan Overman, APR, CPC Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD WEST CENTRAL AREA Elizabeth Cox Belton 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 2021. Texas School Public Relations Association. All rights reserved. Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Fall 2021 | Volume II, No. 2

hings t w o h My, ged! n a h c have

MANAGING EDITOR GRAPHIC DESIGN Tracie Seed tseed@tspra.org EDITOR Adam J. Holland La Porte ISD

Texas School Public Relations Association TSPRA is a professional organization whose members are dedicated to improving public education in Texas by:


Veronica Castillon, APR Laredo ISD Cissa Madero Pearland ISD

PROMOTING effective public relations practices

Dustin Taylor Longview ISD

PROVIDING professional development for its members


IMPROVING communication between Texans and their public schools


EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Linsae Snider lsnider@tspra.org PROGRAMS MANAGER Janet Crock janet@tspra.org COMMUNICATIONS & MARKETING MANAGER Tracie Seed tseed@tspra.org


TSPRA.org info@tspra.org


Sally Andrews, Susan Ard, Jennifer Birdwell, Jenny Bridges, Veronica Castillon, Chelsea Ceballos, Jennifer Hines, Sean Hoffmann, Cecelia Jones, Viviana Killion, Cissa Madero, Jeff Meador, Dr. Jeannie Meza-Chavez, Taylor Poston, Mike Rockwood, Ed.D., Dustin Taylor, Andy Welch

MAKING AN EVERYDAY IMPACT Through specialized schools; Head Start early childhood education; afterschool programs; school-based therapy services; and a scholastic art and writing awards program, HCDE makes a BIG impact on Harris County communities.


As I saw the outstanding content for this issue of Communications Matters, my heart swelled with pride as I recognized so many smiling faces, even through masks, and read so many accomplishments and kudos from our membership. We are celebrating, and that is something some of us have not been able to do a lot of during the pandemic. Luckily, there is still time, and I challenge you to find five things to be grateful for in this moment. It will change your outlook on life, alter your neuropathways and your physical health, improve your sleep and alleviate stress and anxiety. The Mindfulness Awareness Research Center of UCLA stated that gratitude changes the neural structures in the brain and makes us feel happier and more content.


oday, I am grateful that my family is healthy. I am grateful that I have a professional network of caring colleagues across the state. I am grateful that we opened our doors to students and staff to start a new year, whether in person or virtually. I am grateful for the growth and resiliency my team experienced during these last 18 months. I am grateful for this issue of Communications Matters so we can celebrate so many TSPRAns. I am grateful … by design. As I enter my 18th year in school public relations, I am on a new journey, one of self-development and personal growth. In these last two years, I have focused on self-awareness, spiritual growth as well as physical and mental growth. I embarked on this healing because of a mental health crisis in my family. Not having the support we needed as parents and as part of the educational system forced me to find a way through. When you are flailing in uncertainty and confusion, it is hard to see how you will get through it all; many, if not most of us, know the feeling. Throw on top of that a global pandemic and the pressures of a fast-paced, highly-politicalized climate at work, and you realize there is only one way to go – forward.


Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

Feeling grateful and appreciating others when they do something good for us triggers the ‘good’ hormones and regulates the effective functioning of the immune system. The science supporting gratitude is plentiful; I highly encourage you to spend some time learning how you can support your well-being and that of your family. Gratitude and fear/stress/anger cannot exist at the same time in the brain, according to researchers, so it is one or the other. Gratitude releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel good. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside. Who doesn’t need more of that in their life? Flip through the following pages of this issue of Communications Matters and see what I mean. We still have a way to go to finish out this school year, so I encourage you to find a way to practice self-care and to model the value of it for your team and colleagues. I am grateful for your membership in this outstanding organization!

Veronica V. Sopher Chief Communications Officer Fort Bend ISD TSPRA President

Note: If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24 hours in English and Spanish at 1-800-273-8255.






EDULEGE eblasts covering news & legislative topics pertaining to public schools




JOB BOARD with school PR positions across the state


weekly NEWSLETTERS filled with informative and timely topics

ONLINE LEARNING opportunities, including LEGAL LUNCH & LEARN sessions premium SPOKEN WORD CRISIS COMMUNICATION opportunities to enter STAR AWARDS & TRAINING for PR professionals have your work professionally critiqued


Access to

HUNDREDS of examples of professional public school communication pieces in the TSPRA DOCUMENT VAULT


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quarterly COMMUNICATION MATTERS MAGAZINE issues full of timely topics, professional guidance & inspiration, plus a chance to have YOUR WORK PUBLISHED

amazing ANNUAL CONFERENCE with 100s of attendees & vendors to connect & network with (member discount & opportunity to earn up to 20 hours of PD credit)




EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE members who have your best interest in mind

Texas School Public Relations Association | www.TSPRA.org | info@tspra.org | 512-474-9107


In a Minute Industry facts, figures & fun


12 Member Moment Getting to know fellow TSPRAns 14

Q & A Meet Mike Rockwood, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools, Lake Dallas ISD.

16 Point of View Viviana Killion, Galena Park ISD 18 EduLege Top news in school communications 50

5 in 5 What do you enjoy about attending TSPRA’s conference?


TSPRA Talk What’s happening in TSPRA


New Members A list of new TSPRAns



Behind the Scenes Heroes Meet this year’s conference day chairs.


Preconference 2022 An in-depth look at this year’s sessions & presenters


Career & Technology A look at how this program prepares students for the future


Festivals: Big Benefits for Kids Why it is important to have community celebrations


Tips for Photographing School Events A quick guide for sharpening your photo skills


Sweet Homecoming For Krum ISD, this tradition is a communitywide event.


42 El Dia de Los Muertos The Day of the Dead explained 44

Holiday Happenings A roundup of some of the most interesting facts about upcoming holidays


Cover photo by Cissa Madero, Pearland ISD 8

Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

Volunteers and community partners are needed now more than ever. Students need help recovering from the academic, social, and emotional disruptions they’ve experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. VOLY.org, powered by VolunteerNow, provides affordable, easy-to-use, web-based software to recruit, manage, and track the time and investments of volunteers and community partners.

www.volyinfo.org • schools@voly.org

Proposals to present accepted Sept. 8 - Oct. 25, 2021 www.TSPRA.org

In a Minute by Tracie Seed TSPRA Communications & Marketing Manager

Tidbits & Trivia

Less common than earthquakes, the moon actually has “moonquakes.” Like humans, koalas actually have unique individual fingerprints. The heart of a shrimp is located in its head. A group of porcupines is called a prickle. Source: womansday.com

National Celebration Days Oct 17 Nat’l Boss’s Day Oct 28 Nat’l First Responders Day Nov American Indian Heritage Month


Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

Nov 11 Veteran’s Day Nov 17 Education Support Professionals Day Nov 18 Substitute Professional Day

Dec 2 Nat’l Special Education Day Dec 8 Nat’l Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day Jan School Board Appreciation Month

Crisis Talking Points In school PR, crisis happens. This section takes a look at sample talking points for various crises scenarios.

FIRE • • • • •

• •

A fire has taken place on the grounds of [school name]. We have evacuated the impacted area. The [agency name] Fire Department will provide more details. At this time, fire officials and law enforcement are investigating the cause of the fire. We cannot and will not speculate on the cause of the fire. Our first concern is for the well-being of our students and staff who were impacted by this terrible event. All [your] County schools have established a fire evacuation plan that contributes to maintaining a safe learning environment for our students. In the wake of this incident, school personnel will be reviewing those plans and continuing our ongoing relationship with law enforcement to ensure we do everything we can to maintain the safety and security of our schools. Each year a comprehensive school safety plan is evaluated and amended, as needed, by a school safety planning committee. To ensure a comprehensive safety plan is properly implemented, schools are required to perform regular safety drills monthly. Go to TSPRA Document Vault, accessible through your member portal, for more talking points & inspiration.

r a m m a Gr Ti me A Trick for Deciding if You Need a Comma Before “So” If you are unsure if you should place a comma before so in the middle of your sentence, try replacing so with “therefore” or “so that.” If your sentence seems to work with a replacement of “therefore” without changing the meaning of the sentence, then so is a coordinating conjunction and should have a comma before it. EXAMPLES: Daniel had the highest score in math in the whole school, so he was made principal for the day. Daniel had the highest score in math in the whole school, therefore he was made principal for the day. The sentence still works, so we know that so is a coordinating conjunction here and is entitled to its comma. So that can be used in a similar way to confirm that so is being used as a subordinating conjunction. EXAMPLES: I went to the store so I could buy tomatoes. I went to the store so that I could buy tomatoes. Because the substitution works, we know that there should be no comma in the sentence. Source: quickanddirtytips.com

TIPS FOR MAKING SMARTPHONE VIDEOS • • • • • WHAT’SAPP? : FiLMiC Pro app is an advanced 4K video recorder made for your smartphone (iOS & Android). It is packed with cutting-edge features to help you make world-class content.

Clean fingerprints and smudges off lens before shooting. Shoot horizontally. Use a tripod whenever possible. Use a Bluetooth microphone, or at least keep the camera within 3 feet of the subject. Set up your shot and be aware of your surroundings, removing anything that might cause a distraction. Take a pause at the beginning and end of filming to allow for cleaner editing.

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Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Getting to know your fellow TSPRAns

Andrew Fernandez

Executive Director of Communications and Community Relations San Marcos CISD

What did you do before this job? Prior to working in San Marcos CISD, I served as the public information officer for Harlandale ISD in San Antonio, Texas for three years. Before my time in Harlandale, I worked for a professional sports team in their communications office as an administrator for the City of Kirby, Texas. What is something TSPRA colleagues need to know about you? My foundation and my motivation are my family and the community of San Marcos. I earned my bachelor’s degree from Texas Lutheran University, and this past August, I earned my master’s degree from Stephen F. Austin University with fellow TSPRA member Tommy Brown! I love sports and when I am not spending time at work or with my family, I enjoy watching my favorite sports teams – the San Antonio Spurs, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Braves and the San Marcos Rattlers. What is something TSPRA colleagues would not expect to know about you? Something TSPRA colleagues would not expect to know about me is that I am a world champion! Prior to entering the school public relations field, I had the pleasure to work for the San Antonio Spurs in the basketball communications department. I worked for the Spurs for three seasons, including their championship season where I earned a 2014 NBA championship ring! What is something on your bucket list? Growing up, I always wanted to visit every MLB stadium and attend a Super Bowl (ideally with the Green Bay Packers).

Truthfully, my bucket list has turned into the bucket list of my family so a trip to Disney is on the to-do list soon.

Shelby DeMuth Akin

Director of Marketing & Communications Pleasant Grove ISD

What did you do before this job? I was a teacher at Pleasant Grove Middle School. I directed a middle school drill team, sponsored the middle school yearbook and taught 8th grade technology. My true love was my middle school drill team for three years! What is something TSPRA colleagues need to know about you? If I am not in my office, I have gone to a campus to interact with our students and staff. I love connecting with our people because that is where our stories are! What is something TSPRA colleagues would not expect to know about you? I am a graduate of the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin (Hook ‘Em!). I started my career in the beauty industry in New York City but quickly realized I wanted to be in education. What is something on your bucket list? I look forward to traveling internationally with my husband, Kyle. We got married shortly before COVID-19, so our international travels have been very limited.


Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

Want to We wa be featured nt to k ? no Email info@t w you! spra.o rg

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Mike Rockwood, Ed.D. Superintendent of Schools Lake Dallas ISD

How long have you been in your new role as superintendent for Lake Dallas ISD?

overall responsibility of the position. As a central office leader, you are part of a team with an advisory role. Whereas the superintendent has the final authority on most I was named the superintendent of Lake Dallas ISD matters. In this regard, it’s always helpful if staff members on July 19, 2021. The first few weeks have been arrive with a recommendation to go along with the issue very fast-paced, but it has been amazing to meet so they’ve found. many people who care about public education in the Lake Dallas ISD community. What do you wish you would’ve known as a DOC now that you are superintendent? What were your considerations when looking at hiring a new DOC? One of the things I worked on during my career was to be engaged in all the work. This means instruction, Communication is critical in today’s world. When operations, finances, board initiatives and so on. I find you look at how much social media and video the best central office administrators are constantly accessibility has grown over the last decade, you trying to figure out all aspects of their organization and can see it will be a huge factor in how society how they can help create systemic efficiencies from their communicates moving forward. I believe now “seat on the bus.” I would encourage all communications more than ever that it is important for a DOC to professionals to engage deeply in curriculum initiatives, as understand this medium and how to leverage it well as community events. If you don’t truly know what is effectively. Strategy, emotional intelligence and happening in your classrooms, you may struggle to convey character are also things I always want to see in a it to your community. strong communications professional. Besides your education, what were some of the What has surprised you most about your new most important lessons you learned throughout your role? communications career? I am not sure if there is much that has surprised me about the superintendency, thanks to my many experiences over the years in multiple school districts. However, the biggest difference is the 14

Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

To communicate well, you first must LISTEN. If you are trying to find better outcomes, reduce conflict, or implement change — first seek to understand, before

seeking to be understood. This sounds easy, but in practice, you really must work at it. In fact, I would venture to say the most influential and respected leaders in your life are all very good at listening. The more you listen, the more you will understand the root cause of issues. This clarity leads to better communication. What are some of the most helpful ways a communications professional can support a superintendent? I encourage you to lead. The superintendent has a global perspective of the organization, which means many issues continually take up his or her time, effort and energy. As a communications professional, are you compliant or committed? Are you simply completing tasks or are you continually looking to improve the actions and activities of your team, department and self? I can promise you; a superintendent would rather slow an employee down, rather than try to speed them up. What are you doing to lead in your role today? Would you say you are committed or compliant? A committed leader isn’t someone with a title — it’s someone who cares. What are your top tips for those new to school communications?

the parents of school-aged children. Share your wisdom but remain wise enough to accept it as well. What is your career advice for those wanting to move up the school communications ladder? If you want to move up the school communications ladder, just show up. Show up to work early. Show up with the right attitude and work ethic. Show up to volunteer on committees. Show up to help others in your organization. One thing I can say with certainty is that you interview every day (both inside and outside of your organization). People are watching you all the time — what do you want them to see? Anything else you want to add? Take time out for yourself to unplug and recharge. I know you hear this all the time, but I can promise you the good work of educating and raising our youth will never end. You cannot fill from an empty cup, nor should you feel guilty for work-life balance. Be committed at work but also be committed to yourself and your family. Your commitment to education is so important — especially in the times we are living in. Keep telling the stories we all need to hear and keep your head up because you are valued and appreciated by many!

Read. The best part about education is that it is a “glasshalf-full” industry that constantly pours into others. If it wasn’t for my various roles in education, I would not have pursued a master’s or a doctoral degree. I am certainly not recommending that path for everyone, but I am recommending that you read! You can gain so much knowledge without an advanced degree — just by reading. If you’re busy (or exhausted) try audiobooks. I hate to admit that I didn’t read a single book in my 20s after college. If I could go back to my “early-career self,” I would encourage myself to read, at minimum, a book a month. After all, leaders are readers! What are your top tips for school communications veterans? I would just encourage our communications veterans to grow those around them. How intentional are you with one-on-one meetings, crucial conversations, annual evaluations, delegation? Don’t bottle up all of that good knowledge! Share it with our leaders of tomorrow. Conversely, I would encourage all communications veterans to step out of their comfort zone and seek ideas from students, TSPRA rookies or tech-savvy individuals. These individuals often bring a fresh and current communications perspective, which directly connects with

In 2021, Dr. Rockwood was named Superintendent of Schools at Lake Dallas ISD. He previously served in numerous roles for both Sheldon ISD and Lamar Consolidated ISD, including executive director, chief of staff and deputy superintendent. As the deputy superintendent in Lamar Consolidated ISD, Dr. Rockwood was responsible for supporting academic, operational and financial initiatives that resulted in an A-rating from the state of Texas. He has also overseen the successful passage of $1.35 billion in bond funds, numerous school rezonings, comprehensive strategic plans and multiple community, teacher and student advisory committees.

Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


The Case for Language Inclusivity in School Communications

by Viviana Killion Senior Director for School-Community and Governmental Relations Galena Park ISD


alking into my kindergarten classroom back in 1985 is a moment I recall vividly. Ms. Estes stood in the doorway to greet my mom and me into the classroom. Her small frame, tidy gray hair and warm smile invoked warmth and kindness. I nervously leaned into her hug, and I remember looking at my mom as if to say, “I think I’m okay, but I’m scared.” `My mother’s tentative smile seemed to convey the same message back, “I think you’re okay, but I’m scared, too.” We couldn’t understand what Ms. Estes was saying because neither one of us spoke or understood English. Spanish had been the only language spoken in our home, and as I walked through the doorway – unable to communicate with my teacher – I was greeted by classmates who couldn’t understand me either. It felt scary and lonely. I don’t regret this experience, as difficult as it might have been at the time. There were few Hispanic families in Crosby, Texas back then, but I was blessed by many kind, loving teachers and administrators throughout my education who embraced my family’s language and cultural differences and found potential in a young Hispanic girl. They found ways to connect with my family, and my mom would offer homemade flour tortillas in return for the kindness they showed us. But I wonder how different my experience might have been if language and culture had been inconsequential. I am part of the communications department in Galena Park Independent School District, which serves an 80 percent Hispanic student population. Our district has been extremely intentional about serving these families equitably for many years. We are fortunate to rely on dedicated translators who devote much of their time to translating curriculum, assessments and communications so our students are served, and families know what is happening in our schools and in our district. Nearly every single communication sent to families has a Spanish counterpart. It is a priority in Galena Park ISD, and the expectation is set by our highest level of leaders – Board of Trustees, Superintendent and Cabinet.


Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

The case for language inclusivity It’s important to be mindful of our efforts to be languageinclusive in our communication departments. We can dismiss our obligation to be inclusive because we think we lack the personnel or access to a skilled translator, but we owe it to the children and families we serve to be diligent in finding a way to make it happen. In Texas, districts have a statutory obligation to implement a family engagement plan for the purpose of supporting student achievement, and research shows undeniable evidence that student success and family engagement are not mutually exclusive. A basic tenet of family engagement is the establishment of trust between school systems and families. Never has the importance of trust been so glaring as it has been in the last year and a half. Our communication efforts have increased exponentially to provide critical information pertaining to cleaning procedures, contact tracing, vaccination opportunities, virtual learning, etc. In providing this information, we establish an unspoken partnership with the families we serve, and we establish trust. However, our efforts to establish trust are in vain if the information we send home is not understood because of language differences. If you can’t relate to the frustration these families might feel, then consider your own frustration knowing the communication you worked hard to craft has served no purpose. We fail to establish trust and we fail our students by depriving them of critical information and resources necessary to be successful when we turn a blind eye to language inclusivity. Purpose & progress over pride & perfection As PR professionals, we put so much pressure on ourselves and our departments to produce a “perfect” work product because we’ve all been on the receiving end of harsh public criticism. It’s part of the job. We rely on this false standard of perfection, believing we can keep negative criticism at bay and protect our PR egos. It’s human nature. Consequently, we avoid tasks or projects that seem overwhelming or beyond our capacity. Making the choice to be a language-inclusive communications department can feel overwhelming. You don’t have the staff, the budget or the time, and you convince yourself that your district is too small or there is no significant need for bilingual communication. You don’t want to fail. But I’d like to offer a word of encouragement and let you off the hook – if you know your purpose, it doesn’t have to be perfect. We are in the business of education to help children, and our children are best served when we focus on purpose and progress over perfection. When our purpose is clear, we become less fearful of failure. When we make the decision to translate one newsletter, we make progress. Eventually, we translate every newsletter and progress

becomes cumulative. Your purpose of being an effective communicator, supporting families, establishing trust and ultimately student success, will be evident and have a lasting impact on the lives of our students and the families we serve.

Practical Tips for Language Inclusivity in Your District Start with one Don’t pressure yourself to translate all communications when you begin to implement a multi-language culture in your department. It’s about progress, so allow yourself to take baby steps. Source a volunteer Is there someone in your building or a parent volunteer who might consider translating a few items occasionally? It doesn’t hurt to ask! Propose a translator position or a stipend If the possibility of adding a full-time position to your department exists, create a thorough proposal to justify the addition of a dedicated translator and always monitor data and metrics. If you can’t get a full-time position, propose a yearly stipend for a staff member you can trust for translation work. Forego perfection What if you go to the trouble of publishing a translated communication and you receive negative feedback for a spelling or grammar error? Don’t allow yourself to be discouraged and remember your purpose. Don’t give up. Use the tools already in your toolbox Do you leverage the software and programs already available to you? See if your mass notification system has an automatic translation feature. Verify that your website provides automatic content translation and know where the “magic button” is so you can help direct parents to the feature. Have you tried Google Translate? The translations aren’t always perfect, but if you have limited access to a knowledgeable translator, a Google translation is better than nothing at all. It's about heart and purpose I love sharing the following video of our superintendent and school board because it’s a great example of a perfectly-imperfect Spanish communication that conveys heart and purpose over perfect Spanish. Check it out! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Y9FOM-uLEY Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


by Andy Welch

EduLege Extra Some of the timely issues that have been addressed in recent editions of EduLege ‘As significant as anything we have ever seen…’ When the coronavirus pandemic first slammed the economy in March of 2020, more than one-million Texans lost jobs seemingly overnight, the state’s unemployment rate nearly quadrupled and thousands of households struggled with housing and food security But a less tangible impact of the pandemic — a steep decline in educational attainment by Texas students — might end up having an even greater, long-term economic consequence, according to Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “This is the largest problem facing the state of Texas — the problem of making sure that our citizenry is educated to take advantage of the opportunities” generated by the economy in the future, Commissioner Morath told a Texas Association of Business policy conference in Austin. Commissioner Morath, who made his comments during a panel discussion on the Texas workforce, said the percentage of 3rd grade students in the state who meet gradelevel proficiency in reading and math has dropped precipitously since the start of the 18

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pandemic. “It is the largest decline in student knowledge in numeracy and literacy that has quite possibly ever occurred in the history of the state of Texas,” the Commissioner said. The drop “in student proficiency in mathematics and literacy is as significant as anything we have ever seen.” Left unchecked, he said, the drop in educational attainment stands to equate to an average six percent reduction in lifetime earnings for all 5.5 million students who are currently enrolled in Texas public schools — for a “net present value” of $2 trillion in forgone income. Harrison Keller, commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, participated in the panel discussion with Mr. Morath and said enrollment at colleges in the state declined significantly over last spring. “It is hard to overstate the impact of the pandemic on our colleges and our universities," Commissioner Keller said. Commissioner Keller said community colleges and regional universities have borne the brunt of the pandemic-related enrollment declines, with male

students, low-income students and minority students the most likely to opt against attending. The drop in admissions could have huge economic repercussions over time, Commissioner Keller said, because there is “an astounding correlation” between unemployment and a lack of post-high school educational attainment. He also said the pandemic-induced economic downturn was “the most inequitable,” in terms of hurting low-skilled workers the most. Better than Congress… Americans' confidence in public education is still greater than that towards the news media and Congress but less than that of small business enterprises, the military, medical professionals and the presidency. These findings, from a June 1 - July 5 poll, are the latest in Gallup's tracking of the public's confidence in a variety of key U.S. institutions, which began in 1973 during the Watergate scandal. Gallup has tracked 14 core institutions since 1993, and the public's confidence in them has remained relatively low — particularly over the past 15 years, when the average has not risen above 36 percent. Before 2006, averages at or above 40 percent were more common. Currently, an average 33 percent of U.S. adults express "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the 14 institutions, marking a three-percentagepoint decline since 2020 and a return to the level seen in 2018 and 2019.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in 2020, it caused great upheaval in most aspects of Americans' lives. Gallup says that it also resulted in an overall improvement in average confidence across the 14 institutions. Gallup says that some of the strongest public confidence was displayed for the U.S. medical system and for public schools. Now, with the worst of the pandemic seemingly over and the intensity of last year’s racial justice protests subsiding, Americans' confidence has again retreated to the more typical levels of recent years. Going Blue… U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has announced that 325 schools across the nation — including 26 in Texas — are National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2021. The prestigious recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or its progress in closing achievement gaps among student groups. The Texas schools that were named National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2021 are: • Zeferino Farias Elementary School, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo School District. • Atlanta Elementary School, Atlanta School District. • Gallegos Elementary School, Brownsville School District. • Mittie A Pullam Elementary School, Brownsville School District. • Christ The King Catholic School, Diocese of Dallas. • Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy, Dallas School District. • Trinidad "Trini" Garza Early College High School, Dallas School District. • Calder Road Elementary School, Dickinson School District. • South Texas Preparatory Academy, Edinburg, South Texas School District. • Clendenin Elementary School, El Paso School District. • Hawkins Elementary School, El Paso School District.

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• Lamar Elementary School, El Paso School District. • Ramona Elementary School, Ysleta School District. • Vista Hills Elementary School, Ysleta School District. • Hidalgo Elementary School, Hidalgo School District. • North Houston Early College High School, Houston School District. • P. Beutel Elementary School, Brazosport School District. • Klondike High School, Klondike School District. • Achieve Early College High School, McAllen School District. • Porter Elementary School, Mesquite School District. • Young Women's Leadership Academy, San Antonio School District. • South Texas Rising Scholars Academy, San Benito, South Texas School District. • Navarro Elementary School, Navarro School District. • Spearman Junior High School, Spearman School District. • Logos Preparatory Academy, Sugar Land. • Valley Mills Elementary School, Valley Mills School District. “I commend all our Blue Ribbon honorees for working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect, and teach our children,” Secretary Cardona said. “Blue Ribbon Schools have so much to offer and can serve as a model for other schools and communities so that we can truly build back better.”

— "a vocal advocate for providing robust funding for public education, and he identified public education as the state’s best economic development tool.” “His leadership and support for pro-publicschool legislation is resolute,” said Alamo Heights Superintendent Dana Bashara in her letter of support.

Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus

Some of Speaker Straus’ key accomplishments that benefit public education include: • Making the Texas school finance system more efficient. • Standing firm against the privatization of Texas public education and vouchers. • Leading the passage of HB 5 in 2013, which established the new Foundation High School Program. • Directing the Texas Education Agency to make significant changes in the monitoring system it was using to determine qualifications for Special Education services. • Refusing to bow to political pressure, which led to defeat of SB 6, the so-called “bathroom bill,” which would have prohibited transgender bathroom use.

Now in its 39th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed approximately 10,000 awards to more than 9,000 schools.

Today, Mr. Straus is chair of the Texas Forever Forward Political Action Committee, and he continues his public service endeavors through service on various boards, community and state organizations.

Mr. Speaker… Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio has been named Key Communicator of the Year by the Texas School Public Relations Association. Mr. Straus, who presided over the Texas House from 2009 until 2019, has been — in the words of TSPRA

Aledo is Outstanding… The Texas Association of School Administrators has named the Aledo Board of Trustees as its 2021 Outstanding School Board — TASA’s top honor for a school board that has demonstrated exceptional commitment to students and the community.


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The presentation was made in Dallas at the Annual Conference hosted by TASA and the Texas Association of School Boards.

commended his collaborative leadership style, unwavering focus on student outcomes and ability to connect with teachers and staff.

The Aledo School Board was chosen from among five finalists that were interviewed by a committee of Texas school administrators. The committee said that it was impressed by the Aledo Board’s heavy emphasis on student learning and academic achievement; its work to earn trust within their community; and its ability to manage change. Dr. Sanchez earned his Bachelor’s degree in English from Angelo State University, his Master’s degree in school administration from Sul Ross State University and Doctorate in educational administration from Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Pictured above: Front (left to right): Aledo Trustees Julie Turner, Jennifer Loftin, and David Lear. Back: Vice-President Jessica Brown; President Hoyt Harris; Superintendent Susan Bohn; Secretary Forrest Collins; and Trustee Jennifer Taylor. Aledo, located west of Fort Worth in Parker and Tarrant Counties, is a fast-growth school district with more than 6,400 students and 700 employees.

The other four finalists for 2021 Outstanding School Board were Duncanville, Hays, Mission and Tomball.

“There’s no superintendent that can do good work without the support of an amazing board,” Superintendent Sanchez said when he received his award in Dallas. Dr. Sanchez was selected for the prestigious award from a group of five state finalists that included Superintendent Courtney Hudgins of East Bernard, Superintendent Mark Estrada of Lockhart, Superintendent Samuel Wyatt of Rankin and Superintendent Jeanette Ball of Judson.

Sanchez is SOTY… H.T. Sanchez of Plainview was also named Superintendent of the Year by the Texas Association of School Boards at the Annual Conference in Dallas. Superintendent Sanchez has led the Plainview School District since May 2018, serving 4,843 students in a Panhandle district that stretches nearly 400 square miles across most of Hale and some of Floyd counties. His educational experience spans two decades as a teacher, coach and principal before becoming a superintendent. In naming Dr. Sanchez as recipient of this year’s award, the 10-member TASB selection committee

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.

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IMPORTANT CONFERENCE DATES • • • • • • • • • • • •

Conference scholarship applications available: Oct. 5, 2021 Conference registration opens: Oct. 4, 2021 Proposals to present: Sept. 8-Oct. 25, 2021 Star Awards entries open: Sept. 20, 2021, noon Deadline to submit entries for Star Awards: Nov. 1, 2021, 11:59 p.m. Nominations for TSPRA professional awards available: Nov. 1, 2021 Conference Planning Committee meeting: Nov. 4, 2021 Deadline to apply for conference scholarship: Nov. 19, 2021 Deadline to submit nominations for professional awards: Dec. 15, 2021 Late fees registration begins: Jan. 24, 2022 No registration refunds begins; substitutions allowed: Jan. 24, 2022 Last day to make hotel reservations at conference rate: Feb. 7, 2022 Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Behind the Scenes


From the outside, it looks like TSPRA’s annual conference goes off without a hitch. In actuality, there are many people taking turns at the helm to make sure your experience at this annually anticipated event is memorable. Proving that not all heroes wear capes, each year at the conference, four loyal TSPRAns step up to the plate to serve as conference day chairs. Here are this year’s volunteers. Be sure to say “howdy” and “thanks y’all” when you see them this year!


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DAY ONE Chair Jenny Bridges Director of Public Relations Waxahachie ISD

How long have you been a TSPRA member? Six years. How many TSPRA conferences have you attended? Six – haven’t missed one yet! Why do you attend the TSPRA conference? I always leave the TSPRA conference feeling re-energized and ready to take on the world! The professional development and networking opportunities are like no other conference, and TSPRAns are the most open, giving group of people you’ll find. What is your favorite part about going to conference? Catching up with my fellow TSPRAns and getting the opportunity to network. I also adore the conference roundtables and always come away having learned a ton! What are you looking forward to as a day chair at this year’s conference? It’s an unbelievable honor to be asked to be a day chair, and I’m looking forward to making this year’s conference a huge success. I can’t wait to see the behind-the-scenes action and work with my fellow TSPRAns to pull this event together!

DAY TWO Chair Jeff Meador Director of Communications, APR Granbury ISD How long have you been a TSPRA member? 2007 – 16th school year How many TSPRA conferences have you attended? 12 Why do you attend the TSPRA conference? Collaboration and teambuilding are important in school PR as we share experiences, best practices and ideas for promoting our districts and public education in general. What is your favorite part about going to conference? Always knowing that I am not in this alone and that my colleagues in other districts can be a great sounding board for questions and issues. What are you looking forward to as a day chair at this year’s conference? I want to help others with the most timely and effective sessions that can provide practical uses to back to our home districts. What is your advice for anyone attending conference? Always find at least one thing that you can take back that makes you more effective in working on behalf of your students, parents, teachers and staff.

Jeff in April 2017 with Roger Staubach when the Granbury ISD technology department won an award from Extreme Networks, which partners with the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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DAY Three Chair Sean Hoffmann Chief Communications Officer Seguin ISD

How long have you been a TSPRA member? 20 years How many TSPRA conferences have you attended? Quite a few. Pick a number greater than 15 but less than 20 and we’re in the ballpark. Why do you attend the TSPRA conference? Professional learning, networking and socializing are the top three reasons. Plus, as members, it’s our obligation to support TSPRA – a valuable organization that does so much to support us. What is your favorite part about going to the conference? I like visiting with all of TSPRAns who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the years. Back in the day, the Star Awards afterparties in the presidential suite used to be pretty special, though! What are you looking forward to as a day chair at this year’s conference? Doing whatever I can to help support a final day (truthfully, a half day) of the 2022 conference. Sean at TSPRA conference ins 2013

What is your advice for anyone attending the conference? Turn off your phone (yeah, right!), go to sessions, meet new friends, nurture past relationships and plan how you can help to enhance TSPRA’s future.

DAY FOUR Chair How long have you been a TSPRA member? 5 years How many TSPRA conferences have you attended? 5 Why do you attend the TSPRA conference? To learn from our amazing colleagues and to find new resources to better serve our school district. What is your favorite part about going to conference? My favorite part about attending is seeing everyone from across the state. What are you looking forward to as a day chair at this year’s conference? I love supporting everyone and being a resource for others and new members to TSPRA. What is your advice for anyone attending conference? Take notes and be open minded! You’ll never know what information you will need.


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Chelsea Ceballos Communications Publications Specialist Klein ISD

Your #TSPRA22 onference ocation

Round Rock, TX

In addition to attending a stellar conference, get ready to have the time of your life in this Africa-themed hotel and convention center. During your downtime, enjoy 11 dining options, an indoor waterpark, live music, bowling, a spa, a fitness center, indoor swim-up bars and more! www.kalahariresorts.com/texas/


www.tspra.org/conference-professional-development/annual-conference2022 Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Preconference 2022 Each year, conference attendees gather on the Monday prior to the week’s kick-off to enjoy some indepth, intensive learning from industry experts and professionals. This special day has quickly become a must-do for conference goers, and this year is no exception. It only costs $100 and is worth every penny. Check out these powerful topics for this year’s conference and join us to take your professional development to the next level.

It Takes A PRo: Putting APR in YOUR Professional Portfolio

Danielle Clark, APR, Harris County Department of Education, and other TSPRA APRs School PR is tough. Come find out how getting your APR can put your career and daily job tasks on a path you never imagined! Affectionately referred to as #It takes A PRo, getting your APR is an investment in yourself, your career and your future. Don’t let another year pass without adding this prestigious credential to your professional portfolio. This session will provide you with a roadmap to earning your APR and hook you up with a mentor to support you through the process. You will get insight into the APR process, see how it will change the entire way your approach your job and meet with an APR mentor to get a jump start on the process with your portfolio project. Danielle Clark is the Chief Communications Officer for the Harris County Department of Education in Houston. In this capacity she oversees all internal and external communications, strategy, public relations, media relations, video production, social media, marketing and website content management as well as IT network, software and customer support for all systems. Clark has 22 years of experience in school communications in urban, suburban, rural school districts as well as an education service agency setting. She has a background in journalism and advertising and is an active member of the National School Public Relations Association. During her 22 years, Danielle has held leadership roles in three state SPRA chapters and was named one of four NSPRA front-runners in the country in 2017. Danielle earned her APR in 2017. 28

Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

Finding the Time - How to Manage Social Media in Under One Hour Per Day Andrea Gribble, #SocialSchool4EDU

Struggling to make time for social media? Andrea will share tools, tactics and boundary-saving tips to help you make a bigger impact, while also saving you a ton of time. We’ll even spend time taking action – to help save time once you get back to the office! Gribble’s passion is helping schools recognize their daily awesomeness and sharing that story with the world. She’s built a team that celebrates hundreds of schools across the country! #SocialSchool4EDU provides full social media management, offers an intensive Social Media Bootcamp, and runs a vibrant online community that provides ongoing professional development for school social media champions. “I love the TSPRA event! It’s a chance to surround myself with the BEST school communicators across the state of Texas. I learn as much in the casual conversations with attendees as I do in the sessions. You make everyone feel so welcome and I can’t wait to reconnect in 2022 with an even bigger group!” Gribble says.

Rookie Boot Camp

Kim Hocott, Executive Director of Communications Department Pearland ISD Every school PR professional needs tools to help navigate school communications. TSPRA Rookie Boot Camp will provide you with some basic tools, tips and techniques to finding your way through the day-to-day adventures we all face. Get to know your fellow rookies and meet some veterans who will help maximize your TSPRA experience. Hocott has been in school PR in Pearland ISD since 2008, serving as the Executive Director of Communications for the district since 2012. Prior to joining the Pearland ISD Communications Department, Kim taught journalism, photojournalism, broadcast journalism and graphic design for 14 years in another district. Kim serves on the TSPRA Executive Committee as the Houston-Beaumont Region Vice President and previously served as TSPRA Parliamentarian. Kim and her team have earned numerous TSPRA Star Awards, Best of Categories and a Crystal Commendation. Kim holds a MA in communications and a BA in English. “I love the relationships and friendships I've built with other school PR professionals from all over the state through being a part TSPRA. It's awesome to have so many go-to people who understand what you do and can offer advice or feedback on ideas. Strong relationships are the foundation of any organization and TSPRA makes it easy to connect with others who just ‘get you,’” says Hocott. Continued on Page 30 Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


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The Building Blocks of a Successful Bond Program

Amy Jones, Jessica Bazan, O’Connell Robertson Architects A successful bond election requires a strong foundation. As communication leaders for your district, understanding the required building blocks to support this effort is essential. This workshop will provide information on facility issues that prompt a building program, planning and design terminology, how facilities impact educational instruction, project team members and roles and strategies for stakeholder engagement and communications.

Amy Jones With 23 years in the A/E industry, Amy’s focus is on client relations, strategic partnerships and community engagement while overseeing the implementation of the Firm’s mission and vision. She is actively engaged in regional education initiatives. For more than 25 years, she has been engaged in school public relations in Texas and leads the stakeholder involvement and communications processes for the Firm’s bond planning services. Jessica Bazan Bringing over 10 years of experience in marketing and communications in the architecture, engineering and construction industry, Jessica provides strategic messaging and graphic design support for bond communication campaigns. Jessica’s knowledge of social media and virtual presentation platforms supports community engagement and public relations for bond programs and client events.


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Mastering the Visual Code (EMP)

Julie Jones, Director of the National Photographer's Association News Video Workshop Telling a compelling video story is dependent on knowing a hidden visual language that has been with us since early cinema days. The language is ‘hidden’ because it is a visual code embedded in every TV show, every video message and every movie you have ever watched. Although it is ever present, this visual code is easy to overlook simply because it is visual. Julie Jones, director of the National Photographers Association’s (NPPA) News Video Workshop, will introduce you to this language and show you how to harness it so you can build better stories from the concept all the way through to the last edit. Julie Jones is an associate professor at Gaylord College, a co-founder of OUStormCrowd, national chair for the National Press Photographers Association News Video Workshop, and, in 2012, was one of ten professors nationwide named as Kappa Alpha Theta’s Outstanding Faculty. Jones earned her doctorate at University of Minnesota in 2010. A former television photojournalist and producer, Jones brings a wealth of professional experiences to her academic work. Her research is focused on the participatory nature of online news and visual platforms. Her work has been published in New Media and Society, ACM publications, PBS MediaShift and she is an active member of AEJMC’s Communication Technology division. “I love TSPRA for its community. This is a group of people dedicated to improving their skills to serve their school districts better. And they really like coming to be together in their pursuit,” says Jones.

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Listening and Change Management: Better Engagement with Diverse and Minoritized Audiences Jacqueline Lambiase, PhD, CPC, TCU

Using change management principles and better listening strategies, how might your district improve its engagement with all audiences, especially with people who may be underrepresented in decision-making spaces? In this interactive session, we’ll inventory your district’s listening architecture and create new pathways for communication through old and new channels. How might you build listening ambassadors inside your district, and how might you welcome new ideas and change along the way, as you begin to hear more about your stakeholders’ needs? How do you use change management systems to spark new programming, activities and community engagement in new ways? Dr. Jacque Lambiase is a professor and chair of the Department of Strategic Communication in the Bob Schieffer College of Communication, where she teaches campaigns, senior seminar, diversity, writing, research, ethics, case studies and advocacy. For more than 15 years, she has consulted with or spoken to diverse groups about earning their share of discussion in social media and public relations opportunities, including TAMIO, 3CMA, NACIO, TSPRA, the Texas Municipal League, the Texas City Management Association, the Dallas Regional Chamber, communicators with the City of Austin, managers for the cities of Abilene and San Angelo, Children’s Medical Center-Dallas, the American Heart Association, Texas Instruments and the U.S. Department of Labor. She is a co-founder and organizer of the DFW/TCU Nonprofit Communicators Conference, now in its 12th year. Her research focuses on public-sector communication, public relations ethics, social media and representations of gender and sexuality in media and marketing. She has co-authored and co-edited two scholarly collections, as well as published more than 30 book chapters and refereed journal articles. Before her life as an academic, she served as spokeswoman for an East Coast electric utility and worked as a wire editor, business reporter and news editor for daily newspapers in Texas.


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Get Your Google On! Measurement (Analytics) Intensive Workshop Fran Stephenson, APR and Principal of Step In Communication

It’s time to take your measurement and analytics skills to the next level. If you’re not already harnessing the power of Google Analytics (GA) to evaluate and enlighten your communications footprint, then this workshop is for you. In this 3-hour, hands-on workshop you will learn: • The types of data you can see using Google Analytics and how communicators can use that data • How to navigate the default reports in GA and what they mean for communicators • Where your web traffic is coming from – social media, newsletters, search engines or referrals and why it’s important to see those sources • How to set up custom and recurring reports and how to share them with leadership • How to set up a basic dashboard to report on and share what you’re seeing in GA • What the future outlook of measurement is using GA. Requirements: Your personal computer, access to your organizations’ Google Analytics environment. ***This workshop will include a one hour Zoom presentation in advance of the TSPRA conference, to make sure that all registrants are prepped and ready to take full advantage of the interactive elements of the workshop. Fran Stephenson, APR, is principal of Step In Communication, a virtual boutique agency she has managed for more than ten years. She and her team specialize in strategic planning, social media management, influencer marketing, measurement and crisis communications. Previous clients include Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, Visit Plano, Galveston Convention and Visitors Bureau, SQH Sports, Northside Independent School District, Texas Travel Industry Association, Texas MedClinic, Visit South Padre Island, San Antonio Sports and ChildSafe. Current clients include Visit San Antonio, The Tennessee Department of Transportation, PMG Tastings, Barbara Greene & Associates and the New Braunfels Convention and Visitors Bureau. Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Career & Technology … Preparing for the Future by Sally Andrews Director of Community Relations Vidor ISD

Students in welding created these planters and them for a local nursing


tep into the Career and Technology Education building … or any building at Vidor High School where CTE courses are held … and you will see something that is definitely not your traditional classroom setting. Students may be measuring blood pressures or learning to listen for pulses in nursing class; absorbing skills on how to make an arrest, handcuff a perpetrator or make a traffic stop; or they may be testing chemicals in a pharmacy tech class. Construction Trades students may be building fire boards for homecoming, creating a table or a clock case or crafting a hope chest for display in a SkillsUSA competition. Future Farmers of America youth might be working with animals or learning to judge dairy or livestock. Cosmetology students may be cutting or coloring hair or giving a manicure, and business courses are sure to be learning a variety of computer applications. Why? To prepare students for the future, including the workplace. CTE Director Penny Singleton says, “Probably at least 40 percent of the students in CTE courses go straight into the workforce. Some have tested to be food handlers, while others have passed an auto repair test or earned their Certified Nurse’s Aide designation. We have had students get a Cosmetology license then work doing hair while getting a college degree in something totally different. We send kids out of here with skills that can last a lifetime.” Singleton, who was recently named Career and Technology Education Director of the Year for the State of Texas, has been doing this for a long time … almost 20 years now. “I love what I do


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and I love watching the students move into careers because of what they learned here.” Students may learn animation or child development, interior design or culinary arts. They can take a medical terminology course or horticulture. There is a wide array of business courses offered. Veterinary Medicine Applications and Animal Sciences are popular choices for those going into such fields. Teacher Tiffany Sanchez says, “I believe that not all students are college-ready by the time they leave high school. It is not the fault of the students, nor the teachers; they are just not able to make it in college. The CTE program allows students to incorporate hands-on training to prepare for life after high school. Many students graduate from high school certified in a trade that will allow them to go straight into the industry. I teach four different courses: Principles of Law, Law Enforcement 1, Law Enforcement 2 and Correctional Services. By the time my students graduate, they should have received five different FEMA certifications and be CPR trained. They should also understand how the court systems are run, basic law enforcement techniques such as handcuffing, arresting, traffic stops and basic jailer (corrections) techniques like fingerprinting, booking in an inmate and cell searching. By learning these techniques, my students should have an easier transition into the law, public safety, corrections and security career pathways. I believe the Director of CTE, Penny Singleton, has great knowledge of the needs of our students and their futures. She is always encouraging our department to expand and enhance opportunities for our students by reaching out to professionals in the

d FFA students planted



field to come speak to our classes so the students can explore different paths in our areas.” Suzette Ross has been teaching in the CTE department for quite a while. She adds, “I like working in the CTE department because I wake up each day knowing that the hard and soft skills that I have acquired over my years of working in both profit and non-profit businesses can now be passed on to my students to assist them in their years to come. I teach Business Information Management, Principles of IT and Career Prep (Work-Study). Mrs. Singleton has many contacts throughout the Workforce Commission and local colleges so I am able to coordinate knowledgeable guest speakers to visit my classes.

Certified Nurses' Aide training

to go onto college and become teachers and coaches. These classes have also been eye-openers for some. They saw that teaching was a lot of work and said they were fortunate to discover early in their education career that teaching was not for them. In my PHS class, students learn about everyday, reallife skills. I call it the Sampler Platter Class. They get a little bit of most of our Family and Consumer Science classes. They’ll learn about nutrition, how to prepare a dish or two, cooking terminology, financial responsibility such as how to write a check, credit and how to build it, interior design, some child development and even a little hand sewing in order to repair clothing. Moms will be glad to know they’ll learn how to operate the washer and dryer as well.”

The knowledge and skills that my students walk away with will assist them as they continue through their years as a student and as they approach life after high school. They acquire computer skills in both Microsoft Suite and Google products, learn interview and job search techniques, as well as various college and career readiness insight. Certification in Computer Technology or Career Safety is also available to provide proof of their abilities and enhance the students’ resumes.”

Upon completing course work, students may test in NCCER (construction), CNA (nurses’ aide), Cosmetology, AWS (welding), ASE (auto service), culinary, pharmacy tech and even as a FEMA Emergency Manager. Competitions include SkillsUSA, Wildlife Management, rice and dairy judging and the culinary arts students participate in the Texas Barbecue Cookoff for Students. CTE students also compete in UIL Accounting and Computer Applications, as well as many Criminal Justice competitions.

Leslie Sparks teaches Ready, Set, Teach 1 and 2 (Instructional Practices in Education and Training & Practicum In Education and Training) and Principles of Human Services (PHS).

Offering courses to build lifelong skills shines a spotlight among many other opportunities at Vidor High School. Students who do not plan to attend a two-year or fouryear college are excited about the chance to learn a skill that can provide not only a living but a career to love and enjoy.

She says, “I love that RST gives students the opportunity to see what being a teacher entails. I’ve had several students go through the program

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Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

FESTIVALS Big Benefits for Kids


By Veronica Castillon Executive Director of Communications Laredo ISD

exas is a big state with 268,5977 square miles and a diverse 29.1 million residents. With a unique blend of people and contrasting geographical regions, Texas is home to many annual festivals offering several opportunities for school children to participate in parades, pageants, concerts and competitions.

My family’s photo albums are filled with snapshots of my sisters and me marching in our annual Washington’s Birthday Celebration in Laredo as a tribute to our nation’s first president. The city is festooned in red, white and blue for the month-long celebration that draws hundreds of visitors from throughout the state and northern Mexico. I remember twirling my baton in the Buccaneer Days Parade in Corpus Christi and dancing my way down Broadway Street in San Antonio during their Fiesta Flambeau Parade. I’ve also enjoyed plenty of German food and polkas at the Wurstfest in New Braunfels. What fun we’ve had seeing how people in other communities gathered with so much enthusiasm and excitement! Community festivals provide a prominent stage for our youngsters to shine and show off their beaming smiles, marching skills, musical talents, dancing abilities and so much more. Hours of practice and rehearsals result in applause from an appreciative audience while students learn discipline, responsibility and leadership skills. With nearly 30 years of experience in music education, Bobby Castro is the band director at Martin High School, the oldest high school in Laredo, Texas. The MHS Band is one of the most popular entries in the city’s annual Washington’s Birthday parade with decades of proud alumni standing up to clap along as the musicians play the school’s fight song. “The Tiger Band has enjoyed a long tradition of marching in the parade,” Castro said. “We are always ready to perform. We believe that the more the students play, the more they learn about the history of their hometown. Their sense of belonging increases and we take pride in instilling this in our students.” Festivals also provide avenues for fundraising and accumulating community service hours. High school students contribute their time and talents building and decorating colorful floats for the parade. Some festival organizers sign up teens to keep fairgrounds clean, take tickets at the gate and sell souvenirs. I’ve seen school Booster Clubs selling choice seats along parade routes while kids sold snacks and chilled bottled water. ROTC cadets are signed up to serve as ushers, color guards and, of course, display their military drill proficiencies. Many non-profit organizations use these events to raise funds for scholarships. In San Antonio, candidates for El Rey Feo raise funds, and whoever raises the most money is declared next year’s Rey Feo. Each candidate must raise a minimum of $250,000 to qualify for the title. More than 60 high schools participate in the scholarships annually, and most of the actual recipients are first-generation college-bound students from low-income, single-parent homes. Boys and girls will treasure these memories and remember the significance of the occasion. More importantly, festivals and annual celebrations help children learn traditions and cultural beliefs and develop respect and understanding for each other’s customs. Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org 37

Tips for Photographing School Events by Cissa Madero Communications Specialist Pearland ISD Arrive early. You’ll have a chance to chat with the staff involved with the planning to learn important details about the event. This helps you identify prime spots to position yourself. Think: parade route, who enters/exits from what side of the stage, etc. Bring your “FERPA NO” list. This allows you to identify, with the assistance of school staff at the event, who you can and can’t photograph. Less time identifying names after the event equals quicker turnaround for sharing/posting and no wasting of amazing photos that end up with students who can’t be photographed. Get a copy of the program and keep it in your back pocket. You’ll be able to identify the best moments to move from one spot to another, allowing you to create visual variety in your photos. Watch the details and try to “anticipate” what is about to happen. When you pay close attention, you learn when a speaker tends to smile as they’re addressing the crowd; you learn that the dancer spins in repetition to a certain beat of the music; you see that the student in the back row of the stage is having a great time with his friend next to him. Better timing, better photos. Focus on getting a good mix of posed and candid photos. Imagine having to select your 10 best shots and they all look the same ... nothing but podium speeches and groups of people looking at the camera smiling. Great shots go way beyond that: photograph the audience’s reaction, sit on the floor, use the stage décor to create an interesting layer in your foreground, take detailed shots of costumes, capture hugs, handshaking, someone screaming in excitement! Don’t be shy and be quick on your feet. Even though you are not the one who will be photographed, put a smile on your face (mask or no mask) and approach people. Ask to take their photo, get a little closer to capture a candid moment, move around and try to cover much as possible. HAVE FUN! Cliché? Maybe. But when you are having fun, or when you are moved by any emotion at all, your photos come to life. Bored photographer … boring photos. And no one likes either of those.


Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Sweet Homecoming Krum ISD celebrates this Texas tradition in a big way. by Taylor Poston Public Information Officer Krum ISD


very Texan knows the age-old saying, “Everything is bigger in Texas,” and when it comes to Homecoming, that is especially true for the small town of Krum, Texas.

With just over 5,000 residents living within the city limits, Krum is a small community located northwest of the city of Denton in Denton County. With more than 2,200 students, Krum Independent School District has five campuses, one of which is the high school. I first started working with the district in the 2018-19 school year. 2018 was not my first Texas Homecoming, but it was my first Krum Homecoming, and it was very different from what I experienced in my high school years a decade ago. Sure, we had the pep rally, the homecoming carnival and the homecoming game, but it was usually just us high school kids (and our parents) who went to those events. The only sign that it was Homecoming to the people that lived around my high school was the sight and sound of Homecoming mums or nicely dressed teenagers at dinner before the dance. That whole experience was changed for me forever in the fall of 2018. A young football community, Krum has only had football Homecoming for the last 10 years. Before that, it was during basketball season. However, the youth of their Homecoming traditions only adds to the amazing turnout of school spirit that this event sees each year. People are not participating in these traditions because they’re expected to; they participate because they truly want to.


Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

Homecoming in Krum is almost an indescribable experience. The amount of school spirit increases so much, I almost wonder if they put something in the well water we’re all drinking. Each year there’s a theme, of course, and this year’s theme was Home Sweet Homecoming (think Candyland). This year, each of our five campuses, from the littles in PreK to the seniors who are “too cool for school” participated in the same dress-up spirit days all week long. No matter what campus you went to on Monday, teachers and students of all ages were wearing their pajamas since they just Rolo-ed Out of Bed! Wednesday saw the countless families line our Bobcat Boulevard to watch our Homecoming parade drive down the road and toss candy to the onlookers. With over 30 floats in this small town’s parade, every organization from the city’s youth sports teams, local businesses and, of course, the high school athletes were represented. Thursday had us not just seeing double, but also triple and quadruple as groups of students and teachers dressed alike for Twix Day. Each year, Friday is when Krum Homecoming really hits its stride with some meaningful traditions. The day starts early for the KHS Bobcats Varsity Football team, and it’s not on the field. It’s not in the field house watching tapes either. Early game-day morning, we see our athletes at one of our elementary campuses greeting the younger students as they arrive at school. The students are always so excited to see the players in their Bobcat Blue jerseys open doors for them, join them for breakfast and create a high five line as they walk to their classes. The fifth graders try their best to make each high five as powerful as possible, and you can hear the teachers coming behind them shouting “Gentle! It’s game day! They need those hands!” The players end the morning at the campus with a beloved tradition in Krum – Athletes for Literacy. Each classroom has a few football players sit down with the students and read them a story to help promote a love of reading and academics, showcasing that even to these athletes on a big game day, school matters. This year, we saw the well-known enormous and gorgeous Homecoming mums worn by our Krum High School students, but we also saw mums at the elementary schools where our younger students wanted in on the tradition that is so uniquely Texas. Even baby brothers and sisters sport their spirit in the form of a mum or garter. The mums don’t just showcase school colors and school spirit, but also the individual personality of each student wearing one. Everyone has a smile on their face as they show off their mum and exchange oohs and ahs with each other as they admire one another’s creations. The pep rally? Unbelievable. Per tradition, the students of Krum Middle School walk the .3 miles down our private road to the high school to join in on the fun. There are

TONS of games for the students and the staff. KHS even has a faculty Homecoming court where the student body votes on faculty member representatives for each grade level to become the Faculty Court’s King and Queen. Our staff takes it very seriously, with posters lining the halls all week encouraging voting. This year, the theater teacher was nominated, and she came dressed for success in accordance with the theme in a cotton candy pink, yellow and white ball gown costume. She ended up winning queen, making the ensemble even more perfect. Like every good pep rally, we closed things out with a spirit stick competition that was so loud my eardrums were shaking. And no, that’s not an exaggeration for effect. During Homecoming, everywhere in Krum on Friday, people are either wearing their Bobcat Blue or their Home Sweet Homecoming shirt to show that they are ready to cheer on the Bobcats! When game time rolls around, the bleachers are so packed that spectators line the fences to try and see if the Bobcats will secure the victory. This year they did. Go Bobcats! Of course, no Homecoming would be complete without the crowning of the Homecoming King and Queen. The entire court is presented during halftime, escorted down the 50-yard line by their loved ones as the Krum High School Marching Band plays beautiful background music to accompany their introductions. When the time to crown the Homecoming King and Queen has come, last year’s king and queen, who have come home from their adventures in college for the occasion, take their crown and sash and place it onto the new Homecoming Royalty. Everything may be bigger in Texas, but Homecoming is the biggest in Krum.

Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


El Día de Los Muertos by Dr. Jeannie Meza-Chavez Superintendent of Schools San Elizario ISD


tudents, teachers and staff are returning to school with untreated social and emotional complications. They are emerging from a year and a half of lockdowns, battles over mask-on or mask-off and the overwhelming loss of loved ones physically gone forever. For many, the loss is still very raw regardless of how long it has been since the death of a loved one. The Día de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a traditional celebration to honor the lives of ancestors. The Arts and Culture Google page indicates that the Día de Los Muertos is a celebration by the “people in Mexico and Central America and for Mexican Americans in the United States.” In addition, movie director Lee Unkrich captures the essence of the Día de Los Muertos in Coco, a Pixar Animation Studios movie released by Walt Disney Pictures in 2017. Vibrant artistry, deep tradition and an unwavering ceremony are celebrated yearly in preparation for the Nov. 2 Día de Los Muertos Celebration. Getting ready for the Día de Los Muertos begins with the set-up of an altar. Altars for the Día de Los Muertos can be composed of one picture or several pictures of loved ones who have passed. Artistic sugar skulls help decorate the altar along with marigold flowers and lit candles. Perforated paper with decorative designs known as “papel picado” also help enhance the look of the altar. 42

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One can begin to capture the personality of the individual being honored by adding the individual’s favorite music playing in the background and adding the preferred foods and objects of the deceased loved one. Many also add water and “pan de muerto,” known as Day of the Dead Bread. In the San Elizario Independent School District (SEISD), traditional celebrations like the Día de Los Muertos are passed on and kept generationally authentic through the passionate teaching of Mrs. Cynthia Villareal. Through her education, generations of Ann M. Garcia Enriquez Middle School students have learned about the artistry and fanfare of the Día de Los Muertos Celebration. Ms. Villareal has been a Spanish teacher with the SEISD for all 14 years she has served in education. For Villareal, the most challenging part of teaching students about the Día de Los Muertos Celebration is explaining the learning challenges and cultural characteristics. She states, “Día de Los Muertos is a lesson taught with respect.” The celebration ultimately brings families together when students and parents engage in the beautiful aspects of the celebration. The Día de Los Students follow different methods in narrowing down the individual(s) they will honor with an altar for the celebration. For students, “The assignment is to research the person they wish to honor and write a bibliography to share with the class; the hope is for them to get to know the person on a deeper level and to acknowledge their time with us,” states Villareal. In this way, the altar begins to take form because it honors someone who has passed away. Many times, the students admire the person being honored. The culmination of the assignment is the presentation of research findings that become a part of the commemorative altar and celebration.

Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a traditional celebration to honor the lives of ancestors.

The Día de Los Muertos Celebration in SEISD takes on a different form as the altars are created individually by students or by a team of students. In the first week of the lesson, students learn about the altar and how Spanish-speaking countries celebrate the Día de Los Muertos. In the second week of the study, students apply what they have learned about altars and transfer that knowledge to the altars they begin to construct. Ms. Villareal engages many individuals through this celebration. She has students present their altars with individual judges scoring a set criterion as they submit their respective altar information. The culmination of the Día de Los Muertos Celebration extends to involve parents. Many parents engage by assisting with decorations, the construction of the altar, the creation of flowers and the preparation of authentic Mexican food to be placed on the altars. Some favorite foods are mole, a sauce made of dried chile and spices layered or mixed into the chicken. The chile Colorado (“chile colored red”) is chopped-up pieces of beef with red chile. A favorite is enchiladas, which are rolled corn tortillas stuffed with cheese dipped in red chili sauce. Flautas are also a regular favorite because they are tightly rolled corn tortillas stuffed with meat. Tacos, corn tortillas folded in half and filled with different ingredients such as potatoes or beef, are also popular. Such a celebration enables the overwhelming loss of a loved one to be remembered and honored. Villareal states, “During these difficult times, I believe it’s most needed.” The Día de Los Muertos Celebration is necessary when the magnitude of the loss from the last year and a half is taking a toll. To honor and celebrate the life of a loved one is a heritage lesson that serves to nurture the resilient students we want to succeed in life. Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org




A roundup of some of the most interesting facts about upcoming holiday celebrations

by Tracie Seed TSPRA Communications & Marketing Manager


rom gregarious dinner parties, jovial toasts and delectable treats, this time of the year is chockfull of opportunities for celebrations. But do you know all there is to know about these festive occasions? How long have we celebrated the new year? Where did Santa get his name? What is the origin of Kwanzaa? And more! Here are some fun facts and history behind some of our most beloved holidays.

door-to-door on All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2) to earn food by praying for the residents’ deceased loved ones. It is also believed to be inspired by “mumming,” a tradition steeped in the Middle Ages where people dressed as ghosts and demons and went door-to-door to perform songs and short plays in exchange for food and drink. The top three most popular Halloween candies in 2020 were Skittles, Reese Peanut Butter Cup and Starburst (the number one in Texas).

Halloween, Oct. 31, 2021

Día de los Muertos, Nov.1-2, 2021

The origins of Halloween date back 2,000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated on Oct. 31, the eve of their new year. The Celts believed that the dead returned to earth that night, and so they lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off evil.

Even though it falls near Halloween, Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is not related to it. It is a Mexican holiday, with roots in indigenous Aztec culture, that involves people gathering to pray for, joyfully remember and honor the lives of friends and family members who have died.

In the mid-1800s, Irish immigrants fled from the potato famine in Ireland to the United States and brought one of their myths with them. The name jack-o'-lantern is rooted in an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack who fooled the devil and was then forced to walk the earth with a single lump of burning coal in a hollowed-out turnip to light his way. The Irish began to call him “Jack of the Lantern” and then just “Jack o’ Lantern.”

Families prepare for their loved ones' arrival weeks in advance by creating ofrendas (altars) that are adorned with photos, mementos, food and flowers, especially marigolds. The bright flower’s strong scent attracts spirits back to their living relatives' homes.

“Halloween” is short for “Hallows’ Eve” or “Hallows’ Evening,” which was the evening before All Hallows’ Day, also known as All Saints’ Day on November 1. All Saints’ Day was a Christian celebration of all the saints, known and unknown. Trick-or-treating was inspired by the medieval English tradition of "souling," which involved children going

Colorful tissue paper with intricate cutouts is hung up to decorate celebrations. The thin paper represents the delicate nature of life, and the perforations allow for souls to pass through for their visit. The calavera (or skull) is a central image of Día de los Muertos, so one key element of every celebration is the sugar skull. These decorative candies are placed on the ofrenda as an offering to the dead and are given out as treats. One of the most popular symbols of this celebration Continued on Page 46 Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Continued from Page 45 is a tall female skeleton wearing a fancy hat with feathers named La Calavera Catrina, which originated from a 1913 etching by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada. Catrina is a core part of any Día de Muertos celebration and is honored in costumes, makeup and other festive imagery.

Hanukkah, Nov. 28 – Dec. 6, 2021

Thanksgiving, Nov. 25, 2021

Hanukkah commemorates the triumph of a band of rebel Jews known as the Maccabees in reclaiming their temple from the Greek-Syrians. Normally, it occurs between late November and December, but the dates change every year as it is based on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar.

There isn't clear historical information on the actual date of the first Thanksgiving. President Lincoln assigned the holiday to fall on the last Thursday in November, possibly to coincide with the date the Pilgrims first landed the Mayflower in New England, which is believed to have occurred around Nov. 21, 1620.

During the holiday’s origin, the temple required a holy light to burn inside at all times, but the Jews had only enough oil for one night. Miraculously, the light burned for eight days. Hanukkah foods such as latkes (potato cakes), sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) and apple fritters are fried as a symbol of the miracle.

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up one week to allow more time for shopping before Christmas. Congress officially moved Thanksgiving back to the fourth Thursday of November in 1941, where it has remained ever since.

A Menorah is a candelabra with nine candles. Eight candles symbolize the number of days that the Temple’s lantern blazed; the ninth, the shamash, is a candle used to light the others. Each night, a new candle is added to the menorah, plus a new shamash, and burned all the way through, so during Hanukkah, 44 candles are used.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 over a three-day harvest festival. It included 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians. Many historians believe that only five women were present. Turkey wasn’t on the menu at the first Thanksgiving. Venison, duck, goose, oysters, lobster, eel and fish were likely served, alongside pumpkins and cranberries. Sarah Hale is known as the "Mother of Thanksgiving" because, at a time when the holiday was only celebrated in the Northeast, she spent four decades campaigning for a national day of thanks. In 1863, she finally persuaded thenPresident Abraham Lincoln, who proclaimed the holiday a nationwide celebration on Oct. 3, 1863. Hale is also known for penning the childhood favorite “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and publishing it in May 1830. 46

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A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top, played during the holiday. The Hebrew letters inscribed on a dreidel are a Nun, Gimel, Hey or Chai, and Shin. The letters form an acronym for the Hebrew saying” Nes Gadol Hayah Sham,” which means "a great miracle happened there.” The Greek-Syrians outlawed Jewish studies, so the Jews spun dreidels to pretend they were merely playing games while they engaged with their scripture. The word "Hanukkah" comes from the Hebrew word "Hinuch," or "to teach." Jews follow a tradition of incentivizing their children to learn Torah on this holiday by gifting them gelt, golden-wrapped chocolates that resemble coins. Gelt can also be won in a game of Dreidel.

Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, it’s believed he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, Dec. 6. St. Nicholas made his way into American popular culture towards the end of the 18th century when in December 1773 and 1774, groups of Dutch families gathered to honor the anniversary of his death. The name Santa Claus evolved from his Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas).

Christmas, Dec. 25, 2021 Although Christmas is a very holy Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, many secular traditions are based on ancient celebrations surrounding the winter solstice, which begins on Dec. 21. Historians also point to a Roman holiday that celebrated the birth of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on Dec.25. It is commonly believed that the church chose Dec. 25 for Christmas in an effort to absorb the traditions of the pagan festivals. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. The three traditional colors of most Christmas decorations are red, green and gold. Red symbolizes the blood of Christ, green symbolized life and rebirth and gold represents light, royalty and wealth. Ancient people hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows just as people today. The ancients believed that evergreens would keep witches, ghosts, evil spirits and illness away. Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought and decorated trees in their homes. While kids today leave out milk and cookies for Santa, Norse children left hay and treats for their god Odin and his eight-legged horse Sleipnir, hoping for a visit during their hunting adventures. Dutch children adopted this same tradition, leaving food in their wooden shoes for St. Nicholas’ horse. The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas, who was born around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day

Boxing Day, Dec. 25, 2021 Historians question the origins of Boxing Day. Many believe the name originated from the British church’s practice of opening alms boxes the day after Christmas and distributing money to the poor. Others believe the "box" refers to the boxes of gifts wealthy British employers gave to their servants. Servants were often required to work on Christmas Day but given Dec. 26th off to celebrate. Boxing Day is celebrated all over the world. To name a few countries that celebrate this special day are: Africa, Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Greenland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Boxing Day traditions depend mainly on the location; however, it typically includes shopping and giving money and gifts to the less fortunate. It is also a day to watch sporting events like horse racing, rugby and soccer. Some countries have turned Boxing Day into a huge shopping day, similar to Black Friday, with steep markdowns and sales. In some Canadian provinces, Boxing Day is an official holiday. Continued on Page 48 Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Continued from Page 47 During the age of exploration, a Christmas Box would be placed on a ship for good luck. A priest would often place it there, and crewmen would drop money in it to ensure a safe return. If the ship returned safely, the priest would take the box and distribute the contents to the poor.

New Year’s Eve | New Year’s Day, Dec. 31, 2021 – Jan.1, 2022 Kwanzaa, Dec. 26, 2021 – Jan. 1, 2022 Kwanzaa is a non-religious holiday started in California in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Korenga to celebrate African American history, culture, family and community. Kwanzaa's name is derived from the Swahili phrase “Matunda ya Kwanzaa” which translates to “first fruits of the harvest.” Kwanzaa is celebrated over seven days with each day representing a principle value: •Umoja (unity) •Kujichagulia (self-determination) •Ujima (collective work and responsibility) •Ujamaa (cooperative economics) •Nia (purpose) •Kuumba (creativity) •Imani (faith) The holiday has seven symbols that are gathered and displayed for the celebration: •Kikombe cha umoja (unity cup) •Kinara (candle holder) •Mishumoa saba (seven candles) •Mazao (fruits, nuts, and vegetables) •Vibunzi (ears of corn) •Zawadi (gifts) s•Mkeka (a mat to set everything on) Kwanzaa is observed with seven candles to represent the core values. One black candle represents the unity of the people. Three green candles represent the future of African lands and communities. And three red candles represent the past bloodshed from African ancestors. Each day, one candle is lit and, as it burns, a particular principle is acknowledged and discussed. 48

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Four thousand years ago, ancient Babylonians believed the first new moon after the Vernal Equinox was the beginning of the new year. January 1 was celebrated as the start of the new year for the first time in 45 BCE after Julius Caesar changed the Roman calendar. Ancient Romans celebrated with parties, gifts and sacrifices to the Roman god Janus (January’s namesake), who had two faces, one looking forward and one looking back, and symbolized beginnings. Each year, more than 1 million people gather in New York City’s Times Square to watch the ball drop. This tradition came about because of a ban on fireworks. The first ball in 1907 was 700 pounds and was lit with 100 25-watt lights. The current ball is covered in 2,688 crystals, lit by 32,000 LED lights, weighs 11,875 pounds and is 12 feet in diameter. The Pacific island of Tonga is the first place to ring in the New Year – celebrated at 10 a.m. GMT on Dec. 31. The uninhabited islands of Howland and Baker Islands, near the United States, are the last places to welcome the New Year. They ring in the New Year at 12 p.m. GMT. The origin of kissing at midnight on New Year’s Eve has not been verified. Although, kisses were part of the Roman Festival of Saturnalia (held in December), and kisses at midnight were traditionally thought to bring good luck in England and Germany. German immigrants may have popularized the tradition in the United States. In 1863, The New York Times reported that “New-Year’s Eve is a great time among the Germans … As the last stroke [of midnight] dies into silence, all big and little, young and old, male and female, push into each other’s arms, and hearty kisses go around.” Since around the 1880s, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, Spaniards try to guarantee good luck by eating 12 grapes in as many seconds – one for each bell-chime. Those who succeed are in for a great year!

TSPRA ONLINE LEARNING SUBSCRIPTION We bring powerful professional development straight to you !

ONLY $250 FOR 10 SESSIONS! That is a $200 savings! Members will also have the option to purchase sessions separately for $45 each.

There will be 20+ sessions scheduled for the 2021-2022 school year and the series will include various relevant and timely topics, including:

> Lunch with a Lawyer > iPhone Photography Series > Videography Tips & Tricks Series > Crunch Time with Canva Series > Diversity, Equity & Inclusion > Leadership > Important Soft Skills > Crisis Communications > and much more!

TSPPRA.org Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org 49 info@tspra.org

Communication professionals share five things they enjoy about going to TSPRA Annual Conference SUSAN ARD, CPC

CISD Communications Director CISD Public Information Officer Executive Director of CISD Education Foundation Learning from colleagues. When I was hired to develop the communications department at Cleveland ISD, I had never worked in a communications department before. It was quite a challenge. At the TSPRA Rookie Boot Camp, my TSPRA mentor, and other TSPRA colleagues, helped me not to re-create the wheel but to develop it to fit CISD! Collaborating. As we sit in small groups and share our ideas of the different programs we have achieved or implemented, it is good to be able to bounce those thoughts and ideas off each other and listen to the “do’s, don’ts and I wouldn’ts.” The sessions. I have been in Cleveland ISD for 7 years now, and we are about to go for the fifth bond election. When I started, I knew absolutely nothing about bonds. During my second year at TSPRA, I signed up for every bond session there was. I learned so much, and the knowledge I gained was a great step for me. Friends! Conference is a great place to make lifelong


Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

friends that you can count on – the people that have your back. Thinking out of the box! The keynote speakers help you think out of your box. Dive off into that rabbit hole that leads to an amazing adventure and takes your communications to a different level.


Director of Communications Livingston Independent School District

Reunification of friends and colleagues. Meeting up with fellow TSPRAns in one big gathering is much like a family reunion. We share ideas and troubleshoot problems. Networking is a huge benefit and a fellow TSPRAn is always ready to help. Education! My favorites sessions involve photography and videography. There is always more to learn, and you learn from the best at the TSPRA conference. Consultants in the industry share new technology as well tips and tricks regarding best practices. With the ever-changing legislature, it is a huge benefit to learn from an attorney on best practices when dealing with public information requests.

Motivation. The convention committee selects a fantastic keynote speaker each year. The subject matter is relevant, and the speaker is always dynamic and thought-provoking. They not only motivate us but also help us to be ready to conquer the world. Validation. Submit your best work to be judged in TSPRA’s STAR awards. Best of the best entries earn gold medal rewards giving your communications department the state recognition they deserve. The Star Awards banquet is an elegant evening of celebration among friends. Revitalization Need help for dealing with stress on the job? TSPRA conference will have a session guiding you on techniques to deal with stress.


Chief Communications Officer Tyler ISD

Making connections. I believe everyone has a story and a talent to share. I love hearing about what challenges or big wins others are experiencing in their district and hearing about their journey in school public relations. It’s a great time to make new connections and reconnect with old friends. Bouncing off ideas. When I was looking to make a significant shift in the direction of our department, conversations and guidance from my fellow TSPRAns, including TSPRA President Veronica Sopher, solidified that decision. Those conversations also allowed me to see how other schools handled the same situation and make the right decision for our team. Learning new strategies and tools. There is always something new to learn. You can

attend the conference year after year. And every year, you will leave with several gold nuggets of information, new strategies, campaign ideas and realistic concepts that you can implement in any size district. Sharing our resources. One of my favorite things about belonging to TSPRA is everyone’s willingness to share resources and ideas. You need help with crisis communications wording? Here’s our list. You need ideas for social media? Here’s what we’re doing and not doing. The conference gives you that opportunity to create connections you can tap into all year long. Bonding as a team. Since we have a larger department, the TSPRA conference allows us to get out of the office and the daily grind. We can connect personally, discuss big picture ideas and reinforce that team spirit.


Director for Communications Little Elm ISD

Make room. This week is intended for you to grow professionally, attend sessions to hear what other pros are doing across the state and connect with colleagues who are here to help you. Leave your laptop in your room and invest the time to expand your mind. The great getaway. It’s the only week where you get to focus on you! No kids, no spouse – it’s about you where you can focus on your profession. It’s fun to make connections and have dinner together to chat about it some more! Presenting, You! One of the most fulfilling things you can do is give back to this great organization that provides so much knowledge. We all have skills we specialize in and it is

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continued from Page 51

always great to share at a session. It empowers you and it helps get your name out there too!

relations department can attend, that will allow even more ideas to be taken back and implemented.

The one thing. You’re going to hear a lot of great programs, strategies, see amazing marketing campaigns and learn different tricks of the trade. Don’t stress out that maybe you need to up the ante in your communication game by implementing it all. Focus on one thing and make it great in your district.

There are opportunities to present. The TSPRA conference has a lot of presenters, but they can always use more. Did they not have a presentation on something you think is useful or critical? Try presenting it next year!

Kudos to you! The highlight of the conference is the Star Awards. Be sure to submit your work so you can be recognized in front of your peers for the great work you’re doing at your district. You deserve it!


Communications Specialist and Newspaper Editor Longview ISD It’s not just about the work. While the TSPRA conference is about learning new things and making new contacts, the experience can be quite fun. Do not dread it as just a work event! There is a lot to learn. There is a lot to learn from many people in our field. Be sure to bring a notepad and pen or laptop to record information. Also, be sure to bring business cards and to ask for business cards. There is a wide range of session topics. Don’t be afraid to branch out of your particular specialty. There are a lot of topics that you can learn about, so try one or two that you wouldn’t normally consider. You could end up finding something new and exciting for your district. It’s a great time to gather new knowledge. As mentioned above, there are a lot of topics. If more than one person from your district’s public


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Want to share your top five? Email Tracie at tseed@tspra.org.

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Important Dates OCTOBER 18 Early Voting begins in Texas 20 Northwest Chapter meeting 21 West Central Chapter meeting 25 Due day for proposals to present at #TSPRA22, 5 p.m. 26-28 Adobe Maxx free virtual conference: www.max.adobe.com 26 Online Learning Series: Lunch with Lawyer Dennis Eichelbaum 27 Online Learning Series: Star Awards FAQs 29 Deadline to renew 2021-22 TSPRA membership dues without financial penalty NOVEMBER 1 $45 late fee added to 2021-2022 TSPRA membership dues renewals 1 Nominations for 2022 TSPRA Professional Awards open 1 11:59 p.m. deadline for 2021 Star Awards entries 2 Election Day in Texas 3 Members in good standing receive ballot to elect 2022-23 TSPRA Executive Committee 4 #TSPRA22 Conference Planning Committee meets at Kalahari Resort & Convention Center 8 East Texas Chapter meeting 8 Online Learning Series: IPhone Photography 9 Online Learning Series: New Member Orientation with TSPRA Leaders 10 Online Learning Series: Delivering Powerful Presentations with Dave Scallan, Spoken Word Group 12 Central Texas Chapter meeting at Georgetown ISD 12 North Texas [sub-regional] Chapter meetings 19 Deadline to submit applications for #TSPRA22 Conference Scholarships 24-26 TSPRA State Office closed


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Online Learning Series: Canva in a Crunch with John Matthew Bernal, Texas Tribune

DECEMBER 2 Houston/Beaumont Chapter meeting at Cypress-Fairbanks ISD 3 Final day to submit vote for 2022-23 TSPRA Executive Committee elections 6-8 TSPRA Teller Committee ratifies 2021 Election 8 #TSPRA22 Conference Scholarship Recipients announced 8 Election results for 2022-23 TSPRA Executive Committee announced 8 East Texas Chapter meeting 9 Online Learning Series: Leading During Tough Times and Among Crucial Issues 10 Central Texas Chapter meeting at Hutto 10 North Central Chapter meeting 10 Scheduling for professional headshots at conference begins 15 San Antonio Chapter meeting 15 Deadline to submit nominations for 2022 TSPRA Professional Awards 16 #TSPRA22 Conference presenters notified 17 Final day to cancel #TSPRA22 Conference registration and receive full refund 20 $100 administrative fee for #TSPRA22 Conference registrations in effect 20-31 TSPRA State Offices closed JANUARY 3 TSPRA State Offices closed 13 East Texas Chapter meeting 14 Central Texas Chapter meeting at Hays CISD 14 North Texas [sub-regional] Chapter meetings

For more info, visit our webs it www.TSP e at RA.org.


Monica Arredondo, Sheldon ISD Omer Aslan, Harmony Public Schools Holly Backer, Pine Tree ISD Brett Birkinbine, Crosby ISD Arena Blake, Sherman ISD Myisha Bradham, North East ISD Alyssa Boehringer, Princeton ISD Kyle Bolen, Galveston ISD Brandon Buckner, Little Elm ISD Kassidy Buth, Manor ISD GW Byers, Lake Travis ISD Octavio Caballero, Corpus Christi ISD Kristyn Cathey, Goose Creek ISD Jennifer Collier, Southwest ISD Eduardo Conde, DeSoto ISD Candice Cooper, Manor ISD Jessica Coppedge, Dallas IS Ryan Cox, Lewisville ISD Tim Crow, Taylor ISD Kendra Cullum, Springtown ISD Kendra Davis, Arlington ISD Evelin De La Rosa, Harmony Public Schools Sarah Dugas-Richard, Harmony Public Schools Briana Estrada, Judson ISD Erika Fernandez, Clear Creek ISD Kimberly Foster, Montgomery ISD Savannah Franks, Crandall ISD Frances Franco, Ector County ISD Dominique Garcia, HCDE Earl Gill, Liberty-Eylau ISD Bonnie Gonzalez, Del Valle ISD Brenda Gonzalez, Mesquite ISD Liliana Gonzalez, El Paso ISD Leah Gorman, Kilgore ISD Jessica Grace, Montgomery ISD Maribel Gutierrez, Tyler ISD Natalie Guzman, Judson ISD Marshall Harrison, Sunray ISD Trevor Hawes, Midland ISD Edna Herrera, Manor ISD Misty Houston, Taylor ISD Sabine Jacobson, Frenship ISD Chad Johnson, Wichita Falls ISD Kelsey Johnson, Slisbee ISD Shauna Koehne, Plano ISD Nina Lakhiani, Dallas ISD Dusty Langley, Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD Chelsea Lenamond, Galveston ISD Amelia Lindley, Magnolia ISD Elizabeth Ludwig, Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD Melissa Igo, Alvin ISD Kate Keierleber, Willis Point ISD Frances Kerr, Judson ISD Maria Lanese, United ISD Ian Lozano, Southwest ISD Justin Marino, Montgomery ISD

Valeria Martinez, Hidalgo ISD Andrew Marshall, Harrison Sunray ISD Sara McCullough, HCDE Brandon Medina, Southwest ISD Talana Morris, Forney ISD Jessica Grace Montgomery Justin Marino Montgomery Kimberly Foster Montgomery Christopher Mycoskie, Community ISD Andrea Nguyen, Pasadena ISD Joel Nihlean, Texas Association of School Boards Riley Nipper, North East ISD Abigail Offenbaker, Castleberry ISD Linda Olson, Aldine Education Foundation Ty Parker, Lubbock ISD Tejal Patel, Houston ISD Julie Patterson, Carthage ISD Timothy Payne, Sheldon ISD Josiah Perkins, Priority Charter School Trina Persson, New Caney ISD Education Foundation Ivory Phillips, Scurry-Rosser ISD Alyssa Ramirez, Harlingen CISD Claudia Ramirez, Spring ISD Veronica Ramon, Lyford CISD Brooke Rhoden, Shepard ISD Sarah Robinson, Spring Hill ISD Princess Rockwell, Arlington ISD Christina Rodriguez, Canutillo ISD Alejandra Rueda Ballesteros, Dallas ISD Raymond Ruiz, Harmony Public Schools Samantha Ruiz, Southwest ISD Ashley Salas, Laredo ISD Angela Sanders, Goose Creek CISD James Sanders, Scurry-Rosser ISD Sebastian Saucedo, Dallas ISD Sylvia Saumell-Baston, Aldine ISD Andrew Scholl, Humble ISD Denise Schulz, Texas Association of School Boards Abhash Shrestha, Mansfield ISD Kelli Sigler, Garland ISD Jennifer Simson, HCDE Kimberly Simpson, Lancaster ISD Nicole Taguinod, Judson ISD Karen Trevino, Bastrop ISD Dawn Tryon, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Justice Vega, San Marcos ISD Madison Vega, North East ISD Casey Viera, Alamo Heights ISD Felicia Villarreal, McAllen ISD Leah Wayne, Marlin ISD Sharon White, Frisco ISD Cindy Reed Wiedemann, Scurry-Rosser ISD Esther Williams, DeSoto ISD Joshua Wilson, HCDE Donna Wilson, Tyler ISD Kimberly Womack, London ISD

*as of 10/5/21

Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


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