Communication Matters Magazine Spring 2021

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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

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Spring 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

VICE PRESIDENTS

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

HOUSTON/BEAUMONT AREA Kim Hocott Pearland 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. Spring 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

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Spring 2021 | Volume I, No. 4 MANAGING EDITOR GRAPHIC DESIGN Tracie Seed tseed@tspra.org EDITOR Adam J. Holland La Porte ISD COMMITTEE CHAIRS Veronica Castillon, APR Laredo ISD Stephanie De Los Santos Harris County Department of Education COMMITTEE Art Del Barrio Pasadena ISD

Texas School Public Relations Association

Adam J. Holland La Porte ISD Cissa Madero Pearland ISD Sheleah D. Reed, APR Aldine ISD

EDUCATION

TSPRA STAFF

NETWORKING

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Linsae Snider lsnider@tspra.org

CRISIS MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT ANNUAL CONFERENCE SUPPORT RESOURCES

PROGRAMS MANAGER Janet Crock janet@tspra.org COMMUNICATIONS & MARKETING MANAGER Tracie Seed tseed@tspra.org CONTRIBUTORS

TSPRA.org

Sally Andrews, Denise Blanchard, Jenny Bridges, Kristyn Cathey, Aubrey Chancellor, Brad Domitrovich, Bridget English, Monica Faulkenbery, APR, Goose Creek CISD, Andrea Gribble, Jennifer Hines, Adam J. Holland, Judson Laipply, Trebie Lawrence, Cissa Madero, Matthew Prosser, Dr. Nikita Russell, Heath Roddy, Andy Welch



Eighteen years ago, I pulled off I-35 in Austin, passed the University of Texas campus and checked into the Sheraton to attend my first TSPRA conference. As the newly named director of communications for Arlington ISD, I was eager to meet peers and attend every session I could physically make. This task was a little more challenging than one might think – I had my 3-month-old daughter and husband in tow. Nonetheless, I took tedious notes, collected as many business cards as I could and introduced myself to every vendor I could find. I was hungry to connect and learn from the many talented and experienced school PR professionals attending the conference. I had found my tribe. Fast forward 18 years and I was walking into the beautiful Embassy Suites Conference Center in Denton with both of my daughters and husband to join me as my guests for the 2021 TSPRA President’s Luncheon during this year’s conference. I did not realize it at the time, but this conference was the spark of normalcy that my girls needed to see. Like all of us, they Zoomed from home, were separated from friends and family and were confused as to how the life they had always known had become so drastically different. Being able to see adults who were following safety protocols, taking precautions, engaging with each other and eager to learn gave my girls hope that soon they too would be able to gather once again to feed their hunger for collaboration. While we are not there yet, we have hope. I am focusing my energy and efforts on tomorrow and what we all have to do to overcome the challenges ahead of us as we prepare our districts and schools for what is next. There are so many unknowns as we enter the last part of the school year. Many of us are still dealing with families in our districts who have dealt with so much loss related to COVID-19 and families who were impacted by the harsh winter storms. Lean on your fellow TSPRAns and be sure to offer a hand when you can. Working together we can pull our resources, expertise and talents to support every student in each and every school. When I think back to this year’s conference, the thing I am most appreciative of was the respect members had for each other in honoring personal space and for acknowledging those members who decided that they were not ready for an in-person event. While 18 years ago I had no idea that I would have had to work through several hurricanes, student deaths, numerous superintendent transitions, district changes, the discovery of an unmarked historic cemetery on a school construction site or navigating the messaging through a global pandemic, I would not have traded one day of it. We are all blessed to be servant leaders and I am especially thankful and available to anyone who needs assistance, has a question or just needs a shoulder to cry on. Veronica V. Sopher Chief Communications Officer Fort Bend ISD TSPRA Presidenrt

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DEPARTMENTS 10 In a Minute Industry facts, figures & fun

FEATURES 24 Professional Awards Winners

12 Member Moment Getting to know fellow TSPRAns 14

Q & A Meet Brad Domitrovich, The PR Zealot

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32 From Typewriter to Chromebook A comparative look at schools during the polio pandemic and COVID-19

16 Point of View Adam J. Holland, La Porte ISD, shares his positive take on the pandemic. 34 18 EduLege Top news in school communications 36 58 5 in 5 A look back at lessons learned in 2020 64

TSPRA Talk What’s happening in TSPRA

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TSPRA 2021-22 Executive Committee

Lessons Learned Several TSPRAns weigh in on what they learned from the pandemic. School Nursing in the Time of COVID-19 A peek at the lives of these important heroes

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And Now … What? A retrospective look at what we can learn from this past year

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How to Celebrate Your School on Social Media in 2021 Inspiration from Andrea Gribble from #SocialSchool4Edu

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The Words & Phrases We Use #TSPRA2021 keynote speaker discusses the power of words.

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Rethinking How to Connect with the Media A clear plan on working with media outlets during the pandemic and moving forward

48 Best Release How to craft a newsworthy press release 52

Building a District Brand and Theme How to become a household name

55 Just Pivot Planning a virtual Teacher of the Year event

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Keeping a Positive Connection During Trying Times How one district plugged into a positive partnership

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Spring Fling How districts are celebrating end-ofyear events

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Star Awards Winners Cover photo by Kim Hocott, Pearland ISD

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SAVE THE DATE Annual Conference 2022

g n i t ra s! b e Cel 0 year 6

Kalahari Round Rock, TX February 21-24, 2022


In a Minute

In the hectic, stressful world of school PR, practicing self-care is imperative to health – physical, mental and emotional. It’s time to be selfish and make it happen! Consider adding some of these types of self-care activities. The ROI is worth it! PHYSICAL SELF-CARE • Take a brisk walk or turn up the music and dance. Get your heart pumping and breath moving! • Reach for a healthy choice when hungry. Apple, anyone? • Sleep seven to nine hours each night. Naps help, too! MENTAL SELF-CARE • Sharpen your mind with stimulating puzzles or books. • Practice self-compassion – talk to yourself as you would to your best friend. • Schedule socialization time with friends and family – belly laughs are a must. EMOTIONAL SELF-CARE • Talk with someone you trust about how you feel. • Fuel your emotional health with a favorite hobby. • Recharge by sitting quietly in nature – no electronics. If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health condition, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

by Tracie Seed

Tidbits & Trivia One day on Venus is almost eight months on Earth. The strawberry is the only fruit that bears seeds on the outside. There are 2,000 thunderstorms on Earth every minute. One quarter of your bones are in your feet. Source: redtri.com

National Celebration Days

April 21 Adminstrative Professionals Day April 22 Earth Day April 26 Kids & Pets Day

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May 1 School Principals Day May 4 Teacher Appreciation Day May 7 School Lunch Hero Day

May 12 School Nurse Day June 1 Penpal Day June 8 Best Friends Day


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

SCHOOL CLOSURE • An incident (name incident) has taken place near (school name). • As a precaution, school officials decided to close the school for the day. • We are cooperating and working closely with law enforcement to provide our complete support in every way possible. • Our first priority is the safety and well-being of our students, their families and our staff. • We have met with local law enforcement and their initial assessment is that this incident, at this point, is of low risk to the school. • Resources will be available to respond to students and parents as needed. • Every (county) school has established a safety plan and lockdown procedures that contribute 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. Go to TSPRA Document Vault, accessible through your member portal, for more talking points & inspiration.

r a m m a Gr Ti me

ACADEMIC DEGREES

If mention of degrees is necessary to establish someone’s credentials, the preferred form is to avoid an abbreviation and use instead a phrase such as: John Jones, who has a doctorate in psychology. Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc., but there is no possessive in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science. Also: an associate degree (no possessive). Use such abbreviations as B.A., M.A., LL.D. and Ph.D. only when the need to identify many individuals by degree on first reference would make the preferred form cumbersome. Use these abbreviations only after a full name — never after just a last name. When used after a name, an academic abbreviation is set off by commas: John Snow, Ph.D., spoke. Do not precede a name with a courtesy title for an academic degree and follow it with the abbreviation for the degree in the same reference. Source: AP Stylebook

EAT MORE & STRESS LESS There is stress-eating and then there is eating for stress. When things get tough, instead of grabbing a bag of chips, up your snack arsenal with this list of stress-busting foods to keep on hand to boost your spirits. DARK CHOCOLATE: Consume 1-2 ounces of 70-percent dark chocolate per day to reap the benefits of cocoa's flavanols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help lower your blood pressure and reduce stress. VITAMIN C RICH FOODS: Foods such as red peppers, oranges, carrots, grapefruit and kiwi are rich in vitamin C, which has antidepressant effects and improves mood. BOILED EGGS: This easy-to-pack choice is loaded with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants needed for a healthy stress response. They are particularly rich in choline, a nutrient that has been shown to play an important role in brain health and may protect against stress. SEEDS & NUTS: Sunflower seeds, almonds, pistachios and walnuts are high in the antioxidant vitamin E, B-vitamins and zinc — good for boosting your immune system and helping the body manage stress. BLUEBERRIES: Blueberries are high in flavonoid antioxidants that may safeguard against depression and boost your mood. Source: webmd.com, healthline.com

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Getting to know your fellow TSPRAns

Melissa Gonzalez

Community Relations Coordinator/Education Foundation Director Pine Tree ISD

What did you do before this job? I was the business and membership director at the Longview Chamber of Commerce. Something TSPRA colleagues need to know about you: I always strive to be more. I want every publication, picture, post or feature to be better and to strike emotion. I am constantly searching for new ways to promote our district. As an alumni and a current Pirate, I want our community to see why Pine Tree ISD is the best district to teach at, to work at, to volunteer at and to learn at. Once a Pirate always a Pirate. Something TSPRA colleagues would not expect to know about you: I have five kids, two stepdaughters and three dogs! My life is busy, crazy, fun and full of laughter. Something on your bucket list: To take a cross country road trip with my husband and kids to Montana.

Danielle Clark, APR

Chief Communications Officer

Harris County Department of Education What did you do before this job? I was the executive director of communications for the Poudre School District in Fort Collins, Colorado. Something TSPRA colleagues need to know about you: I have a heart for mentoring and love to help those in school PR who are just starting or are mid-career. I enjoy brainstorming how to take their careers to the next level as well as addressing every day issues they may not have seen. I am committed to paying forward the support I got when I started out. Something TSPRA colleagues would not expect to know about you: While I am from California, grew up in the movie industry and am typically outgoing, I am actually quite shy. Something on your bucket list: I want to visit the Holy Land in Israel with my husband and daughters.

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



Brad Domitrovich The PR Zealot

What is your school PR background? I got into school PR after 16 years of corporate marketing and advertising. I always wanted to teach, and after receiving my Texas certification, I started teaching computer science at Hill Country Elementary School in Pipe Creek, Texas. This was right at the time that computer labs were just being introduced and the state had just adopted the first TEKS for technology. In my third year of teaching, my superintendent, knowing my background in marketing, asked if I would be interested in helping her develop a marketing plan for an upcoming school bond. We lost, but in the process, she asked if I would be interested in starting a communications office in Bandera ISD to improve community relations before the board would call another school bond. Fifteen years later, I was asked to start the first PR office in Georgetown ISD. Five years ago, I started my school PR consulting practice called PR Zealot. Since that time, I have consulted and provided keynotes and workshops to more than 75 school districts, organizations and businesses. 14 Spring 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

What is the highlight of your school PR career? Why? That’s easy — being elected to my first TSPRA office as vice president for the San Antonio (SASPRA) area in 2004, then president-elect and president for 2008-09. It was an honor serving on the executive committee for six years. During that time, I really saw TSPRA grow in membership from only PR and Education Foundation members to webmasters, video producers, social me-dia managers and more. I also got to see how former Executive Director Judy Farmer took us into a new level of financial budgeting and how current Executive Director Linsae Snider took us to the next level with sponsorships and organizational partners! What were some of your biggest challenges? How did you handle them? In both districts I worked in, I created startup PR offices. In both situations, it was a challenge to get policies in place and people on board. It was difficult to counteract the “we’ve always done it that way” attitude but I kept plugging along. I found that the best thing to do was get to know teachers, get


to know principals and get to know department heads. By building “People Relationships”, it was easier to get my message across along with the knowledge of the PR office into their daily consideration. What was one significant event you learned from? What did you learn? After an ulcer, kidney stone attack and a high blood pressure issue, I learned that even though school PR is a 24-7, on-call job, you have to learn to relax and step back! This was long before the term “self-care” became popular. I learned that it’s okay not to answer an email immediately, it’s okay not to re-spond to a Facebook post right away and it’s okay to say “No,”every once in a while. It’s also important to start your day positively with some meditations and scriptures. Reminding yourself throughout the day of the importance of positive People Relationships helps keep your attitude fresh and helpful. What advice do you have for school PR rookies? I’ve got 10 pieces of advice:

5. Become a district leader in customer service. You can set the example for everyone else. 6. Build a trust relationship with all media outlets. Help reporters and bloggers out, and they will return the favor. 7. Stay organized and try to keep on schedule. Organize for 10 minutes before lunch and at the end of the day. 8. Go eat lunch at a campus once a week with the kids. It will remind you of why you do what you do. 9. Remember, you can’t fix stupid! Really, you can’t. At any given time, someone somewhere will do something they are not supposed to. Get in front of it and deal with it accurately and professionally. 10. Have fun. This is a great career!

1. Make sure you have the support of your boss. Always keep your boss informed of rumors and look for opportunities to make them look good. 2. Create a “How Can I Help You?” guide to share with administrators and principals. Include ideas they can use to promote accomplishments, staff and students. 3. Make the athletic, fine arts, nursing directors and school secretaries your best friends. You won’t be sorry. 4. Become an advisor and confidant to others. Remember that your position is a confidential and powerful one.

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Finding the Positives by Adam J. Holland Director, Communications and Public Relations La Porte ISD

“What does a PR practitioner do exactly?” my father once asked me. “In short, Dad, it’s my job to make people happy,” I responded. Seemingly agitated, he shook his head and changed the subject. Indeed, successful PR professionals create the messages, inform stakeholders and control the narrative — all while projecting and maintaining a positive image of themselves and the corporation (school districts in our case) they represent. During the pandemic, like so many of my colleagues and counterparts, I had to dig deeply to avoid conveying my personal bevy of gloomy emotions. I found plenty of positives in my search, but the greatest of those required the deepest digging. It was easy to count the lack of a virtual dress code as positive. Not only was it convenient, I saved about $200 per month in dry cleaning bills. Aside from about six years as the owneroperator of a citrus tree nursery, my professional adult life has required button-downs, chinos, daily shaving and the occasional tie. Between March and August 2020, I wore flip-flops and athletic shorts ... and a tie, of course — during Zoom meetings. I was also jazzed about the whole clean thing. Barely three days into our work-from-home situation, I was ... um ... corrected by my wife for leaving my coffee cup in the sink. Also, we discovered that our youngest boy, a middle-schooler, didn’t realize that water isn’t just for drinking. (I too was guilty of using Brut aerosol in lieu of soap and water as a seventh grader. My bad.) With everyone stuck at home — Brut spray and all — we became a dishwashing, clothes ironing, air conditioning filter-changing people. Also, the boy learned that cheap spray and funky body odor smells like ... cheap spray and body odor.

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In the several months since we’ve been back to the office, this dude still abides, and the boy is also brushing his teeth without a fight. By the way, masks and gloves worn by restaurant workers are the best things since wrapped drinking straws and motion paper towel dispensers. Thank you, pandemic! Shorts, flip-flops and a sterile home aside, my most positive moment during the COVID-19 pandemic was the day I received a handicapped parking placard. How does one glean positive vibes from a blue piece of plastic (PMS 293C Blue, for those graphic designing TSPRAns who might be interested)? It all began on May 19, 2020 as we were recording a video graduation ceremony. “We’re between groups. What’s up?” I asked my wife. Her voice was shaky. “I just got a call that Brielle is in the trauma ICU at OU Medical Center,” she told me. “They life-flighted her from a town called Enid.” Our eldest daughter — the afternoon prior — was the passenger in a car that rear-ended a tractor-trailer at highway speed. The truck had just pulled onto the road. The seat belt cut her almost in half.

well-versed in Zoom calls by then, and the regular deliveries of pizza and cookie trays to the nurse’s station helped ensure someone would take the time to let us look at our baby girl through the lens of an iPad. After an eventual transfer to a Houston-area hospital, where she spent several more months, Brielle eventually came home. She can neither digest food (more than 90 percent of her small intestines are gone) nor stand (she fractured her back in numerous places and has drop foot). We will be her caregivers for the rest of her life or ours, and it will not be easy. But the blue handicapped parking placard is not a black and white typed death certificate. Rather, it’s evidence that our family survived the nightmare. There is nothing more positive in 2020 or beyond. It is my sincere hope that everyone can find the positives without having to learn (how we did) to dig deeper than we thought possible.

“What’s the deal?” I asked. “Is she going to live?” “I don’t know,” her mother told me before sobbing uncontrollably. My numbness helped me hold back emotion through the next couple of rounds of announcing graduates and handing out faux diplomas for the production. I not only had to be the PR guy on the job; I knew that I would be charged with being the emotional rock when I arrived home that afternoon. Our daughter remained unconscious for more than a month; she was an ICU patient there for several months longer. Not only was she too fragile to transport to a Houston-area facility, visitors to the Oklahoma City-based hospital were not allowed because of COVID-19 concerns. Fortunately, we were

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by Andy Welch

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

Breathe easy. Er, easier… Governor Abbott has announced that the state will keep anticipated public funding to Texas school districts steady through the current academic year — an announcement that comes as a big relief to budget-bleary local school administrators. State aid flows to schools based mostly on how many students show up for class each day. In the last year, enrollment losses due to the pandemic have been widespread — about three percent of students are missing across the state. According to Governor Abbott, districts will be funded based on attendance projections made before the pandemic, as long as they maintain or increase current levels of on-campus attendance. Texas districts have now been in a “hold harmless” funding scenario for three consecutive academic semesters — the spring semester of the 2019-20 academic year and the entirety of the 2020-21 academic year.

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Local school officials were worried that without an extension of the hold harmless funding, they would have been forced to lay off personnel, or spend from the fund balance, in order to pay for unanticipated COVID-19 expenses. The cavalry… A massive stream of new federal money is on its way to public schools across Texas. President Biden has signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan into law. The package includes close to $130 billion for K-12 public education, as well as a number of other provisions that will directly affect schools. Schools have significant flexibility on how they can spend the pandemic relief money, including: • Cleaning supplies • Education technology • Mental health services • Summer or after-school programs • School building improvements that “reduce risk of virus transmission and exposure to environmental health hazards.


The one notable restriction is that districts must spend at least 20 percent of the money to address student learning loss during the pandemics. Examples of this mentioned in the law include “summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs or extended school year programs.” On the same page… The Biden Administration says that states must administer federally required standardized tests this year, but schools will not be held accountable for the results. Governor Abbott and Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath have already announced that the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness will be administered this spring to students who are attending class on campuses. Students involved in remote learning will not be tested. Nor will schools be subjected to the state’s A-F grading system for the 2020-21 academic year. The announcement is the first high-stakes decision for the Biden Administration’s education agency and a signal that it views test score data as part of its strategy for helping students recover from the pandemic. Opponents of high-stakes student testing have stressed that administering student assessments in the midst of a pandemic will prove logistically difficult and is not a good use of instructional time. “It is a frustrating turn to see the administration ask states to continue requiring assessments during this tumultuous school year,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and usually a close Biden ally, said. “We have always known that standardized tests are not the best way to measure a child’s development.” The rules by which to play… Texas educators need to start making plans now if they want to keep virtual learning going for the 20212022 school year. But they don’t yet know what the rules will be.

A handful of legislative proposals would establish a framework for structuring and funding virtual Texas schools now that there is a widespread agreement that the model will be sticking around even after the pandemic. But there is not much time left for state legislators to figure out how. Any legislation must be debated and passed by the end of legislative session on May 31. Under current state law, only districts or charters that have operated an online program prior to 2013 are authorized to run full-time virtual schools and qualify for complete funding. Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath waived the rules in response to the COVID-19 shutdowns last spring, but his edict will expire at the end of this school year. It is now up to the Legislature to determine a long-term funding model. School districts in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Denton and elsewhere are developing preliminary plans for operating virtual schools next year. The Garland and Frisco school districts recently asked families about their interests in permanent virtual schools, pending legislative action. Lessons from the past… Sixteen years after Hurricane Katrina forced thousands of students from New Orleans and elsewhere in New Orleans to relocate in the greater Houston area, some local educators say that the lessons they learned during that recovery could provide insight for schools nationwide as the United States eventually emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. While there are obvious differences between a Category 5 hurricane and a pandemic, educators say the aftermath of the 2005 disaster bears some similarities to challenges now faced by schools across the country. Chief among them is closing widening academic gaps due to the limitations of online classes, while also addressing students’ emotional needs so they can concentrate on learning.

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The mental health aspect will be especially important now, said Lorenzo Moore, a school psychologist who worked with the Houston School District in 2005 and now works for Aldine schools. Not only have students been largely isolated from their peers, missing out on interactions that are crucial to social development, but many still are fearful of contracting and passing on the virus. “Katrina would be what we call a simple traumatic event, in that it happened over a shorter period of time. This is a prolonged, chronic event,” Moore told the Houston Chronicle. “When that happens to kids, they don’t feel safe in school. They’ll watch TV and get vicarious trauma watching and hearing about kids getting it in school, so they’ll have a heightened level of anxiety in school.” Even in Texas, hundreds of thousands of students have not returned to physical classrooms this year, particularly in districts that serve high numbers of Black and Hispanic students. Not just for bruises and boo-boos… School nurses have served on the front lines of the pandemic in a different way: tracking who has been exposed to the virus, testing staff and students who experience symptoms and diagnosing signs of anxiety in traumatized students. Texas law does not require that public schools have full-time nurses and many do not. In 2019-20, more than 8,000 Texas public school campuses utilized about 6,100 full-time school nurses, according to state data. State Representative Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, has filed a bill this legislative session that requires that all school districts employ at least one full-time nurse per school and maintain a ratio of at least one fulltime nurse for every 750 students enrolled. “These are essential workers, so it is a cost that we can’t afford to cut any longer. Even one child’s life lost would be tragic,” Representative Thierry told the Texas Tribune. Nurses are also supporting a bill by State Senator

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Beverly Powell, D-Burleson — a former school board member — which would allow districts to use money previously allocated for school safety to pay for additional nurses. It could actually happen… Health care advocates are increasingly optimistic that the Texas Legislature — despite sharp differences over voting rights, gun control and human sexuality — will finally coalesce this session around expanding Medicaid services for poor Texans. Republicans in particular have begun lining up behind a Democratic-led bill that would draw down billions in new federal Medicaid dollars. Key compromises include work and health incentives for recipients, better physician reimbursement rates and a commitment to end the coverage if it loses the state money or the federal government stops funding nearly all of it. Seven Republican House members have signed their names to House Bill 3781, and its primary authors, State Representative Julie Johnson of Carrollton and State Senator Nathan Johnson of Dallas, say several more have expressed support privately. “A lot of the concerns that Republicans have expressed in the past have been addressed in this bill,”Johnson said, adding that about 20 additional conservatives House members have told her they will vote for the bill. Republicans control the House by 16 seats. Texas is one of just a dozen states that have declined to expand Medicaid under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, because House Republicans last tried in 2013 and faced a blockade by then-Governor Rick Perry insisted that it was too costly. House Bill 3781 is modeled after initiatives in Indiana and would offer medical coverage to adults between ages 18 and 65 who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line or about 1.5 million Texans. Those living above the poverty line — $26,500 for a family of four — would need to contribute a fraction of their annual income to a health savings account. Those living below the poverty line would be subject


to small copays for non-emergency care. Texas has long had the highest uninsured rate in the country — at 18.4 percent before the pandemic, which is about 5.2 million people. Bathroom Bill 3.0… Legislators in both the Texas House and Senate have filed bills that would ban transgender girls and women who attend state-funded K-12 public schools, colleges and universities from playing on single-sex sports teams designated for girls and women. In previous sessions, Texas Republicans unsuccessfully pursued so-called “bathroom bills” that would prevent transgender people from using the bathroom that matched their gender identity. “This is bathroom bill 3.0,” Angela Hale, senior adviser at Equality Texas, told the Texas Tribune. “It’s very unsettling to transgender children who just want to live. They don’t want to have to come down to the capitol and testify every single legislative session just so that they can live and go about their daily lives.” House Bill 1458 filed by Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, is similar to others filed across the country that are characterized by conservative advocates as trying to maintain fairness in women’s sports. Idaho passed a law last year called the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.” In Montana, a similar bill, called the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” advanced to the State Senate last week. Senate Bill 373 filed by State Senator Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would prevent transgender girls in both public and charter schools from playing on a girls’ sports team. The bill defines “biological sex” as the one assigned at the student’s birth and “correctly stated on the student’s official birth certificate.” According to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union, nine other states have similar bills moving through the legislative process this year, including Mississippi, Connecticut and Tennessee. The University Interscholastic League relies on students’ birth certificates to determine whether they participate in competitive men’s or women’s athletic

competitions in Texas. Notably, the UIL recognizes changes that are made to birth certificates that alter an individual’s gender. What’s a few more… Six years after the Texas Legislature passed a controversial bill that allows licensed gun owners to carry concealed handguns on college campuses, State Senator Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, is pushing to expand the law to also allow licensed adults to carry weapons on public and charter school campuses. Senator Hall's bill is one of several that address school safety this session, with other legislators seeking to expand the state’s current School Marshal program, which allows trained school teachers and support staff to carry guns on campuses. Senate Bill 514 would allow licensed Texans, such as parents and teachers, to carry concealed handguns throughout public schools and open enrollment charter schools. Teacher groups have sounded the alarm. “Schools are no places for guns,” said Clay Robison, a spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association. “The only person at a school that should have a gun is a trained, professional police officer. … Very few school employees really believe they can … be any match for a suicidal, heavily-armed assailant who poses a surprise attack on a school building.” There are already hundreds — if not thousands — of guns in Texas schools, many carried by law enforcement or school resource officers who patrol campuses. In 2019, legislators also expanded the School Marshal program and there are now 252 marshals across the state, according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. 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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Professional Awards The Professional Achievement Awards were presented at the 2021 Annual Conference in Denton, Texas. Chair: Traci Marlin, Midway ISD | Committee Members: Craig Eichhorn, APR, Alien ISD; Melissa Tortorici, Texas City ISD; Keyhla Calderon-Lugo, Edgewood ISD; Matthew Jones, Castleberry ISD

BRIGHT IDEA AWARD

Sponsored by Huckabee Communications Charlotte LaGrone and John Tarrant Weatherford ISD Weatherford ISD's communication team, Executive Director of Communications Charlotte LaGrone and Director of Marketing and Communications John Tarrant, struck gold with their Hometown Heroes recognitions. With hundreds of recognitions since April 2020, this series features former students on the district’s Facebook page. While the original idea was to recognize those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle, they broadened the scope of their recognitions as former students reached out to them. Today, they honor those graduates who are working in healthcare, are first responders, serve in the military or work in education.

KEY COMMUNICATOR AWARD

Sponsored by Forecast5 Analytics Andy Welch TSPRA EduLege Andy Welch retired in 2011 after a long career in school communications, including as the communication director for Austin ISD. In 2013, with the legislative session approaching, TSPRA Executive Director Linsae Snider recruited Welch to write a loosely-defined newsletter named EduLege for the organization’s more than 1,000 members to stay informed about the issues that they must confront on a daily basis. Many TSPRA members also provide EduLege to their administrative team, campus educators and superintendents. Now in its eighth year, Welch estimates that he has written more than 850 editions.

MEDIA AWARD

Sponsored by Blackboard Demond Fernandez WFAA Dallas Demond Fernandez is a veteran reporter who seeks out stories that highlight teaching and learning and provides unbiased investigative coverage on school districts’ sensitive subjects. His reporting allows the public to remain up to date on critical issues impacting their community and schools. He’s dedicated to highlighting all sides of stories, so those impacted are informed. He does the groundwork to ensure accurate reporting, which showcases why he is an award-winning investigative reporter. When he’s not engulfed in his impactful work, he’s always looking for ways to feature the best of school districts.

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MOST VALUABLE MEMBER AWARD

Sponsored by The Scholastic Network Justin Elbert Klein ISD According to his nomination, Director of Communications Justin Elbert is one of the brightest and most giving person in the industry. Elbert is never shy about lending a helping hand or being a sounding board, whether it's a glimpse into drone regulations, crisis communications or a mental health check-in with TSPRA colleagues during a worldwide pandemic. “I had the privilege of hosting the TSPRA [virtual] Check-Ins with Justin during the height of the quarantine,” says nominator Justin Dearing, Southlake Carroll ISD’s assistant director of communications. “While they were intended to be a show and share of different ways teams were communicating, these events felt more like a family reunion because of the way Justin led them. TSPRA is better because of Justin, plain and simple.”

PARTNER IN PUBLIC EDUCATION AWARD

Sponsored by Harris County Department of Education Ally Surface Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD & EF Ally Surface has made significant contributions to the cause of public education through her work as director of EMS education foundation and community partnerships. Surface is a tireless advocate for public education and the scope of her work impacts not only those in the EMS community, but public-school children and educators across Texas. She is an effective liaison, both personally and professionally, who insists on engaging parents and community for the benefit of children and constantly works to increase awareness and information among parents about the value of their child’s education.

PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Sponsored by ParentSquare Art Del Barrio Pasadena ISD Art Del Barrio, who has more than 10 years of leadership experience under his belt, assumed the role of Pasadena ISD director of communication in the fall of 2016. Through Del Barrio’s leadership, the district’s social media following nearly tripled, the print shop saved millions of dollars and his department benefitted from the development of a comprehensive communications plan. In his time at Pasadena, the district experienced a 500-year flood, an international pandemic, a bus crash, a simultaneous bond and TRE elections, a winter storm and more. His colleagues tout him as a logistical genius who understands the inner workings of how school districts operate and how to respond proactively and effectively to develop appropriate messaging and to ensure families and staff are kept informed.

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TSPRA 2021-2022 E PRESIDENT Veronica V. Sopher Fort Bend ISD

VICE PRESIDENT HOUSTON/BEAUMONT AREA Kim Hocott Pearland ISD

PRESIDENT-ELECT Rebecca Villarreal, APR New Braunfels ISD

VICE PRESIDENT EAST TEXAS AREA Jamie Fails Willis ISD

IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT Veronica Castillon, APR Laredo ISD

VICE PRESIDENT NORTH CENTRAL AREA Megan Overman, APR, CPC Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD

VICE PRESIDENT GULF COAST AREA Craig Verley Mission CISD

VICE PRESIDENT WEST CENTRAL AREA Elizabeth Cox Belton ISD


Executive Committee VICE PRESIDENT CENTRAL AREA Marco Alvarado Lake Travis ISD

VICE PRESIDENT AT-LARGE POSITION 1 Corey Ryan Leander ISD

VICE PRESIDENT NORTHWEST TEXAS AREA Kenneth Dixon Lubbock ISD

VICE PRESIDENT AT-LARGE POSITION 2 Stephanie De Los Santos HCDE

VICE PRESIDENT FAR WEST AREA Melissa Martinez, APR, CPC El Paso ISD

VICE PRESIDENT AT-LARGE POSITION 3 Sherese Nix-Lightfoot Garland ISD

VICE PRESIDENT SAN ANTONIO AREA Kim Cathey Floresville ISD

PARLIAMENTARIAN Donald Williams Mansfield ISD


EXHIBITORS Alboum Translation Services Alboum Translation Services

Class Intercom Take your school's social media to the next

provides written translation, as well as on-demand phone and video interpretation. We specialize in education and work with dozens of Texas school districts.

level. Class Intercom is a social media management platform developed specifically for schools.

alboum.com

Taylor Siebert, Co-Founder taylor@classintercom.com 402-617-2000

Sandra Alboum, Founder & CEO info@alboum.com 571-765-3060

ArchiveSocial

ArchiveSocial is the leading social media archiving solution for government agencies and school districts to remain compliant and actively manage risk online. archivesocial.com Nancy Vodicka, Head of Marketing nancy.vodicka@archivesocial.com (888) 558-6032

BenchmarkONE K12 Ignite K12

Relationships Keep parents, staff and community in the loop with powerful email newsletter software built specifically for schools. hatchbuck.com/k12 Lindsey Stroud, Senior Customer Success Manager lstroud@hatchbuck.com 314-529-1434

Blackboard

Blackboard is the leader in K-12 community engagement solutions; from websites, mass notifications to teacher outreach, mobile apps to social media, we enable you to communicate more effectively. Blackboard is your partner in developing trusting relationships with families by providing you powerful tools, training and support to help you achieve your community goals. blackboard.com/industries/k-12 Lindsey Fishback Regional Vice President Sales & Client Success lindsey.fishback@blackboard.com 512-426-6772

classintercom.com

Certified Public Communicator™

The CPC program at TCU is a postbaccalaureate, graduate-level program to help school, city, and county communicators build comprehensive communication plans for their organizations. certifiedpubliccommunicator.org Jacqueline Lambiase Director, CPC Program at TCU 817-360-2547

Discover Denton

From music and museums to hiking trails and lakes, Denton offers a setting where these diverse worlds meet. We have shopping and sports; dining and dancing; and festivals and fun. There’s so much to discover in Denton. The hardest part is deciding where to start! discoverdenton.com Jessica Robinson, Director of Marketing Jessica@discoverdenton.com 817-966-9126

Finalsite

Districts choose Finalsite for its industry-standard website platform, award-winning design, and secure data integration with third-party systems. Finalsite is the leading provider for hundreds of districts with a team of professionals who care deeply about their work and who value a lasting partnership. finalsite.com John Doornbos, Director of Sales john.doornbos@finalsite.com 360-383-8439


FlashVote

FlashVote is the newest and best way to survey parents multichannel (web/text/voice) and multilingual. No more false data from online surveys. Get results 90% faster, easier and cheaper than traditional surveys. flashvote.com/schools Kevin Lyons, Co-Founder & CEO kevin@flashvote.com 510-593-4901

Forecast5 Analytics, Inc.

Forecast5® Analytics provides decision support systems for school leaders. Our analytics technology helps you identify strategic and financial opportunities with highly visual output in the areas of financial performance, compensation, enrollment/ demographics, and student performance. More than 2,000 school districts across the country are using Forecast5 tools to maximize data insights. forecast5analytics.com Travis Zander, Sr. Analytics Advisor tzander@forecast5analytics.com 512-767-1507

Friends of Texas Public Schools

We are an apolitical organization focused on educating all Texans about the virtues and achievements of our Texas Public Schools. www.fotps.org Jennifer Storm, Executive Director JStorm@fotps.org 512-334-6555

Gabbart Communications

Gabbart Communications offers an innovative variety of product features bringing convenience and efficiency to school districts across the United States. In today’s time, it’s more important than ever to understand how to market your district. We empower you to improve your brand, influence the narrative, engage your community, and tell your story. gabbart.com Frankie Hill, Territory Manager frankie@gabbart.com

877-810-6894

Harris County Department of Education

Harris County Department of Education is a unique educational hybrid serving school districts, governmental entities and nonprofits in the third largest county in the country. hcde-texas.org Stephanie De Los Santos, Director, Client Engagement sdelossantos@hcde-texas.org 832-293-0876

H-E-B

The H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards celebrate public school professionals whose leadership and dedication inspire a love of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities. Since its inception in 2002, the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards program has awarded more than $13 million to Texas educators, schools and districts. It has become the largest monetary program for educators in the state, spotlighting best practices and celebrating the passions and creativity of Texas educators. In 2022 the program will celebrate it’s 20th anniversary. Please visit the website at heb.com/ education to nominate an educator or complete an application. www.heb.com Jill Reynolds, Director of Public Affairs reynolds.jill@heb.com 512-421-1048 Huckabee Communications Huckabee Communications team develops branding and communications strategies that holistically tell a client’s story, increase engagement and elevate their image. huckabeecommunications.com Megan Smith, Director of Client Communications msmith@huckabee-inc.com 512-971-1102


EXHIBITORS Intrado SchoolMessenger

Parentsquare

Intrado SchoolMessenger is the trusted provider of communications solutions for schools who depend on the company’s products and services to engage with their communities in multiple languages and on any device, from notifications and websites to custom apps and social media.

ParentSquare was built around a unique approach to engagement. ParentSquare unifies all communication and parent engagement tools used across classrooms, sites, and school districts, with oversight throughout and powerful reporting metrics.

schoolmessenger.com

Jay Klanfer, VP District Partnerships jay.klanfer@parentsquare.com 888-496-3168

Michael Goulet, VP of Sales mgoulet@intrado.com 800-920-3897

K12 Insight LLC

K12 Insight’s powerful customer experience platform combines technology with industry leading research to help school leaders build trust with their communities, simplify communication and create an equitable and productive school climate. Let’s Talk! won the SIIA 2019 CODiE Award for Best Collaborative Solution for Educators. k12insight.com Sarah Berman, Regional Account Director sberman@k12insight.com 703-542-9633

Knockout Specialties Inc.

Welcome to Knock-Out Specialties Inc., where promoting your business is our business. KOS is an industry leader offering unique promotional products, excellent service and customer-focused marketing. We are your premier source for branding solutions! knockoutspecialties.com Brent Bond, Sr. Account Manager brent@knockoutspecialties.com 940-735-2527 Mayes Media Group/MMG-Edu Mayes Media Group/MMG-Edu is a top public relations & advertising agency for Texas school districts. We’ve helped pass $6.7 billion in school referendums.

parentsquare.com

Region 4 Print Center

Proud to be the “Official Printer of TSPRA.” We now offer online printing services available 24 hours a day! Our team of friendly professionals is ready to assist you with all of your printing needs. Stop by our booth today to see what we can do for you. esc4.net/printcenter Bryan Tucker, Print Center Supervisor btucker@esc4.net 713-744-8129

Relatrix Corporation

Relatrix helps districts across Texas track volunteers, match business partners, and build community relationships. EZvisitor, our newest product, tracks visitors and students at your schools. relatrix.com Mark Franke, President mfranke@relatrix.com 800-570-6234

School Revenue Partners

School Revenue Partners has generated more than five million dollars for public schools across the country! Let us show you how we can help raise revenue for your school district using the communications channels you already have in place. Stop by our table to learn about how we can generate revenue using your website and enewsletter and bring more money to your department.

MMG-Edu.com

schoolrevenuepartners.com

Brian Mayes, President brianmayes@mayesmediagroup.com 214-208-5842

Thomas Evans, Vice President Sales tevans@schoolrevenuepartners.com 214-620-2091


Smore

Welcome to TSPRA 2021! Smore makes it easy to create beautiful newsletters that get real results. smore.com

Thoughtexchange

Thoughtexchange helps you quickly gauge support for your decisions and get the perspective you need. thoughtexchange.com

Rachel Epstein, VP Business Development rachel@smore.com 801-362-6336

Laura Milne Account Executive laura.milne@thoughtexchange.com 250-857-5591

#SocialSchool4EDU

You know how most schools don’t keep their social media channels updated? At #SocialSchool4EDU, we train your staff to be social media storytellers so you can stand out from other schools, celebrate your students and staff, and reach thousands in your community every day.

T-Mobile

Enjoy T-Mobile Perks for Education t-mobile.com/educationperks Natalya Kasha,Account Manager, Government natalya.kasha@t-mobile.com 585-370-0883

Translation & Interpretation Network

socialschool4edu.com Andrea Gribble, Founder of #SocialSchool4EDU andrea@socialschool4edu.com 715-205-0429

TeacherLists

TeacherLists makes it easy for schools and districts to manage back-to-school supply lists, and lists are connected directly with retailers, making shopping easier than ever for parents! teacherlists.com

Translation & Interpretation Network has been providing educators with the highest quality language services and customer service to meet all their communication needs and multicultural challenges successfully. tintranslation.com Fabio Torres, Education & Recruitment Manager ftorres@tintranslation.com 817-289-0050

VolunteerNow / VOLY

Charlene LaFerriere, Partner Services Manager claferriere@teacherlists.com 508-846-5800

®

The Scholastic Network

The Scholastic Network (TSN) is an enterprise digital broadcast network built for schools, post-secondary institutions and education service agencies to efficiently communicate important and engaging information to students, teachers, staff, and other key stakeholders. Our mission is to inform, inspire and create community in and outside of schools. thescholasticnetwork.com Tom Deliganis, Vice President tdeliganis@thescholasticnetwork.com 281-615-4143

VOLY is a user-friendly, cloud-based, fully integrated solution that recruits, vets, manages, and acknowledges your volunteers and community partners.

VOLY.org Patrick Hicks, Director of Business Development phicks@volnow.org 972-489-6228

WRA Architects

Since 1954, WRA has a rich history of designing educational facilities, focusing on making learning spaces not only functional, but beautiful as well. wraarchitects.com Michael Holmberg, Partner mholmberg@wraarchitects.com 214-750-0077


From Typewriter to Chromebook a retrospective look at learning during a pandemic

by Bridget English, Public Relations Coordinator and Heath Roddy, Technology Director, Wharton ISD

O

ur experience with COVID-19 during the 2020-21 school year is similar to those who lived through the polio epidemic in the 1930s and 1940s. During that time, some districts decided to close schools, which halted formal learning because many of those children were expected to work on the family farm. Other districts met and chose to continue with remote learning. Students used technology during that time for remote learning, but things were a little bit different from today’s virtual classroom. Instead of Chromebooks, like today’s students use, their remote instruction was given via radio broadcasts. The classes were short — usually around 15 minutes. At that time, the lesson was taught, students asked questions and were given homework assignments. In addition to the radio, local newspapers used typewriters to create columns and publish class schedules. We have been so fortunate to have social media and email readily available during the pandemic, along with devices for staff and students to continue learning, no matter the circumstances.

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Fast forward. March 2020 will forever be a memory to those who have endured the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, let’s be honest, is pretty much everyone. Within a blink of an eye, as word spread, people realized the intensity of the situation. With the “certainty” of going virtual, education immediately took on a whole new meaning as school districts all over the country were scrambling to get Chromebooks and internet connection for students. At a rapid pace, traditional education was soon replaced with hybrid models. Technology departments, already used to the demands of keeping technology in the hands of students and faculty, were put on heightened alert and would become the “hub” for making the attempt to go virtual learning a reality. As districts began to put systems in place to transition to this new learning environment, normal face-to-face meetings were replaced with “virtual meetings,” which now seem to be the norm. Parents work from home as well as homeschooled and assisted teachers virtually. Talk about an adjustment to all involved!

Students doing broadcasted ‘“radio school’”lessons in 1937

But, we made it through those months, finished out the 2019-20 school year and celebrated seniors. Although graduation ceremonies looked differently from those originally planned, every district came through to provide a memorable graduation to their senior class in some form or fashion. As the 2020-21 school year approached, a sense of calm came over districts as everyone had time to prepare and create a plan moving forward. Luckily, the ability to have systems in place allowed campuses time to prepare for “virtual” and “face-to-face” learning, which, at times, were conducted simultaneously. There have been some setbacks, but learning has not stopped and districts are pressing forward with force to complete this year with a strong curriculum-based education. Imagine — years from now, when our students are in their 80s or 90s, they will be able to look back and remember their education and the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, it might be one of our students within our classroom walls being interviewed about the memories and lasting effects that this pandemic had on them.

Student learning reomotely from home in 2020

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Several TSPRAns weigh in on what they learned from the pandemic by Jenny Bridges Director of Public Relations Waxahachie ISD

H

undreds of school PR professionals entered the TSPRA 2020 conference with a vague awareness of a new virus that had just made its way to the United States. Like me, I’m sure many of my fellow TSPRAns never imagined the impact it would have on us and how dramatically our lives and our livelihoods were about to change.

By the last day of the TSPRA 2020 conference, we were busy sharing community letter templates and health-related research with each other. I talked to my superintendent on the phone most of the way home from Austin, and my district, Waxahachie ISD, released its first COVID-19-related communication that very day, Thursday, February 27, 2020. Just two weeks later, we were extending spring break for a week (not knowing that it would be the spring break that never ended) and preparing our entire student body and staff to transition to online learning in a matter of days. And while that was the ultimate shift, I would argue that school communications underwent a similarly profound shift. When so much of what we do focuses on what happens in our schools, how do we continue to promote the great things that are happening while everyone is at home? When things are rapidly changing, sometimes on an hourly basis, how do we find the right tools to make sure all stakeholders have the correct information? It’s certainly been a challenge, but I can wholeheartedly say that school PR professionals around the state have risen to that challenge. As we worked from home or nearly-empty offices, school PR professionals were the voices of our districts, reporting on positive news, providing vital information, crafting messages and creating electronic media. The work we did touched every single stakeholder in every single school district across the state of Texas. Now that we are, unbelievably, a year into the pandemic, I wanted to reflect on the past year in school PR. Several of our TSPRA colleagues joined me in recounting successes, misses and more.

WHAT WORKED WELL AS YOU WERE COMMUNICATING WITH VARIOUS STAKEHOLDER GROUPS DURING THE PANDEMIC?

“Facebook Lives daily and then weekly with our families. We’d then email the videos out for those who didn’t have Facebook to watch live. Keeping that connection by putting faces in front of families that were isolated built so much trust and bought us so much grace as we all just started navigating through a brand-new world.” – Kristin Zastoupil, Executive Director of Marketing & Communications, Forney ISD “The ability to reach parents on social media was key to driving action back to our website for more detailed information and requests for action to be taken.” – Veronica V. Sopher, Chief Communications Officer, Fort Bend ISD and current TSPRA president

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IF YOU KNEW THEN WHAT YOU KNOW NOW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?

“I would work with my team ahead of time to have a transition plan in place for working from home. It took us some time to formalize how our meeting formats would work. For example, we had to block out time for lunch and breaks; otherwise, we would be online from the time we woke up to the time we went to bed.” – Veronica V. Sopher, Chief Communications Officer, Fort Bend ISD and current TSPRA president “I think it’s so important to have all district and campus leaders involved in the decision-making process. It makes every step of the process collaborative. The more people you have involved in making those decisions, the more fluid it can be.” – Leslie Crutsinger, Director of Communications, Gainesville ISD “I would implement a COVID-19 portal on our website from the very beginning. No one could have imagined how long this would last, so we were delayed in realizing the importance of getting a portal up and running.” – Jenny Bridges, Director of Public Relations, Waxahachie ISD

WHAT COMMUNICATION TOOLS DID YOU FIND MOST VALUABLE?

“Always direct tools – emails, phone calls, texts, mobile app push and social media. Video allowed families to look our superintendent in the eye when he was talking so we could reassure them we had a plan that put kids’ safety first.” – Kristin Zastoupil, Executive Director of Marketing & Communications, Forney ISD “We had a weekly video which we tied into San Antonio’s COVID-19 numbers and red/yellow/green status. Our superintendent would give updates based on the science and reassure the community that we were keeping students and staff safe.” – Carlos Rodriguez, South San Antonio ISD “[Our communication platform] was an unbelievably valuable tool for us. We’ve been using it for years, but it’s really gotten a workout during the pandemic.” – Jenny Bridges, Director of Public Relations, Waxahachie ISD

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU LEARNED?

“Have a thick skin. I learned pretty early on that when people weren’t being nice, it wasn’t about me.” – Cami Steele, Director of Communications, Hillsboro ISD “Update frequently, even if you don’t have the answers. Transparency builds honesty and trust.” – Kristin Zastoupil, Executive Director of Marketing & Communications, Forney ISD “That not everything needs to be a professional production. We received MORE interaction with basic selfie video announcements than we ever have with a professionally polished video. We learned our community valued the content of the communication over how it was curated.” – Olivia Rice, Director of Communications & Marketing, Terrell ISD “Having lanes is very important, but it’s also important to have crossover so we can cover for each other during emergencies. You have to be able to trust your people to do their jobs, but it’s also so important to regularly check in on your people. The number-one word during all of this is ‘grace’ – we’ve asked for grace, shown grace and asked people to have grace with each other. That word has helped to decrease stress.” – Beth Trimble, Executive Director of Communications, Red Oak ISD

WHAT CHANGES DID YOU MAKE THAT YOU’LL STICK WITH?

“We completely reconceptualized graduation. We spaced the graduates all along our football field and placed five family members directly behind each graduate to allow for more seating. It was a giant hit and something we will likely continue well past COVID-19.” – Olivia Rice, Director of Communications & Marketing, Terrell ISD “More Facebook Live interactions with parents, families, teachers and staff members.” – Carlos Rodriguez, South San Antonio ISD

DO YOU THINK YOUR DISTRICT VALUES PR MORE AFTER EVERYTHING WE’VE BEEN THROUGH IN THE PAST YEAR?

“Absolutely, but we were blessed with a cabinet that really believed in communications before. I think it’s more that our community understands the value of our team now.” – Kristin Zastoupil, Executive Director of Marketing & Communications, Forney ISD “I think all of this has made it even more important for people to make sure we have their updated contact information. I think they value communication from their schools even more now, because they had to rely on it. On the flip side, the community also expects more from us now that they know what we do.” – Leslie Crutsinger, Director of Communications, Gainesville ISD “There have always been people who know the extent of what we do, but also those who assumed we just take pictures and surf Facebook all day. Those assumptions seem to be far gone. Likewise, our PR team’s appreciation for our educators, curriculum coordinators, nurses, custodians, school nutrition workers, counselors, technology team members, etc., grew tremendously as well. When we were put to the test, I believe every person in our district showed up in a way that made everyone appreciate their contribution to education even more.” – Olivia Rice, Director of Communications & Marketing, Terrell ISD


School Nursing in the Time of COVID-19: A Whole New World by Sally Andrews Director of Community Relations Vidor ISD

I

f you just hummed the music to "A Whole New World" from the movie "Aladdin," you may have small children at home. Or perhaps you've just watched “Aladdin” ad nauseum while quarantining. Whatever the case, just know that it could be worse. You could be a school nurse. "Love in the Time of Cholera," a classic novel by by Gabriel García Márquez that takes place in the late 1870s and early 1930s, has a story line that alludes partly to medical plagues. Well, that even rings true in today's world of public education, doesn't it? In fact, if the past year could be entitled, it might be called something like "School Nursing in the Time of COVID-19." As if the jobs of public school nurses were not busy enough, the 'plague' of a pandemic was thrown into the mix. So what, exactly, were the duties of school nurses in years past? Well, to begin with, every student had to be screened for vision and hearing. Yep...ALL of them. In some instances, screenings also included those for scoliosis. Diabetics had to be monitored, vaccinations kept up to date and tracked, accident care and reports maintained and medications for mental health issues such as ADD and ADHD administered. Care plans were created for kiddos with allergies, asthma and other conditions, in conjunction with the child's doctor. Head lice checks were done, and students sent home to get rid of the bugs. Nurses tried hard to lessen the spread of the flu, strep and other infectious diseases. And of course, sick students were frequent visitors to the school nurse.

“One of the things I like best about being a school nurse is that there are opportunities for me to touch lives ...”

In addition to student care, the nursing staff in a school district is responsible for training staff in such things as using an AED (a defibrillator), performing CPR on both children and adults and knowing how to do simple first aid. Parents were able to visit the nursing office to ask questions about their child's medication or health. All of these things added up to quite a time-consuming job with specialized skills and a heavy dose of patience required on a daily basis.

Then along came COVID-19. Suddenly, school nurses were called upon to assist local county health entities who simply were not prepared for a pandemic. They began tracing cases, treating symptoms, documenting tests and clearing students to return to school. Nurses had to notify the health department of cases in the schools, whether those be in teachers or students, and had to keep track of which students were quarantined because of contact with someone who had the disease or because they were infected themselves. One nurse commented that before Christmas break, about 80-85 percent of her day was spent dealing with COVID-19-related items.

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Not only are school nurses dealing with the things listed above, but they are also taking the brunt of a wide range of emotions from parents and families who are frustrated, angry and impatient during the pandemic's constant upsets. "Parents just want their kids in school," said an elementary school nurse." They often can't seem to grasp the fact that honestly, no one really knows how to handle this pandemic, and we are all just finding our way. We need to give each other some grace, but sometimes the frustration is so high that grace just doesn't happen."

full potential and see their dreams come to fruition, and I know this doesn't always happen at home." After January, school nurses began seeing a decline in COVID-19 cases and turned tracking back over to the local health departments. Are they happy? You bet! Are they ready for life to regain a bit of normalcy? Well, aren't we all?! As one middle school nurse said about the past year, "It's just not the same. We see a lot of students through the window for minor care, and it's not very welcoming. I'm just ready to get back to normal!” Can we all just take a moment to cross our fingers and say a wish for exactly that? I bet a whole lot of school nurses would be grateful!

Yet another nurse adds, "Honestly, COVID-19 symptoms have pretty much shut down the health office on my campus. Parents are not allowed on campus any more, so they are not visiting my office to pick up a sick child, bring medicine or ask questions. They now must wait at the front office. If I have a child with symptoms in the nurse's office, then no one else can enter. So dispensing medication and handling injuries becomes much more difficult for the school nurse to achieve." Assistant Superintendent Dr. Travis Maines of Vidor Independent School District says, "In late July, the idea of making it through a month without having to close a campus seemed unrealistic. Yet we have made it all year with no closures! A large number of people felt the odds were overwhelmingly stacked against us for that happening. Each of our amazing school nurses took the time to learn as much as possible in regards to this new virus, and to train others as well. Their hard work and dedication to our students and staff have allowed our doors to remain open and they are worthy of an abundance of recognition!" (Any other administrators want to add a hearty "amen”?) School nurses worry about their kids. It's hard when they know a child or youth needs medicine but only gets it at school. The tough situations break their hearts when they see that a child does not get physical or emotional needs met at home. "One of the things I like best about being a school nurse is that there are opportunities for me to touch lives at transitional times ... because let's face it, aren't students always in some sort of transition?"says a high school nurse. "Students are so impressionable and they need to be noticed for what they bring to the table. I try to always let them know their worth and importance so that, hopefully, they will have what it takes to reach their

Oak Forest Elementary (Vidor ISD) nurse Jennifer Stanley sees a student in her office.

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And Now

A retrospective look at what we can lea

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s I try to remember the very first conversation I had about COVID-19, I am taken back to a dinner I had with a good friend who works in public relations at a local hospital. She shared with me about having meetings and conversations about a new virus that would potentially make its way to the U.S. This encounter happened in midJanuary 2020 when I was meeting with her to celebrate the end of the first trimester of my pregnancy. At that time, one could read about coronavirus cases happening in China but deaths had yet to be reported. Fast forward to the TSPRA Conference in late February 2020 when I had a couple of conversations with peers about the coronavirus. We also talked about how to generate positive social media engagement, identifying positive stories, planning for the 2020 census and many other school PR nonpandemic related topics. In looking back, we had no idea we were about to begin a long journey of challenges, isolation and being forced out of our comfort zone on a daily basis. Oh, if I had a penny for every time we heard, “unprecedented times!” I have to admit that it actually became a trigger expression for me and I guess for many others too. Making gains from losses The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche stated, “Out of life's school of war — what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger.” Well, the end of the 2019-20, as well as the 202021 school year, have taught us that there is no option other than to be strong. And creative. And resourceful. And adaptable. And many other qualities school PR professionals are familiar with being praised for.

by Cissa Madero Communications Specialist 2021 | www.TSPRA.org Pearland 38 SpringISD

It is fair to say that supporting 23 campuses and more than 30 departments in Pearland ISD through all of the challenges imposed by the pandemic has empowered our team, as well as the district as a whole, to become even stronger.


? ? ? ??

w … What

arn from this past year

March 16, the first Monday after Spring Break 2020, was our last day at the office pre-shutdown. In a matter of a few hours spent together in our department conference room, our team built the structure of a new website as a “one-stop shop” for all remote learning needs. The page quickly became an invaluable tool for students, parents, staff and community members to find information about how our district would be handling the closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The website included a wide variety of videos, FAQs, mental health resources, employee links, information about assistance programs (including free meals offered by the district) and much more.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Another example of adaptability of the district came under the name of “Plan to Proceed” — an all-encompassing initiative that had the goal of planning and communicating all aspects pertaining to returning to school in the fall of 2020, amid COVID-19 protocols and concerns. The initiative was created as a part of efforts made by the “Return to School Committee,” which was comprised by central office and campus staff, teachers and parents. In times of pandemic, being socially distanced doesn’t mean being socially disconnected. Pearland ISD’s RISE Mentoring has also found ways to adapt how it operates, which has allowed mentors to continue to show up for their students, even if not in person right now. Its format might look a little bit different, but the purpose of the program continues the same: to make sure teach child feels seen, heard and valued by someone outside of their family. Technology has helped mentors and their mentees stay in touch through weekly phone or video calls. For other students enrolled in the program, communication has happened the “good oldfashioned” way, through written letters exchanged frequently. One more example of Pearland ISD’s resilience and creativity is the launch of the Connect:Ed 1:1 Initiative, a program that fully integrates the use of technology in the classroom and at home, empowering all students to learn and thrive. In an

effort to meet the needs of students and embrace the opportunities created during the pandemic, through this program, remote and on-campus students gained access at no charge to a device (an iPad or a laptop) appropriate to their grade level to use for learning. Students with limited internet access also received a hotspot device. Technical support and repairs are promptly offered online, on campus and at the central administration office. Where do we go from here? It is naive to think that things will go back to the same way they once were before the pandemic. And I don’t say that in a pessimistic way. No! I am a “see the glass halffull” kind of person. Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus better explains what I’m referring to when he said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” We are not the same as we were pre-pandemic. How does one simply disregard the new (and truly valuable) skills acquired during such trying times? Skills like: • • • •

Managing time more efficiently, since we have so many projects simultaneously on our plate; Being flexible and embracing the opportunity to revisit old programs, projects and initiatives (with and without a budget for it!); Becoming more intentional when connecting with those we love, close and far, in order to fill the void imposed by their physical absence; Prioritizing our mental health and finding joy in the smallest of moments by stretching, reading, walking outside, meditating, baking and all other activities that we find fulfilling; And reinventing ourselves! Because graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, retirements and other special moments can still be celebrated with meaningful, health-focused efforts.

Simply put, we should embrace the new, stronger us, and put those new skills to use, personally and professionally, when closing the 2020-21 school year chapter and planning for the 2021-22 beginning. Because “this is the way we’ve always done” has never been a good-enough reason to maintain a status quo, especially now.

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by Andrea Gribble, #SocialSchool4EDU Andrea was a presenter at #TSPRA21 Conference. She runs #SocialSchool4EDU, a company that provides social media training for K12 schools. Check out her bootcamp and online membership program at www.socialschool4edu.com

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ducation looks different in 2021. And our social media posts will reflect that!

But what are some best practices when it comes to the images we share? Social distancing and wearing masks are both big concerns. You can download our one-page sheet that will explain what to look out for, plus ideas for posts — broken down by in-person and online learning. We also have another idea list for just virtual learning!

www.bit.ly/SchoolPhotoGuide

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www.bit.ly/CelVirtualLearning


IN-PERSON Guidelines •

• •

If masks are required, photos should include masks. Make sure both mouth and nose are covered. Encourage a thumbs-up to show positivity in lieu of a visible smile. A photo showing just one student might be the safest to share. Watch the background! Questions on social distancing could create a comment storm. Keep this in mind with graduation and other year-end events.

Ideas • • • • •

A short video of a student explaining something new they learned Students engaged in learning while observing safety guidelines Recess time! Students reading out loud — video or photo Students with their artwork — could be a weekly feature

VIRTUAL Guidelines •

Avoid sharing pictures of video conferences that display student names. Incorporate photos and videos into class assignments. Teachers can ask parents to send photos or videos of their child completing an assignment. Carefully review photos before posting them and post only with approval. Make sure backgrounds are appropriate. Do not post photos taken in bedrooms. Ensure the student is dressed appropriately and no siblings are in the background.

Ideas • • • • • • •

Completing a science experiment Practicing a musical instrument Showcasing a completed project Demonstrating a new skill Enjoying at-home physical education Showing their favorite spot to work Collect learning success stories from staff and parents — could be a weekly feature continued on Page 42 Spring 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

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{

continued from Page 41 Realize that no matter how careful you are, there could still be critical comments on your school social media posts. Do your best and watch comments closely. As the end of the year draws near, you will have many celebrations that could be in-person or online. Make sure to have a plan to share photos and videos from these events. If you’re honoring seniors, utilizing their senior photos would be perfectly acceptable. People will realize that those photos were taken outside of the school and they were more than 6 feet away from others. Please also pay close attention to sharing photos from pre-COVID-19 days … We have heard stories about schools that got blasted with negative comments after posting photos showing teachers and students giving each other high fives with no masks. Just be careful if you’re sharing photos that don’t follow social distancing or mask requirements. I’m not saying you can’t use any of these photos on social media, but I would strongly urge you to add a note to your post that says something like, “Special note — this photo was taken in 2019 when social distancing and masks were not required.” Finally, I’d like to send you off with a host of photo examples that might inspire you and your staff. These are from across the country and show that you can still celebrate your schools during 2021!

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I

’m a terrible speller. When you combine my slight dyslexia with my ADHD, you’re left with a child who had difficulty spelling and couldn’t sit still long enough for the power of repetitive practice to sink in. How bad am I? I’m so bad that sometimes I can’t even spell a word close enough to get spellcheck to recognize the word I’m trying to spell. I was so bad as a child that once, in third grade, I finally spelled a word right in the classroom spelling bee (the word was balloon) and my class gave me a STANDING OVATION! Talk about scarring. So, it was no surprise to those who knew me that I would make my impact on the world through the spoken word. That I would focus my energies on using speech as a way to impart knowledge, since you don’t need to know how to spell a word to say it aloud. It is in this journey and profession that I have come to learn the true power of words, phrases and communication. The more I learn, the more I come to believe in the power of words – both the written and spoken – and the more I believe there are certain words and phrases we should remove or severely limit our usage of. As communication professionals, you spend all day worrying about the words and phrases you release, yet how often do you explore the words and phrases you use in your own life every day? How often do you explore the emotional effect those phrases or words have on those important to you? Or how they affect your perspective when you’re talking to yourself? (And you know you do … talk to yourself that is ... you’re doing it right now, in fact).

The drive to defend is very strong. When it’s enacted, it becomes extremely difficult to effectively communicate. It’s likely you have experienced both sides of this interaction. When someone says to you, “You never listen,” what’s your immediate reaction? Likely defensiveness. You begin to think of situations where you feel you have listened thus making the statement a falsehood and easily dismissed. Instead of being able to listen intently, you’re on the defensive instantly. The use of absolute language has the power to divide and create an “us vs them” mentality, which rarely benefits the greater community good. It’s divisive and demeaning; one should strive to do better. Need some help replacing words? Try these: • • • •

Instead of never, use rarely. Instead of always, use often. Instead of all, use most. Instead of none, use few.

It’s not perfect, of course, but removing absolute language can help alleviate some conflicts by avoiding putting someone on the defensive.

Here are a few words and phrases that you may consider striking from your vocabulary.

Using absolute language in interpersonal communication most often (see – I didn’t use always) results in defensiveness. The drive to defend is one of the four main drives humans have. In addition, other drives include acquire, bond and learn, according to Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria, authors of “Drive: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices.”

I earned my master’s degree in education from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where I studied emotional intelligence and compared it to traditional leadership modules. Then, I explored how to use games and activities to enhance emotional intelligence skills. It was this early immersion into emotional intelligence that led to my lifelong interest in the subject and my continuing fascination with language and emotions. In my early studies, there was a phrase that stood out the most for me in phrases NOT to use. There is no place for this phrase to be used and it is a classic case of intent of a message versus how a message is received. “I know how you feel” is a statement often (not always) continued on Page 46 Spring 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

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continued from Page 45 used with good intentions in an effort to connect with another and show empathy and support; you are able to share their feelings and emotions. It’s rarely perceived that way. Think about it. Has anyone ever used that phrase towards you? How did you react? I know the first thing I think when someone says that to me is, “No, you don’t.” Saying “I know” takes the attention away from the person who needs it. It’s not about you. It’s about them. So, what phrase can help you show empathy? Here is something to say that is a little wordy and might seem uncomfortable, but it reflects much better what you are trying to convey: “While I cannot imagine what you are going through, I have experienced something similar and I recall how difficult it was. If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.” There are, of course, other factors that will go into the receiver’s perception but that phrase is more inclusive.

Emotional maturity is something that avoids most people as they go through life. We think we have a good handle on our emotions or that we are able to control them, but most of us just wobble our way through the emotional spectrum of life on a daily basis. We avoid unpacking our emotions and try to ascertain why we feel what we feel. If we do have a time frame when we express emotions based around loss, grief, frustration, pain, hurt and the like, the last thing we ever want is someone to tell us to “get over it.” It minimizes the emotion being experienced and actually teach us that emotions are something to “get over,” when, in fact, they are incredible teaching aids to explore the inner workings of our soul and mind. Telling anyone to “get over it” or “you’ll get over it,” even when we know it’s likely true that they will eventually will, diminishes and dismisses their emotional state of mind.

If you attended the TSPRA conference in February, you might recall me talking about this phrase during my keynote address on Tuesday morning. This is a tricky one. For the purpose of socially accepted phrases, I will not say “never” use it (Look! A proper usage of an absolute! And a double negative … bad Judson. Bad Judson.). Instead, I will tell you to replace the thought, “I don’t have time,” by saying to yourself, “It’s not a priority for me right now,” instead. Again, maybe don’t say this out loud to your significant other when they ask you to do something; just say it to yourself in your own mind. This is a really hard thing for people to do. The use of “I don’t have time” has become such an accepted phrase in our everyday life because we’re all busy. Like really busy. Like really, really, really busy. It’s completely allowed for us to just reply, “I don’t have time” and that be that. You do have time. You’ve always had time and you will always have time, except for when you die and then you have no more time. Time is one of four commodities we have and it’s the only one that is universal. Every single person (an appropriate use of an absolute again) gets the same number of hours in the day (assuming you’re not traveling in a supersonic jet every hour), same number of minutes in an hour and the same number of seconds in every minute. It comes down to personal choice as to what we use that time for. Figuring out our own priorities is a lifelong process that is fluid. What is high priority one day might not be the next. I have no recommendations as to what your priorities should be; I just want more people to own their actions. Saying, “I don’t have time,” tells you exactly where that thing lies on your priority list. If you can start to hear, “it’s not a priority,” inside your head when you say, “I don’t have time,” it will start to help you clarify what your priorities are. It’s powerful knowledge to have about yourself as you navigate this world full of options and opportunities.

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There you go. Those are just a few concepts around wording and phrases that if you incorporate into your days, I believe it will help make your life a little better. You might spend your day crafting the perfect release for an upcoming event or finding that precise wording for a levy campaign, but how often do you explore the words and phrases you use every ...um... I mean ... most days?


Rethinking How to Connect with the Media

by Jennifer Hines Tyler ISD Executive Director of Communications

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ike many districts that opened for in-person learning this past fall, COVID-19 meant that any extra visitors to our campuses were not allowed. This immediately showed that our communications team would need to adapt how we would share all of the positive stories inside our schools, despite the current situation. As the largest school district in East Texas, the media usually calls us first for anything education related. Knowing this, our communications department changed strategies and started acting like a newsroom. And as a former news anchor that spent two decades covering education in five Texas cities, I knew what the media needed and what we, as a communications team, could do to get our story told. Our four-prong approach was simple: Take the story to them. Instead of our inviting journalists in, we sent the content to them. As we pinpointed specific stories to share, we gathered high-quality photos, videos and interviews to offer to the media. And they used it. Tired of protests, riots, COVID-19 and politics, we found news outlets were hungry for positive stories. It didn’t matter how big or small; they kept coming back for more. The stories ranged from first day of school highlights to how the East Texas Symphony Orchestra director joined our staff to teach middle school students. Take the story outside. We also took the news story opportunities outside, allowing for social distancing and safe mask-free interviews. A popsicle drive-through to meet a new principal, a soldier coming home to surprise his son during a class snow cone treat, students planting trees for Arbor Day, student donation drives at Christmas and art students painting a portion of a city mural are just some of the stories the media covered. Be accessible online. With the media using Zoom and other remote platforms to do interviews, it became easier than pre-COVID-19 to make ourselves accessible. Gone were the days of taking 10 minutes to set up and get everything ready to record or drive to meet someone at a different campus. Our superintendent joined a Superintendents’ Roundtable at one news station and a Lessons Learned series with another. Meanwhile, I spoke to the media about our choice school application process, the launch of our new district app and our Leader in Me initiative. All without leaving the office! Talk about efficiency. Write the story for them. We increased the content, facts and information provided in media advisories and press releases. We made sure to include quotes from two to three sources and links to additional information. We gave information that could easily be an anchor intro and anchor tag. In other words, we wrote their online web story and most of their package for them. All they had to do was cut and paste. And our approach worked. We had more than 10 front-page news articles and our Meltwater media tracking numbers show that more than 480 broadcast stories and 450 online and print media stories were posted since August 1, 2020. Spring 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

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BEST RELEASE How to maximize return on your media communication by Matthew Prosser Communications Director Longview ISD

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he voice on the other end of the telephone was cordial but quite concerned.

“Hey Matthew, I’ve got this press release here and, uh, well ... I’m not really sure what’s going on?” The caller was a local journalist and former colleague of mine. While she was eager to cover a story for our organization, the media advisory she had just received was creating more questions for her than answers. A member of my staff sent the release without first vetting it with me. Upon reading it, I was horrified to discover a rambling 500-word essay that lacked a headline as well as paragraphs. To make matters worse, the staffer had sent the missive to “all” of their contacts. reporters, co-workers, vendors and even a few relatives. It was a disaster. Suffice to say, our organization received little traction from that particular story. However, it did prompt my department to do an aggressive training session on our preferred practices for crafting and disseminating releases to our media partners. While some of these things may be intuitive or obvious to many of you, my experience tells me that the sense that is often described as “common” is seldom commonplace.

The basic structure

So, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of a press release, specifically: the “nut graf.” In journalistic lingo, the “nutshell paragraph” should answer who, what, when, where, why and how as quickly as possible. Ideally, this should be in your lead sentence, also known as the “lede” by reporters.

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Larry Williams, a mentor of mine (and renowned editor in his own right), once said I should be able to visualize the entire story, “not from the headline but from the nut graf.” “Heds (headlines) can be misleading, ledes can be buried, but the whole story should be right there in the nut graf,” he said. The best releases I’ve sent (and received) are typically around 300 words and well-structured around these five main pillars: 1. Headline: No need to be too precious about the wording; they’ll likely change it anyway. But it is important to be as clear and punchy as possible. I recommend a single sentence, with a seven-word maximum. When I first started in journalism, the rule was 10 words but then social media happened. So now it’s seven words. 2. Lede: Again, the most important part of the release itself and you should lead with your “lede.” You’ve got to hook the attention of the editor/reporter reading the release, but also answer as much of the who/what/when/ where/why/how as possible in around 30 words. Try to keep it as a single sentence and a single paragraph. 3. Meat: Here’s where you can provide the more abstruse data and details. The facts and figures. In all likelihood, the average reporter will just glance over this and perhaps copy/paste it somewhere. But it’s good background detail and a helpful way to avoid later playing phone-tag with a reporter who might be trying to fill in the gaps. 4. Quote: Once your reporter has all the basic facts, they’re going to want someone important to go on the record. As a mere spokesperson, you’re not considered “someone important,” so try to provide remarks from an appropriate administrator. Education reporters generally prefer quotes from the top (the superintendent) or the “boots on the ground” (your teachers), so try to provide them with a useful voice. 5. Call to action: The purpose of a press release is not merely to provide media outlets with an easy copy/paste article but rather to drive additional coverage into the story itself. So, you must provide them with a means to follow-up on your release: a point of contact. Whether it’s the district’s spokesperson, someone in the administration or at the campus, you’ve got to provide someone for reporters to talk to about your story. Once you’ve covered these five points, you’re welcome to throw in any “boilerplate” information about your district or other media elements you feel are relevant. Headshot photos, renderings, graph, or other art are all perfectly adequate but avoid the “kitchen sink” approach to attachments. Keep it simple. Always.

Finding your audience

Once you’ve got your system down to creating the releases, the obvious question becomes how to best deliver them effectively and efficiently. Do you send bulk emails to everyone on your list or do you keep a small exclusive group of preferred contacts? I do both. A large part of your role is developing strong relationships across various groups of stakeholders, which includes the local journalists in your area. Pitch stories regularly enough so that they see you as a valuable source but also make sure you help push their content once they’ve covered your news. Your email list should consist of reporters, editors/newsrooms and local influencers. Having worked in newsrooms as everything from a stringer without a byline to the managing editor, I feel like I have a decent grasp on what journalists need from PR “flacks.” Now as communications director for a large school district, I try to meet our reporters’ needs in cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship. Because, let’s face it, we’re really on the same team here. They want to tell a great story and we want to provide them with a great story to tell. Journalists are busy people. Overworked and underpaid. Whether it’s breaking news or just writing on deadline, they do not have time to waste and do not suffer fools gladly. If you’re going to get them to publicize your event, celebrate your accomplishment or boost whatever narrative you’re trying to create, you have to do more than just continued on Page 50 Spring 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

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continued from Page 49

meet them halfway. Give them something they can use. However, you should also take into consideration the frequent reporter turnover that occurs with media organizations. Keep in touch with the editors or news directors, as they seem to stick around longer. Most outlets also maintain a “newsroom” email account, but don’t rely on it too much. As a former editor myself, I know those inboxes are often stuffed with spam. Additionally, don’t neglect the power of local “influencers” in your community. Those might be civic officials, groups or organizations that maintain a large social media audience. Reach out and develop a relationship with them as well. For example, those of you in Deep East Texas are no doubt familiar with retired superintendent Joe Smith who maintains the TexasISD.com website. An invaluable resource for Texas school officials across the state, Smith is a tireless advocate for public schools and is glad to share reports on all the amazing things happening in your districts.

According to experts

So now that you’ve got something ready to send — and you know who you want to send it to — I want to offer a few final suggestions from a few of those I’ve worked with on the “other team,” about how to make the most out of every release. Les Linebarger, a journalism mentor of mine (now in charge of communications at Nacogdoches ISD), urges colleagues to “follow effective ledes with helpful details.” “Overworked editors and news directors have little time to triage items that come across their desks,” he said. “You’ve got one shot to grab their attention and make a case. So, write a clear, concise lede and follow it up with crisp writing.” What’s more, he adds, if the news item is of greater importance than usual, “don’t be afraid to make a phone call ahead of time.” But also, be cognizant and respectful of the unique time crunches that face most reporters. Rachael Riley, a former colleague of mine and a working journalist on the East Coast, stresses the importance of “lead time” on press releases. “Your typical newsroom is going to be planning their coverage about a week to ten days out,” she said. “Sure, you can tell us about something a month out, but it’s liable to slip through the cracks. At the same time, if you tell us the day of or even the day before, we may not be able to just drop everything and cover it. A safe range is between 7 to 10 days before.” Longtime newspaper editor Annie Ferguson, yet another former colleague, once told me to answer one key question before I start writing a release: “Why should they care?” “I get it that you think this is important, but why should I?” she said. “First, answer the question of why (a reporter or editor) should care about your story, then write the release.” Creating content and optimizing search engine results are certainly key components to the work of marketing and communications. However, before we can convince others of the importance of the narratives we’re hoping to build, we must first have a compelling reason for adding our voices to an already noisy media landscape.

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EXAMPLE PRESS RELEASE LONGVIEW INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Dec. 14, 2020

Longview ISD awards $2.8 million 'Xmas bonus' LONGVIEW — Longview Independent School District is awarding more than $2.8 million in incentive pay for achieving teachers, with a few of the highest-performing teachers projected to receive more than $30,000 extra in their December paychecks! Dr. James Hockenberry, LISD Assistant Superintendent of District Services, explained that the district utilizes LISD's aggressive local pay structures as well as the Longview Incentive For Teachers (LIFT) program , and the Texas Education Agency’s Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) funding sources to make this possible for our hard-working education professionals. Incentive pay for Longview ISD teachers has increased dramatically since the $350,000 awarded in 2014-15, just five years ago. "The goal of the Teacher Incentive Allotment is to provide a realistic pathway to pay outstanding teachers six-figure salaries," he said. "As such, it will dramatically improve the recruitment and retention of highly effective teachers and keep them in the classroom at our most challenging campuses." Longview ISD was ahead of the curve back in 2011, when trustees voted to implement a performance pay system for middle school reading and math teachers. Designed to help close the achievement gap between low socioeconomic and middle-income students, today the LIFT Pay for Performance Program includes three award models, and has proven instrumental in retaining high-quality educators. The temporary LIFT model calculations, due to the lack of STAAR testing during the spring semester of the 2019-2020 year (as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic), will follow the Texas Education Agency’s TIA formula using a combination of weighted 2017-2020 academic data to determine teacher "levels," with award distinction funds using a three-year average for the campuses and district for years 2017-2019 Designations. The designation award is determined by the employee's place of employment at the conclusion of the 2019-2020 year. For additional coverage or to set up an interview about this story please contact LISD spokesman Francisco Rojas at 903-381-2200.


Building a District Brand and Theme: How to Become a Household Name by Goose Creek CISD Community Engagement Team

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n idea that sprang from the desire for Goose Creek CISD, in conjunction with the City of Baytown, to improve the image of both has become a new culture for our district with close to 24,000 students. “Here, We Grow Giants” emerged as a district theme in 2019 with a convocation video that highlighted the “giants” throughout our district who make an incredible impact each day in our schools as well as in our community. The video featured our superintendent, Dr. Randal O’Brien (who is also “giant” in stature), students, teachers and several programs in our district. It was enthusiastically received; our 28 schools adapted the theme for their campuses. In a short time, staff members were coming up with creative ways to recognize their “giants” and wearing the T-shirts, which we also gave out to local service organizations. Through social media, we encouraged the public to participate in the Giants of the Month program, nominating their Giant Student, Educator and Alumnus of the Month. The purpose of this Giants of the Month program is to intentionally celebrate those who make “giant” contributions to our schools and community through their inspiration, accomplishments and service. A districtwide committee reviews the numerous nominations that come in each month. We began at Convocation in 2019, recognizing our four valedictorians, two District Teachers of the Year and the mayor of the City of Baytown, an alumnus, to get the ball rolling. Through sponsorship from a local business partner, we presented each “giant” with a plaque and a gift basket. Since the original kick-off, we have honored giants in and from our community each month.

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To kick off our second video commercial during second semester, we invited the public to a “Here, We Grow Giants Launch Party” held outdoors at the Town Center. Featured programs in the second video were invited to perform or speak about their program. An appearance by one of our therapy dogs and performances by a drill team and an orchestra were highlights of the evening, which culminated with a viewing of the video on a large screen. Food, giveaways and a photo opportunity with a “giant” graduate cutout added to the fun. The audience included Goose Creek CISD staff, parents and business partners, along with City of Baytown staff. Even with the pandemic causing schools to close, “Giants” continued to be a morale boost for students, staff and alumni. The committee met by Webex and a small group participated in car parades past the houses of the Giants of the Month, presenting the awards to frequently tearful recipients. Recipients included alumni healthcare workers, such as a leading pediatric infectious disease doctor at Texas Children’s Hospital and even an accomplished flutist who plays and has a business teaching children music in Finland, recognized on Facebook Live. We honored our director of educational technology, who worked day and night with his team to launch virtual instruction during the onset of the pandemic.

Our “hold” music on our phone system is the music and superintendent’s message from our first video. An ad in a magazine published by our local newspaper featured all our 2019-20 “giants.” In the 2020-21 school year, we have honored numerous well-deserving students and staff members who have not let COVID-19 take them down! We showcased students who tackled virtual learning in the most undesirable circumstances and staff members who have gone above and beyond to help our community. Other honorees included our chef, who determines ways to deliver hot meals during the pandemic, a teacher who instructs from a separate room because she is battling cancer, an attendance clerk who calls every student who isn’t on campus are just a few to mention.

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As we geared up for another year, although it started quite differently with three weeks of virtual instruction, new T-shirts were passed out for convocation and employees received totes, mousepads and lanyards with the navy and lime green “Here, We Grow Giants.” A new committee was ready to go and schools were once again competing for the most creative “giant” displays and bulletin boards. We were excited to use our Giant inflatable and are looking forward to having it at graduation. What is even more exciting is that our recent video highlights essential staff, such as custodial, operations, maintenance and technology services, and some of our educators. There were few dry eyes at Convocation 2020, held virtually, as the video kicked it off, capturing everyone’s attention. Getting every school on board with a branding initiative while keeping their own campus identity was not easy. How did we do it? We provided every school with resources, including custom graphics, PowerPoint templates, WebEx backgrounds, letterhead, business cards and email signatures. It was

“Here, We Grow Giants” is now our community’s identity.

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just too easy to get on board. “Here, We Grow Giants” is more than a district brand; it is more than a district theme. “Here, We Grow Giants” is now our community’s identity. Alumni, students and staff refer to accomplishments and accolades as giant. Individuals who have inspired and made an impact on our community are now referred to as giants. We have taken an exciting concept and, by focusing on people, made it our identity. The brand evokes strong emotion and pride. We are proud to say in Goose Creek CISD, “Here, We Grow Giants.”


Just Pivot by Kristyn Cathey Media/Communications Specialist Port Arthur ISD

Photos by Jesse Ballou, III of J3 Photography If you look up the word “pivot” in the dictionary, you should see a list of school districts right next to it. The way we thought, the way we taught, the way we communicated internally and externally had to change in order to meet the goals and vision set forth by our respective districts. The pandemic could not have come at a worse time for Port Arthur ISD. We were in the midst of our annual “Teacher of the Year” process when we closed our district to in-person instruction on Monday, March 16, 2020. My superintendent has spent his nearly three decades in education in PAISD, and as a huge advocate for teachers, he made it very clear to me that we had to continue with the TOY celebration by any means necessary. That’s all I needed to hear! I collaborated with a former college student turned speech and debate teacher in Clear Creek ISD to assist me with the process. We had the campus TOY applicants submit their letters in a shared Google Drive where we narrowed down the list from 16 to the top five elementary and secondary teachers. From there, we got creative. The top five completed virtual interviews with the Clear Creek teachers. The winners were graded on the effectiveness of their letter and their interview. Because of the pandemic, we could not have activities in any of our buildings so I came up with the idea of doing a drive-by for the district-wide winners and a Central Administration drive-thru celebration for the entire group. We worked with the principals of the district-wide winners to ensure they would be at home when we came by. We had yard signs placed in their yards, the local media, a videographer and photographer and their campus family there to surprise them. It was such a beautiful moment. Later in the day, all campus Teachers and Rookies of the Year were presented with personalized balloons photos in front of as ofand 1/1/21 the Central Administration Building while our leadership team drove around the building honking their horns in celebration of their accomplishments. Knowing that our teachers, the ones that had to make the quickest pivot to reach our students, were grateful for the recognition meant all the world to our department and we now know that we can accomplish any celebration we want, if we just pivot. Spring 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

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Keeping a Positi How one district plugged into by Trebie Lawrence Secretary, Communications and Community Relations Lubbock Independent School District

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he nation has had the opportunity to see how a pandemic changes a school district’s visibility to the public in a dramatic way. Last March, when the entire nation was halted, schools became local microcosms for communities to organize responses to such an unforeseen and unplanned event. Under that kind of scrutiny, it would have been easy to focus solely on responding to negative feedback and community tension as the pandemic changed everything about how the district could function. The Lubbock ISD communications team instead chose to take a more proactive approach by involving their stakeholders throughout the entire process. The priority was battling the fear of the unknown. The community not only needed to be led steadily through extreme change, it also needed to know Lubbock ISD cared about its families. The communications team got underway sharing information with families through the district’s social media channels and website. The team posted information such as how to choose the type of instruction families felt met their specific needs to how to get access to meals. Going beyond the basic information pages, the team also included specialty pieces. They shared what the new typical day was like for the district’s food service provider through multiple videos, showing how meals were being distributed at campuses or through bus routes. Stakeholders were able to see actual food preparation and the steps taken to keep the food, the workers and the families safe. They watched as Superintendent Dr. Kathy Rollo surprised

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ive C onnection a positive partnership

During Trying Times

teachers at their front doors to honor those chosen as teachers of the year. They even got to hear an actual phone call from a student because he missed his teacher, as well as touching responses from teachers all over the district who missed their students as well. Seeing increased online responses showed the communications team that the community was actively seeking guidance and information. What, they wondered, would solidly connect the community and the district? An idea was born: How about building on the information being shared concerning daily student life in the classrooms and on virtual platforms? How about giving students the opportunity to teach? Better yet, they could even teach the superintendent. Thus began the “That’s How We Rollo” Facebook video series. Superintendent Kathy Rollo, Ed.D. was not only excited about the idea but relished trying a new and refreshing approach. The first lesson was a demonstration in footwork and balance from Estacado High School running back Jermiah Dobbins. Dobbins shared a basic explanation and demonstration over video and Rollo showed off her skills in her own video, while sporting a huge grin. Dobbins signed off by encouraging Rollo that by following his lessons, she, too, could become a running back for the Estacado Matadors. Regular lessons followed, each time separately recorded to keep interactions safe. Rollo learned how to play a trumpet, build a color wheel with objects around her house, dance the Ballet Folklorico and even speak Mandarin.

Prior to the “That’s How We Rollo” videos, informational videos shared through Facebook averaged around 2,000 viewers. After regularly sharing Rollo’s lessons, impressions doubled. Other videos sharing changes throughout the district also saw their viewership jump. The online audience for virtual board meetings increased and people were able to comment during the live video and get questions answered in real time. The community was engaging. Due to the popularity of the videos, the series has continued through the 2020-21 school year and new Texas Education Agency guidelines have allowed more flexibility to the format. Now that she is allowed to have face-to-face instruction, Rollo has learned welding, a short color guard routine and sheep shearing. As the digital divide narrows with the growing number of households gaining access to the internet, Lubbock ISD sees this year not only as trying but also as a positive opportunity. This boon has resulted in giving stakeholders regular access to instant information concerning not only the numerous daily changes in educating students but also to everyday information needs, such as enrollment procedures, meal information and school times. This year has seen not a degradation but an improvement in the district’s partnership with its stakeholders. As a result, the district has assumed a unique and active community role in calming fears and reestablishing normalcy for its Lubbock ISD family and stakeholders. Left: Dr. Rollo shears a show lamb, learns welding and prepares a show pig.

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Communication professionals share five things they learned in 2020.

MONICA FAULKENBERY, APR Assistant Director of Communications Northside ISD

Keep connected – we were alone together. As school PR professionals, we are innately social people. But everyone needs a connection with others in order to feel safe. Whether it is family members, church friends or some of your TSPRA colleagues, find a purposeful way to connect with others. For me, it was my TSPRA family who understood what I was going through and encouraged and supported me – even if it was just to vent or tell a “you can’t make this stuff up” story. We kept in touch through texts, GroupMe and Zoom, and every time we connected, I immediately felt better. Maintain an optimistic mindset. Make up your mind that you are going to look for the positive. Gratitude journals became “a thing” during the height of the pandemic for a reason. When we are bombarded (mostly on social media and email) with negativity, it can become toxic to your overall wellbeing. Take time every morning to say, “What good can I do for someone today?” Learning new things is fun. I’ve always considered myself a lifelong learner, but COVID-19 stretched that to new heights.

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And the good thing is that some of these new things or new ways of doing things may become permanent. Meetings have definitely become shorter and more productive over Zoom. We all need a bit of grace. I borrowed this from a TSPRA member early on in COVID-19 – “We are focusing on Connection over Perfection, and Grace over Pace.” When everyone is exhausted, it is even more important to be kind. Have a self-care mindset. We give of ourselves every day. And I remember the days, nights and weekends that we didn’t have any hours to give to self-care. But now is the time to refresh and begin taking care of ourselves. After all, you can’t practice compassion toward others if you aren’t kind to yourself. Model a culture of caring for self and others.

DR. NIKITA RUSSELL

Executive Director of Public Relations Everman ISD

Remember what is important. At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself: “Did everyone stay safe and healthy today?” Assess your mental state and the mental state


of your team. I do not believe communication departments had a regular break this school year but it is important to take a step back for yourself and your team. Remember your mental health and the mental health of your team will help promote a healthy environment. Think outside of the box. Now more than ever, it is time to think outside of the box. We have had to discover creative techniques to create videos while observing safety protocols. School districts have had to develop innovative ways to market themselves while maintaining their brand identity. Thinking outside of the box is revamping traditional communication methods to reach your target market audience. Include your team and push them to think outside of the box. Network. It is essential to work with fellow communication counterparts, especially during this school year. Reach out to other communication departments and see what they are doing during this time and how they handle situations that may arise. You will find so many resources when you connect with fellow communication leaders that you will not have to reinvent the wheel. Remember, “No man or woman is an island.” We need each other to thrive. Adjust to the new normal. I have to admit not being able to see the students’ smiling faces all the time was not normal for me. I am an educator at heart so being with the students was the highlight of my day. I had to learn to manage my expectations and find different ways to meet public relation duties. Remember the importance of school communications. I always knew school communications were necessary, and we make everything spin. This year, everyone from leaders, media and parents learned what we already knew — that school communication departments are valuable to executing effective communication. Social media and website engagement increased because people wanted information instantaneously about anything and everything, from school closures and safety protocols to basic information about what we are doing. In 2020, we all learned that sometimes we did not have an answer or that the information may change from the previous day. This year taught us the

importance of communicating authentic and transparent messages to all stakeholders across all communication methods.

JENNIFER HINES

Executive Director of Communications and Public Relations Tyler ISD It’s important to know how your team best communicates and works together. Joining the communications team in October 2019, I was still learning the personalities and skills of my team members when the education world got flipped upside down. We embarked on a path to learn our CliftonStrengths. Knowing each of our top 10 strengths and how they fit within the team helped us understand each other, our communication styles, and areas where our strengths were not being used to their fullest potential. The process strengthened the team’s communication and the connection between two office locations. It also helped us capitalize on our strengths as a team to get the greatest outcome. (www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths) It was time to change the district’s tone. Prior to COVID-19, the wording used in most messages was more formal and informational. When dealing with a crisis, connecting to staff and parents is crucial. By using a conversational tone and more personalized videos, we conveyed that district leadership is human too and that we are all in this together. It allowed us to build a stronger sense of family among the Tyler ISD community. Pick up the phone. To stay connected despite the cancelation of large events, luncheons and meetings, I made an intentional effort to call and check on sponsors, community partners and district staff. I set aside time each week to make a call or two. Sometimes the conversations were short and sometimes they lasted more than 30 minutes. Just asking someone how they are doing, what you can do to help and just listening goes a long way in keeping and building relationships. Take a break. Let’s be honest, we work in a fast-paced environment continued on Page 60 Spring 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

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and COVID-19 sent us into what seemed like lightning speed. It was easy to skip lunch, work on days off and essentially put yourself last. I learned it is essential to stop and take a break. A fiveminute walk around the building, closing my office door during lunch and putting my phone away at home (even if just for 30 minutes) so I could focus on my family are just some of the things that helped keep me going. Don’t forget the fun! Adding in a little comedic relief during a stressful situation goes a long way. It allows you a brief break from reality (if only for 10 minutes). We found moments to have a little fun like playing Star Wars during the superintendent’s message when we thought school might resume on May 4 (May the 4th be with you!), joking in a back-to-school video with a principal wearing an alligator mascot head instead of a “gator,” and even holding a ribbon cutting for a bathroom at the administration building that brought “relief” and many laughs.

DENISE BLANCHARD

Community Partnerships Director Amarillo ISD

Partners are willing. After starting back to school for in-person learning in early September, I was determined to offer some of those fun learning activities provided by our partners despite a pandemic. With a “no visitors” guideline on campuses, thankfully, principals agreed to let us sneak in after school hours to set up the egg-hatching incubators in classrooms across the city. Our AgriLife Extension agent didn’t mind working after hours and our custodians were excited to be a part of making it all happen. Spread out and breathe. When we shut down last spring, we were in the middle of many end-of-year projects I was not willing to let go. In lieu of a banquet for our outstanding volunteers and partners, we arranged

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for a home delivery. Our principals had a 4-hour window to swing by our partner flower shop, which had prepared centerpieces for the banquet, to pick up a bouquet for each of their nominees and personally deliver the flowers, a program and gift. It was definitely the best smelling day at work I have ever had! Our partners and volunteers felt honored to be remembered and loved the human touch. We honored our Teachers of the Year with our annual May breakfast, albeit in August. Despite the fears amid the pandemic, we pulled it off without a hitch. We doubled the number of tables we normally set and gave everyone plenty of elbowroom and honored our recipients. Show Up. As I move about in the community, I am often asked if I am working from home. My response has and will always be, “if teachers are showing up, I will too.” Having been in the classroom, I know how some on campuses view those of us in the “admin building” and I am not about to add fuel to their fire. The exhaustion I feel in my position of 20+ years in no way compares to the exhaustion I felt as a teacher. Earning the respect of a teacher is huge and comes not with the position we hold but with the work we do in supporting their work. You can’t talk about it if you haven’t lived it. We typically have 400-500 substitutes available during the school year, but with so many being of retirement age and beyond, our sub availability dropped drastically amid fear of contracting the virus. Many of us at the Education Support Center cleared our calendars and put our educator hats on to fill the teacher role so in-person learning could continue. Our community really appreciated the first-hand account I could give on what teachers were doing to keep themselves and their students safe. If I hadn’t done it, I could never have explained it all. Sanitizer is my new best friend. Surprised/Not Surprised. People never cease to amaze me with the phone calls I get. The latest one was asking me if the large baseball scholarship that was awarded


to a player last year who didn’t stay on task his first semester in college was going to be divided amongst the seven players who were interviewed and did not receive it. It was a perfect time to talk about the process, extending grace as deemed in the scholarship bylaws and listen to a mother who just wanted to tell me how wonderful and deserving her son is. I took the opportunity to tell her how awesome and wonderful they each were when we interviewed them, but the committee’s actions were final. Sometimes you just have to listen.

AUBREY CHANCELLOR

Executive Director of Communications North East ISD

There’s no such thing as overcommunication. As communication professionals, we know the power of communication. But, during the past year, that was taken to a whole new level. As conflicting information circulated, we had even more of a challenge in getting people to hear our message. It seemed as though we would send out information and by the next day people were wondering if that information was still accurate. We realized early on we needed to send more communication than we ever had before and even make sure to repeat the same information multiple times. A superintendent who values and trusts the communications department is invaluable. During this highly unusual time of so many people working from home, having less face-to-face contact and things changing rapidly … I had a renewed appreciation for my superintendent who knows the importance of messaging and who allows me and my staff the flexibility to make decisions as the communications “experts.” Because of his trust in us, it truly makes us more effective in communicating with our community and the media. There’s no replacement for a good game plan. Like many school districts, we decided we would need to stay really focused in our storytelling. Positive stories were more important than ever. We needed a way

to home in on the good that was being done. We quickly came up with a new hashtag for our social media. We implemented #NEISDCares. This helped each member of the communications team know the theme of each story. The fact that we had a roadmap and a specific angle for every interview really helped foster a consistent message. Predicting next steps is the key to success. Making sure you are aware of big issues is always important, but during a time of so many changing guidelines, new recommendations, etc., anticipating what parents/staff/media want to know was instrumental. I made sure to have a running list of “hot topics” and I reached out to those departments to have information I may need just in case. That way, I wasn’t scrambling to find answers at the last minute, especially when the media would come calling. This made me a more effective and trustworthy communicator. Taking care of your own mental health is a real thing. Communications professionals are known for being cool under pressure and handling crisis situations regularly. But we have all been working more than ever and under extreme conditions as well. School openings/closings, reporting COVID-19 cases, safety protocols, etc., have been the most controversial topics I’ve experienced in my career … and it’s been going on for MORE THAN A YEAR. As hard as it was, I realized I needed to give myself permission to take care of myself. It’s okay to take a break, delegate when you can or go on a walk/run (but of course, take your cellphone with you).

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

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TSPRAns share plans for end-of-school events We did a member survey to find out what districts around the state have planned for spring celebrations. Here are the results.

GRADUATION

“We are holding all three graduations in a stadium. There are health and safety protocols in place as outlined by the event venue. Families will receive up to 10 tickets and must sit in their assigned seats. Everyone will wear masks. There are several hours between each ceremony for the facility to be cleaned.” - Kim Hocott, Pearland ISD “We will fill out the entire football field with our graduates and seat five family members directly behind them, creating pods of six people. Each pod is spaced 6 feet apart across the entire field. Each graduate will have four additional tickets in the stands, which will be spaced according to social distancing guidelines. The ceremony will also be live streamed.” - Olivia Rice, Terrell ISD

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TEACHER OF THE YEAR

“We're bringing in our teachers individually to have their picture taken, and we'll have some to-go dessert items and swag. We're bringing in the top 10 together and will go live on social media for the big announcement.” - Melissa Martinez, APR, CPC, El Paso, ISD “We are hosting a hybrid ceremony. All campus representatives will join us on Zoom, but we are incorporating ‘live’ surprise moments at the homes of the winners.” - Taina Maya, Killeen ISD “We are doing an in-person event. Normally, we have 65 tables, but we are cutting it down to 46. Typically, we invite all the nominees up on stage, but this year, they will sit at their tables and only the winners will be called up to receive their awards.” - Jennifer Hines, Tyler ISD


PREK-K ROUNDUP

“Families that need help with the online registration are allowed to make an appointment and come to one of our facilities to register.” - Lisa Foster, Splendora ISD “We will do it in person. Face coverings will be required at all of the events.” - Wendy Sledd, Copperas Cove ISD

STUDENT AWARDS

“We created several district-branded PowerPoint templates that principals can use for awards. This allows for our virtual and in-person learners to be honored in an equitable manner and doesn't cause additional stress on our campuses.” - Taina Maya, Killeen ISD “We will be in person, but we will live stream the events as well.” - David Chenault, Henderson ISD “We are currently holding these recognitions in person during our regularly scheduled board meetings.” - Patti Hanssard, Santa Fe ISD

PROM

“This is an in-person event to be held at our high school with food trucks and outdoor options. We'll have a redcarpet entrance and will allow parents to be present for photos.” - Charlotte LaGrone, Weatherford ISD “We have moved prom to the very last week of school right before graduation so the students will not return to campus after prom.” – Jennifer Hines, Tyler ISD “Seniors only, outdoor ‘Garden Party.’” - Ian Halperin, Wylie ISD

EMPLOYEE AWARDS

“Our philosophy is that we are all working together anyway, so might as well have it in person.” - Cami Steele, Hillsboro ISD “Administrators will surprise employees on campus with recognitions at their doors.” - Grace Traylor, Jacksonville ISD “We have cut down on the number attending and asked campuses to take care of service pin awards.” - Denise Blanchard, Amarillo ISD

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Important Dates APRIL 15 20 21 27

Virtual Vendor Extravaganza on Remo REGISTER: www.tspra.org/conference-professional-development/online-learning/ Virtual Spoken Word #3-Giving a Press Briefing During a Crisis REGISTER: www.tspra.org/conference-professional-development/spoken-word/ Virtual APR, CPC, Grad School Roundtables on Remo REGISTER: www.tspra.org/conference-professional-development/online-learning/ Virtual EMP Share & Exchange REGISTER: www.tspra.org/conference-professional-development/online-learning/

MAY 3 4 5 5 6 11 15 19 31

Nominations for 2021 Key Communicator open Virtual Spoken Word #4-Handling an Angry Public REGISTER: www.tspra.org/conference-professional-development/spoken-word/ Cinco de Mayo Strategic Planning Committee Meeting Virtual Measure This, Not That with Fran Stephenson, Step-In Communications REGISTER: www.tspra.org/conference-professional-development/online-learning/ Virtual Spoken Word #5-Delivering a Powerful Presentation REGISTER: www.tspra.org/conference-professional-development/spoken-word/ Final day to order Star Awards duplicate awards Budget Committee Meeting Memorial Day - TSPRA offices closed

JUNE 9-10 11 18 25 30

TSPRA Executive Committee Meeting TSPRA offices closed TSPRA offices closed TSPRA offices closed Deadline (4:00 p.m.) for 2021 Key Communicator Nominations

JULY

2 TSPRA offices closed 5 TSPRA offices closed 9 TSPRA offices closed 11-15 NPSRA 2021 in New Orleans 16 TSPRA offices closed 21 Hotel block opens for #TSPRA22 at Kalahari 64 Spring 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

For more info on spring online learning sessions, visit our website at www.TSPRA.org.


WELCOME NEW MEMBERS

Erik Armenta Boerne ISD Blake Barington Dripping Springs ISD John Becker Troy ISD Courtney Erskine Ennis ISD Rolando Garza Mission CISD Jessica Gauthier Lake Worth ISD Candice Ingham Corsicana Education Foundation Delaney Johnson Corsicana ISD Michele Leach Region 8 ESC Mina Schnitta Fort Sam Houston ISD Christy Spisak Klein ISD Foundation Danyell Wells Mansfield ISD Geny White Texas City ISD as of 3/29/21

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PRINT MATERIALS IN A LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH Everman ISD, Bastrop ISD, Round Rock ISD ANNUAL REPORT Royse City ISD, Prosper ISD, Socorro ISD COMMUNICATION PLAN Santa Fe ISD, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD HANDBOOK/MANUAL Klein ISD

PLATINUM AWARD SPONSORED BY INTRADO Pasadena ISD PLATINUM CERTIFICATES OF MERIT Forney ISD, Goose Creek CISD, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, United ISD

PRINT MAGAZINE Carroll ISD, Amarillo ISD, Texas Classroom Teachers Association IMAGE/IDENTITY PACKAGE Wylie ISD, ESC Region 13 WRITING Melissa ISD, Hays CISD, ESC Region 13 PUBLISHED NEWS OR FEATURE Greenville ISD, Pflugerville ISD, Aldine ISD PUBLISHED NEWS RELEASE Channelview ISD, Duncanville ISD, El Paso ISD

PRINTED INTERNAL NEWSLETTER Lamar CISD

SPECIALTY/NOVELTY WRITING New Braunfels ISD, Socorro ISD

PRINTED EXTERNAL NEWSLETTER Canutillo ISD, Beaumont ISD, Garland ISD

PHOTO - SPORTS SUBJECTS Crandall ISD, Lubbock ISD, Socorro ISD

FLYER Aledo ISD, Dickinson ISD, Edinburg CISD

PHOTO - ACADEMIC/CLASSROOM SUBJECTS Gainesville ISD, Hays CISD, El Paso ISD

BROCHURE Everman ISD, Sharyland ISD, ESC Region 12

PHOTO - OTHER SUBJECTS Red Oak ISD, San Angelo ISD, Spring ISD

BOOKLET Red Oak ISD, Sharyland ISD, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD

LOGO, TRADEMARK, SYMBOL Greenville ISD, Pflugerville ISD, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD

CALENDAR/PLANNER Galveston ISD, Mesquite ISD

ORIGINAL ART Lancaster ISD, Crowley ISD, North East ISD

PROGRAM Pearland ISD, Pasadena ISD

PUBLISHED PRINT ADVERTISEMENT Pine Tree ISD, Midland ISD, Garland ISD

INVITATION/ANNOUNCEMENT/POSTCARD/THANK YOU NOTE Liberty-Eylau ISD, Alvin ISD, Garland ISD

ADVERTISEMENT – OTHER Lancaster ISD, Goose Creek CISD, Region 10 ESC

POSTER Canutillo ISD, Weslaco ISD, Spring ISD HOLIDAY/GREETING CARD Texas City ISD, Lubbock ISD, North East Educational Foundation COMMEMORATIVE Texas City ISD, Sheldon ISD

66 Spring 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

VIDEO NEWS/INFORMATION Red Oak ISD, Weslaco ISD, Katy ISD VIDEO NEWS PACKAGE Alvin ISD, North East ISD VIDEO DOCUMENTARY Santa Fe ISD, Duncanville ISD, Edinburg CISD VIDEO GENERAL EVENT Carroll ISD, Frenship ISD, Round Rock ISD


VIDEO FEATURE STORY Angleton ISD, Crowley ISD, Round Rock ISD VIDEO PROMOTIONAL Livingston ISD, Alvin ISD, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD VIDEO MARKETING Quinlan ISD, Brazosport ISD, Socorro ISD VIDEO TRAINING/ INSTRUCTIONAL Edgewood ISD, Laredo ISD, North East ISD VIDEO LIVE SPORTS EVENT Weslaco ISD VIDEO LIVE EVENT NON-SPORTS New Braunfels ISD, Weslaco ISD, North East ISD VIDEO PRODUCTION IN A LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH Greenville ISD, ESC Region 13 MOBILE APP Greenville ISD COMPUTERIZED PRESENTATION Midway ISD, Spring Branch ISD E-NEWSLETTER INTERNAL Highland Park ISD, Tomball ISD, Keller ISD E-NEWSLETTER EXTERNAL Lake Travis ISD, Spring Branch ISD WEB SITE - ORIGINAL DESIGN San Elizario ISD WEB SITE - TEMPLATE-DRIVEN DESIGN Santa Fe ISD, Wylie ISD, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD MARKETING CAMPAIGN Magnolia ISD, Garland ISD FOUNDATION OR PARTNERSHIP CAMPAIGN El Paso ISD SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN Friendswood ISD, Brazosport ISD, Klein ISD SPECIAL EVENT Red Oak ISD EF, Coppell ISD, Fort Bend ISD EDUCATION GOOD NEWS CAMPAIGN El Paso ISD

View all entries on our website at tspra.org

CRYSTAL AWARDS SPONSORED BY PARENTSQUARE VIDEO PORTFOLIO CRYSTAL AWARD Aldine ISD Certificates of Merit Amarillo ISD, Carroll ISD, ESC Region 13, Fort Bend ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Leander ISD, Socorro ISD, Spring ISD PHOTOGRAPHY PORTFOLIO CRYSTAL AWARD Dallas ISD Certificates of Merit Aldine ISD, Dickinson ISD, Round Rock ISD, Socorro ISD (2),Spring ISD (2) BOND ELECTION CRYSTAL AWARD Midway ISD Certificates of Merit Aledo ISD, Keller ISD STAFF/STUDENT RECOGNITION CRYSTAL AWARD Ector County ISD Certificates of Merit Garland ISD, Georgetown ISD, Terrell ISD SCHOOL/COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP CRYSTAL AWARD Sherman ISD Certificates of Merit Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD, Magnolia ISD, Northwest ISD & Northwest ISD EF, Wichita Falls ISD DISTRICT/ASSOCIATION SPECIAL EVENT/ CELEBRATION CRYSTAL AWARD Socorro ISD Certificates of Merit Lake Travis ISD, Spring ISD MARKETING CRYSTAL AWARD Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD Certificates of Merit Everman ISD, Round Rock ISD, Sheldon ISD FOUNDATION/PARTNERSHIP SPECIAL EVENT/ CELEBRATION CRYSTAL AWARD Garland ISD Education Foundation Certificates of Merit Canutillo ISD, Georgetown ISD, North East ISD Partnerships

Spring 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

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68 Spring 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


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