TSPRA Communication Matters Winter 2022

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Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


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

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

855-790-0001 www.schoolrevenuepartners.com 2

Winter 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 GULF COAST AREA Craig Verley Mission CISD HOUSTON/BEAUMONT AREA Kim Hocott Pearland ISD EAST TEXAS AREA Jamie Fails Willis ISD NORTH CENTRAL AREA Megan Overman, APR, CPC Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD WEST CENTRAL AREA Jennifer Marshall-Higgins, CPC ESC Region 12

NORTHWEST TEXAS AREA Kenneth Dixon Lubbock ISD FAR WEST AREA Currently unappointed SAN ANTONIO AREA Kim Cathey Floresville ISD AT-LARGE POSITION 1 Corey Ryan Leander ISD AT-LARGE POSITION 2 Stephanie De Los Santos HCDE AT-LARGE POSITION 3 Sherese Nix-Lightfoot Garland ISD PARLIAMENTARIAN Donald Williams Mansfield 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. Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Winter 2022 | Volume II, No. 3

& s r ea ng! y 60 unti co Texas School Public Relations Association TSPRA is a professional organization whose members are dedicated to improving public education in Texas by: PROMOTING effective public relations practices PROVIDING professional development for its members IMPROVING communication between Texans and their public schools


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

Veronica Castillon, APR Laredo ISD Cissa Madero Pearland ISD Dustin Taylor Longview ISD TSPRA STAFF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Linsae Snider lsnider@tspra.org PROGRAMS MANAGER Janet Crock janet@tspra.org COMMUNICATIONS & MARKETING MANAGER Tracie Seed tseed@tspra.org


TSPRA.org info@tspra.org


Jenny Bridges, CPC; Veronica Castillon, APR; Janet Crock; Michael Dudas; Sarah Dugas-Richard; Hailee Fojtasek, MBA, CPC; Earl Gill; Adam J. Holland; Riney Jordan; Nicole Lyons; Amy Pawlak, CPC; Samantha Ruiz; Monica Saenz; Kimberly Simpson; Dustin Taylor; Craig Verley; Andy Welch

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


families admonish us if we send home paper notifications. They are a generation of people who want their notifications, instant information and facts available at the push of a button on their phones. Imagine how things were done in the school communications offices across the state in 1962! Was everything typed with carbon copy paper? Probably. Did people still smoke in their offices and during meetings? I’ve heard stories. How were computer files transferred? That, I don’t know. Life is much different from that of our peers in 1962, the year TSPRA was founded, but I assert not much has changed when it comes to the type of messaging we all must craft to support the good work that happens in Texas public schools.

We have all had the call from a frazzled principal that something has happened on their campus, and they need a “backpack” letter to send home to parents right away! My first year in school communications was the first time I had heard of a backpack letter, and I didn’t realize how many I would end up writing over the course of my career. So as a rookie director, I wrote the letter and because the incident had such grand reach, it was determined that it needed to go out districtwide. Okay, no biggie there … until I learned that we sent these letters via fax to the campuses so they could copy them and get them in folders before dismissal. Mind you, we had almost 80 campuses. I could not believe how long it took. Soon after, our fax machines were upgraded, and I could program them to send up to 30 numbers at a time. Wow! I had made it. Today I have a fax machine that collects dust in my office, and I have not touched it in years. I hear it ring occasionally. It’s usually just spam flyers for travel services. My, how times have changed. The way we communicate and distribute information is faster, more efficient and much more direct. Now our


Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

As we celebrate 60 years of TSPRA, I encourage you think about the day-to-day tasks you had when you first started in school communications and reflect on how they have changed, or have not changed, compared to today. This exercise will help you appreciate how far you and your teams have come to make a difference in the lives of students. Our work matters to students, families and staff and appreciating our growth is important – that has not changed at all. In this issue, you will see how we have tapped into various platforms, technology and resources to continue supporting the great work in our districts. It seems that changes happen much quicker than they used to, but if are like me, you love learning, so you welcome it. I am thankful for how much more efficient my days are now that I do not have to stand at a fax machine for minutes on end, and I have a deep appreciation for all the lessons it taught me. I am going into 2022 with fresh eyes ready for the next technological advancement to make our jobs easier.

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

IMPORTANT CONFERENCE DATES Late fees registration begins: Jan. 24, 2022 No registration refunds begins; substitutions allowed: Jan. 24, 2022 Last day to make hotel reservations at conference rate: Feb. 7, 2022





Socially Changing A look at the importance of social media to school communications


Is EQ More Important that IQ? A deep dive into Emotional Intelligence and how it shapes leaders

In a Minute Industry facts, figures & fun

12 Member Moment Getting to know fellow TSPRAns 14

Q & A Meet Janet Crock, TSPRA

16 Point of View Dustin Taylor, Longview ISD 18 EduLege Top news in school communications

27 Introducing Meet Star Awards dinner’s new emcee, Craig Verley, Mission CISD 28

TSPRA History Celebrating 60 years of TSPRA


5 in 5 What do you wish you knew before entering school communications?


A Tale of Two Members Meet two of TSPRA’s longest-serving members


TSPRA Talk What’s happening in TSPRA


What TSPRA Means to Me Hear from the TSPRAn who has been a member since 1981


60 Years & Counting A peek at 1962


PR Tools See how communicators’ tools have changed in the past 60 years


Desperately Seeking Color Inspiration for your next design project

52 What the Tech? Results from a recent member survey 50

54 Smart Choice Options for tripods, lighting and gimbals 56



Fall 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Equipment Refresh on a Budget Update your photo, audio and video equipment without breaking the bank

In a Minute

The month of February is Black History Month. Also known as African American History Month, the celebration grew out of “Negro History Week,” which was developed by Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland. The duo founded the “Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by Black Americans and other peoples of African descent.” On Feb. 7, 1926, Woodson initiated the first celebration of Negro History Week, which eventually led to Black History Month and was meant “to extend and deepen the study and scholarship on African American history, all year long.” In 1976, during the nation’s bicentennial, President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Since then, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Sources: africanamericanhistorymonth.gov, history.com

by Tracie Seed

Tidbits & Trivia The Four Corners is the only spot in the U.S. where you can stand in four states at once: Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. The heart of the blue whale, the largest animal on earth, is 5 feet long and weighs 400 pounds. It’s impossible to hum while holding your nose — just try it! The first footprints on the moon will remain there for 1 million years.

National Celebration Days

Jan 17 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan 21 Nat’l Hugging Day Jan 24 Nat’l Compliment Day 10

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

Feb Black History Month Feb 11 Nat’l Make a Friend Day Feb 14 Valentine’s Day

Feb 21 Presidents Day March 4 Nat’l Grammar Day March 13 Pi Day

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

BULLYING • The top priority of the (district name) is to ensure a safe and comfortable learning environment for all students. Because of this, we take any reports of bullying at our schools very seriously. • Whenever we receive a report of bullying, we respond swiftly to ensure all students are safe physically and emotionally. While we cannot release any information about specific students or incidents, our schools have several programs in place to combat bullying and resolve conflicts. • We regularly review and update our curriculum and procedures to ensure those efforts are as effective as possible. • If you have any questions about our policies or programs, please feel free to speak with your child’s teachers, site administrators or the district office. Go to TSPRA Document Vault, accessible through your member portal, for more talking points & inspiration.

r a m m a Gr Ti me GRAMMAR TIME What is the difference between “e.g.” and “i.e.”? “e.g.” is a Latin abbreviation for “for example” “i.e.” is a Latin abbreviation for “in other words” If you’re unsure whether to use “e.g.” or “i.e.,” use “for example” or “in other words,” and you will naturally choose the right one. The abbreviation “e.g.” is used to provide an example. • You can choose any of the first three letters of the alphabet (e.g., B). • The buffet provided excellent variety, e.g., vegetarian and non-vegetarian soups, Italian and French breadsand numerous sweets. • He was the school champion of many activities (e.g., chess, badminton, hurdles and the high jump). The abbreviation “i.e.” is used to restate an idea more clearly or offer more information. • You can choose any of the first three letters of the alphabet (i.e., A, B, or C). • It happened in August, i.e., two months ago. • Service charge is included in all prices; i.e., you don’t have to leave a tip.

If you are like many people, when the clock strikes 12 on Jan. 1, you make a vow to do something in the new year. Maybe you want to eat healthier or make your bed every day. Instead of resolutions, consider setting some personal goals for 2022. Here are some ideas to get you started: Express gratitude daily, whether you write in a journal or tell a friend how much they mean to you.


Find time to spend alone to relax and regenerate. Even after 15 minutes, you will feel refreshed. Embrace life as an adventure, which may help the journey seem less scary. Are you passionate about a topic? Learn something new about it and further your growth.

The only way you will fail anything is by not trying. Be less afraid of making mistakes and get out there and just do it! Source: antimaximalist.com Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Getting to know your fellow TSPRAns

Earl Gill

Communications Coordinator

Liberty-Eylau Independent School District What did you do before this job? I worked for the Texarkana Gazette for five years. Prior to my tenure as a sports writer, I worked in marketing for a moving company in Wichita Falls. What is something TSPRA colleagues need to know about you? I genuinely care about each student in my district and I’m willing to do whatever it takes for our students to have the chance to learn on an equal playing field. What is something TSPRA colleagues would not expect to know about you? I own a nonprofit organization, Arkansas Elite 100, which helps studentathletes obtain scholarships in their sport of choice, free of charge for families. We’ve been in existence for a little over six years and have placed hundreds of student-athletes across the country at different institutions. We firmly believe that #FreeTuitionIsTheMission. What is something on your bucket list? Liberty-Eylau was a Blue-Ribbon School in 2008 and, upon my hiring, one of my biggest goals is to get the school district back to that standing, from a public relations standpoint. We’re a unique district because of our geographical location and student-body makeup. I know it may take some time and hard work, but that’s at the top of my bucket list.

Monica Saenz

Webmaster/Communications Specialist Southside ISD

What did you do before this job? I was the Public Relations and Development Coordinator at the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind. What is something TSPRA colleagues need to know about you? That I’m eager to learn and I’m excited to be joining this great family of PR professionals. What is something TSPRA colleagues would not expect to know about you? I enjoy offshore fishing especially when traveling! Outside of the U.S. I’ve been offshore fishing in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Costa Rica - next year I think I’ll add Belize to the list :) What is something on your bucket list? Travel to Italy.


Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

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

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Janet Crock Programs Manager TSPRA


n 2022, Janet Crock, programs manager for TSPRA, steps into her 29th year with the organization. Janet is an integral part of all things TSPRA and has had a hand in all TSPRA’s benefits of memberships. Her dedication, experience and talent enrich anything she touches.

TSPRA Executive Director Linsae Snider says, “Janet is literally a master of all trades. I don’t know that members realize the tremendous undertaking involved in overseeing the Star Awards Program. Her eyes look at every single entry before assigning them to more than 100 judges that she must solicit each year, in addition to coordinating the awards themselves. Just a few other ongoing tasks Janet juggles include office manager, CFO, IT expert, historian and fixer of all things that break. We took advantage of her vocal degree and asked her to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” acappella at the 2016 Star Awards Banquet. For nearly 30 years, Janet has been ‘hands on deck’ working behind the scenes and knowing most every tenured and rookie member by name. Janet’s faith inspires me personally. Witnessing her love for family and dogs makes my heart flutter. Her dedication to TSPRA for the past three decades is appreciated more than words can articulate. TSPRA is grateful to Janet.“ How long have you worked for TSPRA? In the Fall of 1993 I was hired by Annell Todd Communications to work for Annell's magazine “Texas School Business” and to do contract labor for TSPRA. She had a contract with TSPRA to serve as executive director and to manage the association’s operations. We were not employees of TSPRA at the time. We changed from contract labor to part-time employees, 210 days a year, in July 1997. I’ve worked with three executive directors and 29 presidents (coming up on 30 in February).


Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

What different job titles have you had? I never had a title until Judi Farmer became executive director and she gave me the title Programs Manager because I managed and coordinated the various programs of TSPRA (Star Awards, Chapter Awards, Scholarships, etc.). I’m still Programs Manager although that title does not encompass what I do now. What did you do before joining the TSPRA staff? I was a freelance musician, private music teacher and church choir director in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1973 to November 1985. Then, I moved to Austin, Texas. Since moving to Texas, I’ve continued to be a musician, church music director as well as youth and Christian education coordinator, as well as working for IRS and the A+ Federal Credit Union for a while. I breed Slovensky Cuvac dogs, too, and I’m the only breeder in the USA. What was TSPRA like when you began? When I came to work for Annell Todd, TSPRA had 367 members. My first conference was in February 1994 at the Omni Hotel on San Jacinto Street in Austin when Chuck Hornung was the outgoing president and Dorian Martin was incoming. Obviously, the conferences back then were much smaller and focused on sessions and networking and not a lot of focus was put on a theme. They actually judged non-print Star Award entries at the start of the conference and had time to prepare the PowerPoint show for the winners’ banquet. It was a much simpler conference.

start of the Document Vault; to the end of our involvement in Texas Public Schools Week kits. A lot of growth and change, but change is what keeps an association relevant to its membership. What is a special memory you have about working at TSPRA? I guess my most special memory was being awarded Most Valuable Member in 2002. It was such an honor and I was amazed they were able to keep it a secret from me until the presentation. I didn’t even realize they were calling my name out to come up to the stage or that my daughter and best friend were there to see me be honored. What do you hope for the future of TSPRA? My hope for TSPRA is that it will continue to grow and develop programs that will meet the needs of its members for many years to come. Professional development and support for all our members should be our focus but always looking to whom we serve - our communities and the school children of Texas.

How have you seen the organization and its members evolve during your time? I’ve been with TSPRA for the computerization of records and programs; growth from 367 members to now 1,200; the start of the first website and the ones that came after; going from printed newsletters to emailed news; the increase to 1,662 Star Award entries from just about 100; the addition of more video and EMP members as well as education foundation directors and website managers; the

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Oh, the Places We will Go

by Dustin Taylor Communications Specialist Longview ISD


t the tail end of 2018, I received a call from a former co-worker of mine from my newspaper days. While I had moved to the north of Dallas and was out of the journalism business, he had moved into the illustrious business of spreading the good news of Longview ISD. He told me that they were looking to hire another person for the community relations team and he wondered if I might be interested. I am now about to start my third year with the job. Looking back at my life, I feel that it is essential to remember that no matter what our plans are, no matter our goals, the path ahead is always going to be up in the air.


Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

The past is the future.

The future is exciting.

For me, this quite literally is the truth. A decade and a half ago I graduated from Longview High School. I never expected to work for any school district, let alone the one that helped shape me during my teen years. Nor did I expect to return to East Texas once I had moved away.

With COVID-19 starting to finally move out of our peripheral vision, let us take note that we have mostly weathered the storm quite well as a state and country. The future ahead has its cloudy storms, but I believe that the bright spots outshine the dark ones.

Whether one winds up right back where they started, such as I have, or not, the past is still the future. From the contacts you meet to the lessons learned, you never know what will impact your future.

As we age and the students continue to grow, we will have new incoming students whose lives will be shaped by our districts.

Working in public relations for a school district, we deal with countless people every day, both those within the district and those from outside. A student in middle school that we share a photo of on district social media, praising them for something good they did, has endless possibilities for them, others and us. A person we chat with during our off hours might decide to bring their child to our district because of our interactions. It is easy to not think about repercussions, as working and living is enough to preoccupy the mind. But I would say that we should all be mindful of our interactions with others as much as possible due to repercussions. While hearing the word “repercussions” likely brings bad connotations to mind, it can just as easily be good things. Let us continue our jobs with the dream of our actions leading to the best possible repercussions for our students and districts.

Let us do our best and help them to become adults that we will be proud to say that we knew as they grew up in our district. May we continue along our path to bring a brighter future for our district, our state and our world. In our career field, we help shape the future.

Do you have a POV you’d like to share? Email Tracie at tseed@tspra.org

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


by Andy Welch

EduLege Extra Some of the timely issues that have been addressed in recent editions of EduLege Robust. Very robust… The Texas economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic has been so robust that legislators should have nearly $25 billion — yep, that’s a B — when they convene again in January 2023 to write the next two-year state budget. State Comptroller Glenn Hegar reported recently that he projects a cash balance in the State Treasury of $11.99 billion and another $12.62 billion in the state’s so-called Rainy Day Fund, or savings account, available for the 2023 Texas Legislature to spend — or save — as it sees fit.

In the two-year budget cycle that began on Sept. 1, Texas legislators and Governor Abbott approved state programs and services that spend $123.3 billion in General Revenue Funds.

“This is an expectation,” Comptroller Hegar said of his latest revenue estimate, “not a guarantee of what may be in the treasury. It’s important to always leave a little money in the bank because you never know what the economy’s going to do.”

Looking beyond the next two years … As oil and gas companies slowly become sources of cleaner energy, Texas’ public schools may pay part of the price, according to research from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Mr. Hegar cited uncertainties over inflation, energy prices, labor availability and global supply chain bottlenecks as grounds for circumspection.

Researchers found that because of the emerging energy transition, K-12 education funding — which in Texas relies heavily on taxes from oil and gas production — could begin to fall short of spending needs sometime between 2022 and 2029 — with average annual deficits of $2.5 billion to $5.8 billion. Annual shortfalls could add up to well over $100 billion over the next three decades, researchers say.

The list of issues awaiting the 88th legislative session next year is already growing. Texas has the largest number of medically-uninsured residents in the nation; the state’s foster care system is in shambles; experts warn that the state’s fresh water supply and electrical power grid are both suspect and enrollment in community colleges has suffered a dramatic 11 percent decline since the pandemic began. 18

Asked by the “Dallas Morning News” if he would use his megaphone as the state’s chief tax collector and fiscal officer to recommend selective increases in spending in two years, Mr. Hegar said that it would be “very prudent” to wait through 2022 to see if his revenue projections are on target. The 2023 Legislature can then “make some decisions on how they prudently want to use these dollars — if the numbers bear out.”

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

“We predict that education funding will decrease by between $13 billion and $120 billion over the next 30 years because of the shift toward renewable energy,” the authors wrote.

While those numbers seem large, they represent an average annual shortfall of about 2.8 percent of Texas’ total baseline K-12 funding over the next 30 years. (The projected funding gap was calculated by taking the difference between the State Comptroller’s 2020 forecast for K-12 education funding from oil and four possible forecasts produced by the Center for Houston’s Future, using the estimated price of a barrel of oil over the next several decades.) The authors, however, said other taxes could fill in the projected budget hole. They suggest expanding the sales tax, opening the state up to gambling, legalizing recreational marijuana and heavily taxing those industries. For example, the study noted, the current statewide sales tax of 6.25 percent generated about $34 billion in revenue in 2020. Increasing the sales tax rate by one percentage point would nearly offset the annual worst-case scenario of lost oil revenue by 2050. If the state taxed marijuana sales as Colorado does, researchers said, Texas could raise billions for education as well. The authors said if the state copied Colorado’s tax scheme and had the same demand, about $2.2 billion a year could be generated. The authors stopped short of endorsing any one method to offset potential revenue losses from diminishing oil and gas production. “We are not advocating for any single option, and we recognize that there are many other options available to fill the projected shortfalls, such as more fundamental reforms of the franchise tax or increasing excise tax rates,” the authors wrote. Creme de la crème … The Texas Association of School Administrators, which facilitates the Texas Teacher of the Year program, has named Texas’ top teachers for 2022. Jennifer Han, a 4th grade teacher from McAllen, is the 2022 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year. Ramon Benavides, a biology teacher from Ysleta, is the 2022 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year. Mr. Benavides was chosen to represent the state as Texas Teacher of the Year in the National Teacher of the Year competition, making his official title Texas Teacher of the Year. The announcements were made during surprise visits to both teachers’ campuses by TASA representatives. Both state-level winners will receive a cash award and a commemorative trophy. They will be honored, along with the other 38 Texas Regional Teachers of the Year (semifinalists for the state-level award), at educators’ statewide Midwinter Conference later this month.

Mr. Benavides and Ms. Han were selected from a pool of six finalists that also included Bonnie Anderson, Judson; Sanford Jeames, Austin; Miguel Mendez, Northside and Ashley Phelps, Tyler. “I congratulate Ramon and Jennifer on this achievement. Texas Teacher of the Year is the highest honor our state bestows upon its teachers,” said Kevin Brown, executive director of TASA. “They have distinguished themselves among thousands of outstanding, dedicated teachers across our state and nation who have answered the call to serve others.” In 2015, Texas Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples of Amarillo ISD was the second Texas teacher to be named the National Teacher of the Year. It’s the law … Texas’ transgender student athletes are now restricted from playing on K-12 school sports teams that align with their gender identity. House Bill 25, authored by State Representative Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, requires that student athletes who compete in interscholastic competition play on sports teams that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate, at or near their time of birth. HB 25 officially takes effect on Jan. 18. The legislation goes further than current rules from the University Interscholastic League, which currently state that a student’s gender is determined by their birth certificate. But UIL also accepts legally modified birth certificates in which someone may have had their sex changed to align with their gender identity. Representative Swanson said in a statement she was “overjoyed” at Governor Abbott’s decision to sign HB

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25 into law. She has argued that the bill will ensure fair competition in girls’ sports, and uphold Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination in education based on sex. But advocates for transgender Texans worry that HB 25 is detrimental to transgender youth and cisgender girls and women who may not adhere strictly to societal standards.

“It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place,” Dr. Murthy wrote in a preface to the advisory. Mental health challenges in children, adolescents and young adults are real, and they are widespread. But most importantly, they are treatable and often preventable.”

An emerging crisis … U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy has issued a public health advisory on the mental health challenges confronting youth — a rare warning to address what he called an emerging crisis exacerbated by pandemic hardships.

Even before the pandemic, students from all backgrounds faced serious mental health challenges, Dr. Murthy said. But nearly two years of isolation and disruption have taken a toll and worsened their mental health — especially for immigrants, students with disabilities and students from low-income families.

Symptoms of depression and anxiety have doubled during the pandemic, with 25 percent of youth experiencing depressive symptoms and 20 percent experiencing anxiety symptoms, according to Dr. Murthy’s 53-page advisory. There also appear to be increases in negative

Pandemic-related safety measures reduced students’ interaction with teachers, school counselors, pediatricians and child welfare workers. This isolation made it “harder to recognize signs of child abuse, mental health concerns and other challenges,” the advisory states. A Surgeon General’s advisory is a public statement intended to focus national attention to an urgent public health issue and provide recommendations for how it should be addressed. “Advisories are reserved for significant public health challenges that need the nation’s immediate awareness and action,” the document says. The advisory calls for a broad-based and rapid response from government, social media companies, community groups, schools, teachers, parents and students to address the mental health issues facing America’s young people.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy toured King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles before talking to a panel of students about mental health issues. Photo by Carolyn Cole for the “Los Angeles Times.”

Getting worse… The COVID-19 pandemic has further threatened what was already a fragile area of Texas education.

emotions or behaviors such as impulsivity and irritability — associated with conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

A recent study by Rice University concludes that Texas has become worse at teaching students where English is their second language, which impacts both their academic success and potential lifetime income.

And, in early 2021, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts were 51 percent higher for adolescent girls and four percent higher for adolescent boys, compared to the same time period in early 2019, according to research cited in the advisory.

Across the state, researchers have found that the number of English learners who failed to become proficient in the language after five years of ESL classes is increasing. The study tracked students who entered first grade between 2000 and 2015 to see if


Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

they would become proficient — basically, graduate from ESL — by the time they reach the 5th grade. Those who did not were labeled “long-term English learners.” For several years, the number of long-term English learners remained steady. But that started to rise after 2008. By the 2014-2015 school year, nearly seven in 10 students who began 1st grade as English learners in Texas public schools failed to become proficient within five years. Children need to be English proficient by the 5th grade, as that gives schools plenty of time for intervention, researcher Lizzy Cashiola recently told the “Texas Tribune.” Fellow researcher Daniel Potter said they have not pinpointed the exact reason for the significant rise in students who are failing to graduate from ESL classes, but he noted that factors include a lack of funding, teacher shortages and where students live. And now, the path to student progress is further complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. “School may have been one of the few spaces where those students were exposed to an English-majority environment, and [COVID-19] just completely evaporated that space,” Mr. Potter said. In 2021, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 560, which calls on the Texas Education Agency to help state legislators develop a more strategic plan to improve Bilingual Education programs in the state, including intervention efforts. Schools as sensitive places … Schools would remain classified as “sensitive places,” where concealed guns are not allowed for self-defense, under an expanded interpretation of the Second Amendment laid out during recent oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. The court heard two hours of arguments in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which many observers view as the most important Second Amendment case to reach the Supreme Court in more than a decade. The case has drawn intense interest from gun control groups that arose after mass school shootings in recent years.

The most relevant question for schools in this case is whether the court will do anything to further define “sensitive places” where guns may be prohibited, even if the justices invalidate New York’s law, which a majority of them seem inclined to do. The justices seemed to take it as a given that firearms could be barred from sensitive places such as courthouses and K-12 schools. (An earlier version of the Gun-Free School Zones Act was struck down by the high court in 1995 as exceeding Congress’s powers under the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. But Congress fixed the measure by making it apply to guns that could be shown to have moved in Interstate Commerce.) The gun-free-schools provision, and other federal laws barring firearms in government buildings and airplanes, “impose only a modest burden on the right to bear arms, and they are part of a long tradition of restricting weapons in sensitive places,” the Biden Administration said in its brief for the case. In its landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, the court said the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm and to use that firearm for “traditionally lawful purposes” such as selfdefense in the home. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on … laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.” The Supreme Court has had little else to say on the Second Amendment since then.

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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Online illustrations by Storyset

by Sarah Dugas-Richard Communications Manager Harmony Public Schools

Socially Changing A look at the importance of social media to school communications 22

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volution. It is a term that applies to mankind, technology and communications. Before the now “antiquated” newspaper, the most not-so-reliable form of communication relied upon word of mouth. Or as we call it today … organic word of mouth. Either way, it has shown many generations how communication has been the epicenter of receiving and sharing information among its audiences.


“The emergence of social media has created a new avenue for facilitating daily information and communication needs.” Prof. Chetan R. Bhamare, RJSPM-ACS College, Pune As a communications professional, I had the opportunity to be educated in a pivotal time of communications. While in college, Myspace slowly faded (sorry Tom), and we were thrilled to find a new way to dive into our personal lives on a new platform called Facebook. This was the beginning of the social media boom that would forever change communications. As years progressed, we saw not only Facebook grow but also the birth of Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, which lead to a new way of communicating and sharing information with one another. Communicating with parents, faculty, staff and stakeholders has truly evolved even in the last five years, where we’ve seen an uptick in districts utilizing their social media pages to announce important messages, post notices and keep their audiences abreast of what’s happening. Although to some, it may sound ludicrous, parents have shown that they receive their messages from social media pages of their kids’ schools followed up by email communications. Social media has become the fastest, easiest way to get out pertinent information, leading to Social media has sharing among the community and other parents. When it comes to alerts such as weather, school closures and updates on events, school social media pages have become the epicenter of notifying the community. What was once handled as a fax to local news stations and newspapers, has now been replaced by the click of a post button.

become the fastest, easiest way to get out pertinent information, leading to sharing among the community and other parents.

While this sounds like an easy feat of “just posting” on a page, it has become an intricate process as detailed as heart surgery. One wrong move and it can be detrimental. What you say, how you say and when you say it makes or breaks your messaging, which can lead to well-received messaging or a disastrous PR nightmare.

Using social media also comes with a lot of management, accountability and responsibility when posting. It has a way of tapping into each person’s unforeseen interpretation on a different level. A simple “good morning” post, could be seen as insulting and offensive to some. This is where strategy comes in and accountability to respond in a proper manner takes charge. Additionally, the spreading of misinformation has added a layer of communications management that keeps communicators on their toes while trying to filter the truth and thoughtfully convey it to their audiences. Over the years, we’ve made it our mission to efficiently communicate, learn new tactics and how to share information that tells our story while informing. By sharing these best practices, we’ve met new colleagues all while shaping the entire way we view and tackle communications. While we have seen the evolution of social media, we have no idea where it’s headed, but we know that we’ll be prepared for anything beyond the click of a “post” button.

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Is EQ More Important than IQ? Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

hen I started my doctoral program in leadership studies, I could not tell you one leadership theory from the other. I didn’t even know what my end goal was at that point. Fast forward five years (and counting), and I can tell you that I have a clearer picture of both. Not only have I developed a passion for leadership, but also for all theories that cover the topic. My overall goal is to help people become better leaders. More specifically, to help in areas where there is high turnover because of poor leadership. When asked what my goals are with leadership, most people nod in agreeance. Through observation and firsthand experience, it seems as though the “great” leaders are few and far between. Most people’s experiences with leadership have not been the best, and I typically get the response with, “You should research my company.” As I learned about leadership theories, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was my least favorite, mainly because it was a complex topic to grasp. However, after application in the workplace, I can honestly say that it is probably the most important attribute of great leaders. EQ is one of the most under-taught and overlooked approaches in leadership. I strongly believe that Emotional Intelligence should be built into every type of leadership training program. Why? Because this type of intelligence is not about academic applications; it comes from within. The best part is that it can be controlled and practiced within oneself. It can be taught, but you have to be willing to learn and unlearn. Emotional Intelligence: What is it? Emotional Intelligence gives us the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions and recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others. Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Relational Management and Social Skills are the four key areas that make up EQ. Self-Awareness is one’s ability to manage and control emotions. This includes understanding your feelings, emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. With high levels of Self-Awareness, you can identify your strength and weaknesses. Self-Awareness allows us to think before we speak; to act instead of react. Self-Management is your ability to control impulsive feelings and behaviors. This area of EQ allows you to take a healthy approach to managing your emotions. Individuals who master Self-Management also can be adaptable in all types of situations. Relational management allows individuals to develop and maintain successful relationships, clear communication and conflict management. This kind of management helps you to interact in a positive capacity with those around you. Oftentimes, we are more likely to de-escalate situations in healthy ways. Relationship management helps a leader be adaptable to their environment and those around them. The fourth construct of EQ is Social Skills. Successful Social Skills allow you to have empathy, the ability to identify emotional needs, have concerns for other people and provide comfort in social settings. Mastering Social Skills allows you to be mindful and observant when interacting with others. It also gives you the ability to read situations and how to respond positively. 24

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Online illustrations by Freepik


by Samantha Ruiz District and Community Relations Coordinator Southwest ISD

Why is Emotional Intelligence important for leadership? Emotional Intelligence is important for leadership because it allows us to take control of our actions and reactions. It plays a vital role in helping us build and maintain successful teams. It also allows leaders to adapt to each follower. Not everyone has the same working or learning style. EQ enables leaders to adapt to their followers instead of the followers adapting to their leaders. This concept is intensely overlooked in the workplace. How can Emotional Intelligence improve our workplace? Emotional Intelligence in leadership can help improve our workplaces. It helps us understand non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication is important in the workplace because it allows us to identify the temperature of the conversation being held. It allows us to be more mindful of the other party in the conversation as well. It can arguably be one of the more powerful ways to communicate because looks and gestures can say much more than words. Helps others improve interpersonal skills As leaders, we lead by example. As we become more mindful of our own Emotional Intelligence in our organizations, the more beneficial we are to our followers. This allows us to help teach others how to practice their own Emotional Intelligence. Additionally, it allows us to build up successful and productive teams. Helps improve empathy Empathy is a key part of Relational Management. It allows us to listen before we speak. It shows that we care about the feelings and emotions of others. When an employee knows that you feel empathy, they are more likely to be more honest and transparent. Individuals who are successful in showing empathy can adapt to conversations with different approaches. Communication is not one-size-fitsall. Empathy allows leaders to adapt to everyone’s style of communication. Improves communication and helps facilitate positive relationships Relationships! Relationships! Relationships! I cannot stress how important leader-follower relationships are in the workplace. Regardless of the industry, workplace relationships can make or break your work culture. Leaders that are higher on the EQ scale are more likely to build and maintain successful relationships with their followers. A positive work environment stems from good leadership and good leadership stems from a leader’s execution with their EQ. When you have negative relationships in the workplace, this brings on stress, misery, unhappiness and possibly turnover, over time. For the first 10 years of my adult career, I worked in the adult beverage industry. My roles did not involve much office time. They required me to be out with customers 90

percent of the time. I made an unexpected switch to public education earlier this year where I now work in the district’s community relations department. This role is quite the opposite of my previous experience; it requires much more office time. It also includes much community involvement, which means that I interact with members of the community, senior staff of the district, board members, etc. This role has enabled me to keep myself in check with my Emotional Intelligence. I interact with different personalities daily. It has allowed me to take a step back to make sure I am practicing each key area of EQ. Moreover, it has allowed me to sharpen the skills of adaptability, communication, strategic thinking and social skills. It is cool to be a key part of your EQ development once you have recognized the foundation of practicing these skills. I will say, this process involves a lot of selftalk and self-reflection. While I have not mastered all the EQ areas yet, I do see internal progress a little each day. When you take your professional and personal growth into your own hands, it is truly a great experience.

EQ is one of the most undertaught and overlooked approaches in leadership.

Whether you have been a leader for 10 years or 10 days, it’s never too early or late to monitor your development and progress with the Emotional Intelligence constructs. Hold yourself accountable for your actions and reactions. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have someone you are comfortable with help you be accountable as well. Oftentimes, we can be biased when it comes to our progress, so having someone that can be straightforward and honest with you can accelerate your EQ journey in leadership. Don’t know where or how to start? There are many great articles and books out there that can help. If nothing else, practice mindfulness when working with your followers. An open ear and an open heart can take you a long way in your leadership career. Furthermore, there are Emotional Intelligence quizzes and certification classes available if this is something you want to get serious about. Lastly, anyone can be a manager, but not everyone can be a leader. Let’s help minimize those turnover rates, improve work culture and be the light in our workplaces. Let’s be those great leaders that people want to work hard for. Let’s grow with our teams. Most importantly, let’s start by mastering our Emotional Intelligence. Cheers to your leadership journey! Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org



Late fees registration begins: Jan. 24, 2022 No registration refunds begins; substitutions allowed: Jan. 24, 2022 Last day to make hotel reservations at conference rate: Feb. 7, 2022


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Craig Verley Director of PR/Marketing Mission CISD



How long have you been a TSPRA member? 23 years What has been your involvement with TSPRA over the years? I will admit that much of my involvement has been more like that of a sponge soaking up as much as possible from TSPRA members, who continue to inspire me. Along the way, I have earned my fair share of Gold Star and Best of Category awards; served two terms as the Gulf Coast Area VP; served one term as Parliamentarian; was surprised with the 2019 Professional Achievement Award; earned two Bright Idea Awards (2009, 2016); served on the conference social media committee; have been a conference roundtable presenter and was the creator/organizer for the conference Run/Walk. Why did you start the conference 5K fun run? The idea of trying to do a Run/Walk came before the 2016 conference when the theme was PR Fit. I thought it might be fun to work in a charitable Run/Walk, so we raised money to support tornado relief efforts in the Garland area. Since that time, the charity selections have tied in with the conference theme. It still blows my mind that each TSPRA president has wanted to include the Run/Walk. What are the plans for this year? This year we will be supporting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. Their slogan: “Conserving our wild things and wild places for 30 years.” We ask that TSPRA members donate at least $20 to the foundation and “register” that donation on a separate Google form, so we can report to all our members. We will have medals for all who donate, whether they complete the Run/Walk or not. Wear your medal on Tuesday during the conference. The route for the Run/Walk will loop around the Kalahari property and resort. Two laps for a 5K and one lap around for those who are not quite that ambitious. What is your favorite thing about conference? It would be impossible to pick one favorite thing about the conference. It really is the best opportunity for professional development in the state for school communicators. Outside of that, the camaraderie can’t be beat!! The networking and commiserating that takes place re-charges the internal professional batteries and I always leave with so many great ideas. How did you come to be the next emcee? I was not smart enough to fly under the radar of Tim Carroll! Tim is adept at trolling me on social media and figured I might be interested in serving TSPRA in that capacity. How do you feel about being the new emcee for Star Awards? To be honest … while I am honored and flattered to have been asked … I am terrified at the prospect of stepping into the shoes of Tim and his predecessor, the great Riney Jordan. I will be counting on the fact that TSPRA members can be some of the most supportive and forgiving around. LOL! Would you give us a sneak peek of what to expect from this year's awards dinner? While I have not had a chance to really wrap my head around it all just yet, I hope to be somewhat informal and to continue with a few things Tim started, while also possibly drawing upon some of my broadcast background or activities. We might even have fun with the perception that all I do is run in my spare time. Basically, give everyone a chance to honor some great work, while not taking up the entire night to do so.

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Historical Highlights

TSPRA originated in 1962 at the annual convention of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) in Denver, Colorado. A group of 11 Texas delegates led by Don E. Matthews, outgoing NSPRA president and an assistant superintendent in Dallas ISD, met to begin the process of forming a chapter. The Lone Star Chapter was officially launched at the TASA/TASB Convention in Austin with Matthews as the first president. And the rest, they say, is history.


Membership Growth 1962 11 1963 57 1972 105 1982 215 1992 307 2002 365 2012 899 2022 1178

In membership dues were

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In , the Lone Star Chapter changed its name to Texas Chapter, National School Public Relations Association. In 1975, the bylaws stated that the organization would also be known as TSPRA, standing for Texas School Public Relations Association.

In Aug. 1988, TSPRA contracted with Annell Todd to serve as executive director parttime and established a state office in Austin. In 1996, Todd moved to a full-time position, where she stayed until she retired in 2004 when Judy Farmer took over until June 2010. Janet Crock, who was also part-time, became fulltime in July 1997. In Sept. 2009, TSPRA added a communications specialist position.





In , the first chapter meeting held with 57 duespaying members, most of whom were superintendents.

In , TSPRA was rated as the best NSPRA chapter in the nation and the association continued to be a perennial NSPRA Blue Ribbon Chapter, as well as receiving honors for Distinguished Chapter and Outstanding Year-Round Project. NSPRA awarded TSPRA its Mark of Distinction, Exemplary Chapter Award in July 2014.

NSPRA Presidents from TSPRA Don Matthews (1961-1962) Lloyd Bell (1971-1972) Larry Ascough (1975-76) Bonnie Ellison (1984-85) Steve Knagg (1991-92) Dorian Martin (1997-98) Julie Thannum (2016-17)


In 1977, TSPRA received an individual charter status as its own 501(c)(3), enabling us to operate independtly from the national chapter.

Star Awards

TSPRA launched its first website in Jan. 1998. The most recent revision was made in 2020.

In the early days of , submissions were entered via mail, and video entries were judged on the first day of conference. As the program grew, the state office would receive hundreds of entries that had to be opened, entered into a database, grouped by divisions and categories and then taken to the judges, who had to return the entries to the office once completed. In 2016, the entries and judging were moved to an online platform. In the early 90s, there were around 500 entries. By 2021, TSPRA received a record-breaking number of 1662 entries!

Executive Director Linsae Snider was hired in 2010 after serving on TSPRA’s board as vice president. TSPRA updated its logo in 2017, relying on the talents of Blue Jarvis Media. The new logo was adopted on Dec. 18 of the same year. Now in its second decade, the bi-weekly EduLege serves as a valuable resource for TSPRA members. Longtime member Andy Welch, retired communication director for the Austin ISD, compiles and writes the publication.


In , TSPRA’s Online Learning platform was created in answer to needs of virtual development due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the summer of 2020, TSPRA launched its quarterly digital publication "Communication Matters” magazine. A member Magazine Committee was established, and Communications and Marketing Manager Tracie Seed worked with them to develop this magazine, which publishes in July, October, January and April on or around the 15th of the month.

In 2010, TSPRA began sending a weekly newsletter.

In 2021, TSPRA’s Executive Committee voted to host an in-person conference in support of teachers. Extensive measures were taken to ensure the safety of its attendees during the COVID-19 outbreak. It was a successful event; there weren’t any reported illnesses.

Over the past 10 years, conference attendance has grown from around 400 to more than 800!

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TSPRA Rewind


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n 1962, a gallon of gasoline was 27 cents — five cents cheaper than a dozen eggs — and one could mail a letter anywhere in the U.S. for less than a nickel. While the Cuban missile crisis wreaked havoc on everyone's nerves that year, Houston enjoyed a couple of distractions: the state’s first Major League Baseball team, the Colt .45s and the Houston Oilers' third straight AFL title game. Dallas motorists had a distraction of their own when the waterfall billboard was unveiled along Harry Hines Boulevard. (It’s still there today!)

by Adam J. Holland Director, Communications and Community Relations La Porte ISD

Meanwhile, the public education sector in 1962 became engulfed in a whirlwind of controversy, confusion and outrage when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that statesponsored prayer in public schools was unconstitutional. Coincidentally, the Texas School Public Relations Association was also founded that year and has served as a valuable resource for school PR practitioners ever since. Steve Knagg, who is currently TSPRA’s longest-serving member, and Roger White, who recently retired after 33 years as the managing editor at Texas Lone Star magazine (and the second longest-serving member), graciously agreed to answer a few questions as we celebrate 60 years as an organization.


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The biggest change that I’ve seen in our profession is the speed at which things happen — the internet, the 24-hour news cycle and the fact that everyone with a cell phone is now a news reporter. (Leave your phone home tomorrow and see how the day goes!) In the 70s, we wrote news releases on IBM Selectric typewriters and then snail-mailed them to reporters.

You are currently the longest-serving TSPRA member. Describe the organization you joined vs. what it looks like today. TSPRA became a part of my life in 1977 after I graduated from the UT School of Journalism and conned the Garland ISD into giving me a job. My first TSPRA seminar was in 1978 at the Lakeway Inn outside of Austin. There were 34 of us in attendance. Our seminar is a bit larger now! What has been the biggest change that you have witnessed in TSPRA and school PR in general? The people there kept talking about public relations, a term I did not know. Someone finally took pity on me and said, “Uh, dude, that’s what you are doing for a living.” That was some good information for a rookie. In 1991, I was elected president of the National School Public Relations Association with a much clearer idea of what our group is all about. I quickly learned that TSPRA’s greatest benefit was that it allowed me to build relationships with other PR pros across our state and nation. I’ve made lifelong friends who are always willing to lend an ear or a hand. TSPRA introduced me to a world of wonderful people who understood what I did for a living!

Looking at your crystal ball, what do you think school PR will look like in 10 years? When I look to the future of school PR, I’m concerned about the push by some of our patrons to turn school boardrooms into battlegrounds. The loudest voices often win. As school communicators, our job of helping leaders to lead is becoming more difficult. The fact that we have one of the most important jobs in our country can’t be taken for granted. How has your TSPRA membership benefitted you professionally? TSPRA’s greatest benefit is the ongoing training, education and inspiration afforded each of us, the frontline workers in our great profession. Is it working? When an association seminar grows from 34 to 934 you know that TSPRA is doing an outstanding job. What advice would you offer newcomers to the school PR trade? What advice would I give to today’s PR pros? That’s easy. It’s the same message I’ve been sharing for decades: • Go home! You’ll never be “caught up” so let that one go! • Take care of the caregiver. That’s you! There are days when you really need to take care of yourself. My advice is to “call in well!” • And finally, I believe that the job you’re doing each day has eternal value. I worked in GISD communications for 30 years and then served a term there on the school board. Was it worth it? Without a doubt. Relax! You have the greatest job on earth.

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continued on Page 33

remember names of some great TSPRA pros through the years, such as Riney Jordan, Steve Knagg, Terry Cannon. They each helped me along the way.

Do you remember first joining TSPRA? What position did you hold then? I joined TSPRA in 1987 when I was hired as a communications specialist at Arlington ISD. My boss at AISD was Rosemary Travis, who was a wonderful boss and dedicated TSPRAn. She introduced me to the world of TSPRA, and I remain thankful for it. How has your TSPRA membership benefited you professionally? You could say it was through TSPRA that I found my career job as editor of TASB's “Texas Lone Star” magazine. In 1988, Rosemary volunteered our staff at Arlington ISD to edit the daily newsletter that TSPRA used to publish during the annual TASA/TASB Convention. TASB was looking for an assistant editor for their magazine and had the position posted on the wall of our makeshift office at the convention. I applied for the job and started at TASB in 1989. Besides that, however, TSPRA has always been a great resource for me. TSPRA professionals from districts all over the state have contributed countless stories and story ideas to “Texas Lone Star,” and I relied on so many talented district communicators to help tell the story of public education through the years. If some of today's TSPRAns are "seasoned" enough, they'll 34

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Your work as managing editor of “Texas Lone Star” has kept you at the center of all things public education. What are some of the major changes or shifts that you have witnessed over the years? Technology comes to mind first. In the last three decades alone, educators have had to stay on top of such monumental changes in the way students are taught. I have great respect for classroom teachers and the vital job they have before them. Public opinion, from state lawmakers on down, has ebbed and flowed through the years regarding public education, as well. That's why I firmly believe in TSPRA and NSPRA because community members sometimes aren't getting the true picture of how dedicated school district professionals are. If not for organizations such as TSPRA, the thousands of success stories happening every day in classrooms and districts all over Texas would not be known. How did (those) changes affect your work? Or did they? My job specifically, and I'm sure every communications person's job, evolved mainly in how we communicate over the years. Technology dramatically altered the logistics of communication — but not the stories themselves. For example, when I started at TASB in 1989, we were still doing physical paste-up of the magazine, using rollers and glue and using proportion scales to size photos, etc. All that has changed, of course. As the internet and social media came onto the scene, the function of a monthly magazine shifted somewhat, too. We moved to more timeless features and long-form stories for the magazine and left the daily news to our online presence. But the primary job, telling the stories of public education successes, challenges and trends, did not change.

Back to TSPRA... From your perspective, how has the organization evolved over the years? I'm not sure I can speak to how TSPRA has evolved specifically over the years, but I can say, from my perspective, TSPRA never skipped a beat. Their job is as vital today — perhaps even more so today because of our divided political climate — as it has ever been. Telling public education's story is crucial to the survival of public schools. What advice would you offer newcomers to the school PR trade? I believe that today a successful school PR person — any PR person — must be a self-starter and a generalist, not a specialist. My title at Arlington ISD way back when was "communications specialist," but I believe today that word doesn't apply. PR folks must know a little about every aspect of the job from the rapidly evolving technical areas and dealing with not-so-friendly community members to staying on top of legislative and legal rulings to writing a good, effective story. It's a tough job, but it is so rewarding when you get feedback from a story you wrote — someone asking for more information about a successful program or simply saying "thank you" for telling their story. Finally, congratulations on your retirement. Anything else you want to add? This (2021) was my 33rd year at TASB. It's been a long ride, and I've come to greatly appreciate the people who put themselves out there every day for the bottom line — and that are ensuring our kids have the best education we can give them.

My, how things have changed! See page 36-37 for a conference program from 1978.

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by Riney Jordan Author, Motivational Speaker TSPRA Member since 1981

Oh, my goodness! Sixty years! TSPRA has been around for 60 fast-paced years! The year was 1962 when a handful (make that a small handful) of visionary school public relations practitioners gathered together and decided to make a Texas chapter of the National School Public Relations Association. I wish I had been there, but as the Texas bumper sticker says, “I got there as quickly as I could.” The Grapevine-Colleyville ISD Board of Trustees decided in 1981 that the district was big enough to create a Department of Communications. Because I had spent seven years in radio during high school and college, they called me in, told me about the new position and said, “Son, you’ve got the job.” Experience? None. Qualified? No way. Excited about the possibilities? Oh, yeah! I’ll never forget talking to the superintendent the next day. “What do you see as our most immediate need?” I asked. “Morale. We’ve got a morale problem. See what you can do to fix it!” he snapped. I thought at great lengths about how to solve this morale problem. 38

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“A family! That’s what we are! One, big happy family. And what do families like to do? Eat! So, I’ll put together the first ever GCISD Family Cookbook!” (You read that right! I know. It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?) If anyone ever needed help with school public relations, it was me. And not long after I had started collecting recipes from my school family, I heard about TSPRA. I definitely needed a break from typing recipes eight hours a day, so I decided to go to my first conference in Austin, Texas. And upon arrival, I was immediately blown away. First of all — the members! They were like me! They loved people. They were extraverts. They were fun. They loved being creative. And they were passionate about their profession. Wow! Those guys became some of my best friends and still are today after forty years! Steve Knagg, Larry Ascough, Annell Todd, Linda Queen, Judy Kreihn, Dean Angel, Shirley Brothers, Jon Dahlander, Reavis Wortham, Ann Spear, Pasqual Gonzalez, Cindy Randal, Kirk Lewis, Bonnie Ellison. Oh, I could fill this page with names of hundreds of TSPRA friends over the years.

If I ever had a problem, a TSPRAn who had been through a similar problem was only a phone call away.

Then I looked over the sessions. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. There were experts who gave tips on how to deal with the media, how to design brochures, how to do slide shows with a dissolve unit and on and on and on. I was hooked! Each year, I carried an extra suitcase to the conference to bring home one of each of the publications from school districts across the state. When I retired, I had file cabinets full of examples of newsletters, school calendars, annual reports and so much more.

If I ever had a problem, a TSPRAn who had been through a similar problem was only a phone call away. (By the way, I know I’ve used far too many explanation points in this article, but I am still as excited today as I was then!) When I first began attending the annual TSPRA conference, we might have had 30 - 50 attendees. As the years passed, that number grew … and continues to grow to this day. Without a doubt, in my time in school PR I had some of the most enjoyable and productive years of my life. In 2019, I was awarded the President’s Award for “distinguished service to TSPRA.” Who are we kidding? Every minute of service I might have done for TSPRA was learned through them. I knew nothing about school PR before I joined TSPRA, and quite frankly, if I went back to the conference today, I would be like a fledgling beginner. Sharing new techniques, strategies, methods and changes never stops with TSPRA. Quite frankly, I cannot imagine how I would have survived without it. Oh, in case you’re wondering how the cookbook turned out, it wasn’t bad, but I can’t say it did much to help morale. If anything, it might have hurt it a little. Let me explain. One teacher sent in a recipe for a cake that she called “Better than Sex.” Well, being the good school PR person that I was, I was not about to publish it with that name. So, like any of you who strive daily to keep the image of your district as professional and ethical as you can, I did the only thing I knew to do. I changed the title of her recipe from “Better Than Sex” to “Second Only to Heaven.” She was not happy with me. So, I baked it and took it to her, and she agreed. The new name made the new cake taste even better! “All’s well that ends well.”

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org



Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


by Veronica Castillon, APR Executive Director of Communications Laredo ISD

hile TSPRA is celebrating its 60th anniversary, we are taking a peek back at 1962. This was the time when you could grab a slice of pie for 35 cents and a cup of coffee for 10 cents. Feel like a burger? You could pick up a McDonald’s cheeseburger for 20 cents, French fries for 12 cents and a shake for 22 cents. Now, that’s a meal deal!

History buffs will remember that the Cuban Missile Crisis happened in 1962. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, and the Russians claimed the first artificial satellite Sputnik in space. The Yankees won the World Series and “West Side Story” won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture. Walter Cronkite was the CBS Evening News anchor and the typewriter remained the standard piece of equipment for communicating. Closer to home, TSPRA, known then as the Lone Star Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association, was officially launched during the TASA/TASB convention in Austin in the fall of 1962. Don Matthews, who was assistant superintendent at Dallas ISD, served as the chapter’s first president with 57 members. Mission Consolidated ISD Director of Public Relations and Marketing Craig Verley was also born in 1962 and is happy to share this milestone with TSPRA. Verley, who is the current vice president for the Gulf Coast Area, has been a member of TSPRA for 23 years. “Broadcast journalism was going to be my life. Well, life had other plans,” Verley said. “Broadcast journalism did come and go as a part of my professional life several times, the most recent being at the CBS affiliate in the Rio Grande Valley. I moved there to take another job, which fell through. Shortly thereafter, I was approached by a reporter and photographer from the TV station for a man-on-the-street interview. During our chat, they indicated they were looking for videographers and encouraged me to apply. Well, a week later I was restarting my broadcast news career for the third time.” Verley had previously tried to break into the public relations or communications field with no success. “Looking back, that is probably a good thing as my experience in [the] field of broadcast journalism was pretty minimal and that ultimately served as the backbone for me later,” he recalled. After working at the CBS affiliate in the Rio Grande Valley for six years, Verley started looking for something new that would offer a more normal work/life situation when the PR director job at Mission CISD opened up. With the encouragement of his wife, Verley applied, not really thinking he would get it. Next thing he knew, he was interviewing for the position and offered the job. “I tell people all the time that TSPRA is largely responsible for not just getting me started in school communications, but [also for] continuing to serve as a source of inspiration, support and great camaraderie, even after 23 years,” Verley said. “I truly owe so much to so many TSPRA members past and present.” Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org



Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


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Limited time offer, subject to change. T-Mobile Work Perks: Discount available for new and existing customers while on Magenta MAX voice plan and applied to plan monthly recurring charge. Validate new line within 30 days of activation. Must be eligible employee, active & in good standing to receive discount. Reverification may be required. Discount may stop if you cancel any lines. Discount applied after any AutoPay discount. May not be combined with some offers and discounts. Not transferrable. Limit 1 T-Mobile Work Perks Corp node per acct. Magenta MAX: Credit approval, deposit, and, in stores & on customer service calls, $30 assisted or upgrade support charge may be req., U.S. roaming and on-network data allotments differ: includes 200MB roaming. Unlimited talk & text features for direct communications between 2 people; others (e.g., conference & chat lines, etc.) may cost extra. Unlimited high-speed data US only. In Canada/Mexico, up to 5GB high-speed data then unlimited at up to 256kbps. Not avail. for hotspots & some other data-first devices. Capable device required for some features. Activation required to deliver video streams at speeds that 44 Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org provide up to Ultra HD video capability (max 4K); some content providers may not stream their services in UHD. May affect speed of video downloads; does not apply to video uploads. AutoPay Pricing for lines 1-8. Without AutoPay, $5 more/line. May not be reflected on 1st bill. Coverage not available in some areas. Network Management: Service may be slowed, suspended, terminated, or restricted for misuse, abnormal use, interference with our network or ability to provide quality service to other users, or significant roaming. See T-Mobile.com/OpenInternet for details. See Terms and Conditions (including arbitration provision) at www.T-Mobile.com for additional information. T-Mobile, the T logo, N215310 Magenta & the magenta color are registered trademarks of Deutsche Telekom AG. © 2021 T-Mobile USA, Inc.

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U Looking for a way to make your ST 2022-23 professional development more engaging, authentic and relevant for your staff? What Our Clients Are Saying About The Voices Framework As a principal whose "why" is grounded in the stories and experiences of children, it is imperative for my leadership to bring about action that elevates students to have a voice and design a school culture through student decision making. My work with The Voices Framework was the fire we needed as a school to enact this change in our practices from our students. Josh Fraser Brooklyn Center Community Schools

A school improvement model like no other, The Voices Framework amplifies the authentic, unfiltered, emotional stories of your students to transform staff mindsets on the topics of diversity, inclusion, student engagement and achievement. Through student interviews, video storytelling and facilitated staff learning sessions, we connect with your educators on an emotional level, guiding their hearts to move their minds, helping them acknowledge, explore and commit to new strategies for student learning. Join the many school districts that have chosen to implement The Voices Framework as a knowledge conversion tool for their professional development plans.

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

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Recruiting volunteers can be as easy as 1-2-3 with the right technology by Tammy Richards, retired school board president, CEO of VolunteerNow It has been said that “no one can do everything, but everyone can do something” and no truer words have been spoken regarding volunteers’ invaluable support inside and outside the classroom. As school districts throughout the country return to in-person classrooms and on-campus activities, the need for volunteers to serve as vital resources for our teachers is more important than ever. While recruiting parents and families to volunteer has been a long-standing tradition at local schools, the process of signing them up has received a technological update. VolunteerNow’s proprietary volunteer matching platform, VOLY.org, is an innovative, web-based volunteer recruiting, management, and reporting platform designed to directly support a school district’s needs, replacing paper sign-ups, spreadsheets, and emails of the past. VOLY.org not only helps manage volunteers, but this platform automates the application, background checks, and orientation processes which saves time and onboards volunteers more quickly. This service gives school administrators the ability to easily recruit and communicate with volunteers from the community, as well as volunteers from students’ families. Across the country, school districts serving more than 400,000 students use the VOLY.org software, and expansion continues nationally. For example, a large Dallas school district was able to use VOLY.org to increase its volunteer ranks from 8,000 to 40,000

volunteers in just two years – five times the initial amount! These volunteers who stepped in were not only parents of students. An astonishing 20-30% were community members who chose to volunteer their time for the betterment of their neighborhoods. This district has leveraged more than $40 million in volunteer labor over the last five years. For over 20 years, I have been a school volunteer. This includes my 11 years with Plano Independent School District serving as a trustee and ultimately as board president. The VolunteerNow VOLY.org team has over 50 years of experience volunteering and managing volunteers. We bring together our passion for supporting education, students, teachers, and families, as well as our technical expertise to develop easy-to-use, affordable software that will help expand your district’s volunteer ranks. From assistance with school events, booster clubs, and parent associations to accessing a network of tutors, additional academic and wraparound services, and professional development opportunities, volunteer support can help provide the best environment for our students and teachers. Our best work is accomplished when we all come together, and all do what we can do! If you are interested in a demonstration of VOLY.org, please email schools@voly.org, call 214-818-9855, or go to volyinfo.org. SponSored CONTENT

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uring the 60 years that TSPRA has been in existence, the tools that we use have changed dramatically. You can only imagine how much more advanced things are today than when I was a child! Am I the only one, or did some of you, dear readers, find yourself as a young child, fascinated by machines and devices that printed, projected or reproduced?

That was me. My first recollection of such an item was when I discovered a gelatin hectograph in a storage room at the little church I attended. Since the preacher’s kid and I were best friends, his dad said, “Take it. We haven’t used that in years.” Now, let me tell you about the hectograph. It was nothing more than a metal tray, similar to what the wife calls a jelly-roll pan, covered from one end to the other with a thick, hardened gelatin-like substance. You used a special hectograph pencil to write what you wanted to reproduce on a sheet of paper, wiped the gelatin down with a very thin coat of water, and then placed the paper facedown onto the gelatin. When you lifted the paper, voilà! Your words were on the gelatin, in reverse of course, and you were ready to print. A clean sheet of paper was placed on the gelatin, you rubbed it gently with the palm of your hand, and the image transferred to the paper. This simple process would make about twenty or so copies before the copy became so light that it wasn’t readable. Now, this was the next amazing step. To use it again, you simply placed the metal tray on a burner on your stove and the gelatin slowly began to melt into a liquid. It took about twenty-four hours for it to harden before you were ready to print again. The gelatin hectograph evolved into those amazing spirit-duplicators with their purple images and addictive smell. I’m relatively certain that they would not be allowed inside the building today for a couple of reasons: 1) the fumes were probably toxic and 2) the liquid used in the machine was highly flammable. Next came the mimeograph, which utilized a waxy stencil that could be placed into a typewriter, and when the keys struck the stencil, it cut the shape of the letter into it. You then placed the stencil onto the drum of the mimeograph, the ink was squeezed through the cuts onto the paper and a copy was printed. Xerox machines using toner eventually replaced the spirit duplicators and mimeograph machines. Today, you can have any style, color or size of font and easily add graphics to your presentation. Just amazing! Thinking back, I guess I was always fascinated by such inventions. When I was about 10, I spent every penny I had to order a projector that would show a filmstrip onto a large wall. It had been advertised on the back page of a comic book, and I had fallen for its false claims. The "projector" was not much larger than the palm of your hand, made from plastic and the one little strip of pictures only contained eight or so images. Nevertheless, the family was forced to take a seat in the backyard, where, as soon as it was dark enough, they viewed the pictures on the side of the garage. Throughout my years as a teacher and later a public relations practitioner, I found myself showing images to groups using projectors of every kind: movie, slide, “overhead,” opaque, and now, computers. At one of the TSPRA conferences, I learned how to use a stack of slide projectors, mounted together, to project images from one machine to another and “dissolve” the image as the next slide came up. Although it involved setting up a screen, speakers and rolling this monstrous piece of equipment to civic clubs, PTA meetings and other community events, this one skill I had learned helped pass seven bond elections in my school district. Oh, the list of advances is virtually endless. Getting music from a record player is practically extinct, although it brought about eight-track tapes, then cassettes, later CDs and now streaming music electronically. Am I still excited about printing, projecting and reproducing as I was as a kid? Oh, yeah! The technology that has come about over the years gives opportunities for us to communicate our messages with more impact and clarity than ever. Keep learning! Keep growing! Don’t get left behind! I’ve done my best not to fall into that category of those who aren’t willing to learn something new. Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Desperately S eeking

by Tracie Seed Communications & Marketing Manager TSPRA


hen you begin thinking about a graphic design project, the first question that comes to mind is, “What colors should I use?” There are many ways you can find inspiration beyond creating a Pinterest board (which is actually a great tool). Before beginning, keep in mind the 60-30-10 rule. While not hard-fast, this theory is to use three colors: a main color for 60 percent of your design, a secondary color for 30 percent and an accent color for the last 10 percent. This recipe can help give a sense of proportion and balance to your design. But if you need to use more or even less, go for it! Find color scheme inspiration just about anywhere. Keep a creative eye open and a camera at hand when you are on vacation, running errands or on a walk. Snap pictures of anything that catches your eye, whether it is a sunset, landscape, a product, some produce, a grouping of flowers, some clothing patterns or anything that sparks your creativity. A great Instagram account that does this for you with their own inspirational images is @the.colour.lab. You can use an Adobe Creative Suite program’s eyedropper tool to choose a color from your image to get the HEX, RGB and CMYK codes to ensure that all your designs are consistent in color. However, sometimes this isn’t the best way as the colors may be altered by surrounding pixels, giving you a more muted version. One of the best way is to upload your photo to an online color generator, such as imagecolorpicker.com or image-color.com, to automatically generate codes that you can use when designing your piece. There are also other ways to find inspiration on the web. One is to visit coolors.co where you can search by colors, keywords or use an automatic palette generator. If you use Canva for your designs, check out canva. com/colors/. On this site, you can generate a palette from a photo, explore color scheme ideas, learn color theory and explore the meanings behind different colors. Whatever colors you land on, ensure your team has the codes, so all your creations are compatible. 50

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

RGB RGB stands for red, green and blue. The code is a combination of these colors in various proportions to create any color in the spectrum. As stated, RGB colors are best used for web or other digital designs. With this code, you receive a value for each level of red, green and blue. HEX Hexadecimal colors (HEX) are a way of representing colors through a six-digit code. It follows the format #RRGGBB, where RR is red, GG is green and BB is blue. These HEX integers can be in a range of 00 to FF to specify the intensity of the color. HEX colors are good to use in digital or web design. Basically, a HEX color code is a shorthand for its RGB values. When entering the code into your design program, you just need to list the one HEX code. CMYK For printed materials, use the CMYK code. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black). You use CMYK for print because a printing press uses dots of ink in varying values to make up the image from these four colors. Note: When you upload images from your phone or digital camera, they start as RGB. Convert your images to CMYK before you send files to the printer. Use Photoshop to do this: simply open your image, click Image/Mode and select CMYK Color. Save and you’re done.

Color Combos that Work

from @the.colour.lab on Instagram

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


A rundown of what TSPRAns use, wish for and plan to do with their technology by Tracie Seed Communications & Marketing Manager TSPRA

Whether it is a team of 10 or an office of one, a quality communications program is always looking for ways to streamline their workload while still producing top-notch content. We surveyed TSPRA’s membership, and this is what they said about their current tech apps and equipment as well as their plans to refresh in 2022. And it never hurts to have a wish list! Use these survey results as a conversation starter or inspiration for your own district.

by Cissa Madero Communications Specialist 52

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

What are the top apps your communications department uses?

Social Media Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube

Adobe Creative Suite All Adobe Creative Cloud programs, including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro and Acrobat Pro, are available as apps, so you have these powerful design tools on your device wherever you go.

Trello A project management tool that allows you to start up a board in seconds, automate tedious tasks and collaborate anywhere, even on mobile.

Asana This mobile app mobile app helps you stay on track, keep projects organized and hit deadlines. Visualize your progress on projects with Asana boards as your team moves tasks from do to done. Canva Create beautiful designs & professional graphics in seconds. Share your design via any social media, email or text. Constant Contact Create and send emails from your mobile device with this digital marketing app. Manage all your online marketing, including results, on mobile. Facebook Business Suite Facebook Business Suite lets you manage all your connected accounts across Facebook and Instagram in one place. It offers a variety of tools that makes it easier to manage your business presence for free. Google Meet Securely connect, collaborate and celebrate from anywhere. With Google Meet, everyone can safely create and join high-quality video meetings for groups of up to 250 people. Hootsuite, Sprout Social Social media management platforms where users can do the simple stuff like curate content and schedule posts all the way up to managing team members and measuring ROI.

What are your plans for updating your technology or other programs in 2022? • Create an online newsroom • Safety applications for website • New iPad Pro with a tripod for Facebook Live events • New iPhone to get better quality images and videos • RODECaster podcast system • Update communications platforms • Update video equipment including audio, tripods, lighting

If budget weren’t an issue, what is the one piece of equipment you’d purchase for your communications department? • • • • • • • •

More staff Canon Mark 5 with a lens Nikon D6, 600mm lens TriCaster Mac Pro, 28-core processor, 1.5 TB RAM New iPad & iPhone Podcast Studio High-tech video equipment and microphones • Mounted studio lighting

Have a great app or equipment you’d like to share with your fellow TSPRAns? Email Tracie at tseed@tspra.org.

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Smart Choice by Tracie Seed Communciations & Marketing Manager TSPRA

Many public-school communications departments don’t have the budget for photography or video equipment or the staff to use it, so they turn to the next best thing: their smartphone. Take your photos and videos to the next level with these devices. Whether you’re looking to refresh your equipment or begin a budget conversation with your supervisor, we did a little research to help you get started.


“A tripod will help you keep your shots steady which is very important in macro photography because camera shake is very noticeable when working very up close with your subject. Obviously, a shaky camera means blurry photos and you don't want that. To further ensure crisp photos, set a timer in the camera settings.” (thesmartphonephotographer.com)

Square Jellyfish Metal Spring Tripod Mount $17 • • • • • •

Fits 2.25 to 3.6" wide smartphones Fits tripod with universal screw mount Position phone vertically/horizontally Position phone upside down Lightweight and compact For smartphone users on the go

UBeesize Selfie Stick Tripod $25 • • • • • •

2.25” to 3.75” wide phone holder 10-meters Bluetooth range Expandable up to 51 inches Heavy-duty aluminum build Comfortable to carry 360° head rotation

GripTight™ ONE GP Stand $35 • • • • • •


Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

For cell phones with or without a case Universal smartphone compatibility Flexible legs wrap around objects for stability anywhere Legs create a handle for selfies, vlogging or hand-held video Rubber feet provide a stable grip on any surface Compact and lightweight for easy transport


“Lighting is very important in photography, especially when it comes to smartphone photography. Because the pixels and the sensor are so small, smartphone cameras need as much light as possible [to] produce good-quality photos. This may not be too much of a problem when taking pictures outside during the day in the sunlight. However, when the sun goes down or you’re in a low-light environment, a lot of smartphone cameras struggle to take good pictures.” (thesmartphonephotographer.com)

Whellen Selfie Ring Clip-On Light $10 • • • • • •

36 LED lights in a ring Compact and lightweight Universal Runs on two AAA batteries Three levels of brightness: low, medium and strong Great for selfies and video conferencing

UBeesize Selfie Ring Tripod Stand & Phone Holder $36 • • • • • •

10" ring light Three light colors (warm, cool white, daylight) 11 levels brightness in each color Adjustable & stable tripod extending from 15" to 50” Allows for tilt and swivel motion, portrait or landscape Able to place your smartphone inside the ring

Lume Cube Mobile Creator Lighting Kit $120 • • • • • •

Premium rotating smartphone mount Panel Mini Adjustable LED Light Lightweight and compact Use it handheld or handsfree Built-in cold shoe attachment points Removeable extension grip

Gimbal Stabilizer

“A gimbal stabilizer will always be [steadier] than your hand, and they can eliminate shaky or blurry footage to help your videos look better than ever before. Gimbals use brushless motors that keep your smartphone or camera steady during action shots.” (omnicoreagency.com)

MOZA MINI-S Essential Foldable Gimbal Stabilizer $59 • • • • • •

Compact Good subject tracking One-button focus and zoom controls 3-axis stabilization performs well Great for beginners Need to remove case from phone

Hohem iSteady X 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer $79 • • • • • •

Eliminates shake, enhance DC brushless motors App guide Easy low-angle shooting Face-tracking Easy switch from horizontal to vertical Easily portable

DJI OM 5 Smartphone 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer $160 • • • • • •

Palm size with extension rod ShotGuides automatically recognizes your environment Face tracking Great for first-time users Easily transported 3-axis stabilization, adapts to your movements

Equipment Refresh on a Budget

Update your photo, audio and video equipment without breaking the bank.


Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

by Michael Dudas Media Teacher Galveston ISD


t Ball High School in Galveston, Texas, I have built several programs including a TV studio in which my students broadcast our video morning announcements, an audio studio that houses our campus’ online streaming radio station and a photography studio. My classroom and adjacent studios are usually the first stop on school tours. Frequently, campus visitors are those who have been sent to me from other campuses and school districts on a mission to find out how they can start their own program on a shoestring budget. Fifteen years ago, I was that person too when my principal sent me to shadow a video teacher at another school and come back with a shopping list. My suggestions will work well for those school district communication department professionals looking for equipment with limited funds.

First, you need a reliable camera. For simple quick videos, I use my smartphone. Whether you are an Android or

Apple person, use the one that fits your budget best. Most can shoot excellent quality video and record broadcastquality audio. Invest in a clip-on microphone that can be purchased at a relatively inexpensive price. It can be easily connected to your phone and significantly heighten the quality of your audio. For quick interviews on location, use a portable handheld microphone.

Second, for in-studio cameras, I have always had good luck with such small cameras as the Sony Handycam. These

cameras capture excellent quality video and audio. Being smaller in size, the cameras store nicely in a camera bag. I have also had great success using the Canon Rebel cameras which capture high-quality images along with impressive HD video. The cameras have filled in recently as temporary backups to our more expensive cameras as we have recently made some repairs to our much more expensive equipment. During the process, loss of quality was minimally detected.

Third, for stability purposes, invest in a high-quality tripod for your camera. Don’t be tempted to buy one of the bargain-basement stands. Pay a few extra bucks and upgrade to a sturdier tripod with strong legs.

Fourth, invest in a teleprompter. A teleprompter app can be downloaded and used on your tablet. Pay a few extra

bucks and upgrade instead of being tempted to download the free versions. This will save a lot of headaches down the road including eliminating storage issues, pop-ads and various other limited options. Additionally, purchase a mobile teleprompter stand. Unless you are wanting to connect your teleprompter into the hood of a very expensive video camera, the stand is an excellent alternative at the fraction of the cost. Again, don’t be tempted to purchase the cheapest option. Upgrade to a mid-range selection which will ensure the sturdiness and longevity of your stand. I use a mobile stand that allows the attachment of a smartphone too.

Fifth, invest in a green screen. Purchase a collapsible one for your studio and a mobile one that you can grab and go with on-location.

Sixth, invest in video editing software. If you are an Apple person, Final Cut Pro will do a great job. If you are a PC person, Premiere Pro should be your choice. There is always debate on which one is better. Premiere Pro is now widely used more in the media industry than Final Cut Pro. There are tons of easy tutorials available to assist you with training. Last, and most importantly, don’t forget about a lighting system. You can have the best equipment, but poor lighting will ruin the quality of your videos and images. Mobile lights and tripods can be purchased for as low as $500 to arrange your three-point lighting setup. Producing professional-quality videos does not have to break the bank. Be a smart consumer. Research your options ahead of time and save your money to spend elsewhere.

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Communication professionals share five things they wish they knew when they first started school communications AMY PAWLAK, CPC

Public Relations Coordinator Bullard ISD

It’s OK to ask questions There is a lot to learn in school communications (processes, acronyms, policies and more!). You don’t have to act like you know it all already. It is OK to ask questions. In most cases, you will find others do not always know the answers either. The fastest way to learn is to ask! More than information School communications is multifaceted (media relations, volunteers/partnerships, external and internal communications, marketing/advertising, sponsorships and more)! It is essential to understand how these areas all work together to be effective. Own it and move forward Unfortunately, mistakes happen. As soon as you hit the send button, that darn typo on the email/ press release/newsletter you reviewed multiple times (and sent to three people to proof) will appear as big as day! Or, the script you prepared for your director to read aloud during a board meeting included the wrong school name. Eeek! Mistakes will happen. The important thing is how you respond to them. Always own your mistakes, learn from them, give yourself grace and move forward. 58

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org

Accuracy first With any type of messaging that goes out, accuracy will always be more important than speed. When you feel the pressure to get something out quickly, be sure to take a moment to ensure all the information is accurate. You are not alone Building a support system is crucial! I have gained so much knowledge from professional organizations, social media school pr groups, and my local school PR colleges. They are always there when I call with a question or when I need to bounce ideas. I really don’t know what I would do without them!


Community Engagement & Marketing Specialist Northwest ISD

If you don’t build trust with your community, they will be less inclined to believe what you communicate. Make it a priority to be an engaged member of your community and listen to what your community is telling you. You can achieve trust by being an authentic, relatable and transparent member of the community. This will help you out in the long run when you need community support.

Take the time to connect and build a relationship with your colleagues, because that will be where you learn the most. Get to know your colleagues and constantly ask questions on how they do things. You will be able to continually improve and develop best practices in a variety of tasks by building connections with your peers. You’re not going to be able to control what is out of your control, but you can control your response. We can’t make predictions of what a day has in store for us. The best thing you can do to help your organization when something pops up is to focus on the communication of something rather than what is happening. Utilize every experience and resource at your disposal to communicate efficiently and effectively. Be available to be responsive always, while still finding value in your personal time. Let’s face it, this is not a 9-5 job, and that can intrude into your personal life if you let it. With practice, you will learn what is necessary to do right now and what can wait a little longer. Be engaged and involved in all areas of your organization. Over time, I have observed that the best central office administrators are those that are engaged in areas and departments outside of their own. Seek out and join various committees and groups in your district whenever you can to become more involved and gain knowledge.


Director of Public Relations & ED, Education Foundation Waxahachie ISD You will eventually know all the acronyms. Your colleagues will throw around lots (and lots and lots) of acronyms, like PEIMS, IEP and TAPR. Sometimes it will seem like they are speaking another language, and you’ll find yourself subtly Googling these terms, so you understand what

the heck is going on! Don’t worry – after six months or so, you’ll find yourself speaking in this crazy education language like you’ve been doing it your whole life. Not being able to tell your side of the story will be your biggest source of frustration. As someone who came to school PR from the corporate world, I was used to being able to “fight back,” for lack of a better term, against inaccuracies from competitors, reporters and people on social media. Of course, when it comes to students, there are rules about what we can share and, in certain situations, we can’t say anything at all. It still makes me cringe when I see something outlandish posted on social media and I can’t say anything, because the PR person in me desperately wants to correct the inaccuracies! Your fellow school PR pros are collaborators, not competitors. If you haven’t connected with TSPRA colleagues, DO IT NOW! TSPRA is the most collaborative professional organization I have ever been a part of. From sharing documents to answering questions to being a shoulder to cry on, my TSPRA colleagues are amazing collaborators who have saved me numerous hours of work over the years and have eased my frustrations more times than I can count. My number-one tip for our upcoming TSPRA conference: Take the time to network. Sit down with someone you don’t know, go to the STAR awards banquet, ask someone to go to lunch. It will be well worth the time you invest. Just because you went to school doesn’t mean you know how to run one – let principals teach you! When I began my career in school PR, I didn’t understand what an important resource campus principals and other staff members throughout the district can be. After a few misses with planning things that just didn’t work for the campuses, I learned to lean on the principals for feedback. I’ve learned about campus scheduling and how continued on Page 60 Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


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difficult it can be to get kids back on track if they’re interrupted during instructional time – all of the things you intuitively know if you’ve worked on a campus but have no clue about otherwise. You will have more fulfillment in school PR than anything else you’ve ever done because you know you are making a difference each day. Even on my worst day in school PR, I can look at what I did that day and point out at least one thing I did to make a difference in my community, for the people who live, learn and work here. It’s incredibly fulfilling and satisfying, and I am so lucky that I get to do this job every day!

KIMBERLY SIMPSON Chief of Communications Lancaster ISD

Advocating for the school PR role When I started to work in school communications, I was amazed at how some individuals didn’t recognize the value of having a dedicated person or team handle school communications. As I transitioned into school PR, I found myself constantly educating and advocating for the importance of the role and sometimes having to defend why our positions were needed. Finally, I realized that school PR professionals must be advocates for our industry. We have the responsibility of setting the tone on the importance of our roles and proving why we are a vital part of the daily operation of a school district. Self-care One school year, I became extremely ill with the flu and bronchitis. It was horrible. I was off work for two weeks and couldn’t stand that I was sick and missing so much time from work. My superintendent at the time called to check on me


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and ended our phone conversation by saying, “Kim, you need to take care of yourself. Health is wealth, and remember, there will always be more work for you to do. Get well soon.” He was right. At that moment, I realized that I needed to focus on myself to recover. I wish I had known I needed to detach from my job to heal, during that time. I now know, especially after working in school PR during a global pandemic, that self-care is essential, and it is more than ok to take the time you need to heal. If we are not at our best, we cannot perform at our best, and our school districts need their communication practitioners at their best. Discovering school PR I learned about school PR during my time as a photojournalist at an NBC affiliate in central Texas. While covering a story, I was able to interview the PIO of Waco ISD. During that interview, I discovered what the role of the PIO did, and it intrigued me. While in college, I learned about several job options in the communications industry; however, I had not considered the role in a school district setting. Had I known that role existed earlier on, I probably would have considered school PR track earlier in my career. Networking I can’t stress to individuals the importance of networking. At the beginning of my career, I knew it was imperative to venture out and meet as many people in our industry as possible. I was told to join and volunteer for organizations, attend conferences and do the work to improve as a communications professional. Although I did this reluctantly at times, it has benefited me greatly. I did not know that the connections made early in my career would prove beneficial now in my career. I am grateful that I was taught the value of relationships and the power of networking.

School PR friends Without a doubt, you must find a good circle of School PR friends and never let them go. Had I known this early on in my career, I would have reached out to my special group of friends long ago to establish the bond we share today. I am blessed to call some of the most incredible School PR professionals friends, and their continued support is something I value.


Assistant Director of Communications Keller ISD

Become a student again Every day I learn something new. Whether it’s sitting in on an engineering class, listening to a board presentation on the annual budget or having a conversation with a first grader during a campus visit, everyone in a school district has something to teach us if we are open to learning.

Build relationships “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” is often shared with teachers, but it’s also 100 percent true for district administrators. The relationships you build will not only blossom into lifelong friendships (more about that next) but also will result in a better connection with the campuses and knowledge of what is happening, which allows you to be a better storyteller. Work friends will become family If you would have told me about the countless lifelong friends I would make through school PR, I don’t think I would have believed it was possible. Through not only TSPRA friendships (which are the best in the world, by the way) but also through campus relationships, I feel like I have one huge family who loves, supports and roots for me. I couldn’t ask to be surrounded by better people.

Do the “heart” work As the daughter and wife of public-school educators, I just thought I was passionate about schools, but once I really got started, my heart grew more connected to the stories between the campus walls. The more I’ve cared about a story, the better the finished product. Set boundaries It’s taken me many years but turning the phone off and sometimes saying “no” was recently lifechanging for me, and I haven’t once regretted the boundaries I’ve set. In fact, oftentimes, I’ve been a better PR pro (and mother and wife) for it. When I place an emphasis on letting myself unplug and recharge, I’m able to see things from a fresh perspective and make more sound decisions.

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

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Important Dates JANUARY 3 12 12 13 14 14 17 18 19 20 20 24 24 24 27

$100 administrative fee for any 2022 TSPRA Conference cancellation through Jan. 23, 2022 Online learning series: Quick Tips for Video Editing for Social Media and Creating Captions and Transcripts with Cheryal Loosmore, Lake Travis ISD San Antonio regional meeting East Texas regional meeting - virtual North Texas subregional meetings Central Texas regional meeting at Hays CISD Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Online learning series: Canva in a Crunch with JMat Bernel, Texas Tribune Online learning series: Interviews | How to Prepare for Effective Interviews and Ask the Right Questions with Jennifer Hines, Tyler ISD Online learning series: The Secret to Crafting Compelling Stories and Engaging Stockholders with Veronica Sopher, TSPRA President, Fort Bend ISD Gulf Coast regional meeting Online learning series: Lunch with Lawyer Dennis Eichelbaum No refund for #TSPRA22 Conference cancellations | substitutions allowed through Feb.24, 2022. $100 late fee added for all #TSPRA22 Conference registrations received through Feb. 24 Houston/Beaumont regional meeting at Aldine ISD


Black History Month 3 Online learning series: Super Bowl of Sports Marketing with Shannon Schwartz, Ty Parker, Devin Ward, Lubbock ISD and Joe Kostiha, Assistant Athletic Director, Weatherford ISD 7 Deadline for those paying by check to submit payment to Kalahari Resort and Convention Center for #TSPRA22 Conference 7 Deadline for those with hotel reservations at Kalahari Resort and Convention Center for #TSPRA22 Conference to submit credit card authorization forms 8 #TSPRA 22 Preconference Required Pre-Work Zoom session for those registered to attend Get Your Google On! Measurement (Analytics) Intensive Workshop with Fran Stephenson, APR, Step In Communications 9 Online learning series: Quick Tips for Improving Video Sound with Garrett Dollar, Independent Videographer and Corey Ryan, CPC, Leander ISD 9 Remo.co rehearsal and training for #TSPRA Remote Roundtable Presenters 9 San Antonio meeting 10 Remo rehearsal for Remote Roundtables for presenters 11 North Texas regional meeting 11 Central Texas regional meeting at Round Rock ISD 15 Remo orientation for Remote Roundtables conference attendees 15 Goose Chase launches for those attending #TSPRA22 Conference 20 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 TSPRA Executive Committee Dinner and Installation of Officers 21 Presidents Day 21 #TSPRA22 Preconferences 22 TWOsday (2/22/22) 22-23 2022 Professional Award recipients announced 22-24 60th annual TSPRA Conference at Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Round Rock 25 TSPRA State Offices Closed


Women’s History Month 11 Final day for to submit receipts for conference expense reimbursement (consultants, scholarship, others) 11 Central Texas regional meeting at Pflugerville ISD 14-18 TSPRA State Offices closed 24 Houston/Beaumont regional meeting at ESC-4 30 East Texas Chapter meeting-virtual

APRIL 8 8 13 14 14 15

North Texas subregional meetings Central Texas regional meeting at Eanes ISD San Antonio regional meeting West Central regional meeting TSPRA Exhibitor Extravaganza – via Remo TSPRA State Offices Closed


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

WELCOME NEW MEMBERS Molly Adams, Aransas County ISD Mike Alvarez, Alief ISD Cynthia Arellano, Roma ISD Typhani Bartholomew, Lancaster ISD Sheri Brezeale, Midlothian ISD John Briese, Millsap ISD Allison Boerger, San Antonio ISD Belen Casillas, Chapel Hill ISD Adelina Cruz, Alief ISD Hector Dominguez, Runge ISD Jennifer Edwards, Dripping Springs ISD Renee Fairchild, Sweet Home ISD Anissa Faris, Hillsboro ISD Thomas Ferrer, Donna ISD Kelly Follis, Seguin ISD John Forbis, Canyon ISD Derek Fry, Fort Bend ISD Joshua Garcia, Aransas County ISD Lizette Garcia, Harmony Public Schools Nicholas Gravois, Lewisville ISD Mike Gutt, Coppell ISD Walter Hailey, Winfree Academy Charter Schools Jo Ann Hernandez, Georgetown ISD Drew Hurt, Pasadena ISD Alice Jauregui, Waco ISD Veronica Johannsen, Corsicana ISD Sandy King, Waxahachie ISD Rachel Kistner, Italy ISD Todd Kleiboer, Sherman ISD Vanessa Koch, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Michael Lam, Galena Park ISD Adrienne Lott, Port Arthur ISD Louie Loya, Galena Park ISD

Shannon Luis, Era ISD Mariella Martinez, West Orange-Cove CISD Susan Meyer, Pflugerville ISD Anthony Mireles, Channelview ISD Matthew McCaig, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Fabiana Montenegro, Harmony Public Schools Magaly Nieto, Ector County ISD Sandy Joel Nihlean, TASB Christian Nicholson, Canyon ISD Kimberly Pagach, Caldwell ISD Hugh Piatt, Pampa ISD Gil Perez, Aransas County ISD Colette Pledger, Robinson ISD Amy Pope, Sweeny ISD Veronica Ramon, Lyford CISD Logan Reuland, Georgetown ISD Kari Ring, RMA Public Schools Sarah Roddy, ESC Region 13 Elizabeth “Lizzy” Samples, Hutto ISD Monica Saenz, Southside ISD Carrie Saunders, Richardson ISD Denise Schulz, TASB Daniel Smith, Hutto ISD Denise Sloss, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Heather Smith, Lockhart ISD Willie Thomas, Robinson ISD Cynthia Torres, Sharyland ISD Gustavo Trevino, Pasadena ISD Michael Uriegas, Carrizo Springs CISD Kirsten Valle, White Settlement ISD Reece Waddell, Sanger ISD Connie Wallace, Duncanville ISD Diana Ybanez, Vanguard Academy

as of 1/10/22

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Annual Conference February 20-23 Omni Fort Worth

Winter 2021 | www.TSPRA.org


Articles inside

TSPRA Talk What’s happening in TSPRA

pages 60-65

5 in 5 What do you wish you knew before entering school communications?

pages 58-59

Smart Choice Options for tripods, lighting and gimbals

pages 54-55

Equipment Refresh on a Budget Update your

pages 56-57

What TSPRA Means to Me Hear from the

pages 38-39

What the Tech? Results from a recent member survey

pages 52-53

Desperately Seeking Color Inspiration for your

pages 50-51

A Tale of Two Members Meet two of TSPRA’s

pages 32-37

PR Tools See how communicators’ tools have changed in the past 60 years

pages 48-49

TSPRA History Celebrating 60 years of TSPRA

pages 28-31

Is EQ More Important that IQ? A deep dive into

pages 24-26

Member Moment Getting to know fellow TSPRAns

pages 12-13

Q & A Meet Janet Crock, TSPRA

pages 14-15

In a Minute Industry facts, figures & fun

pages 10-11

Introducing Meet Star Awards dinner’s new emcee, Craig Verley, Mission CISD

page 27

Socially Changing A look at the importance of social media to school communications

pages 22-23

EduLege Top news in school communications

pages 18-21

Point of View Dustin Taylor, Longview ISD

pages 16-17
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