The Leadership Through Communication Award recognizes the teamwork and exemplary leadership of outstanding superintendents and their communications professionals for demonstrated commitment to the enhancement of communication and relationships between their school systems and the families and communities they serve. The award honors those who recognize that communication is a critical component of leadership and incorporate strategic communication into their planning goals and objectives as well as their daily operations. The Leadership Through Communication Award program is open to all school districts throughout the United States and Canada.
The award is jointly sponsored by Blackboard, AASA, and NSPRA. The recognized school system receives a $10,000 Award, provided by Blackboard, to be used for student scholarships or communication activities that benefit students and schools.
2014 Leadership Through Communication Award Recipient
Nixa (Mo.) Public Schools
| Stephen Kleinsmith, Ed.D.
Nixa Public Schools, a K-12 suburban school system in Nixa,
Missouri, has been named the 2014 recipient of the Leadership Through
Communication Award, jointly sponsored by Blackboard, the National School Public
Relations Association (NSPRA) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association.
The award recognizes Stephen Kleinsmith, Ed.D., superintendent, and Zac Rantz,
director of communication, for demonstrating exemplary leadership in the
enhancement of school-to-parent communication within the school system and the
community they serve. Nixa Public Schools serves 6,000 students in 11 schools.
The judges for the 2014 award were impressed with the
high-functioning communications program that has been developed in Nixa Public
Schools, noting that it is strategic, transparent and two-way in design. Since
joining the district in 2000, school communications has been a high priority
for Dr. Kleinsmith. It has remained the number one strategy in Nixa Public
Schools’ strategic plan, resulting in the addition of a director of
communication to oversee a comprehensive communication program. The focus on
communication also has added: principal advisory committees; a key communicator
network; enhanced interaction with the community and the media; a volunteer
program; staff communication training; a crisis communication plan; and
enhanced customer service across the district. The superintendent and director
of communication work hard to ensure there is a united message for Nixa Public
In addition, Nixa Public Schools is commended for:
- Building a culture where there is a common language
to enhance communication. The internal and external groups clearly spoke the
same language as the superintendent and director.
- Creating an environment where information can be
shared in a variety of ways, including face-to-face interactions, the news
media, the website, social media, district messaging, community engagement,
multi-media presentations and printed materials. Their efforts have expanded
relationships beyond Nixa’s “parent base” to build strong support and pride
among major segments of the business community and taxpayers that do not have
children enrolled in the public schools.
- Providing the community the opportunity to offer
input which is listened to and acted upon. There is evidence of trust between
the district, city officials and community members, and all parties work
together to do what is best for students. There is a close collaboration with a
wide range of community agencies (police, fire, faith, county and city
government, civic leadership, etc.) in communication that serves the needs of
- The district’s commitment to transparency is
very impressive. Patrons express a high level of trust in the district, which
has demonstrated a willingness to share bad news as well as good news in an
effort to build community trust through transparent and honest communications.
- Empowering building administrators to take
charge of their own communications programs, with ample training support from
- In response to requests from new PR staff and
superintendents in neighboring and regional districts, the superintendent and
director of communication have served as mentors to their peers, fostering good
school communications practices throughout the state of Missouri.
- The working relationship between the
superintendent and communications director is two-way, dynamic and oriented
toward problem-solving and their rapport is readily apparent. Focus groups
commented on the team’s ability to work together and the community’s trust in
“The comprehensive nature of Nixa Public Schools’
communication program is incredibly impressive when you realize that it is
overseen by a department of one,” said Rich Bagin, APR, executive director of
the National School Public Relations Association. “The scope, quality and
effectiveness of the communication effort is a testament to Dr. Kleinsmith’s
vision and commitment and to Zac’s creativity, skill and boundless energy. It
is obvious that they are both extremely passionate about their work and the
students in Nixa’s schools.”
“Student success depends upon community support and
effective communication between teachers, parents and the entire community,”
said Mark Belles, senior vice president of Blackboad K-12. “We’re delighted to
see Nixa Public Schools recognized for their comprehensive approach to
improving district-wide communications and community engagement.”
“In the digital age we live in, where we sometimes have
up to 140 characters to share important messages, I congratulate Nixa Public
Schools for its outstanding communications agenda,” said Daniel A. Domenech,
executive director, AASA. “As we work to strengthen school systems across the
country, a vital component in achieving that goal is effectively leveraging the
various communications platforms available to reach key audiences. This school
district has created a winning model for informing the community it serves.”
Through Communication Award program is open to all school districts throughout
the United States and Canada. The award will be presented at AASA’s National
Conference on Education in Nashville, Tenn., February 13-15, 2014. A $10,000
contribution will be made by Blackboard to Nixa Public Schools to be used for
student scholarships or communication activities that benefit students and
schools. District leaders will also give a panel presentation on their
communication program at the AASA Conference.
Learn more about Nixa Public Schools' program here.
See past Leadership Through Communication Award Recipients here.