Dane Baxa - 35 Under 35 Class of 2018-19

35 Under 35 Class of 2018-19
Dane is one of 35 professionals, age 35 and under, who makes up the Class of 2018-19. They are emerging leaders who are making a difference in school public relations. 

Dane Baxa
Goddard Public Schools
Goddard, KS

What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is an activity, not a position, and anyone can learn to exercise leadership at any time.  I believe leadership starts with selfless service to others, and through dedicated actions overtime, you gain the trust and support from your school district’s staff, families, and broader community members that allow you to lead movements to create better educational opportunities for your students. 

What was the most fulfilling professional moment you have experienced?
In 2016, student council members from both high schools held a joint meeting with our superintendent. During the discussion, our students came up with an idea of hosting an event that would connect both high school populations together to serve the community. Neighbors United was born, and on the last Saturday in April for the past 3 years, over 500 volunteers come together to serve over 40 service projects benefiting individuals and organizations in need in our community. The logistics, details, and communication efforts it takes to coordinate this type of effort would appear to be a daunting task, but when you are able to help create an opportunity for students, and witness the community impact and lifelong learning that takes place during this annual event, it has become the most inspiring and fulfilling projects in my career. 

What are the most challenging and/or rewarding part about working in school PR?
I believe the most rewarding part of our work is sharing stories of students who have overcome a significant obstacle in their life to achieve success. Our district provides educational students at a residential facility that serves children that have fallen out of the foster care system, and have nowhere else to go. Unfortunately, the general public has a negative perception of the facility, and because of the confidentiality restraints of the students involved, there is little that can be done with traditional communication strategies to curve that perception. We had a new principal assume the educational oversight of students at that facility, and recently coordinated their first graduation ceremony for a student that completed all academic requirements. This was one of the most rewarding experiences I have been able to partake in, and could not have been more proud of how public education gives every student an opportunity to succeed. One part of the graduation ceremony, two students started singing "See You Again" by Wiz Khalifa. It was one of the most powerful student performances I have ever witnessed. These two students could not participate in a regular high school choir and were only able to work with a core subject teacher on their performance. They did not leave a dry eye in the room.

What’s your favorite work app and personal app?
I was an early adopter of Facebook, and it has basically become the scrapbook of my family’s life.  What I enjoy most about Facebook, is that it is constantly evolving to meet the needs of its users. I may not agree with every update Facebook has put in place, or the various changes to their algorithms, but I do believe that it in this era of social media, Facebook will survive to the end. Our district has multiple schools that each have their own distinctive social media accounts, and I believe Facebook has been the easiest social media platform to manage multiple pages. 

What book has inspired you professionally?
"The Carpenter" by Jon Gordon. This book aligns with my personal leadership philosophy, focusing on three principles: love, serve, and care. These timeless values will help you stand out, excel and make an impact on people and the world. It has inspired me to not just do a better job at work, but helps me focus on building a better life.
How has NSPRA and your state chapter guided you along the way?
NSPRA is a phenomenal resource and attending the Annual NSPRA Seminar is an absolute game changer for any school communication professional from any size school district. This profession can be exhausting and make you feel very isolated. However, by getting engaged with NSPRA and your state chapter (KanSPRA for me), you get to meet other professionals who wear the same shoes as you. I have found mentors and became friends with some of the best people in our field, and discovered they are not just amazing at the craft, but are truly good hearted people that relentlessly advocate for public education students. You also get the affirmation that the work you are doing is making a positive difference. I’ve been honored to serve as the President of KanSPRA, and have enjoyed even more being able to serve and give back to the professional organization that has helped me get a fantastic start to my school public relations career.

What is a recent communications/media campaign you enjoyed – either one of your own or one you saw nationally?
We passed a $52 million dollar bond in the spring of 2017 with a 70% voter approval. As difficult as a bond campaign can be, one of the most enjoyable aspects of working through that process was formalizing a group of ‘Moms for Bonds’ that became our social media advocates for our YesFor265Kids campaign. When working through a bond, you need a support group that can help keep the positive momentum moving forward, between my KanSPRA colleagues and working with this particular group of individuals, it was everything we needed to achieve success!

What emerging trends in school public relations get you excited?
I believe more and more public schools are creating and investing in an education foundation to support their district. Recently, I’ve assumed the responsibilities to serve both as the Director of Community Relations for Goddard Public Schools as well as the Executive Director of the Goddard Education Foundation. School public relations professionals should work in tandem with their Foundation, capitalizing on the support they can generate for their district.I look at my new dual role as a means to connect the stories we are already telling to potential donors, building volunteer capacity for the district from within the community, and creating an avenue to successfully engage our alumni in meaningful ways. Just like higher education institutions, public schools need to unlock the support that could be generated from their graduates, retired faculty and the broader business community.