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The Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award recognizes a practicing school public relations professional for outstanding efforts in mentoring colleagues new to school PR, for providing counsel and advice on job success, and for assisting colleagues in their professional development by creating or offering programs and activities designed to improve PR skills and knowledge. This award is given in memory of Barry Gaskins, APR, an NSPRA past president who was known for his deep commitment to supporting and mentoring colleagues as well as for his passion for public education. The award is presented during a General Session of the NSPRA National Seminar
Click below to view profiles of the Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award recipients from 2010-present.
NSPRA is pleased to announce Jill Filer, director of communications and community relations for Harrisonville (Mo.) Schools, as the recipient of the 2022 Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award. She will be honored at the NSPRA 2022 National Seminar during the General Session on Tuesday, July 19, at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Hotel.
The annual award, named for NSPRA past-president Barry Gaskins, APR, recognizes a practicing school public relations professional for outstanding efforts in mentoring colleagues new to school public relations; providing counsel and advice on job success; and assisting colleagues in their professional development by creating or providing programs and activities designed to improve PR skills and knowledge.
“Jill’s ongoing commitment to mentoring professionals new to school public relations is inspiring,” said NSPRA Executive Director Barbara M. Hunter, APR. “Her guidance and counsel have been invaluable to so many during a time of continued change, and her actions will be felt for years to come.”
Over the course of her more than 20 years in school communications, Filer’s dedication to school PR, the professional development of colleagues and to serving others has been a hallmark of her career.
“Jill’s method for mentoring is simple: She makes herself available,” said David Luther, executive director of the Missouri School Public Relations Association (MOSPRA), a chapter of NSPRA. “See a problem? Address it. Find a gap? Fill it. Recognize that a colleague is struggling? Lift them up. That’s what Jill has been doing for the past 20 years.”
Filer spearheaded the creation of MOSPRA’s “Colleague Connections” mentorship program as well as organized sub-regional meetings for the chapter, which provide opportunities for members to come together at nearby locations to share best practices in school communications. Her “ready-to-serve” demeanor has made her a go-to advisor for school PR colleagues across the nation.
“It’s hard to find those colleagues whom you know you can trust for professional and personal advice,” said Lana Snodgras, director of communications and community relations for the West Plains (Mo.) School District. “Jill listens, then questions, and instead of telling you what to do, helps you determine what is best for the situation.”
Filer previously served as the MOSPRA president in 2010-2011 and was honored as an NSPRA Front-Runner in 2011.
The National School Public Relations Association is honoring Susan Brott, APR, with one of its most prestigious recognition awards: the Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award. The award recognizes a practicing school public relations professional for outstanding efforts in mentoring colleagues new to school public relations; providing counsel and advice on job success; and assisting colleagues in their professional development by creating or providing programs and activities designed to improve PR skills and knowledge.
Brott currently serves as a senior strategic consultant for CESO Communications, LLC, which provides strategic communications counsel and support for public school districts. Prior to joining CESO in 2020, she spent more than 20 years handling communications for school districts in Minnesota. She has also been an active contributor to her state chapter, Minnesota SPRA (MinnSPRA), and to NSPRA throughout her career.
Over the last two decades, Brott has demonstrated her dedication to mentoring colleagues in the profession in a variety of ways.
“Susan is a life-long learner whose thoughtful questions and reflective insight constantly push her colleagues to grow. You can’t help but learn something new or think differently about an issue after a conversation with her,” said Chris Tennill, APR, the chief communications officer for Clayton School District in Missouri.
Brott, who is the daughter of public school teachers, frequently serves as a mentor for those who are new to the school public relations profession. For example, she co-facilitated the New Professionals workshop offered prior to the annual National Seminar for six years until 2019. As part of that work, she set up ongoing opportunities for participants to stay connected throughout the year.
“Her warmth and commitment to helping us newbies learn, grow and adjust to a complicated and challenging career was invaluable,” said Christine Paik, the chief communication officer for Poway Unified School District in California. “I suddenly felt like part of a large, extended ‘family’ with built-in support, camaraderie and networking.”
At the state level, Brott co-facilitated the MinnSPRA Emerging Leaders program, a year-long learning cohort to provide learning for younger leaders who wanted to advance their skills in school communication.
While working in four school districts over the course of her career, Brott also has supervised younger colleagues in ways that helped them advance their skills and pursue other positions.
“Susan made my transition into the field seamless and was incredibly forthcoming and patient in introducing me to the field during a time of constant change for our district. The learning experience was invaluable,” said Wesley Drey, a communications coordinator for the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 in Minnesota.
NSPRA leaders are proud to recognize Susan Brott, APR, as the Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award winner. She will be honored at the NSPRA 2021 National Seminar during the General Session on Tuesday, July 13, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The spirit of mentorship is part of Susan’s core. Through her work as a member and leader in OKSPRA and NSPRA, she has helped countless colleagues new to the profession. Her willingness to serve as a mentor started with her Oklahoma colleagues and quickly spread to so many others throughout the country.
Over the past 20 years, Susan has been a frequent presenter at NSPRA seminars and chapter conferences. She conducted numerous NSPRA audits and has contributed to many NSPRA publications to write and share her expertise.
When Susan served in official NSPRA leadership roles as the South Central Regional Vice President and the 2015-2016 NSPRA President, she pushed for inclusion, getting more people to feel part of the NSPRA family. Whether colleagues were new to the profession or seasoned veterans, she reached out to make them feel at home.
Along with helping colleagues to seek and prepare for new positions in school public relations, Susan has a long record of serving as an advisor to colleagues who are navigating a crisis or challenging situation. She brings a mountain of experience to these conversations along with a calm demeanor. Many of her colleagues have noted her skill at guiding school leaders during stressful and unpredictable situations. She is more than willing to advise colleagues on a wide range of issues and can do so effectively because of her broad and deep experience.
Susan has shaped the careers of so many of her colleagues by offering wise counsel, strategic advice and plain, old common sense. And she does it with her unmatchable Southern charm.
It is the testimonials from colleagues that truly highlight why Susan has earned their respect and admiration.
This award includes two key words in its name — “mentor” and “legacy” — which according to his colleagues, automatically conjure up Terry’s image because of the impact he has had on school communication professionals in Arizona and on others across the country as well.
As a school PR veteran, Terry is seen as a go-to mentor to his Arizona School Public Relations (ASPRA) chapter colleagues and is regarded as an expert in all matters related to school PR. He never hesitates to share his expertise and wisdom, whether it’s on the chapter listserv, on the phone, via email or face to face. Even after decades in the profession, you will find him at all ASPRA professional development meetings, either presenting or participating as an attendee. He generously shares his expertise, experiences, materials and time — ask for his help and Terry will be there.
Terry is known as a PR professional that focuses on results. He is the master of school communication and an expert in rezoning, media relations, passing bond and override elections, building community support, and creating overall fun for everyone involved. Terry practices what he preaches leading the communication department of one of the largest school districts in the Valley of the Sun (greater metro Phoenix). He guides his team with a strategic communication plan that includes effective public engagement processes, and he is the leading voice for his district on local and state issues impacting public education.
While Terry’s unassuming leadership style and dry, witty sense of humor have long been appreciated in his home state, his service as NSPRA’s Southwest Region Vice President from 2013-16 shown a spotlight on his many contributions as an NSPRA veteran and expanded the impact he has had on colleagues, from sound strategic counsel to humorous collaborations that make us laugh at some of the challenges we face in school PR and public education.
The first thing you notice about Ron Koehler is his laugh. It is hearty, booming, irresistible and contagious. Combined with a warm and engaging demeanor, it draws people in like a magnet. It’s then that you quickly discover the insightful, knowledgeable and strategic thinker who is passionate about public education and committed to sharing his passion, skills and counsel with colleagues around the country.
Ron is a consummate communicator and school PR professional whose ability to create real dialogue, relationships and trust among diverse education stakeholders is key to his success and evidence of his enormous talent and skill. His colleagues note that at the heart of all his achievements is his own huge heart — he is “the real deal” — warm, friendly, genuine, and always willing to make time to share his wisdom and insight with all who ask. Self-effacing and humble, he lives the adage, “You can accomplish almost anything as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.”
While Michigan has seen a dramatic decline in district-level communicators, Ron regularly reaches out to those who are new, including superintendents who are increasingly having to fill that role. He is a sought after speaker, trainer and counselor and continues to mentor new professionals in Michigan and across the country, helping them understand their jobs as well as the unique education climate we all operate in today.
Ron helped to create many of the communication toolkits used by Michigan School Public Relations Association (MSPRA) members and has written chapters for several NSPRA communication products along with developing NSPRA’s Grassroots Organizing Toolkit for public education advocacy. As NSPRA President in 2010-11 and NSPRA Mideast Region Vice President from 2004-07, Ron brought his laser-like focus on improving the climate for, and performance of, our nation’s schools to the table, pushing for a higher vision for public education by engaging business and opinion leaders and legislators along with the education community.
The list of innovative initiatives he has developed and helps lead for Kent ISD is too numerous to list here, but includes a tri-county Talent Triangle that engages business leaders, legislators and superintendents in common goals, and the School News Network, an online news source featuring award-winning journalists covering stories about the ISD’s public schools.
If you take a minute to review the criteria for the Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award and match it against the career and professional accomplishments of Tim Hensley, APR, in very short order you will discover that you have checked off each and every one of the listed criteria for consideration.
Over the course of his 27 years as assistant to the superintendent and lead communicator for Floyd County Schools in Rome, Georgia, Tim’s dedication to school PR, the professional development of colleagues and to serving others has been a constant characteristic of his career.
His commitment to helping others achieve their fullest potential in the world of communication, school PR and the ranks of education administration extends far beyond Georgia to across the nation.
Tim goes out of his way to meet new PR professionals, and those new to GSPRA and NSPRA (as well as long-time members) find him to be very approachable and extremely generous with his time, expertise, care and concern for all who work in the school PR trenches with him. He always answers the call for help from colleagues near and far with tried-and-true answers and advice, jumping in wherever he is needed. As one colleague describes him, “Tim is the ultimate ‘utility player,’ simply willing and more than capable of doing anything he’s called upon to do.”
He is also an enthusiastic advocate for Accreditation, providing practical support and encouragement for those considering the pursuit of their APR. He has chaired NSPRA’s Accreditation Committee and for the past several years co-presented the APR Prep Pre-Seminar Workshop at the NSPRA Seminar.
But it is Tim’s quiet and welcoming leadership style that has made a lasting mark on NSPRA, GSPRA and chapters across the country. Whether serving as GSPRA President, NSPRA Southeast Region Vice President or NSPRA President, he has been an unwavering advocate for public education and our profession. Even though he has served in our association’s highest offices, he still participates in every meeting, conference and Seminar with the same enthusiasm he had as an up-and-coming leader.
While his rich signature baritone has made him the “voice” of his hometown sports teams and a popular presenter, it is his passion for “intentional listening” that makes him a standout counselor and mentor. In her letter of nomination, GSPRA President-elect Cindy Ball shared how Tim has influenced her in her career. Says Cindy, “I saw a man who had proven his worth at the head table in his district and I knew his path was one I wanted to follow in my own district. He earned the respect, trust and confidence of his superintendent, board members and others to become a top administrator. Tim’s influence and guidance over the years helped me shape my own career goals and become the leader I am today. As GSPRA President-elect, I hope to be able to follow his footsteps in helping others grow professionally and become the ‘Tim Hensley’ of their districts.”
It is clear that Tim’s professional legacy epitomizes the intent of the Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award and we are proud to recognize him with this honor and thank him for his service to NSPRA, our members and public education.
Mention “David Luther” to school public relations professionals in Missouri — or to anyone in Jefferson City, Missouri — and you will immediately evoke a positive reaction. The same is true among NSPRA colleagues around the country because David Luther’s approachable nature and cut-to-the-chase style has made him a “go to” advisor and mentor for many throughout his career.
David consistently seeks out opportunities to engage in collaborative conversations with colleagues new to the profession, taking time not only to connect with them personally but to connect them to others in MOSPRA and NSPRA who can assist them to grow in their careers. When asked what makes him so effective as a mentor and counselor, David’s colleagues all point to one of his defining characteristics — the ability to listen, question and help them determine the best approach to a situation without actually telling them what to do.
As a mentor, David truly embodies what the Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award seeks to honor. He is a champion for MOSPRA and NSPRA and works tirelessly to help veteran colleagues as well as those new to the profession. He pushes colleagues to improve their skills and shows great confidence in their abilities to be successful. They know that when they face a tough issue or need advice, David is just a call away. As one colleague noted about facing a difficult situation, “He not only took my calls — which didn’t always come at the most considerate times of day — but patiently listened and didn’t jump to conclusions.”
David has been instrumental in the professional development of MOSPRA members, long before taking on the role of chapter executive director. He played a key role in starting the MOSPRA mentoring program and initiated the chapter’s first Fall Conference on leading and using focus groups, subsequently developing a Focus Group Consortium for members.
A gifted writer, David’s ability to say the things we all want to say in a way that doesn’t offend. and often adds a touch of humor, is something to be admired and MOSPRA members have “borrowed” his creative Facebook posts on more than one occasion. He is a popular presenter at Missouri education conferences as well as at the NSPRA Seminar and has served on numerous committees and task forces throughout his career.
David is deeply committed to our profession and is passionate about the difference we can make on student success. As a teacher, counselor, collaborator and mentor, he has had a tremendous impact on the growth and development of colleagues whose lives he as touched, helping them better understand their role in the education of students. We can think of no more worthy recipient of this award than David Luther!
Professional. Intelligent. Hard-working. Articulate. Visionary. Unselfish. Supportive. Compassionate. Cheerful. And let’s not forget, fun! All words used to describe Annette Eyman, APR, school PR professional, coach, mentor, colleague and friend.
Since joining the Papillion-La Vista Public Schools in 1991 as director of communication, Annette quickly emerged as a school PR professional to watch, both in Nebraska and at NSPRA. Over the course of her career she has established herself as a knowledgeable and respected leader and positive role model who has impacted the lives of parents, students and school public relations professionals across Nebraska and the country. A combination of high expectations, coupled with a warm, cheerful, team-centered attitude have allowed her to build deep, authentic relationships with her colleagues, and her leadership has allowed Papillion-La Vista Public Schools to become a leader in communications.
As a veteran NSPRA member and past NSPRA Front-Runner, Annette has continued to contribute and support the association and fellow members in myriad ways. Along with a couple of other hardy folks, she kept the Nebraska Chapter alive over a decade of difficult years, serving as chapter president when no one else would take on the role. She has served on numerous NSPRA committees, including the Communication Accountability Program task force, the Website review committee and the Executive Board Search Committee. She is a regular presenter at the NSPRA Seminar and state conferences and is widely viewed by superintendents as well as colleagues as Nebraska’s leading school communicator.
But it is as a mentor, coach and counselor that she truly excels. Anytime a new school PR professional is hired in Nebraska, Annette is one of the first people to reach out, offering advice, support and encouragement. And, if a district does not have a professional communicator on staff and leaders find themselves in a crisis or media firestorm, it is Annette who will immediately call and offer her assistance.
One of Annette’s many mentees had the good fortune to spend a day with her during his second week on the job. At that point he says he realized what a daunting task he had ahead of him, but Annette “adopted” him and was there with a call, text or email through a rocky first year and some major crises, providing advice, guidance, encouragement, and therapy. In his letter of support for Annette he noted, “When someone says ‘call me anytime,’ they rarely mean it. I have no doubts Annette would have answered my call at 2.a.m.” And most meaningful of all, he says, “By following Annette’s advice and instruction, I’m gaining ground and improving both my personal performance and my school district’s communication.”
Another colleague says, “When I need to get a second opinion through the lens of media and public relations, Annette is my first call. I greatly appreciate her ability to listen, empathize and offer multiple perspectives.”
Annette’s co-worker and mentee, Kala Morrissey, will tell you that it is Annette who instilled in her a desire and passion to stay in the school public relations field, and led her to be selected as one of NSPRA’s inaugural “35 Under 35” members to watch. Says Kala, “It is people like Annette that help to mentor young professionals like myself to become the future of our great organization. Without individuals like her, young NSPRA members could leave the profession before they even get started, much like I almost did.”
Dr. Andrew Rikli, Annette’s superintendent, had this to say, “The National School Public Relations Association would be fortunate indeed to have her represent the organization as a Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award recipient.”
Our professional predecessors are important. The greatest are groundbreakers on whose shoulders the next generation stands. They are teachers and role models, and some become icons who represent all that we aspire to be. Bonnie Reidy is one of these icons.
You cannot think of excellent school public relations in North Carolina without thinking of Bonnie – the two are synonymous. Anyone who has ever worked in school communications in North Carolina and the Southeast Region over the last quarter century knows Bonnie, has learned from her, and is using that knowledge to achieve success in their career.
Bonnie has led Gaston County Schools’ communication department for 27 years. Prior to that she served as the district’s Citizenship Education/Events Coordinator and as a middle school teacher, and was recognized as a Gaston County Schools Teacher of the Year. She has been an active member of our North Carolina Chapter, NCSPRA, her entire career, holding every major board position – twice! Over the years she has served on numerous NSPRA committees and task forces, including the Communication Accountability Program (CAP) task force. As Host Chapter Chair for the 2010 Charlotte Seminar, she made sure that Southern Hospitality reigned in unparalleled fashion.
Her leadership, vision and guidance in NCSPRA is legendary, resulting in one of the longest consecutive runs of Blue Ribbon Chapter Awards in NSPRA history. She co-authored NCSPRA’s New Member Orientation Notebook, the “bible” of school communications in North Carolina and a model adopted by other NSPRA chapters.
Bonnie’s influence doesn’t stop at the North Carolina border. One of NSPRA’s most passionate advocates, she has served as a beacon, bellwether, mentor, friend, cheerleader, and lifesaver for colleagues across the country in need of guidance, wisdom and support. Her generosity of spirit and time are unmatched. Bonnie’s superintendent, L. Reeves McGlohon, notes that, “A mentor is defined as a ‘wise and trusted counselor or teacher.’ This definition certainly fits Bonnie Reidy…she is the consummate mentor and is in fact a wise and trusted counselor for many individuals in and out of her own school district!”
Current NSPRA Vice President of Diversity Engagement Stan Alleyne counts Bonnie as one of his most important mentors. He says, “Those of us who were fortunate enough to be mentored by Bonnie have learned how to be generous with our time and talents. We have learned how to give back to NSPRA, an organization that has given so much to us. Most importantly, we’ve learned how to be loyal friends who can depend on one another during tough times.”
Not only were Bonnie and Barry Gaskins close friends and colleagues, Bonnie was one of Barry’s mentors early in his stellar career. They shared a passion for public education and a deep commitment to supporting and mentoring colleagues new to the school public relations profession. Bonnie Reidy epitomizes what it means to be a great mentor, and it is most fitting that we recognize her contributions by honoring her with the 2013 Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award.
Good storytellers tend also to be good teachers, and Jim Cummings, APR, has been a good storyteller since his first job as a newspaper reporter. When he joined Phoenix Union High School District in 1987 as publications editor, he started telling stories about schools, teaching, and learning, and he hasn’t stopped since.
Since early in his school public relations career, Jim has taken an active leadership role in the Arizona School Public Relations Association (ASPRA) and in NSPRA, serving in multiple chapter offices — including several rounds as chapter president — and as NSPRA Southwest Region Vice President from 2007-2010. He is a frequent and popular presenter at the NSPRA Seminar and his high-energy, content-rich and “hold on to your hat” style has garnered many invitations to speak at other chapter conferences and workshops.
But it is Jim’s talent and passion for mentoring and helping colleagues whenever he is needed that has earned him their respect and admiration above all. He has the ability to immediately connect with people and make them feel comfortable. As one colleague described it, “Jim does not just act like a sage waiting for learners to come to him. He goes where the individual is at that moment and helps them discover what they want to learn.”
Jim co-facilitated NSPRA’s New Professionals program for three years, bringing his great energy and enthusiasm to the process, approaching it as an opportunity to learn as well as teach. He regularly serves as a Counselor on Call at the NSPRA Seminar, and once you’ve been counseled by Jim, you have a mentor for life. He is generous with his time and advice and is on “speed dial” for many of his colleagues around the country, whether they need some crisis counseling or just a friendly ear to help work through an issue. An advocate of Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), he is a motivator, advisor, colleague and friend with a unique ability to engage and inspire others to expand their learning and become strategic professionals.
The best descriptor of why Jim deserves this recognition comes from one of the colleagues he has mentored over the years, Kristine Liptrot, director of communications for Oswego (Ill.) Community Unit School District 308. “Jim Cummings is my role model, my mentor and my friend and he has proven that you don’t need a classroom to be someone’s favorite teacher.” Well said, Kristine!
Since entering the school public relations profession in 1981, Tim Carroll, APR, has not only dedicated himself to elevating the practice of public relations in education but also to helping his colleagues hone their skills and abilities in order to better serve our schools.
From the start of his school PR career, Tim has been actively engaged at both the state chapter and national level. He was instrumental in chartering the Indiana School Public Relations Association (INSPRA) in 1982, freely sharing his time and expertise as a volunteer, presenter and writer. He also served as INSPRA’s executive director for four years when it was struggling to stay active. In addition to his school PR position, Tim taught a graduate level course for six years in School and Community Relations at Indiana University-South Bend Campus. Today he is an adjunct faculty member in the public relations department at Texas A&M University-Commerce where he has introduced many young professionals to school public relations and helped to open doors for them to positions in school districts.
Over the years Tim has mentored many NSPRA members, not only in Texas and Indiana, but across the country. He helped to develop and provide training for Missouri and Oklahoma public relations practitioners in the vocational education field and is a popular presenter at the NSPRA Seminar and chapter conferences in his region.
He regularly serves as a Counselor on Call at the NSPRA Seminar and is known as someone who is only a phone call away in a crisis or when a challenging communication issue presents itself. He is a long-time advocate of Accreditation in Public Relations, chairing TSPRA’s Accreditation Committee for three years and helping to coordinate the chapter’s APR academy. In 2006 he received the TSPRA Professional Achievement Award for service to the chapter and its members.
There is no higher praise for this award than the words of colleague Cody Cunningham, chief communications officer in McKinney (Texas) ISD – “Tim truly cares about the future of public schools, kids, and those with whom he works each day. He is both a great mentor and friend to hundreds of individuals in school PR, and both the profession and many individuals, including myself, owe him a debt of gratitude.”
Over a career in public relations spanning more than 40 years, Dick Egli has always been engaged in mentoring colleagues. Whether as a school public relations professional in a local school system and intermediate school district, or as president of his own PR firm, Egli and Associates, Dick has never been too busy to stop and help a colleague in need. Even though Dick "retired" from the schools a decade ago, he has never retired from school PR. While running his own thriving consulting business, he continues to be involved in school public relations, often for no fee and sometimes at personal expense, to benefit students in Michigan.
Dick is one of the pillars of the Michigan School Public Relations Association (MSPRA), where he currently chairs their Professional Development and Accreditation Committees. He is a popular and frequent presenter at MSPRA's annual conference, generously sharing his expertise. Dick is a strong proponent of Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) and as MSPRA's accreditation chair has been known to encourage, cajole and persuade members to do the work necessary to earn their APRs. He has also served on NSPRA's Accreditation Committee and willingly volunteers to sit on Readiness Review panels when needed.
In addition to giving unselfishly of his time to counsel and advise colleagues on a range of issues, Dick lectures in the Communication Arts and Sciences Department at Adrian College, helping to train undergraduates in the field of public relations and communication. He has also served a mentor to the college's student chapter of PRSA. Dick's legacy is strong, not just in MSPRA and NSPRA but especially in the school systems fortunate enough to have him on their team.