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Communication Technology Award for Superintendents Recipients

The Communication Technology Award for Superintendents recognizes a superintendent of a K-12 school system, intermediate unit, BOCES, or County Education Office for leadership in redefining, upgrading, and integrating cutting-edge communication technology to improve and expand outreach and engagement with education stakeholders — both internal and external.

This award is offered in partnership with Blackboard.

Click below to view profiles of the Communications Technology Award for Superintendent recipients over the years.

Dr. Jared Cotton Jared Cotton, Ed.D., superintendent of Chesapeake (Va.) Public Schools, has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Communication Technology Award for Superintendents. The award, presented by NSPRA in partnership with Blackboard, recognizes one district leader annually for leadership in redefining, upgrading and integrating cutting-edge communication technology to improve and expand outreach and engagement with internal and external education stakeholders.

Since his arrival as superintendent at Chesapeake Public Schools in July 2018, Dr. Cotton’s focus on open and transparent communication with all audiences has propelled his vision to leverage technology as an engagement tool. As part of the district’s Empower 2025 strategic plan, Dr. Cotton and his team have spearheaded the redesign of the district website and superintendent blog, hosted State of the School events that include digital publications and platforms for attendee engagement, implemented live communication services for emergency situations, expanded the district’s social media engagement, launched a platform to collect stakeholder feedback and more.

“The award selection committee was impressed with Superintendent Cotton’s leadership in using technology to improve and enhance communication efforts of the district,” said NSPRA Executive Director Barbara M. Hunter, APR. “We’re proud to recognize Dr. Cotton for his incorporation and prioritization of communication technology as an integral part of the district’s strategic plan.”

Dr. Brad Hunt When Dr. Brad Hunt began his tenure as superintendent for Coppell ISD in 2017, he collaborated with the district’s Communications and Community Engagement team to develop a comprehensive strategic communications plan. The plan was designed to build trust, authentic relationships and collective engagement with internal and external stakeholders. Innovative technology has been an important tool in implementing this plan.

As part of its strategic communication plan, the district gathered feedback from parents and community members through an internal audit of listening channels and social media. It then adapted its communication channels based on those stakeholders' feedback.

During the pandemic, the district also began using flash briefings on Alexa in response to the need to reach people in their homes. CISD stakeholders can receive a mindful minute from Hunt each day as part of their Alexa flash briefings. In addition, users can hear an on-the-go version of the YouTube series #CatchupWithHunt on their Alexa device.

Hunt also launched Hobbies with Hunt on YouTube, where students at home teach him different hobbies such as cooking, playing the guitar and making candles.

Dr. Hunt’s leadership and strategic approach to using technology keeps his community connected. He's a forward thinker who leads with his heart, and he was also one of NSPRA's 2020-21 Superintendents to Watch honorees.

NSPRA and Blackboard are proud to recognize Coppell ISD Superintendent Dr. Brad Hunt with the 2021 Communication Technology Award for Superintendents.

Dr. Kenny Rodrequez The Grandview C-4 School District community was once known as Kansas City’s “best kept secret,” but that started to change with the 2016 arrival of a new superintendent: Dr. Kenny Rodrequez. When Dr. Rodrequez started his superintendency, he focused on enhancing communication efforts through a variety of communication tactics to elevate the profile of Grandview C-4. Communication technology was essential in his effort to better tell the district’s story.

One example of his strategic use of communication technology is the #WeAreGrandview campaign. It encourages the community to engage in positive social media conversations about what it means to be a part of the Grandview community and its school district. The campaign was launched as a collaborative effort with the City of Grandview and the Grandview Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Rodrequez also initiated a staff recognition program titled “Above and Beyond,” which highlights staff who are going the extra mile for students. The program is broadcast on Facebook Live to increase online engagement with positive messages about Grandview C-4 staff.

In addition, Dr. Rodrequez promotes two-way communication through events such as “Coffee with the Superintendent,” which occurs three times a year to strengthen relationships with parents and other stakeholders in the district. At each event, Dr. Rodrequez updates the community on what is taking place in Grandview C-4 and answers questions or concerns from attendees.

Technology serves as a medium to highlight these district initiatives, but Rodrequez’s understanding of relationships, trust and transparency is at the heart of the district’s successful communications program.

NSPRA and Blackboard are proud to recognize Grandview (Mo.) C-4 School District Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez with the 2020 Communication Technology Award for Superintendents.

Dr. Matthew MillerSince his arrival at Lakota Local School District in 2017, Superintendent Matthew Miller’s leadership style has inspired staff and students in his district to use new forms of technology, including multiple social media platforms, a monthly video update, a district mobile app and their Lakota Learning Blog. He leverages digital platforms to make connections, build relationships, support 24/7 professional development and provide an inside look at what is happening inside Lakota schools. In a short time, his efforts in a district of more than 16,000 students has made it much more unified.

In the spirit of the unity, Miller worked with local businesses in a “WE Are Connected” initiative, where local companies set up hot-spot hubs for students, so they would have free Wi-Fi. A needs-based, at-home internet access program was also established for students, so they can communicate with teachers, their peers and complete homework without worrying about the lack of technology access.

Additionally, during the 2018-19 school year, secondary schools rolled out 1:1 devices for junior high and high school students. Students are now better able to connect with their peers on collaborative assignments and reach out to teachers for support on online portals.

Creating a district hashtag was one of Miller’s first steps in helping establish a unified message and stream of content on social media, as shared by many voices. The district developed a week-long community twitter poll for students, staff, parents and community partners to help decide the hashtag, a pivotal move in establishing community buy-in and support of it. Since then, #WEareLakota has become so much more than a hashtag for their community. It represents the district’s West and East sides coming together for a common cause, since the district is in the unique position of feeding into two separate high schools.

Miller also began a weekly Twitter EdChat, utilizing the hashtag #LakotaEdChat, where students and staff are given a voice to interact on topics of common interest. He regularly follows up on the Twitter Edchats via conversations in person. The district’s students and staff members have been given the opportunity to host national Twitter EdChats, facilitating in-depth conversations on a larger platform.

Miller hosts Facebook Live sessions and developed the Lakota Learning Blog. Both mediums are opportunities where staff and other stakeholders can share their areas of expertise and provide relevant content to parents and others in the community. Not only are they a convenient way to dig into helpful tips, but they also increase engagement for families who are not always able to get out to a location for in-person programming.

NSPRA and Blackboard are proud to recognize Lakota LSD Superintendent Matthew Miller with the 2019 Communication Technology Award for Superintendents.

Dr. Meria Carstarphen Since taking over Atlanta Public Schools (APS) in 2014, Dr. Meria Carstarphen quickly embraced the challenges ahead of her — rebuilding trust, providing more opportunities for engagement and shifting perceptions to “what’s strong versus what’s wrong.”

As a tech-savvy leader, she has improved all three of these areas by building a culture of transparency — a priority that remains today for APS. Dr. Carstarphen, or “Dr. C” as she’s often called, has captured the attention of internal and external stakeholders, creating an open, accessible reputation for her and the district.

Understanding that effective communication requires a leader to meet stakeholders where they are, Dr. C. knew she had to get creative and customize her communication approach, especially with a diverse student population of more than 50,000 students in 89 schools.

She uses her social media skills to showcase the wonderful stories of APS schools as well as to provide transparency in district decisions and major releases like testing and graduation rates.

This model has expanded throughout the district — every department has a social media presence, principals and teachers are encouraged to share good news on their own platforms and the district website is now a hub of public information. During leadership meetings, Dr. Carstarphen hands out “Twitterific” awards to encourage ongoing social media use.

Not many superintendents can say they are a social media influencer. Due to her digital presence and growing following, many supporters and the news media look to Dr. Carstarphen as a first source for all things Atlanta Public Schools. On a monthly basis, Dr. C garners 300,000 organic impressions, 10,000-plus total engagements and now has more than 17,000 followers. She even garnered national attention with USA Today for her sports workouts with various school teams.

But it’s not just a focus on social media that has led to a change at APS. She regularly blogs, uses videos and livestreaming to share information and works closely with media. She has even held mini-town hall sessions online to poll and talk with community members. Her transparency in communication has built the trust APS once lacked and stakeholders know that she values their opinions and ideas.

Additional initiatives underway that emphasize Dr. Carstarphen’s commitment to transparent communication and engagement include:

  • Initiating Facebook in the Workplace, which will be used as another way to stream information and reach employees. Encouraging the use of Google Classroom and cultivating a partnership with the Atlanta Google office.
  • Focusing on students gaining 21st century skills through the four C’s (communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking)
  • Distributing an annual employee Gallup Q12 survey that measures employee engagement as well as a customer service survey that measures employee perceptions on communication.
  • Teaming up with MyPledger to further assist APS’ fundraising campaigns — a ‘text to give’ mechanism that allows the district to communicate with partners about the needs of students and the community in a broader scale.

Dr. Carstarphen is constantly challenging her communications department to dig deeper and share stories in the most relevant, creative ways. They describe her as “a superintendent of the present and future,” and it is abundantly clear that she truly models 21st-century leadership.

NSPRA and Blackboard are proud to recognize Dr. Carstarphen with the 2018 Communication Technology Award for Superintendents.

Dr. Scott Muri From his first week on the job as superintendent of suburban Houston’s Spring Branch ISD, Dr. Scott Muri revealed himself to be a strong, collaborative partner whose creativity and avid belief in technology as a tool to engage and reach stakeholders created excitement among the Community Relations team that communication was going to be a true priority. He immediately launched a #VisionLock Twitter campaign to introduce himself to the community and leverage the district’s core values as connection points and a foundation frame for his leadership, shared focus and reason for joining Spring Branch ISD. Tweeting in both English and Spanish, his near-daily tweets (@ScottMuri) reach 9,000+ followers.

Since he took the reins of the 35,000 student district in July 2015, Dr. Muri has served as the district’s lead learner and inspirer, sustaining its history of meaningful two-way engagement and communications, while trying new technology tools as part of the district’s own Learner’s Journey strategic plan to communicate and connect with families, colleagues, students, community, partners, elected officials and others with a stake in the success of Spring Branch ISD schools.

With Dr. Muri’s leadership and encouragement, nearly 100% of school campuses and administrators are now strong Twitter users. This focus has led to a marked increase in the strategic nature of messaging from school and district leaders and has included Twitter Meet Ups on a variety of topics, use of Periscope to live-stream activities and YouTube for live instructional training, and the launch of Soundcloud for podcasts from the superintendent. Along with adding a popular text-messaging component for parent notifications, the district also launched a new mobile app with multi-language translation capabilities.

The Customized Support strand of the district’s strategic plan calls for heightened education, engagement and empowerment of parents, students, and staff, new information platforms and expanded access to technology, and better access to information and communications.

Dr. Muri also challenged the Board of Trustees to begin the process of becoming a Texas District of Innovation (DOI). The process and plans developed have led to a model website used as a resource by other districts seeking DOI status, as well as a rubric of public input pathways that guide the Board’s work on all policies, including those related to DOI.

Additional initiatives underway that emphasize Dr. Muri’s commitment to transparent communication and engagement include:

  • Use of PeachJar’s online flyer distribution platform;
  • Xtra Credit, a new employee perks program offering discounts and special pricing at local businesses;
  • Achieve-it, a cloud-based strategic planning solution that helps track, monitor and execute the strategic plan;
  • HCP Anywhere App, providing district leaders with mobile access to all department documents and files, board agendas and more;
  • SBISD Staff Director App, allowing employees instant mobile access to email, cell and text communications;
  • Ready Rosie, a text and video-based app targeting Pre-K parents;
  • Family E3 (Education, Engagement and Empowerment), a research project with a strand devoted to how technology can be used to meet and partner with families in multiple languages;
  • It’s Learning, a cloud-based learning management system;
  • A new district website and intranet to be launched in the summer of 2017; and
  • More!

Dr. Muri’s strong leadership and commitment to “thinking differently” through a comprehensive, measurable, transparent and multi-channel communications program has allowed Spring Branch ISD to extend its communication capabilities through new apps, new cloud-based collaboration tools, and new parent engagement technologies that are moving the district forward at an impressive pace on its strategic “Learner’s Journey.”

NSPRA and Blackboard are truly proud to recognize Dr. Scott Muri with the 2017 Communication Technology Award for Superintendents.

Dr. Susan Enfield One of Dr. Susan Enfield’s goals as a new superintendent at Highline Public Schools, a culturally diverse urban district in the Seattle metropolitan area, was to greatly improve its communication program with communication technology. This was quite an undertaking for a school district that serves nearly 20,000 students and a large immigrant population representing close to 100 languages. Being a skilled and active communicator who understands the importance of authentic engagement with parents, students, teachers, principals, and staff, Dr. Enfield was up to the challenge.

Throughout her career, Dr. Enfield has viewed communication as key to realizing student achievement and school goals. She stands out as a public education leader who values strategic communication and understands its critical function to her administration duties. Her colleagues note that she is known to say the most valuable part of her Harvard University Urban Superintendents Doctoral Program was the communication component. This mindset is reflected in her leadership and effective use of both traditional and social media.

Dr. Enfield’s initial improvements at Highline Public Schools included switching to newer platforms that better serve her diverse and multi-lingual community. Under her direction, the team moved from a SharePoint-based website to a Schoolwires/Blackboard platform with interactive features and multiple language translation capabilities. Knowing that many district families in the high-poverty community lacked desktop internet access but had smart-phone connectivity, Dr. Enfield’s team of early adopters developed of a Parentlink/Blackboard mobile app for parents.

On top of that, this communication leader invested in a survey tool that allows her team to better assess its audiences, drive greater participation in data collection, and produce robust analytics for staff, parents, and students. The team then added an interactive feedback tool that allows community members to share thoughts and ideas through online posts and comments, creating a robust dialog that provides insight on shared values and concerns. To date, her communication team regularly uses various means to gather feedback from district stakeholders.

Leading the way, Dr. Enfield encouraged program expansion and innovation, invested in resources needed for success (e.g., staffing, tools), and significantly increased the communication budget. She created a budget for communication team members to try innovative methods that reach the district’s diverse audiences and included a dedicated social media staff position. She also contracted an agency to conduct a communication audit to review the team’s efforts and help identify existing strengths, weak points, and opportunities for growth.

Dr. Enfield’s sophisticated methods persist through her embrace of new technology and use of traditional media. She uses video messages to move staff and community members to action plus tweets daily from her own account. A district Twitter page and monthly Twitter chats also keep families engaged and attract educators from across the region, and an active Facebook page shares good news about Highline Public Schools.

Further, interactive district annual reports now allow users to drill down for details and link to video messages, while a monthly e-magazine shares compelling stories and uses less text, more visuals, and embedded videos. A switch from “backpack mail” delivered paper flyers to e-flyers now allows better delivery and 24/7 access from multiple devices.

This active communicator integrates digital efforts with traditional media and leads in her execution of regional media strategies. Dr. Enfield participates in editorial board meetings, authors opinion pieces, conducts interviews with the press, and frequently joins Seattle TV affiliate anchors during evening newscasts. She successfully engages local media on regional and statewide education matters and is known in the greater Seattle community for her transparency on student achievement data, graduation rates, and district challenges.

Not surprisingly, her plans for the district do not end there. Plans for the coming year include an interactive, web-based staff hub and e-newsletter; new media monitoring services that capture broadcast video clips and allow easy sharing; and increased use of Periscope to livestream events and meetings for greater participation.

Dr. Enfield’s commitment to developing strategic communication programs and identifying digital tools that successfully address challenges, build trust, and foster genuine two-way communication between diverse families and schools distinguish her as an innovative national leader. Daily, this superintendent models how to effectively support district goals with new technology. NSPRA and Blackboard are truly proud to recognize Dr. Susan Enfield as the first Communication Technology Award for Superintendents recipient.