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2022-23 NSPRA Front-Runner: Christy McGee, APR

NSPRA Front-Runners are members identified by the NSPRA Executive Board as emerging leaders who are doing outstanding work for their schools, their chapters and for NSPRA. The annual distinction recognizes four members, each from a different NSPRA region.


Christy McGee, APRChristy McGee, APR
Director of Communications 
Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8
Fountain, Colo.
NSPRA Southwest Region

I believe school PR/communications is the best job ever! Not to be clich√©, but I truly believe the work of public education, as an industry, is a cornerstone to our democracy and the bedrock on which to build up our future. I’m honored that in school PR, I get to tell the stories of, build support for, and demonstrate the transparency of public education institutions. On top of that, public schools and school districts play key roles in our communities, too! The icing on the cake is that #schoolPR is full of the most amazing, kind, brilliant, funny and supportive professionals ever. It’s unlike any other PR industry and I love it.

My greatest school PR success was...I have a few achievements that I’m proud of! But I would say one of my biggest wins was supporting a principal through starting her school Facebook page. We left the DMs open and she got a lot of questions and criticism that first year! But we learned the value of reaching out together, and through the constant and consistent massaging of one relationship in particular, we turned an angry parent into an employee! I love pointing to this story as the possibility of social media to do something positive for your school, and use it as more than a marketing or one-way tool.

My greatest school PR challenge was...is it redundant to say, working through the COVID-19 pandemic? The non-stop work, constant scrutiny and lack of trust, and attacks against education during the pandemic were really hard, unlike anything I’ve ever faced. While many of us may face this in some form, or on and off, typically we almost all share a brief reprieve during times such as the graduation season, and back-to-school. During 2020, however, the negativity felt relentless. And add to that, training principals and educating parents on a new mass notification tool. Ultimately, both groups made it clear that they were unhappy with the new tool and we went back to our former platform.

My favorite part of my job is watching teachers and students in engaging lessons. Smiles on the faces of folks in (and out of) classrooms. Hearing laughter in the halls of my schools. Getting to see the lightbulb go on for a student. To sum up, my favorite part of the job is the people. I love celebrating my (8,000) kids and my coworkers who do great work! I get so much personal and professional fulfillment from connecting with colleagues who are trying to do more to improve grades, growth and thinking outside the box. I love it when other leaders understand my role and invite me along in their goals or within a project.

The communication tool I use the most is my APR. I earned my APR in 2011 and I have not stopped asking questions since! Having my APR helps me have the confidence I need to ask tough questions and help my leadership team focus on the strategy when it comes to communications. My APR helps me think big picture and explain why others need to do the same. It helps me advocate for myself and my craft. And it’s helped me earn awards and external recognition too! Truly, having your APR is the gift that keeps on giving and I can’t recommend enough that my colleagues get it as soon as they can.

Anisa Sullivan Jimenez

Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, APR
Director of Communications
Oconee County Schools
Watkinsville, Ga.
@AnisaSJimenez

Alma Mater:

B.A. - Mississippi State University; MPA - University of Georgia

I believe school PR/communications is what I was born to do! One of the biggest decisions a parent can make is where to send their child to school, and it’s an honor to share with our parents the engaging work that their children are doing under the guidance of world-class teachers and leaders. On any given day, in any given school, there are many stories to be told and I take that charge seriously. As school communicators played a key role in COVID-19 communications, storytelling was more important than ever – not only did I share information with parents about our protocols, but I also made over 80 visits to schools last year and told a variety of stories about how students were thriving with both in-person and distance learning options. I also worked with principals to determine best mitigation practices and helped make those pervasive, because positive action must be the foundation of what we are ultimately communicating. School public relations is incredibly complex and I love that each day brings a new challenge.

My greatest school PR success was completing 11 nationally-innovative school communication audits using a process of research, planning, implementation, and evaluation. I am now in phase two of this project and am attending school council meetings to garner feedback from parents about school-level communication and how I can better support the work of their schools. One of the most significant findings is that as students take more ownership of their learning, they also take more ownership in parent communication. Therefore, next steps are to better prepare parents for this transition and to also determine best practices from exemplar teachers and coaches at the secondary level so we can strike the right balance with parents feeling informed and fostering student independence.

My greatest school PR challenge is overcoming rigidity. Like many PR professionals, I am detail-oriented and a self-described perfectionist. It’s a blessing and a curse to see when something is one pixel off, but the greatest challenge I have faced in my 13 years in this field is to learn to be more flexible. I might have an aversion to Comic Sans or Curlz, but it’s not the end of the world if those are a font favorite elsewhere. What’s more important is the bigger picture – staff and parents feeling well-informed and students growing and learning in positive school cultures. Instead of telling someone their website isn’t formatted properly, I now make a 2-3 minute screencast if I think there’s a quick tutorial I can offer to provide ongoing professional learning. By being much more flexible, I have deepened relationships and become better at supporting the most important job that occurs in our school system: teaching.

My favorite part of my job is the relationships. I often say that there is no substitute for showing up, and that’s why I make so many school visits each year. From getting to hold a gorgeous monarch butterfly to watching a vibrant student musical to seeing 3-D printing in action from engineering students, I have witnessed countless unique opportunities, and these experiences are just a small piece of what our students get to take part in each and every day. If I didn’t take the time to form relationships, I wouldn’t know that what students value is knowing that the photos I take may show up in their yearbooks. I wouldn’t know the myriad of annual activities that teachers do across our schools because I wouldn’t have witnessed them firsthand. I wouldn’t know about the families of our principals or what they believe makes their school unique. All of that is invaluable because at the end of the day and at the end of this career, relationships are what will remain – both professionally and personally.

The communication tool I use the most is Canva! I would be a brand ambassador if they asked! I am not very mathematically-minded and it can be challenging for someone with an eye for good design – but not an eye for rulers and gridlines – to be a graphic designer. However, Canva has made it possible and I am able to create aesthetically-pleasing graphics with short turn-around times. I have trained communication ambassadors at our schools how to use it as well. Right after Canva, the tool I most use is iMovie. I am completely self-taught in videography and using iMovie and Canva together has made me someone who can add “videographer” to their list of expertise.