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Four Candidates Running for NSPRA Executive Board in 2022

Author: NSPRA Staff/Friday, June 3, 2022/Categories: News

Four Candidates Running for NSPRA Executive Board in 2022

NSPRA is governed by an Executive Board comprised of 12 officers, and four of those positions are up for election in 2022. The annual election of officers is conducted in August unless a race is uncontested, in which case NSPRA Bylaws allow the board to affirm candidates by acclamation. This year, all open offices are uncontested. 

The following four candidates are running uncontested for the listed offices:

These candidates will be introduced to association members during the Annual Meeting and the Regional Colleague Connections meetings at the NSPRA 2022 National Seminar on Sunday, July 17. During the Annual Meeting, the Executive Board can also take action to affirm the uncontested candidates. If affirmed, the candidates will formally take office on Oct. 1, 2022.

Get to know all of the 2022 Executive Board candidates by reading what they have shared below about their professional backgrounds and thoughts on school public relations. All candidates were invited to submit a brief biography and statements in response to the same three questions.

About the NSPRA Executive Board

The Executive Board includes a president, president-elect, vice president for diversity engagement, seven regional vice presidents and two appointed vice presidents at-large. The president serves one year in office, and the president-elect serves one year in office before assuming the presidency. Regional vice presidents and the vice president for diversity engagement each serve a three-year term, while vice presidents at large each serve a two-year term.

While serving on the Executive Board, elected officers must fulfill their duties in accordance with NSPRA Bylaws. These duties may include:

  • Doing whatever may be necessary for the furtherance of the purposes of the association, the attainment of the purposes of the Articles of Incorporation, and the study and teaching of its ideals, its ethics and its unique features or organization;
  • Assisting the president in preparing programs for the Annual Meeting and other meetings of the association;
  • Authorizing appointment of all committees;
  • Formulating policies for the program and services of the association; and
  • Directing the Executive Director in the depositing or investing of such moneys as the association may receive and in business arrangements made on behalf of the association.

Learn more about the Executive Board and annual elections.

One Candidate for President-elect: Trent Allen, APR 

Trent AllenChief of Staff
San Juan Unified School District
Carmichael, Calif.

Trent Allen, APR, has dedicated his career to education having served in higher education, an intermediary support agency (county office of education), and for the last 16 years in one of California’s largest school districts. As San Juan Unified’s chief of staff, Trent supports the successful implementation of district-wide initiatives and high-priority cross-departmental efforts by working to ensure effective communication, collaboration and organization at all levels. He also directly supports the district’s communication, family and community engagement, safety and grants teams. Trent has also been an advocate and supporter of school communicators and public relations professionals, having served as a past president of the California Capital Chapter of PRSA (CCC-PRSA), past president of the California School Public Relations Association (CalSPRA) and Southwest Region vice president of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA). 

1.     How can school PR professionals best advance our role as communication leaders, demonstrate communication accountability and build understanding of communication as a core management function?

School PR professionals serve in a unique role within our organizations. Together with the superintendent, we are charged with being a generalist that touches, connects and supports every part of the organization. To advance our role, and the outcomes we create, we must be strategic, inclusive, ethical and have the resilience to face new and unknown challenges. Our strategy must be based on the use of communication, science and research. Our efforts to be inclusive and promote inclusion must know few boundaries. We must approach our work and those we serve with the utmost respect for truth and fairness so that we can build the trust necessary for effective relationships. And, we have to be there when we are needed which means not only being available but taking care of ourselves so that we can be a part of the work. It is through demonstrating ourselves as strategic thought partners, leaders of challenges that others shy away from and the builders of relationships that get results, that we demonstrate the value of communication as a core management function connecting all parts of our organizations. 

2.     What do you consider to be the major communication challenges facing districts/education organizations today, and what qualifications, skills and expertise will you offer as an Executive Board member to help NSPRA support members in addressing these issues?

Educational organizations’ audiences, both internal and external, have more communication channels and tools than ever before causing not only distraction but fragmentation with closed information loops that are hard to break into and influence. I bring to my work as an executive board member the skills and expertise emphasized in my accreditation in public relations (APR). Specifically, the use of research and analysis to identify barriers and strategies to overcome them. Secondly, I offer more than 16 years of experience in a large school district that has become more diverse and had to make the conscious effort to address inclusion and combat fragmentation.

Another challenge area is employee connectedness. Between the ‘great resignation’ and dramatic falls in the level of trust of institutions (2022 Edelman Trust Barometer), educational institutions run the risk of having disconnected employees no longer as passionate about their employer of choice as they work to support students. I am proud to bring to NSPRA my experiences in supporting the development of strong employee organization relationships and a demonstrated use of a diversity, equity and inclusion lens to help strengthen relationships and organizations.

A third challenge is being ready for whatever is coming next. Education is facing a new crisis, it seems almost daily: Clowns making threats on social media, then fears of what is being taught in curriculum, and a pandemic to top it all off. School communicators must adapt and grow. This is where the strategic mindset fostered by my experience in higher education, intermediary educational agencies and a large diverse school district comes into play. I have also grown single-person offices into multi-person teams in several organizations. At each, I have been committed to continued learning for myself and for others.

3.     What do you hope to contribute to our profession as an NSPRA leader?

In joining the Executive Board, I am committed to leveraging the strengths of our leadership team to deliver an organization that is inclusive for all of its members and offers the best resources in both knowledge and products to support their needs.

I hope to continue building on NSPRA’s recent work to develop and engage both current and aspiring chapter leaders, expand opportunities for participation in NSPRA committees and projects, and ensure that we utilize effective feedback loops to monitor the needs and satisfaction of our members. As our membership grows and diversifies, so too do their needs. I will champion the strategic investment of our limited resources combined with tapping into the expertise of our members and the greater communication profession to develop new products and services.

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One Candidate for Northeast Region Vice President: Lori Perlow

Lori Perlow

Public Information Officer
Haddon Township School District - Communications Consortium
Cherry Hill, N.J.

Upon graduating from the State University of New York - FIT with a bachelor of science degree in marketing/communications, I started my career at a Fortune 500 Company in the area of cause-related marketing.  After a short time in the corporate world, I sought more fulfilling work and became certified to teach marketing education to special needs high school students in New Jersey. After gaining critical experience as a public school educator, my career journey led me to the nonprofit sector where I could blend my business and education experiences in support of the mission to teach entrepreneurship to youth in low-income communities. From there, I found my career niche in school communications. I spent the first eight years in one public high school district where I was responsible for recruitment, admissions, marketing, public relations, social media and the design and content of the district website. During that time, I became active in the New Jersey School Public Relations Association (NJSPRA), where I discovered a significant need to increase access to school communications services. Committed to my own professional mission of increasing access to school communication services in New Jersey, I launched two shared service models. Currently, I hold the position of public information officer for the Haddon Township School District Communications Consortium where I service more than a dozen school districts with a wide range of school communication services.

1.     How can school PR professionals best advance our role as communication leaders, demonstrate communication accountability and build understanding of communication as a core management function?

As school PR professionals, we can advance our role as communication leaders by consistently asserting ourselves in key conversations with district leaders, board members and community partners. When participating in such conversations, we must consistently utilize proven strategies and methods for enhancing communications and addressing sensitive matters. Over time, a level of trust will be established leading to a shared belief that communication is a core management function in any school district.

2.     What do you consider to be the major communication challenges facing districts/education organizations today, and what qualifications, skills and expertise will you offer as an Executive Board member to help NSPRA support members in addressing these issues?

One of the major communication challenges facing districts/education organizations is the abundance of misinformation and the speed with which it can spread in a community. With social media, and the increased number of community members acting as reporters on social media, school districts/education organizations are often at a loss when it comes to human capital and responding to misinformation which can spread rapidly. A skilled and experienced school communications professional will know when and how to address such incidents. 

Throughout my career, I have helped to manage a handful of crises that gained regional and national media attention quickly. Since there’s often little time to prepare, I rely on my professional toolkit for success, which includes strong written and verbal skills, an innate ability to stay calm and strategize before taking action. I have worked hard to maintain relationships with local reporters, who know that they can rely on me to respond to their requests.  I also make it clear to my districts that it’s my obligation to be honest with them. Sometimes this means taking advice that pushes them outside of their communications comfort zone. Over time, I can honestly say that I’ve seen growth and culture shifts with many of my districts. It’s the most rewarding part of this work, and I’m proud of the trusting relationships that I have with the school districts that I serve.

3.     What do you hope to contribute to our profession as an NSPRA leader?

As a dedicated advocate for public education and the school communications profession, I am committed to offering my time and expertise to NSPRA members, chapter leaders and prospective members. Through small group meetings, conferences and virtual events, we have the ability to connect in-person and online to support one another as we navigate the ever-changing world of school communications. As new issues arise in our country and in our profession, I will be available to support and engage with our members and chapter leaders. Additionally, I welcome the opportunity to build awareness for NSPRA by collaborating with other professional associations who share the same goals as we do.

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One Candidate for Mideast Region Vice President: Karen Heath

Karen Heath

Supervisor of Communications
Berrien RESA
Berrien Springs, Mich.

Karen is the supervisor of the Communications Department for Berrien RESA, overseeing a print shop, district communications, special events, public relations, community outreach and serving as administrator for the district’s website and social media accounts. Prior to joining the Berrien RESA team in 2005, Karen worked for the Michigan Legislature as the communications director/special project coordinator for two state senators. Having been in the school communications industry for 17 years, Karen has become an active communications professional at the state and national levels. She has served on the Michigan School Public Relations Association Board for nine years and is a past president of the MSPRA chapter. She was also named the chapter's 2021 Gerri Allen School Communicator of the Year. Karen has also been recognized nationally. In 2019 she was one of four school communication professionals named as a National School Public Relations Association Front-Runner. She has presented multiple times at NSPRA’s National Seminars on a variety of professional school communication topics and has authored numerous articles for state and national publications.

1.     How can school PR professionals best advance our role as communication leaders, demonstrate communication accountability and build understanding of communication as a core management function?

For many districts, the role of a school communicator can be difficult to define. Unfortunately, it is often a position that is underutilized, misunderstood or is considered a non-essential function. As public relations professionals, we cannot expect our education colleagues to understand our value if we don’t first teach them how to utilize our skills. By continuously demonstrating our worth through strategic and data-driven work, we can elevate our relevance and importance. This means applying the RPIE process—research, planning, implementation, evaluation—in everything we do. It means being prepared and knowing what resources are available if needed. It requires us to lead by example and with integrity. It means that we must ask thoughtful questions to help leaders recognize that we are thinking about the best interest of the district as well as considering potential relational outcomes. It also requires us to be ethical in our decision-making processes, under all circumstances. This includes raising the caution flag when you foresee a problem and supporting the district through crises with professionalism. By being diligent in these practices, your role as a school communicator will graduate from a practitioner to advisor—allowing you to serve your district in your fullest capacity as a leader.

2.     What do you consider to be the major communication challenges facing districts/education organizations today, and what qualifications, skills and expertise will you offer as an Executive Board member to help NSPRA support members in addressing these issues?

As school communicators, one of our primary responsibilities is to communicate through an equitable and inclusive lens. For many of our school systems, we still have a lot of work to do in this area.

While none of us will be able to fully understand what it is like to navigate the world through someone else’s experiences, we can learn about those perspectives, appreciate other’s views, and include those perspectives in our communications. We need to set an example through our work and support our school communities in providing opportunities so that all voices are heard, recognized and respected. If we are to truly approach our work in this way, we must understand that this will be an ever-evolving journey—one that I am excited to continue working on throughout my career. I am eager to learn more and grow my skill set alongside my colleagues to best support each other in this responsibility.

To meet this challenge, it is important that I rely on my deep listening skills, provide resources and support whenever possible, empower others to achieve their goals by actively working to remove barriers and continue to approach those responsibilities with integrity.

3.     What do you hope to contribute to our profession as an NSPRA leader?

I am proud to carry on NSPRA’s legacy of excellence as a future Executive Board member. I cherish this association and am committed to upholding its mission and values. I look forward to serving both new and veteran school communicators with their craft by supporting top-level professional development opportunities and networking events. I am also excited to support NSPRA in fulfilling its strategic plan goals to advance the association to become an even greater resource for individuals in our profession.  As a member of the NSPRA Executive Board, it will be my priority to be actively engaged in my board duties and serve as a liaison for the Mideast Region chapters. I look forward to participating in national projects and collaborating with other NSPRA leaders to further grow and develop members’ communication expertise. It will also be my privilege to support NSPRA in developing policies that promote the purpose of the organization. And, most importantly, I am excited to represent my communication colleagues at the national level—working to help them realize their own school communication goals! 

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One Candidate for Southwest Region Vice President: Jennifer Dericco, APR

Jennifer DericcoDirector/Public Information Officer
Communications and Community Engagement
Santa Clara (Calif.) Unified School District

In my 20-year career serving public schools and school public relations, I have honed my skills and expertise through a variety of roles and experiences in my school district, chapter board service and participation on community nonprofit boards. For the last nine years, I have served as the director of communications and community engagement for Santa Clara Unified School District in California, and as a communications specialist for the six years before that. I joined the California School Public Relations Association (CalSPRA) board eight years ago, with the last five years on the elected executive board. May 31 marked the last day of my five-year term. I have presented professional learning sessions for CalSPRA, the California School Boards Association, NSPRA and other organizations. After earning my own accreditation in public relations (APR), I mentored CalSPRA and NSPRA members in successfully earning their own accreditation and have served as an APR panelist.

1.     How can school PR professionals best advance our role as communication leaders, demonstrate communication accountability and build understanding of communication as a core management function?

Being an active member in state and national SPRAs by building your network, continuing to invest in your professional learning, and serving on committees and boards will all advance your role and hone your skill as a high-quality communication leader. Establishing and reporting on your strategic communication plans to your cabinet, management teams, the board and public will demonstrate the strategic and impactful nature of your work and provide the accountability that these stakeholders expect and deserve. This also helps others to understand the function of communication in the organization. If you can, bring your superintendent with you to state and national conferences; it was an amazing experience to have my superintendent with me at NSPRA 2021. Share your learning with leaders and how what you’ve learned shows up in immediate, mid-range and long-term plans.

2.     What do you consider to be the major communication challenges facing districts/education organizations today, and what qualifications, skills and expertise will you offer as an Executive Board member to help NSPRA support members in addressing these issues?

The polarization of our communities and a decline in public trust will continue to impact education organizations. An ability to understand your various stakeholders’ needs and interests, and help them see the common ground and experiences through plain language and a variety of communication strategies and tactics will be critical assets as organizations navigate what’s ahead. I believe my strengths in building trust, establishing relationships with key opinion leaders, stakeholder engagement in change initiatives, strategic planning, four-step public relations planning, and leading executive recruitment and onboarding efforts will be immediate benefits to NSPRA, the Executive Board and members.

3.     What do you hope to contribute to our profession as an NSPRA leader?

I will support our mission as a collaborative member of the board, in supporting southwest chapter boards and their members, and by offering professional learning and mentorship opportunities. I have admired and benefited from the mentorship and friendship of CalSPRA and NSPRA veteran leaders before me. It is their service to CalSPRA and NSPRA members that inspired me to step in and step up in service as I began to shift my own expertise from “newbie” to veteran over the years. I have so greatly benefited from CalSPRA and NSPRA—and their leaders and members—that it has become a lifelong passion of mine to help support school PR professionals. I am dedicated to seeing these organizations and their members thrive by meeting their aspirational goals and our shared mission.

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