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NSPRA Announces 2024 Distinguished Individual Recognition Award Recipients

Author: NSPRA Staff/Friday, April 26, 2024/Categories: News

The National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) is pleased to announce the following recipients of its 2024 distinguished individual recognition awards:

  • Annette Eyman, APR, president, Kordica Communications (Omaha, Neb.) has been named as recipient of the 2024 NSPRA Presidents Award.
  • Carla Erdey, APR, director of communications and community engagement, Homewood-Flossmoor (Ill.) High School District 233, has been named NSPRA's 2024 Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award recipient.

This year's award recipients will be honored at the NSPRA 2024 National Seminar during the General Session on Tuesday, July 16, in Bellevue, Wash. Read more about the honorees and their respective awards below.

2024 Presidents Award: Annette Eyman, APR

Annette Eyman, APRThe Presidents Award is the highest honor bestowed on an individual by NSPRA. Each year, the award recognizes a living association member for outstanding professionalism and integrity throughout a career as an educational public relations practitioner and for contributing to the advancement of educational PR. In addition, the award also recognizes the recipient’s active involvement and leadership at a national level as well as substantive professional contributions to NSPRA.

Over the course of her 30+ year career in school communications, Annette Eyman, APR, has exemplified exceptional leadership and dedication to both the field of school public relations and NSPRA.

"Annette's enduring dedication and selfless service have elevated the school public relations profession," said Stacy Hawn, president of the Nebraska School Public Relations Association (NebSPRA). "She opened my eyes to everything that is the amazing world of school public relations."

Now the president of Kordica Communications in Omaha, Neb., Eyman previously served as director of communications for Papillion-La Vista (Neb.) Community Schools for more than 33 years. Throughout her career, Eyman continuously exemplified exceptional leadership and dedication to the field of school public relations. In 2014, Eyman received NSPRA's Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award for her service and commitment to helping others advance their careers. In 2020, the Nebraska Council of School Administrators honored her with its Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her leadership in public education.

Eyman's expertise and willingness to help others has made her a go-to resource for educators and colleagues both across the state of Nebraska and around the country. A recipient of the NSPRA Gold Medallion in 2019 for the "Continue the Greatness: May 2018 Bond Issue" campaign she led for Papillion-La Vista Community Schools, Eyman routinely shares her expertise at state and national conferences. She also serves as a mentor and advisor to new school communicators, providing guidance and support to help foster a growing community.

Eyman's unwavering support for colleagues, especially in times of crisis, highlights her compassionate nature and commitment to building a supportive community. "There are many members of NebSPRA and NSPRA that are where they are today because of the impact Annette had on them," said Hawn. "Her legacy serves as a testament to the transformative power of individual commitment within professional organizations and the broader community."

Eyman served as NSPRA's North Central Region vice president from 2014-2017 and as president of NebSPRA for nearly 10 years. She's also served on a number of NSPRA committees and project teams, including the Communication Accountability Program Task Force, Website Review Committee and Executive Board Search Committee.

2024 Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award: Carla Erdey, APR

Named for NSPRA past-president Barry Gaskins, APR, the Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy 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.

A leader in the field for more than two decades, Carla Erdey, APR, has always sought to elevate others. Now the director of communications and community engagement for Homewood-Flossmoor High School District 233, Erdey was hired by the school system in 2022 after serving 26 years as a communications professional for public school districts in suburban Chicago by Superintendent Scott Wakeley, Ed.D., who had first worked with her as a principal early in both of their careers.

"Carla helped shape me as a leader to understand how, why and when to share a message," Wakeley said. He often called on Erdey to help mentor and assist new public relations professionals he hired as a superintendent in three different districts before bringing her on at Homewood-Flossmoor when he needed a director of communications. "Without hesitation, Carla was always willing to support the development of new professionals."

Committed to educating others about the accreditation in public relations (APR) process, Erdey currently serves as chair of the accreditation committee for the Illinois School Public Relations Association (INSPRA), leading workshops and virtual meetings for school communicators pursuing their APR. Erdey also served as the chapter's president in 2012-2013, and was awarded its Distinguished Communicator Award in 2014.

Over the years, Erdey has presented at both state and national conferences about her accreditation experience and the public relations practice of research, planning, implementation and evaluation (RPIE).

As a mentor, Edrey is a staunch advocate of collaboration. "Carla is truly the epitome of a selfless mentor," said INSPRA President Denise Barr, APR. "She dedicates herself to the advancement of school public relations and to helping others achieve their professional goals."

2024 Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award: Jennifer Blaine, Ed.D.

Jennifer Blaine, Ed.D.2024 Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award is given annually to a practicing superintendent or CEO of a school district, education agency or service center in recognition of outstanding leadership in school public relations and communications. This award is given in memory of Robert L. Grossman, ASPR, an NSPRA past president who believed that the support and commitment of our top education leaders is vital to successful school communication.

Jennifer Blaine, Ed.D., is the superintendent of schools for the Spring Branch Independent School District in Houston, Texas, where she's served in a number of leadership positions for more than 20 years.

Just two years after being named superintendent of the district in 2019, Blaine commissioned an NSPRA audit of the district's communication efforts to help identify areas of strengths and areas of opportunity. Underscoring her commitment to ensuring transparent and open communication, Blaine implemented a number of the audit's recommendations to help address some of the challenges identified, including the hiring of additional communication staff, enhanced translation and interpretation capacity and more.

A 2022 NSPRA Superintendent to Watch, Blaine was recognized by the association for her dynamic, fast-paced leadership with strong communication at its core after successfully implementing a multi-faceted communication plan to support a structured approach to distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as welcoming students back for in-person instruction.

Blaine regularly meets with the district's associate superintendent of communications and community engagement, who serves as a senior staff member on her team, and ensures she is at the table when strategic decisions are made. Blaine also meets regularly with the district's key communicator groups, including the Spring Branch Education Foundation, SBISD Board of Trustees and high school student council leaders.

An advocate of accessible and open communication, Blaine's dedication to continuous improvement and willingness to listen to feedback have been instrumental in promoting a positive school culture. "One of Dr. Blaine’s most notable qualities is her ability to adapt communication strategies to meet the diverse needs of stakeholders," said Cecilia Thompson, executive director of the Spring Branch Education Foundation. "Whether through traditional channels such as newsletters and parent meetings or through the integration of technology and social media platforms, she ensures that information is accessible and transparent, ultimately enhancing trust and engagement."


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