Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award

The Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award recognizes a practicing superintendent of schools or CEO of an education agency, service center or intermediate unit for outstanding leadership in school public relations and communication.

Award Criteria and Nomination Form

The Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award is sponsored by West (SchoolMessenger solutions). Visit West/SchoolMessenger to learn more.

2017 Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award Recipient

Debbi Burdick, Ed.D.
Debbi Burdick, Ed.D.
Cave Creek Unified School District
Cave Creek, Arizona


A cornerstone of Dr. Debbi Burdick’s leadership style is her commitment to providing excellent and ongoing communication to Cave Creek Unified School District’s constituents in spite of increasing budget cuts by the state. Since 2008, the district has had to cut a number of key personnel in order to meet financial constraints, including the entire public relations department.

However, sharing information and opportunities with the community is a priority for Dr. Burdick, so undeterred she continues to find funding for communication and marketing even when it seems impossible. Her “over-the-top” support for the communications function and unwavering dedication to telling CCUSD’s story keeps the community informed and celebrates the continued success of students in this A-rated school district.

Communication components are incorporated into the district’s Strategic Plan and are focused on student achievement goals. In addition, Dr. Burdick holds all administrators accountable for communicating with their school stakeholders. She follows up with them, reads or listens to all communication, and makes sure there is a common theme personalized to individual schools. To ensure their success, she provides communication training for all administrators, staff and Governing Board members. Administrative meetings begin with a lesson on customer service and staff meetings include examples of communication techniques and styles. As an NSPRA member and a member of our Arizona Chapter, Dr. Burdick is always looking to improve her own skills and learn about best practices in school communication.

Along with monthly newsletters and a vodcast on the website, Dr. Burdick has embraced social media as a tool to disseminate accurate, timely and celebratory information. She is on Twitter daily, tweeting tidbits of news and information she gleans from teachers, principals, administrators and parents every 4-6 hours. With the help of her executive assistant, she makes sure the CCUSD Facebook page is updated daily. The bottom line — if a unique communication tool exists. Dr. Burdick will embrace it and run! Instead of shying away from innovations, she quickly incorporates the newest technologies.

Engaging the public remains at the core of operations in CCUSD and for Dr. Burdick. She schedules monthly “Coffee with the Superintendent” dates for parents and community members and twice a year hosts a “Coffee Chat” at each school, making herself available to listen to concerns and comments from staff and parents. She holds a Superintendent’s Community Council meeting one evening a month as well as a monthly Superintendent’s Student Advisory meeting. As part of the district’s new Strategic Planning cycle this year, Dr. Burdick has engaged staff, parents and community members to develop the next steps for supporting students. The key to her success is her willingness to communicate and listen to all stakeholders, while also honoring all ideas.

Recognized as AASA’s 2016 Arizona Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Burdick is known as a strong communicator who speaks with ease and authority. She is well respected within Arizona’s professional education community for her leadership, strategic vision, energy and management and communication skills. Her work in public relations and communication has also paid dividends in community support at the ballot box, as evidenced by CCUSD passing its first bond initiative in 14 years.

It is evident in everything Dr. Burdick does that the foundation of her public relations philosophy is sharing the work being done for kids and to make CCUSD schools the best in the nation. She does not understand the word “no” and when asked for help or to speak to a group, she always finds time in her busy schedule. But the primary reason she always says “yes” comes from the very fabric of her being: to communicate with the people she is dedicated to serve. Her door is always open, day and night, to ensure that she continues to deliver on the charge of excellent communication in CCUSD.

Dr. Debbi Burdick truly exemplifies the characteristics of what NSPRA likes to call a superintendent who “gets it” when it comes to communication and we are delighted to recognize her as our 2017 Bob Grossman Leadership in School Communications Award recipient.