Leadership Through Communication Award

The Leadership Through Communication Award recognizes the teamwork and exemplary leadership of outstanding superintendents and their communications professionals for demonstrated commitment to the enhancement of communication and relationships between their school systems and the families and communities they serve. The award honors those who recognize that communication is a critical component of leadership and incorporate strategic communication into their planning goals and objectives as well as their daily operations. The Leadership Through Communication Award program is open to all school districts throughout the United States and Canada.

The award is jointly sponsored by BlackboardAASA, and NSPRA. The recognized school system receives a $10,000 Award, provided by Blackboard, to be used for student scholarships or communication activities that benefit students and schools. 

2015 Leadership Through Communication Award Recipient

Baltimore County Public Schools, Towson, Md.

 S. Dallas Dance, Ph.D.  Mychael Dickerson
S. Dallas Dance, Ph.D.
Mychael Dickerson

Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), a K-12 suburban school system in Towson, Maryland, has been named the 2015 recipient of the Leadership Through Communication Award, jointly sponsored by Blackboard, the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association. The award recognizes Dr. S. Dallas Dance, superintendent, and Mychael Dickerson, chief communications officer, for demonstrating exemplary leadership in the enhancement of school-to-parent communication within the school system and the community they serve. Baltimore County Public Schools serves 110,000 students in 173 schools.

The judges for the 2015 award were impressed with the level of commitment to effective communication, noting that Dr. Dance and Chief Communications Officer Mychael Dickerson have worked in partnership to reshape and build a strong communication program to inform the community about the school system and the accomplishments of staff and students.

In addition, Baltimore County Public Schools is commended for:

  • Before officially joining Baltimore County Public Schools in 2012, Dr. Dance identified communications as a key to future success, based on his conversations with community leaders. In response, he recruited Mychael Dickerson to join his administration as Chief Communications Officer to support efforts of making communications a high and immediate priority.
  • In the first year, after extensive community engagement including face-to-face meetings with a wide range of constituents and an effective “Community Forum” model, the district’s strategic plan, Blueprint 2.0, was unveiled and identified communications as one of four key focus areas.
  • An extensive variety of communications strategies have been initiated or enhanced to deliver on the Blueprint 2.0 goal. Communications tactics include web, social media, broadcast, ConnectEd and a mobile app, special events, media strategies, publications and increased opportunities for face-to-face communications.
  • A “Team BCPS” campaign was developed that has helped to break down barriers and build a greater sense of ownership among schools and throughout the community. It has been further expanded with a social media hashtag, #BCPSBlue, garnering countywide response and positive participation by stakeholders.
  • The team provides a wide array of materials developed for use by school administrators and available on the district intranet including principals’ toolkits, sample letters regarding issues. They also provide communications training for principals and school administrative assistants, and are regarded as valuable communications partners for all district staff, schools and departments.
  • Advisory groups with students, parents, community and business leaders have been established to strengthen open conversations, establish responsive relationships, and build trust. A “Parent University” program provides support to families through workshops as well as community partner organizations.
  • The district has partnered with the BCPS education foundation to establish a successful annual “State of the Schools” luncheon. The event is attended by more than 1,000 parents, community and business leaders, showcases students, provides a report of district progress and challenges and demonstrates the district’s willingness to be transparent and accountable for student progress and success.

“In less than two years, Dr. Dance and Mychael Dickerson have significantly improved communication outreach in BCPS,” said Rich Bagin, APR, executive director of the National School Public Relations Association. “Their high level of commitment to the communication function is clear to all and in spite of the geographic size of the district, they have been successful in relating to both internal and external audiences in an authentic manner that is expanding involvement and participation in the schools.”

“A successful student is one that has an active and engaged support system of teachers, parents and the larger community behind them - and that starts with effective communication,” said Mark Strassman, senior vice president of product management for Blackboard. “LTC Award winners represent some of the finest examples of forward-thinking districts that are helping create a world inspired to learn. We are honored to work with Dr. Dance and Mychael Dickerson on these efforts and congratulate them for their vision and innovative approaches to education.”

“Baltimore County Public Schools has created a winning model for leveraging the power of communications on multiple platforms to serve the students, schools and community,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA. “Effective communications is a key factor in building successful relationships among all these stakeholders. I congratulate Dallas Dance and Mychael Dickerson for the exemplary work they're doing when it comes to telling the good stories that need to be told.”

The Leadership Through Communication Award program is open to all school districts throughout the United States and Canada. The award will be presented at AASA’s National Conference on Education in San Diego, Calif., February 26-28, 2015. A $10,000 contribution will be made by Blackboard to Baltimore County Public Schools to be used for student scholarships or communication activities that benefit students and schools. District leaders will also give a panel presentation on their communication program at the AASA Conference.