Candidates for the Executive Board

NSPRA is governed by an Executive Board comprised of 12 elected officers: a president, president-elect, vice president for diversity engagement, seven regional vice presidents and two appointed vice presidents at-large. The annual election of officers is conducted in August unless a race is uncontested. In the event of an uncontested race, NSPRA Bylaws allow the Executive Board to affirm candidates by acclamation.

During the Annual Meeting/Celebration of Achievement at the NSPRA 2019 National Seminar on Sunday, July 14, the Executive Board will affirm the following approved, uncontested candidates by acclamation as officers-elect of the board: 

  • Candidate for President-elect: Lesley Bruinton, APR, Public Relations Coordinator, Tuscaloosa City (Ala.) Schools
  • Candidate for Mideast Region Vice PresidentPatrick Gallaway, Communications Director, New Albany-Plain (Ohio) Local Schools
  • Candidate for Southwest Region Vice President: Joe Ferdani, APR, Chief Communications Officer, Adams 12 (Colo.) Five Star Schools

There is a contested election only in the Northeast Region, so voting members in that region will receive instructions for electronic balloting in August. Following are the two candidates running for the office:

  • Candidates for Northeast Region Vice President:
    • Angela Marshall, Public Information Officer, Nassau (N.Y.) BOCES
    • Jessica Scheckton, Assistant Director of Communications and Public Relations, Capital Region (N.Y.) BOCES

Newly elected officers take office each year on Oct. 1. 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.

Get to know all of the 2019 Executive Board candidates by reading what they have shared below about their professional backgrounds and thoughts on school public relations.


One Candidate for President-elect:

Lesley Bruinton, APRLesley Bruinton, APR, Public Relations Coordinator, Tuscaloosa City (Ala.) Schools

Lesley Bruinton is an Accredited in Public Relations practitioner with more than 15 years of professional experience. The recovering television journalist now serves as the Public Relations Coordinator for the Tuscaloosa City (Ala.) Schools--an urban district with more than 10,000 students. It’s a job where she can continue her craft of writing with her rapid-fire typing skills. She is a two-time past president of ALSPRA, the Alabama School Public Relations Association, and a two-time NSPRA Gold Medallion winner. Bruinton holds a Bachelor’s degree in Telecommunication and Film from The University of Alabama and a Master’s degree in Strategic Communication from Troy University.

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?

"NSPRA has long touted what earning Accreditation in Public Relations, APR, can do for one’s professional practice. This is one just way. Continued education--whether formal or informal--is another.  We must reframe our messaging to decision makers as to why we are prepared to sit in the C-Suite. What we offer cannot be learned or evaluated in 280 characters or blog posts. We demonstrate this through education, training and advocacy.

"Our role as communication leaders working for districts must be acknowledged and strategically advanced through partner organizations like AASA (The School Superintendents Association) and the National School Board Association, NSBA. 

"Recently, we’ve seen campaigns to raise awareness about professional credentials in both traditional and new media from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the APR. Similar opportunities exist for NSPRA with AASA and NSBA, two groups who hold our profession’s fate in its hands. NSPRA’s work to build the case begins through advocacy while members support those efforts by preparing for the role through education and training."

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?

"Education’s challenges are the same as always: tight budgets and trust deficits. The difference now is the tools we use to overcome them. School leaders should have a clear understanding of what public relations is and is not: it’s not spin, it’s not flashy campaigns; it’s not clicks, social media posts, or newsletters. Rather, it’s relationship building for the good of students living in your community. While it’s true that today’s tools make it easier, the reality is that when crisis hits, whether viral or real, the perfectly crafted tweet cannot fix what was never firmly established: trust. 

"Budgets are a reality. As savvy leaders, we must do more with less. Technology should be embraced and harnessed because these strategic tools offer us a real opportunity to decrease resource allocation and increase value to the local taxpayer.

"Through the use of strategic communication, we understand our communities and how to meet their needs. We should ignore the hype, and focus on the how-to: work that delivers value and results.

"I bring my own formative experiences to the table. I was an early adopter of district social media use in the aftermath of an EF-4 tornado that destroyed three of our schools. I worked to build capacity in others to develop and implement strategic communication practices in both my system and my state. I have successfully used those same practices to build public support for educational programs. Simply put: I lead by example, and my work proves it."

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

"I want to be part of the collective body to advance the profession in K-12 education. Increasingly, we are seeing more edu-celebrities with healthy social media followings provide tactical advice. This is different from the work our profession of school communicators should be doing: strategic.

"Although some of our job descriptions call for us to execute tactics, we have the opportunity to 'lead from where we are,' as past NSPRA president Rick Kaufman, APR, once told me. That is hands down the best professional advice I have ever received. 

"The consistent use of the Four-Step Process is central to establishing ourselves as experts in our own field. NSPRA has self-identified as the leader in school communication since the 1990s, but I fear we are ceding territory. As the profession has evolved -- and our communities and culture have undergone enormous changes --  NSPRA must provide even greater clarity on what it means to be the leader in school communication in a digital age. We must develop and elevate the thought leaders from our profession -- championing the work and raising the bar for us all."

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One Candidate for Mideast Region Vice President:

Patrick GallawayPatrick Gallaway, Communications Director, New Albany-Plain (Ohio) Local Schools

I have devoted much of my career to public service, helping lead the communications efforts for a variety of state agencies, non-profit organizations and most recently the public school environment. I currently serve as the Director of Communications for New Albany - Plain Local Schools, a public school district of nearly 5,000 students in a northeast suburb of Columbus, Ohio. I oversee the communication operation including, media relations, website, internal communications, community outreach and social media. I have worn many hats in several state agencies, including the Ohio Secretary of State, Ohio EPA, Bureau of Worker’s Compensation and several non-profit agencies. I am a graduate of The University of Akron in Akron Ohio, earning a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication-Public Relations. I am entering the second year of a two-year term as President of the Ohio School Public Relations Association. 

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, it is vital that we continue to provide guidance and counsel to not only our superintendents and leadership teams but to all staff in our district, booster organizations, community partners and more. Building bridges to your teaching and non-teaching staff, coaches, volunteer organizational leaders, etc. is essential to helping all of us make our school communities and ties to engagement stronger. 

"From the first day back to school for teachers each year, we engage them as a communication team and lay out our expectations (agreed upon during the summer with building leadership) for them and the new school year in terms of communication to families. Being direct and honest about what our community needs to know and with what frequency is rooted in data from our communication surveys with families. Using the fact that our parents expect the most communication to come from their classroom teacher about their child’s progress is our way of helping all be accountable communication ambassadors for our 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?

"From the student perspective - accountability, achievement, well-being and social-emotional development are major issues that are the challenge to effectively communicate to the public. Whether you are at a school district that is high-achieving where the story is easy to tell, but the public will always be looking for more or on the other end of the spectrum where your results may be the very challenge themselves and you need to work to pull out the highlights that illustrate the progress you have made. In Ohio we are a very diverse state, from rural to urban core centers and high-wealth districts to those dealing with poverty. How we find ways to support all of these entities and are able to tell the story with credibility and simplicity is the challenge we face. 

"I hope as a leader in OHSPRA and as a future leader in NSPRA, I have and will continue to contribute to this work of support. One of the most valued resources we have in the Ohio chapter is our Idea Center and networking abilities, both online and through our professional development activities. These resources are one of the reasons I chose to get involved with OHSPRA and I value this the most out of any other benefit to being a member.  

"School Funding - One of the most complicated communications challenges in our state and I am sure we are not alone. This is where the 'rubber meets the road' for many Ohio districts. Again a high-wealth district will also come with high demands for achievement. 'What am I getting for this investment of my property tax dollars?' In a district dealing with poverty and struggling academically, yet is guaranteed state and federal funding, 'why are we rewarding poor performance?' We need to determine strategies to support all of our members no matter which scenario may be their reality."

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

"I hope to continue to bring awareness to the need for PR professionals in schools/school districts and raise the level of importance for these individuals as cabinet-level members of a leadership team. I want the school PR professional to be the first person included in the communication conversation no matter what the issue may be; strategic planning, communicating about the latest levy passage or failure, crisis communications, marketing, branding social media and more. We are vital members of the leadership team and people should know who we are and respect the work we produce."

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Two Candidates for Northeast Region Vice President:

Angela MarshallAngela Marshall, Public Information Officer, Nassau (N.Y.) BOCES

Angela Marshall is an award-winning public relations strategist and writer with extensive experience in public and private education communications. She leads the Communications Office for Nassau BOCES, a cooperative of the 56 school districts in Nassau County. Prior to joining the agency, she was a Communications Specialist for New York Institute of Technology, a global university with multiple campuses. Angela has a long history of crisis communications work, having started her career as a reporter and editor. She is an integral member of Nassau BOCES’ Emergency Response Team and has managed communications during a number of major events, including two hurricanes, a small plane crash and a murdered teacher. She has served as President of the New York School Public Relations Association and is Vice President (Nassau) of the Long Island School Public Relations Association. Angela has presented at the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) annual conference and was a panelist for the Urban Education Leaders Collaborative conference at Teachers College, Columbia University.  She also collaborated on NSPRA’s publication Rubrics of Practice and Suggested Measures

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?

"This year, I began studying for Accreditation in Public Relations (APR). While I will not take the test before the election, I have already vastly improved my professional skills and would urge all practitioners to pursue accreditation. Many of us took our college PR courses before we began working in the field. It is an entirely different experience to read the text books after you have worked as a professional for many years. The knowledge and confidence the process provides are invaluable."

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?

"School communicators are dealing with a perfect storm of challenges. Communities are now made up of four generations that grew up with vastly different technology and preferences for receiving and sharing information. Many districts must communicate effectively with multilingual communities, which brings cultural differences as well. Communicators must ask themselves what to translate and in how many languages. In addition, school communicators must encourage their districts to allow the use of personal gender preferences so that all students feel heard and respected. My biggest strength when it comes to dealing with any of these issues is the strong connections that I have built with community-based leaders and other school communicators. I have cultivated a community of mentors to support my agency and to help me communicate appropriately. I see that as the role of the NSPRA Board — to support and mentor members as they grapple with the tough issues. I am dedicated to this work. For the last six years, I have served on the New York School Public Relations Association Board. Through that experience, I learned what it means to be a board member and to support members. We worked together as a team to bring about improvements and to provide more and better professional development." 

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

"I want a seat at the table so that I can help others get one too. Our membership needs to know how to position themselves as strategic advisors who are critical to their district’s or agency’s success. NSPRA needs to provide professional development specifically geared to developing thought leaders who are confident in their abilities."

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Jessica SchecktonJessica Scheckton, Assistant Director of Communications and Public Relations, Capital Region (N.Y.) BOCES

Jessica Scheckton is the Assistant Director of Communications and Public Relations for Capital Region BOCES in Albany, NY, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the BOCES’ award-winning Communications Service, which supports more than 50 school districts around the state. In her 20-year career with the BOCES, she has also served as a communications program manager and a public information specialist for a local school district. A former journalist, Jessica began her career in public relations as a writer and editor for an education research trade association in Washington, DC, before moving to upstate New York. Named an NSPRA Front-Runner in 2012, Jessica is also a two-time recipient of NSPRA’s Gold Medallion Award and is an accomplished speaker and presenter on communication topics including public engagement, digital accessibility, building informed consent, crisis communications and school budget and capital project communications. She is a past-president of the New York School Public Relations Association. Jessica grew up in the suburbs of Boston and is a graduate of Columbia University in New York City, with a bachelor’s degree in American history.

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?

"Audiences today crave information like never before, even as they are bombarded with messages competing for their attention. With a strategic mindset, school PR professionals can help our schools cut through the noise to impact the attitudes and behaviors of our publics. It is not enough to create content that contains the information school leaders want to convey. We are uniquely positioned to coalesce those intentions with the information needs and preferences of our audiences.  

"Digital channels have only expanded our access to data that can and must inform a research-based approach to communications, one that relies on continuous evaluation of our effectiveness. Even as our school districts and education organizations remain rooted in community traditions, it is our willingness as PR professionals to rethink 'tried-and-true' approaches and to pivot toward new ideas when necessary that can help acclimate our school leaders to the ever-evolving nature of communications. By representing the public’s perspective at the leadership table, school PR professionals seek to build trust between our schools and the publics they serve."

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?

"Skepticism towards public institutions is not new, but today’s hyper-polarized society feeds a culture of distrust in which two simple words – 'fake news' – can amplify anyone’s efforts to delegitimize facts. With truth so easily up for debate in our communities, PR professionals’ laser focus on relationship building and promoting transparency and accountability, in good times and bad, is more important than ever. I have worked with countless school leaders to encourage authentic public engagement through the practice of building informed consent. I would bring this expertise to my role on the NSPRA board in support of our members’ ongoing efforts to combat public perception that our stakeholders are passive participants at the mercy of a predetermined agenda and to empower our parents, students, staff and community members to be active, trusted partners in addressing the serious challenges and opportunities facing our public schools." 

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

"When people ask me, 'What do you do for a living?' I’m as likely to tell them I work in public education as I am to say I work in public relations. I believe that school public relations professionals are critical to the success of our public schools precisely because we are as committed to the mission of public education as we are to the practice of our craft. NSPRA members know that our knowledge and understanding of public schools are what elevate us in our roles as strategic communications advisors. Throughout my career I have sought out opportunities to immerse myself in the education and policy issues our schools and educators face. If elected to the NSPRA Executive Board, I would support our organization and its members’ continued commitment to researching emerging trends and remaining fluent in the language of public education." 

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One Candidate for Southwest Region Vice President:

Joe Ferdani, APRJoe Ferdani, APR, Chief Communications Officer, Adams 12 (Colo.) Five Star Schools

I began my career in communications after earning my master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri. From 1996 to 2003, I was a reporter and anchor for the ABC-affiliate in Colorado Springs, Colo. In 2003, I began looking into other opportunities to use my communications skills set. After meeting with several PR professionals across the government, corporate and agency sectors, I was drawn to K-12 public education because I saw the passion and belief in the mission that school communicators brought to their work. In August 2003, I joined Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Thornton, Colo. as a communications specialist. In March of 2009, I became Accredited in Public Relations (APR). Additionally I’ve served as the Colorado School Public Relations Association (CoSPRA) President and Metro Denver Regional Vice President, as well as serving on various NSPRA committees. I have been with Adams 12 Five Star Schools for 16 years, and currently serve as the district’s Chief Communications Officer.

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 are the conscience for the organizations in which we work for and represent. If you want to know about your physical health and what you can do to lead a healthier lifestyle, you visit a doctor. Similarly, if you want to know the health of your school system and how to improve it, you visit the school PR professional. 

"We have to be excellent listeners, thoughtful questioners and committed leaders who build relationships in support of public education. Kids are the bottom line. We need to lean in on those issues that impact what matters most – our public’s trust. To achieve that end we have to model the way; to create and support an environment for thoughtful and constructive deliberation in which we collectively own and tackle challenges while also sharing credit for successes."

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 a society, we spend more time talking at one another than with one another. And we all, including myself, can be guilty of this. It’s almost as if we live in an echo chamber. We have to elevate the conversation, and more specifically, change the narrative around public education. In so many ways, public education represents HOPE; hope for our students and hope for communities. We need to focus on the human story of public education, and leverage what is working well in our public schools to help bring people together to amplify and build upon those successes.

"Given my background in school PR, I will bring a variety of perspectives to the NSPRA Executive Board. In terms of a national comparison, I serve a mid-size school district and am exposed to both the resource constraints of smaller districts as well as the operational complexities of a larger district. As a Coloradan, I live in a state that is one of the focal points for critical school PR issues such as school safety. I’m also a parent of three daughters going into sixth-grade, fourth-grade and second-grade. Through them, I experience first-hand the challenges and opportunities that currently exist in our public schools. 

"My colleagues describe me as a critical thinker and problem solver who values collaboration, who brings people together, and who invests in the growth of both the organization in which he serves and the individuals within the organization. I plan to bring these same leadership traits to the NSPRA Executive Board as the Southwest Region Vice President."   

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

"I hope to help strengthen the two-way connections between the national association and its members. I look forward to developing a strong relationship with the other chapters in the Southwest Region so I can represent their voice at the national level. At the same time, I also recognize the importance of building a connection between the national association and its chapters. Members need to know the work that is done at the national level to support their efforts in their respective districts.

"As school communicators, we’re also forward-thinkers. As an NSPRA leader, I hope to help champion future ideas and innovation; and provide insight to the opportunities, as well as the challenges, that may lie ahead for our profession and our schools."

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