Candidates for the Executive Board

NSPRA’s Bylaws and policy allows the NSPRA Executive Board to affirm candidates by acclamation in the event of an uncontested race.

Because no offices are contested this year and there are no Bylaws revisions requiring a vote of the membership, we will not be holding an election this fall. At the Annual Meeting on Sunday, July 15, 2018 at the Anaheim Seminar, the Executive Board will affirm the following approved candidates by acclamation as officers-elect of the Board. They will officially take office on October 1, 2018.

The candidates were asked by the Executive Board Search Committee to answer the following questions about their desire to serve on the NSPRA Executive Board.

Kelly Avants, APRCandidate for President-elect:
Kelly Avants, APR

Career and Professional Background: Kelly Avants, APR, is the Chief Communication Officer for Clovis Unified School District, a high performing suburban school district of 42,000 students in Central California. A 20-year veteran of school public relations, Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and a Master of Arts in political science from CSU Fresno. She has served as NSPRA Southwest Region Vice President and is a past President of the California School Public Relations Association (CalSPRA) and a six-year member of the organization’s Executive Board. Kelly frequently presents at workshops and seminars for school public relations professionals, school leaders and students at CSU Fresno along with mentoring young professionals. Under her leadership, Clovis Unified’s Communication Office has been recognized with multiple awards from the Public Relations Society of America, NSPRA, CalSPRA and the California School Boards Association for excellence in public relations and communications. A volunteer Advisory Committee member for The Salvation Army’s Clovis Corp between 2008-2015 she also served on the PIO Committee for the Fresno Salvation Army Region, city planning and economic development commissions, as a member of the City of Clovis Tourism Advisory Committee, and on parent booster organizations at her children’s schools. Kelly, her husband of 25 years, Mike, and their sons Rhys and Ian, are active members of Fresno’s New Covenant Community Church.

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 communication professionals must model the value of education in our American society. To maximize our effectiveness, we must maintain the highest standards of ethics, advocate within our organizations for transparency and on-going dialogue between schools and the community, and encourage at every opportunity true community engagement around public education. The research continues to show that the public looks to communication professionals as trusted sources to put into context the challenges, opportunities and issues facing our public schools. Through establishing ourselves as experts in our field, and as the voice of our students and their families in the decision-making process, we can help shape smart leadership in an age when our schools are often criticized for being out of touch with the very people they serve. The communication strategist sits in a unique position in a school district, with only the superintendent similarly positioned to understand from a 360-degree view issues and opportunities available in every situation we face. This holistic approach is unique, and can be invaluable in positioning you in a respected role in leadership.

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

In my 20 years of experience in public education communications, I’ve seen a dramatic shift in the way our world communicates, and while the underlying need to be understood, respected and listened to remains the same, the strategies that have to be used to effectively engage the community have changed. Public confidence in organizations of any kind is being eroded by what seems to be a constant stream of negative stories online and on the news. To remain effective, we have to work actively to engage our communities in meaningful conversations, penetrate the increasing “noise” through which we have to reach in order to get their attention, and be authentic throughout those efforts. While the rise of the digital age in some ways has increased the connectivity of our parents, students and communities to our schools non-stop and 24-7, in other ways it has increasingly isolated and polarized our communities. Our responses have to be thorough, thoughtful...and order to stay ahead of issues that often explode in minutes on social media.

My experience in a large, diverse suburban school district that has itself been in a constant state of change, has well-prepared me to be a resource to NSPRA members on successfully navigating the issues created by these challenges. I’ve led communication efforts in crisis response, finance campaigns, superintendent transitions, redistricting, legislative initiatives among others, and have seen the power in each of these projects of tapping into a wide network of peers to support success. Serving in leadership roles in my state NSPRA Chapter for six years, as the Southwest Region Vice President for NSPRA and on numerous committees, along with earning my APR, has given me a solid background in the best practices of public relations as well as an understanding of the issues facing schools across the nation.

I’m a firm believer in the lesson to be learned from the giant sequoia trees that grow in the mountains near my home. You never find a giant sequoia growing by itself. Instead, these trees (which are the largest single trees on the planet and can grow over 300 feet tall and 26 feet in diameter) grow in groves. Why? Because the roots of the trees are shallow, much too shallow in fact to ever be expected to keep such a tall tree upright. Instead, sequoia groves survive because the roots of a number of trees grow together, creating a powerful network that is strong enough to support the amazing height and longevity (they can be hundreds of years old).

To me, that is the strength of NSPRA as well. On our own, we are often part of a one-person communication “shop,” or at best, part of a small group of job alikes in our school districts. Together, we are powerful voices that help build strong, authentic organizations.

What do you hope to contribute to our profession as an NSPRA Executive Board member and Association leader?

I’m a systems thinker, and I hope to apply that approach to decision-making in my tenure on the NSPRA Board, and in my service to our members. I value the promotion of best practices, and of looking ahead to identify trends that will impact our work. NSPRA is a strong association that has benefitted from solid leadership at its top, and a relational membership base. I’m not looking to change NSPRA but to help preserve and refine the core values of the organization that have served our members well. I recognize that the only constant in our world today is change, and the near future of NSPRA is no different. We have to be prepared to adapt and change to meet the evolving needs of our members, and working with Executive Director Rich Bagin, APR, and his team in the past has made me confident that we can continue to do so into the future. I’d like to be a part of that team, working on behalf of our membership to build connectivity across our nation, provide resources to promote the value of education, and most importantly, help all of us to never feel “alone” in our work to build confidence in the power of education to change our future for the better.

Curtis CampbellCandidate for Northwest Region Vice President:
Curtis Campbell

Career and Professional Background: Curtis Campbell is finishing his first decade in school communications. He began his career in 2008 as the director of communications for his hometown school district in Sunnyside, Wash. In Sunnyside, he supported and shared an amazing success story as the rural, high-poverty district of 6,500 students raised its graduation rate from 41 to 89 percent. For the past three years he has served as the public information officer for Shoreline Public Schools, a suburban district of 10,000 just north of Seattle. At Shoreline, he successfully helped pass a $250 million bond and a $100 million levy renewal in back-to-back years with over 70 percent voter approval for each measure. Curtis also served on the Washington School Public Relations Association (WSPRA) board for five years, including serving as president. He holds a master’s degree in public administration and bachelor’s degree in government from Eastern Washington University, where he also served as opinion editor of the student newspaper for three years. He is a recipient of the WSPRA Learning and Liberty Award, NSPRA Front-Runner Award, Shoreline PTA Council Golden Acorn Award, Sunnyside School District Administrator of the Year Award and numerous WSPRA and NSPRA publication and media awards.

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?

We can best advance our roles as communications leaders and demonstrate accountability by being lifelong learners and modeling a growth mindset throughout our work. Our responsibilities, the issues we face and the tools we use are constantly evolving. We must not only adapt to these changes, but stay ahead of them. We can do this by utilizing the professional development opportunities and services offered by NSPRA and our state chapters. From PR Power Hours to state workshops to the National Seminar, we are fortunate to have so many opportunities to learn from each other and grow as professionals. We must make that choice though. We must choose to be accountable by taking the time and making the effort to grow as professionals in support of the students, staff and communities we serve.

In fact, I’m going to make that choice right now. I’m going to choose to grow and demonstrate professional accountability by committing to take my learning and leadership to the next level and earn my APR over the next year. If you have not earned your APR yet, I hope you will consider joining me. I’ve heard #ItTakesAPRo.

We can also continue to build understanding of the importance of communication as a core management function by making sure our voices are heard and valued at all levels of our leadership and decision-making processes. We offer the perspectives and community insights that are critical to ensuring decisions are made in the best interest of our districts’ missions and values.

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

We are living in divisive times. Hyper partisanship and vitriol are trumping facts and compassion. Political discourse has become a zero-sum game. We see this most clearly in our nation’s Capital, but it is also trickling down to our communities and schools. Our districts are being pressured to engage in and take sides on political issues, some of which are completely unrelated to our core mission. Our messaging and discussions around these issues are being picked apart and distorted for political convenience and fodder. As school communicators, we must find ways to thoughtfully engage in these discussions, but ensure that our schools and their leaders are not leveraged for political gain.

We must stay above the fray and provide strategic counsel to our superintendents and school boards on engaging in these dialogues without ostracizing large segments of our community. There are times when we must take a political stand on issues that impact our mission and those we serve, however we must do so thoughtfully and in ways that align with our organizational values and goals.

Having served two districts with vastly different demographics, strengths, challenges and political leanings, I will bring a broad range of perspectives to the NSPRA Executive Board as we address these issues in support of our members and those they serve.

It may be a symptom of my relatively introverted personality, but my favorite aspect of communication is listening to understand and learn. If we’re not doing that, we can’t be effective communicators. I look forward to hearing from our members and learning about ways we can better serve and support them.

What do you hope to contribute to our profession as an NSPRA Executive Board member and Association leader?

I hope to contribute to the NSPRA Executive Board by utilizing my experiences, perspectives and talents in support of our members, chapters and the communities they serve. NSPRA has helped me learn and grow as a professional, which has had a direct impact on the quality of service I am able to provide our schools. I look forward to taking all of that and paying it forward in service to an organization that has had a profound impact on my life and career.

Mychal FrostCandidate for Southeast Region Vice President:
Mychal Frost

Career and Professional Background: Over the past 12 years, Mychal Frost has grown into a well-respected colleague across South Carolina and the Southeast. Under his guidance and direction, his state chapter, SC/NSPRA, has reached new heights and stabilized its future through improved finances and a leadership pipeline for future leaders. Mychal began his K12 public relations career in 2007 at South Carolina’s Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, & Advancement before moving to the Clover (S.C.) School District in 2011. In 2015, he returned to his hometown district, Rock Hill (S.C.) Schools, where he serves as the Director of Communication in one of the country’s top 10 digital districts according to Digital Promise. He is a past NSPRA Front-Runner, NSPRA Foundation Seminar Scholarship recipient, and state chapter president.

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?

No longer is it enough to have “a seat at the table.” Rather, it’s what we accomplish through listening, action, and thought-leadership that helps to advance our roles as communication leaders. I believe it is important to authentically engage with our diverse stakeholders to better understand needs and preferences of our communities, and challenge our management teams to embed responses in all aspects of communication. A recent conversation with my superintendent-elect was very encouraging. To paraphrase, “We need to lean on you for guidance and can drive ‘the car’ wherever you believe we need to...we will follow.” When given the keys, be sure to grab the wheel and steer your district.

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

I am aware of the challenges and opportunities facing our profession. Our collective ability to share stories and combat the narrative of a troubled public education system can continue to be amplified through supporting and providing a platform for students, teachers, and administrators to influence cultural change across our country. NSPRA’s commitment to exploring alternative communication platforms and channels for its own members is a reflection of the changes across school districts nationwide. In response to a hyper-engaged millennial base both in NSPRA and in communities across this country, the creativity and connectedness of members like myself can aide in the development and support of NSPRA initiatives to strengthen and grow this organization for many years to come. Further, the districts and communities we serve are facing student and teacher retention challenges amid a national narrative that attacks the public education system which so richly enhances our country.

What do you hope to contribute to our profession as an NSPRA Executive Board member and Association leader?

I believe I am now able to take this next step in leadership. I am invigorated in the direction of NSPRA and its willingness to embrace the millennial movement. Understanding the task is tall and the opportunity is ripe, I look forward to sharing my experiences and expertise to support my colleagues across the Southeast and be the conduit to further grow the association. I hope to challenge fellow Executive Board members and leadership team members to not shy away from complex and controversial issues and to think outside of the box when chartering the course of our organization. I recognize this is achieved in time, yet I am keenly aware that each day we wait the more challenging the climb becomes. To paraphrase my mentor Jim Cummings, APR, we must continue to fight and fight for the good of our children.