Front-Runner: Daniel Thigpen

NSPRA Front-Runners are members identified by the NSPRA Executive Board as emerging leaders who are doing outstanding work for their schools, their chapters and for NSPRA. They have demonstrated professional leadership at the state and national level and/or have been recognized for innovation and excellence through NSPRA award programs or presentations. See all past Front-Runners.


Daniel Thigpen
Daniel Thigpen

Current title: Director of Communication and Community Engagement, Folsom Cordova Unified School District, Rancho Cordova, Calif.

My alma mater is... University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

My personal public relations motto is…  teamwork makes the dream work.

I believe school PR/communications is… not practiced by any single person or department; it is the responsibility of the entire organization.

A strong school PR/communication program supports student success by… inspiring action toward a shared vision. Kids win when employees, families and community members clearly understand their roles in student success. A school PR team uses its tools and expertise to build that understanding.

My greatest school PR success was… working with our superintendent, Cabinet and communication team to create a renewed focus on authentic and ongoing stakeholder engagement that drives district decision-making. Our district is earning a reputation for not simply offering opportunities for feedback, but truly listening and acting on the input.

My greatest school PR challenge was… navigating a racially charged personnel matter that created intense scrutiny and broad disruption. There were just so many opportunities to alienate those whose trust we need to succeed: families, teachers, and most importantly, students. Ultimately I am proud of how the system stepped up to communicate its expectations and values, but there was a lot of learning along the way.

I am inspired by… too many to list, but at the top is my wife, Kim. She took a double-digit pay cut mid-career to start over as a high school English teacher in one of the most challenged schools in the Sacramento region. She is fierce and driven by the promise that literacy can liberate children from poverty and oppression. How is there anything more important?

My favorite part of my job is… getting out of the office and into classrooms with no other objective than to observe and learn. I’m thankful my superintendent has empowered her entire Cabinet team to carve out more time for this.

The communication tool I use the most is… face-to-face conversations.

The communication tool I rarely use anymore is… third-party apps such as Buffer or Hootsuite, which pre-schedule social media posts across multiple platforms. It may save you time, but you sacrifice engagement. Plus, are there any other communication tools in which we would NOT differentiate our content according to audiences and their behaviors?

My favorite professional fantasy is… and has always been to be the fourth Beastie Boy.

Membership in my state chapter SPRA helps me… remember just how much I will always have to learn. That’s because CalSPRA connects me to the best and most innovative PR professionals in the business. CalSPRA colleagues educate, inspire and restore each other.

Membership in NSPRA helps me... access tools that promote the role of PR leadership in my organization. I have used NSPRA’s many materials to initiate or frame important conversations. And these resources are particularly effective with educators, who develop greater appreciation for the PR profession when they see examples of how the practice - like their own profession - is rooted in evidence and evaluation.