NSPRA Front-Runner: Tim Bullis

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.


Tim Bullis
Tim Bullis

Current title & district: Director of Community Relations, Chesterfield County (Va.) Public Schools

Alma Mater: Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va.

My PR motto: Accurate, timely and consistent messages

I am inspired by… teachers, such as my wife, who are in the trenches working hard every day to make a difference in a child’s life. Getting into classrooms and seeing students smiling, engaged and having fun while learning reaffirms that the 60-second clip on the news about the one student who made a bad decision is not representative of our students.

Favorite professional fantasy: This one actually came true! A reporter applied for a job with our department, saying she was doing so in part because she was tired of her profession bashing young people. She said she recognized the overwhelming majority of them were decent children and she wanted to help share their story. She didn’t get the job, but she did end up leaving her TV job for something far less stable just to get away.

Current communication tool I use the most is… social media. Part of our department’s job is to find a variety of tools with which to share our message. Social media — such as Facebook and Twitter — is where people are, where they get their information and where we need to be to share our messages.

Communication tool I rarely use anymore is… the printed newsletter. People just don’t have time anymore to read longer-than-necessary messages.

Greatest PR success: Handily passing a bond referendum after one year on the job in a community that had delayed the bond referendum the year before due to lack of support.

Why Should the Boss Listen to You?

Greatest communication challenge: Between 63-67% of our county’s households do not have a child attending our school division. As we heard during recent School Board elections, there is still a belief that you don’t have a place in our schools unless you have a child in our schools.

A strong communication program supports student success by… providing pertinent, persuasive information that results in more residents supporting and getting involved in their local school and the entire school division.

My favorite part of my job is… seeing the “aha” moment when someone sees and understands the value of the investment they have made in public education. One of our new efforts, the Senior Ambassador Program, yields such “ahas” as senior residents come back into school for the first time in 30-plus years, see what we are doing, how we are doing it, and make the connection between what students are learning and how it will ultimately benefit the greater community.

I believe school PR/communications is… critically important to helping create, build and sustain relationships and partnerships that support students, staff and schools.

Joining CHESPRA helped me… understand that there are others like me who I can see and talk to on a regular basis that share the same challenges and successes.

I’m an NSPRA member because…of the wide variety of resources and networking opportunities available to members. I look forward annually to the national conference because of the opportunities to recharge my batteries, to grow professionally and to reaffirm that what we are doing in our school division communication efforts is in line with national best practices.

My epitaph: I’m not ready to write that one just yet smiley.