NSPRA Front-Runners

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. The annual distinction recognizes four members, each from a different NSPRA region.

Each Front-Runner receives recognition in an issue of eNetwork, NSPRA's monthly member-only e-newsletter, as well as a commemorative plaque during the NSPRA Celebration of Achievement and Annual Meeting, which is held during the NSPRA Seminar each summer.

2018-19 NSPRA Front-Runners

Erica Chandler, APRErica Chandler, APR
Director of Communications
Affton School District
Affton, Mo.

NSPRA South Central Region

 

Barb Nicol, APRBarb Nicol, APR
President
Barbara Nicol Public Relations
Minneapolis, Minn.

NSPRA North Central Region

 

Daniel ThigpenDaniel Thigpen
Director of Communication and Community Engagement
Folsom Cordova Unified School District
Rancho Cordova, Calif.

NSPRA Southwest Region

 

Tove TupperTove Tupper
Assistant Director of Communications
Highline Public Schools
Burien, Wash.

NSPRA Northwest Region

 


2018-19 Front-Runner Profiles

Profiles of NSPRA Front-Runners will be posted below when the honorees are featured in eNetwork.

Barb Nicol, APRBarb Nicol, APR
President
Barbara Nicol Public Relations

featured in the February 2019 The NSPRA Network

My alma mater is... University of Wisconsin-Madison (undergrad) and University of Minnesota (grad)

My personal public relations motto is… what communications strategies will help us achieve the audience behavior we want to change or the action we want our audience to take?

I believe school PR/communications is… one of the most rewarding yet most challenging jobs around. We help people understand difficult concepts, we invite parents to share in their children’s successes, we support hard-working staff so they can return day after day in good times and in bad, we are on the front lines when tragedy strikes, we are at the right hand of the superintendent ready with options and solutions, and we have a pulse on just about everything that takes places in our schools.

A strong school PR/communication program supports student success by… engaging and welcoming parents into our schools, helping to create a culture that supports the hiring and retention of quality staff, making our schools safe and inviting places for students to learn, and opening our doors to our communities so they know their financial support is going to a worthy cause.

My greatest school PR success was… receiving the Dawn K. McDowell award, the highest honor given by MinnSPRA for a school PR professional who advocates for strategic communication, mentors and counsels others, advances the practice of school PR and places a high value on collegial and professional relationships.

My greatest school PR challenge was… getting over lost referendums. I usually work on a few every year, and I take each one far too personally. I invest my heart and soul into the information campaigns, and when voters don’t support the requests, I am truly devastated.

I am inspired by… my school PR colleagues. They come up with fascinating ideas, they implement creative campaigns, they deal with the nuts and bolts of schools while providing strategic counsel to their superintendents on a daily basis. They are my heroes!

My favorite part of my job is… working with smart and committed school professionals who care about schools and our work as much as I do.

The communication tool I use the most is… email. It has the broadest reach and range of uses.

The communication tool I rarely use anymore is… a fax machine. It was the first big purchase I made when I started my business in 1990.

My favorite professional fantasy is… hearing from all my clients that I’ve helped them accomplish their goals and they are so glad they hired me … and then retiring to become a part-time bartender.

Membership in my state chapter SPRA helps me… immensely! I love my MinnSPRA colleagues because they are inquisitive, creative, fun and always willing to share. They help keep me from feeling isolated.

Membership in NSPRA helps me... keep apprised of ideas and approaches that are being used outside of Minnesota. And whenever I attend the national seminar, it always energizes me, fills me with ideas and reminds me why I love my job.

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Daniel ThigpenDaniel Thigpen
Director of Communication and Community Engagement, Folsom Cordova Unified School District, Rancho Cordova, Calif.

featured in December 2018 The NSPRA Network

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.

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Tove TupperTove Tupper​
Assistant Director of Communications, Highline Public Schools, Burien, Wash.

featured in October 2018 The NSPRA Network

My alma mater is... Pacific Lutheran University

My personal public relations motto is… the world is made up of stories. Tell them. Listen to them. Learn from them.

I believe school PR/communications is… my destiny! Never in a million years did I see myself working in school PR, but it is the perfect job for me. I’ve found where my passion meets the needs of the world.

A strong school PR/communication program supports student success by… engaging and empowering families to be advocates for their students.

My greatest school PR success was… developing a nationally recognized social media program from the ground up. Follow the fun at @HighlineSchools on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

Principals in the Public
Principals in the Public
The research is clear — public engagement is a must for all successful school leaders. Developed by NSPRA Executive Director Richard D. Bagin, APR, Principals in the Public is an easy-to-use guide that will enable principals to become skilled communicators as well as community leaders.

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My greatest school PR challenge was… It’s an everyday challenge: what can I do to be more inclusive in my work? Collectively, as school communicators, one of our biggest challenges is recruiting, engaging and growing a more diverse generation of communication practitioners who truly represent the diverse students and families we serve.

I am inspired by… the brilliant and courageous students in Highline Public Schools. They are thoughtful, smart, creative, innovative and so determined. They inspire me to get my feet on the floor every morning and run into work ready to serve.

My favorite part of my job is… interviewing a few of our graduating seniors each spring for a series of video profiles.

The communication tool I use the most is… Google Drive to collaborate with my colleagues in Highline and Twitter to collaborate with my colleagues across the country.

The communication tool I rarely use anymore is… voicemail. Send me a text if you need me.

My favorite professional fantasy is… to have a video studio decked out with top-of-the-line equipment and a full-time videographer and editor.

Membership in my state chapter SPRA helps me… become a better professional and leader. My WSPRA colleagues are the best in the business. They challenge me to do a better job every day. They are also extremely supportive and know exactly what to say when I need to hear it most.

Membership in NSPRA helps me... feel understood. There are parts of this job that only school PR professionals understand. We’re blessed to have a national organization that leads and connects us to one another. NSPRA also helps me stay current on the latest trends and think more strategically.

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NSPRA Front-Runners Archive

View a list of past Front-Runners and their eNetwork profiles.