NSPRA Live 2020: Live Sessions Schedule

NSPRA’s new professional development virtual series, NSPRA Live 2020, is coming to you July 13-14. Your actual commitment each day will only be 4 hours (or a half day) of Zoom session time. We’ll have 12 live sessions daily during the 4 blocks of time, and 3 concurrent sessions will run during each 1-hour block. You can even participate by using interactive chat features to converse with the presenters.

In total, you’ll be able to choose from among 24 live sessions on a variety of school PR topics. After the event, you’ll have access to recordings of the live and on-demand sessions for up to a year.

The schedule of live presenters and topics are listed below: 

Monday, July 13 

Tuesday, July 14

Monday, July 13 Session Descriptions

Strategic Public Relations 

Strategic public relations - the gold standard in PR practice - starts with solid planning. In this informative and engaging session, learn how to use the RACE/RIPE method to create powerful PR programs and integrated, multi-platform marketing and public engagement campaigns that get results. Using real-life case studies, apply the planning process with your colleagues, engage with easy-to-use tools and templates, and gain a host of resources, tips and practical ideas to move your PR planning and practice to the next level.

When: Monday, July 13, at Noon Eastern 

Presenter: Nora Carr, Ed.D., APR, chief of schools, Guilford County Schools, Greensboro, N.C.; NSPRA past president

Nora Carr  

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"Say What?!” A Positive Framework for Conversations About Race and Equity

More than 60 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, the debate continues over the inequality in school systems. In our currently polarized environments, it is difficult to have desperately-needed critical conversations around race, culture and equity. Together, we’ll talk about how to create a “safe” space for educational stakeholders to explore implicit/explicit biases and develop a plan on how to start a positive conversation.

When: Monday, July 13, at Noon Eastern 


  • Trinette Marquis APR, consultant, SchoolPRPro, Sacramento, Calif.

  • Natalie Nash, director of communications, Crete (Ill.)-Monee School District

Trinette Marquis APR  Natalie Nash  

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Personal Branding: Moving from Technician to Adviser

When someone hears or sees your name, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Are you known as the person who can create amazing flyers, or are you seen as a valued member providing important guidance and expertise to the leadership team? The difference may be in your approach to your personal brand. Learn about the importance of an active personal brand and how to develop one for yourself.

When: Monday, July 13,  at Noon Eastern 

Presenter: Melissa Smith, assistant director of communications and learning solutions, Chester County Intermediate Unit, Downingtown, PA; 2020 NSPRA Gold Medallion winner

Melissa Smith  

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Pandemic and Protests: The Power of Communications and Engaging Stakeholders

School leaders are thrust into action when a crisis, social media incident or threat garners intense public scrutiny and media coverage. Most recently, the ongoing pandemic crisis and nationwide protests in support of marginalized populations have demonstrated the power of communications to build connection and understanding in a school community. This timely session will explore how key stakeholder groups are impacted, and the communication strategies and tactics necessary to offset the risk of alienating traditional supporters and interested groups.

When: Monday, July 13, at 1:15 p.m. Eastern


  •  Stan Alleyne, chief communications officer, Vitals Aware Services; NSPRA past vice president for diversity engagement

  •  Rick Kaufman, APR, executive director of community relations, Bloomington (Minn.) Public Schools; NSPRA past president

Stan Alleyne  Rick Kaufman  

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Crucial Conversations from the PR Perspective

Come learn skills to hold difficult conversations, to improve relationships and to address difficult topics both professionally and personally. Based on the research, case studies and resources in the New York Times bestselling book, this certified Crucial Conversations trainer will give practical ways for you to approach coworkers, your boss and even in-laws. You will learn tools for talking school PR when stakes are high.

When: Monday, July 13, at 1:15 p.m. Eastern

Presenter: Julie Thannum, APR, assistant superintendent of board and community relations, Carroll Independent School District, Southlake, Texas; NSPRA past president

Julie Thannum  

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Cultural Awareness Through Communication

Culture is more than race and ethnicity. It may not be visible or identifiable to others; however, it encompasses characteristics essential to one’s identity. In our respective roles, we are tasked with the awesome responsibility of effectively communicating to various communities. Learn how to create a positive working and learning environment through culturally-responsive communication practices.

When: Monday, July 13, at 1:15 p.m. Eastern

Presenter: Shayla Cannady, senior manager, public relations, Orange County Public Schools, Orlando, Fla. 

Shayla Cannady  

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Keys to Amplifying Your System's Story

In an age of increased scrutiny of public schools, educational professionals must do more to build its case. Each school and school system has a story, but who’s telling yours? Tweeting more isn’t enough. Through the use of data-driven decision making and strategic communication, school leaders can re-frame the discussion and mobilize community support in seeking improved student outcomes. There is overlap in the work between educators and communicators. Through the use of creative storytelling, this session offers five keys to amplifying your system’s story by enlisting trusted counsel, using the teacher’s toolbox to develop strategic communication plans, leveraging communication skills to build trust through transparency, applying differentiated communication tactics, and fostering a growth mindset. It’s work that builds relationships, gets results and earns recognition. Plan now for tomorrow’s success.

When: Monday, July 13, at 3:15 p.m. Eastern

Presenter: Lesley Bruinton, APR, public relations coordinator, Tuscaloosa City (Ala.) Schools; NSPRA president-elect and 2020 NSPRA Gold Medallion winner 

 Lesley Bruinton     

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Show or Tell? Using Video for Lockdown Options and Reunification

Emergency procedures can typically be found in a three-ring binder in most school and district offices. While it's important to have a plan, it's also important to communicate elements of that plan to your stakeholders, so they know how to respond in a crisis situation. Learn how Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools was able to communicate important safety and reunification plans to students, staff and parents without scaring them. See how they were able to use video as part of their strategy to equip audiences with knowledge.

When: Monday, July 13, at 3:15 p.m. Eastern


  • Jake Sturgis, APR, owner, Captivate Media + Consulting

  • Kristi Mussman, director of communications, Prior Lake (Min.)-Savage Area Schools

Jake Sturgis  Kristi Mussman  

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You’ve Got This! How to Build a Successful Communication Program

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your work? Are you running from crisis to crisis? Are deadlines keeping you up at night? Are staff members bypassing your office and publishing their own materials? Does your work feel disconnected from your strategic plan? Don’t worry! Help is on the way! In this fast-paced session, attendees will learn how to get organized, establish a workflow, develop a high-impact communication plan, build rapport with their colleagues and impress their superintendent!

When: Monday, July 13, at 3:15 p.m. Eastern

Presenter: Karen Heath, supervisor of communication, Berrien RESA, Berrien Springs, Mich. 

Karen Heath  

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Networking Job Alike: Website/Digital Media/Video Management

Share ideas, challenges and best practices with colleagues who understand your job during this facilitated networking session for communication professionals whose work involves website, digital media and/or video management.

When: Monday, July 13, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern

Facilitator: Joe Ferdani, APR , chief communications officer, Adams 12 Five Star Schools and NSPRA Southwest Region Vice President

Joe Ferdani, APR  

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Networking Job Alike: The One-Person School PR Office

Share ideas, challenges and best practices with colleagues who understand your job during this facilitated networking session for communication professionals who provide communications service as a department of one.

When: Monday, July 13, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern

Facilitator: Cathy Kedjidjian, APR, director of communications and strategic planning, Glenview (Ill.) School District 34; NSPRA vice president at large for communication technology and innovation

Cathy Kedjidjian APR  

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The Pandemic and Public Schools: Coronavirus Crisis Communications and Response

Public schools, along with their surrounding communities, have been dealing with an unprecedented public health crisis that forced the extended shutdown of schools, system-wide remote learning and the cancellation of end-of-year traditions. Now, leaders must plan for school reopenings that follow health experts' guidance on safe social distancing while also coping with strained school budgets and meeting new expectations for online learning. Listen as a panel of experienced communicators and administrators share how their school systems responded to the challenges of the new coronavirus disease and what they are doing to prepare for and communicate about the reopening of schools in 2020-21.

When: Monday, July 13, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern

Moderator: Rich Bagin, APR, NSPRA Executive Director

Rich Bagin     


  • Susan Enfield, Ed.D., superintendent, Highline Public Schools, Burien, Wash.

  • Justin Elbert, assistant director of communications, Klein (Texas) ISD 

  • Kelly Wachel, APR, chief marketing and communications officer, Kansas City (Mo.) Public Schools. 

 Susan Enfield  Justin Elbert   Kelly Wachel  

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Tuesday, July 14 Session Descriptions

Millions at Stake: A Guide to Referendum Success

Most school leaders aren’t trained in political campaigns. Yet, increasingly school districts must turn to voters for approval to fund building projects, capital needs, operating revenue, and even annual budgets. Some superintendents say, “If you aren’t currently involved in a school finance election, you better be preparing for one.” Successful campaigns are not left up to chance. They take time and planning with proven strategies and tactics. What does it take to earn voter support? Learn about award-winning campaigns—and how to avoid failure— from the editors of NSPRA’s newest finance campaign planning resource. Combined the presenters have led 12 successful campaigns bringing more than $600 million dollars into their districts.

When: Tuesday, July 14, at Noon Eastern 


  • Janet Swiecichowski, APR, vice president, CEL Marketing PR Design, Minneapolis, Minn.

  • Annette Eyman, APR, Papillion (Neb.) La Vista Community Schools; NSPRA past regional vice president

 Janet Swiecichowski   Annette Eyman  

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Inside Out: Internal Communication to Engage Employees and Drive Success

Engaged employees perform better. Organizations with engaged employees perform better. Communication impacts their engagement in big ways. Find out how your internal communications program can improve your district's employee engagement based on research, trends and best practices.

When: Tuesday, July 14, at Noon Eastern 

Presenter: Sandy Cokeley, APR, CEO, SCoPE School Surveys; NSPRA past president; 2020 Presidents Award recipient

Sandy  Cokeley     

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Ensuring Educational Equity and Access During a Pandemic

For most school districts, the COVID-19 pandemic forced an unprecedented paradigm shift in the school communications and response. One of the major challenges during the pandemic was ensuring equity and access in the delivery of educational opportunities, communication, and other school services. This panel session will discuss best practices and opportunities for improvement through the lens of equity and inclusion. Audience participation will be encouraged.

When: Tuesday, July 14, at Noon Eastern 


  • Josh Sauer, APR, web and interactive media specialist, Moore Norman Technology Center, Oklahoma City, Okla.

 Josh Sauer  


  • Jim Cummings, APR, director of communications, Glendale (Ariz.) Elementary School District; NPSRA past president

  • Tracy Jentz, APR, communications and community engagement coordinator, Grand Forks (N.D.) Public Schools

  • Adrienne Leon, APR, director of communications and PR, Capital Region BOCES, Albany, N.Y.

  • Tove Tupper, assistant director of communications, Highline Public Schools, Burien, Wash. 

  • Arianna Vazquez-Hernandez, APR, director of communications/public information, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, Pharr, Texas

  • Lesley Bruinton, APR, public relations coordinator, Tuscaloosa City (Ala.) Schools; NSPRA president-elect and 2020 NSPRA Gold Medallion winner 

  Jim Cummings   Tracy Jentz   Adrienne Leon  Tove Tupper   Arianna Vazquez-Hernandez   Lesley Bruinton     

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Sex, Lies and Video Clips: Communicating in Sexual Misconduct Cases

Reputations are on the line in cases involving sexual misconduct by school employees. This is a high profile test of your skills as a PR professional. Tactics used by plaintiffs' attorneys in civil lawsuits use the media to put the school district, its employees and its policies on trial in the court of public opinion. Nationally recognized, veteran communication experts will share useful tips, tactics and techniques so you don't have to say, "No comment, it's a personnel matter."

When: Tuesday, July 14, at 1:15 p.m. Eastern

Presenter: Tom Delapp, APR, chairman and founder, Communication Resources for Schools, NSPRA past president 

Tom DeLapp     

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How to Plan for Success

It's true what they say: To succeed with your communication efforts, you need a plan. If you've ever wondered how to write a communication plan that you can really use or how to get your administrators to think strategically about communication, this is your session. We'll go over the basics of a strategic, four-step communication plan and work on crafting plans together, so you'll go home with the skills to write a plan yourself. And as a bonus, if you're thinking of getting your APR, this will help.

When: Tuesday, July 14, at 1:15 p.m. Eastern

Presenter: Nicole Kirby, APR, director of communications, Park Hill School District, Kansas City, Mo.; NSPRA past regional vice president 

Nicole Kirby     

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An Equity Task Force Panel: Learning From Our Members on Equity, Systemic Racism and How to Be an Ally in Our School District Communities

Tune in for a conversation with members of NSPRA's Communication Equity and Diversity Task Force on equity, systemic racism and how NSPRA members can be allies in this work, which we all must do to ensure all children have the opportunities they need to be successful in our school district communities.

When: Tuesday, July 14, at 1:15 p.m. Eastern


  • Heidi Otero, director of communications, Arizona School Boards Association;  NSPRA vice president for diversity engagement

Heidi Otero  



  • Kenita Bowers, APR, director, communications and constituent services, Virginia Department of Education, NSPRA Mideast Region

  • Lesley Bruinton, APR, public relations coordinator, Tuscaloosa City (Ala.) Schools; NSPRA president-elect and 2020 NSPRA Gold Medallion winner

  • Shayla Cannady, senior manager, public relations, Orange County Public Schools, Orlando, Fla., NSPRA Southeast Region

  • Jason Gaston, APR, public relations coordinator, Hoover City (Ala.) Schools, NSPRA Southeast Region

  • Royal Gurley, Ed.D., assistant superintendent, Dinwiddle County (Va.) Public Schools, NSPRA Mideast Region

  • Rashaad O’Neal, leadership development coordinator ,Washington State School Directors' Association NSPRA Northwest Region

  • Lori Perlow, communications manager, Camden County  Educational Services Commission,Clementon, NJ, NSPRA Northeast Region

  • Carla Pereira, APR, director of communications and community relations, Mississauga, Ontario,  NSPRA Northeast Region

  • Josh Sauer, APR, web and interactive media specialist, Moore Norman Technology Center, Oklahoma City, Okla.

  Kenita Bowers   Lesley Bruinton  Shayla Cannady    Jason Gaston  Royal Gurley 

 Rashaad O’Neal   Lori Perlow  Carla Pereira, APR   Josh Sauer


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Give the Media What They Want - and Still Get What You Need!

The relationship between school representatives and the media doesn’t have to be adversarial; it can be mutually beneficial. To facilitate that symbiotic relationship, this session will help communications professionals understand how news organizations operate, what they are looking for, how to work with reporters, and how we can deliver content that both engages audiences and advances the mission of our schools.

When: Tuesday, July 14, at 3:15 p.m. Eastern

Presenter: Matt Deichmann, APR, chief communications officer, Francis Howell School District, St. Charles, Mo

 Matt Deichmann     

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Equity Allies: Promoting Equitable Strategies in Public Schools

The topic of equity is increasingly part of discussions about improving educational outcomes for our students. Far from being a buzzword or a passing trend, equity is the necessary path to achieve success for each student. Join us for this informative and interactive workshop that will walk you through the Leading for Equity Framework, which includes specific steps boards can take to begin or accelerate their district’s equity journey.

When: Tuesday, July 14, at 3:15 p.m. Eastern


  • Nikki Whaley, board support and training specialist, Arizona School Boards Association

  • Heidi Otero, director of communications, Arizona School Boards Association;  NSPRA vice president for diversity engagement 

 Nikki Whaley   Heidi Otero  

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Mini Gold Mine Roundtable with 2020 Gold Medallion Winners

Mine for valuable school PR ideas to add to your communications treasure chest in this mini, virtual version of the popular Gold Mine Roundtable. Listen as several 2020 NSPRA Gold Medallion winners share key takeaways and practical tips from their award-winning campaigns. Use the chat feature to ask questions of the panelists, and leave with a load of inspiration in a time-saving format. Find their winning campaigns at https://www.nspra.org/awards/gold-medallion-winners.

When: Tuesday, July 14, at 3:15 p.m. Eastern

Moderator: Patrick Gallaway, director of communications , New Albany - Plain Local Schools, New Albany, Ohio and NSPRA Mideast Region Vice President

Patrick Gallaway  


  • ​Lesley Bruinton, APR, public relations coordinator, Tuscaloosa City (Ala.) Schools and NSPRA president-elect

  • Danielle Clark, APR, chief communications officer, Harris County Department of Education, Houston, Texas

  • Suzy Finn, marketing and strategic partnerships supervisor, Wichita (Kan.) Public Schools

  • Mickey Schoonover, APR, director of school/community relations, Pattonville School District, Saint Ann, Mo.

  • Melissa Smith, assistant director of communications and learning solutions, Chester County Intermediate Unit, Downingtown, Pa.

  • Tiffany Veno, director of communications, Garland (Texas) Independent School District

  Lesley Bruinton, APR   Danielle Clark   Suzy Finn  Mickey Schoonover, APR   Melissa Smith  Tiffany Veno  




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Data and Demographics: How School Ratings Contribute to Racial Isolation

Parents use ratings to choose schools, and real estate companies embed ratings into listings. Few consider the consequences on the racial and socio-economic composition of public schools. Affluent parents often gravitate toward higher-ranked, less racially integrated and economically diverse schools. Research shows that an over-reliance on ratings is contributing to school re-segregation. This presentation will engage participants in considering how school leaders can re-shape the dialogue about school quality.

When: Tuesday, July 14, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern


  • Naomi Hunter, APR, founder, Naomi Hunter Communications, Redwood City, Calif. 

  • Donna Elam, Ed.D., president/CEO, Elam Leadership Institute, and chair emeritus, Florida Commission on Human Relations

  • Stephen Nichols APR, CEO, Communication Resources for Schools, Sacramento, Calif.; NSPRA past vice president for diversity engagement

 Naomi Hunter   Donna Elam  Stephen Nichols  


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The Therapist and the Publicist: Self-Care in Our Crazy School PR World

With students and parents at the center of everything we do (and superintendents hovering above), how do we make time to take care of ourselves? When crisis training rarely covers personal care, how do you assess your own balance and wellness? More importantly, how do you know when it's time to call for reinforcements? Get answers to these questions and more, and start taking better care of yourself in this thought-provoking session.

When: Tuesday, July 14, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern 


  • Kevin Tennill, LPC

  • Chris Tennill, APR, chief communications officer, Clayton (Mo.) School District; NSPRA past regional vice president

Chris Tennill     Chris Tennill     

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Helping Students and Employees Tell Their Stories

We all want to tell those powerful stories that highlight the great work going on in the classroom, but sometimes it’s easier and more impactful to let the students or employees tell their own tales. In this session, we’ll explore how to get content directly from employees and students as well as some of the ways to use what you get.

When: Tuesday,  July 14, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern 

Presenter: Stacy Brandt, APR, communications specialist, San Diego (Calif.) County Office of Education

Stacy Brandt     

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