Regional Chapter Reports: July 2020

View the chapter report for:


Southwest Region Chapters Report - July 2020

Joe Ferdani, APR, Southwest Region Vice President

Arizona School Public Relations Association (ASPRA)

Zachery Fountain, President

Chapter well-being

The Arizona School Public Relations Association (ASPRA) membership continues to grow with additional memberships extending beyond county and state educational entities interested in learning more about school communication practices. For 2020, membership is currently at 141 paying members and 12-lifetime memberships with additional plans to attract small district superintendents who do not currently school communications and public relations professionals.  ASPRA still has membership requests from vendors, private/public competitors, and contract public relations professionals. Efforts have been made to ensure such groups are in the membership category, but may not have a professional membership that allows for voting in ASPRA related votes.

Additionally, new leadership is beginning to take route throughout the executive team with growing requests to be part of the elected positions in the coming years - an issue that had been difficult in prior years. This may be in part to growing geographic participation throughout the state with representation on the board from three counties outside of Maricopa County in addition to new school PR professionals joining the ranks statewide.

An opportunity for growth is in how we support new professionals.  There continues to be longevity in executive level leadership for school PR in districts throughout the state, so we are working to engage these members, understand their needs, and provide professional development.  Additionally, we are working to highlight the work of the organization to key stakeholders including superintendents, human resource professionals, and governing board members to show the importance of our members work and hopefully expand opportunities in new districts.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

ASPRA*tions Annual Awards - We continue to evaluate the potential of having an event in the upcoming year, but have begun the application process for awards.  Adding to the application process this year, we have added a request for additional information about how individual school district boards are utilizing public comment so that members of the executive board can recognize this year’s winners in front of pertinent decision makers.

ASBA Conference Support - ASPRA is continuing work with the Arizona School Boards Association Annual Conference.  A partnership of 20+ years, ASPRA supports ASBA through social media coverage and photography support throughout the event.  Last year, ASPRA had a table at the event and were able to talk with superintendents and board members regarding ASPRA and NSPRA at the three-day event and highlight the work of school PR professionals across the state. Given that schedules may change, we are evaluating other means in supporting ASBA for this year’s event - including new board member orientation.

ASBA Quarterly Learning - ASPRA is working with ASBA to teach communications practices to districts who may not have school PR professionals.  The work is aimed at making connections, explaining key considerations, and hopefully planting the seeds for more school PR opportunities in districts as our younger professionals look to extend their careers.

Professional development programs/activities

While ASPRA had to cancel the annual summer conference, planning is underway for the 2020-2021 school year with digital meetings being scheduled in accordance with public health practices.  The current planned schedule includes quarterly meetings on September 11, November 13, February 12, and April 9 in addition to a potential half day training to coincide with the ASPRA*tions awards program.

Major chapter issues or concerns

ASPRA shares concerns about how COVID-19 will impact our organization going forward and are planning on how to adapt to the new reality of the next 24 months.  Plans to increase fees have been scrapped for the upcoming year as we worry about membership retention.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

Given the climate and the needs of school districts to reallocate budgets towards instructional and safety based resources, a nationwide survey of salaries and budgets would be helpful as school PR professionals work to maintain or expand their operational capacities.  There is no better time for professionals to have a clear understanding of other district’s monetary support of PR functions to ensure communities are fully informed.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

NSPRA should be aware that Arizona continues to be a source of school competition and that funding mechanisms in the state may have a disproportionate impact on how schools function in a continuing pandemic.

Additional items of note

N/A

 

California School Public Relations Association (CalSPRA)

Jennifer Dericco, APR, president

Chapter well-being

  • active or dormant: CalSPRA is active but restricted by the pandemic. The board held a virtual retreat on July 11 to form a strategic plan for 2020-2021 focused on our professional development and networking plan.
  • growing or declining membership: CalSPRA’s membership has been steadily climbing as we continue to follow and measure our strategic plan activities.
  • regular meetings: CalSPRA’s leadership has regular meetings monthly and a minimum of two retreats per year, once at our annual conference and once in the summer.
  • fiscally thriving: CalSPRA’s financial reserves have been steadily climbing as we continue to follow and measure our strategic plan activities. Our board is now in a position to consider hiring paid staff in 2020-2021.
  • what’s working, what isn’t: 
    • A global pandemic and an all-volunteer board is not working but we are adjusting our plans. We plan to hire a part-time staff person to help with the routine administrative work so that our organization, and our members, do not suffer a loss of high-quality service when our board is over-extended with duties to the districts and county offices where we work. 
    • We have strong executive board cohesion and a thriving, diverse extended board which includes regional chairs, superintendent chairs, membership and communication chairs, and an APR chair.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

  • Ongoing: 
    • Partnerships with other professional associations in California such as CSBA and SSDA.
    • In-person education in California shut down while we were holding our 2020 annual conference and just after we signed a contract for our 2021 annual conference. We are working on our plan to bring the 2020 sessions back to our members. We are also researching and discussing our options for the 2021 annual conference. Ultimately, these will be addressed through our 2020-2021 professional development and networking plan which is currently under development. 
  • Completed: 
    • 2020 annual awards program (awards still need to be distributed).

Professional development programs/activities

  • CalSPRA is restructuring our 2020-2021 professional development and networking plans to best meet our members’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Major chapter issues or concerns

  • A global pandemic and an all-volunteer board is not working but we are adjusting our plans. We plan to hire a part-time staff person to help with the routine administrative work so that our organization, and our members, do not suffer a loss of high-quality service when our board is over-extended with duties to the districts and county offices where we work. 
  • In-person education in California shut down while we were holding our 2020 annual conference and just after we signed a contract for our 2021 annual conference. We are working on our plan to bring the 2020 sessions back to our members. We are also researching and discussing our options for the 2021 annual conference. Ultimately, these will be addressed through our 2020-2021 professional development and networking plan which is currently under development. 
  • 2021 conference will likely not happen in person. We are currently exploring canceling our contract with Hyatt Santa Clara and restricting our 2020-2021 professional development plan. UPDATE ON 7/21: We reached an agreement with Hyatt Santa Clara to absolve the 2021 contract.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

  • Updated, common communication toolkits such as all the similar communications that every school district across the nation is going to need during the 2020-2021 school year for the pandemic.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

  • Help getting out of our 2021 conference contract with Hyatt
  • COVID-19
  • Race and Equity
  • Enrollment crisis
  • School resource officers on campuses; using them to create better relations
  • Digital divide, even in Silicon Valley!
  • We are a local control state, which creates its own unique challenges. Each district makes its own reopening decisions based on county and state recommendations.

Additional items of note

N/A

 

Colorado School Public Relations Association (CoSPRA)

Abbe Smith, chapter co-president

Chapter well-being

Overall, the chapter continues to be stable and in good health. We are having conversations about how to transition our COSPRA events and professional development opportunities to an online format over the next year, with a goal of maintaining membership and participation levels as well as relationships with sponsors. We cancelled our spring 2020 conference and awards program and are working to plan a virtual conference or series of workshops for fall 2020. We are also having conversations about whether to move our awards program to the spring and celebrate two years’ worth of projects and achievements.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, COSPRA has collected examples of parent and staff letters, FAQ documents, closure/quarantine notification letters, informational web pages, posters and graphics and videos to share with COSPRA membership via Google Drive. The materials were up-to-date and shared widely during the first part of the pandemic. We are now collaborating to update the list and provide new materials that districts can use for the restart of school and the management of changing conditions and school or district closures throughout the fall. We are collaborating with the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to collect and share relevant template materials. COSPRA wants to continue to look at its relationship with CASE, the Colorado Association of School Executives, in order to raise awareness and the standing of school PR professionals in the state.

Professional development programs/activities

COSPRA is having conversations about whether to hold a virtual fall conference or a series of workshops with topics that are responsive to what members need going into the fall amid a pandemic. We have confirmed that our spring conference speaker, Adam Harris, Communications Coordinator with Arlington Heights, IL, School District 25, is available to speak at a virtual fall conference. We plan to ask if he can adapt his keynote presentation, Vulnerability in Storytelling, to a virtual storytelling in the wake of COVID closures. We are also considering whether it makes more sense to move his presentation to the spring and focus on COVID-related communication topics in the fall.

Additionally, we are working with two Colorado experts in school finance to present a virtual session in July about School Finance in the context of the COVID pandemic. State. Rep. Julie McCluskie, who serves on the Joint Budget Committee, and Tracie Rainey, Executive Director of the Colorado School Finance Project, presented a workshop on July 14 about School Finance for School PR Professionals. The workshop focused on changes this year to the School Finance Act and the state funding implications associated with the COVID crisis.

Major chapter issues or concerns

Chapter concerns include maintaining membership during a time when district communications offices are under pressure and are potentially suffering from decreased funding.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

We are always interested in learning from our NSPRA partners about innovative best practices and ideas for speakers or professional development.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

COSPRA is very interested in learning from what other districts and other states are doing to address communications challenges amid the pandemic.

Additional items of note

N/A

 

Utah School Public Relations Association (USPRA)

Steven Powell, President

Chapter well-being

No report submitted.

 


South Central Region Chapters Report - July 2020

Tony Heaberlin, APR, South Central Regional Vice President

 

Arkansas School Public Relations Association (ArkaNSPRA)

Brian Bridges, President

Chapter well-being

The ArkaNSPRA chapter is doing very well and continues to garner interest from new potential members. Due to COVID-19 our last meeting for the 2019-2020 school year was held over the internet via Zoom. It was very productive and gave our members a chance to collaborate with each other as we all navigate these challenging school times.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

Our chapter members have been collaborating and relying on each other for support and ideas, especially when it comes to graduation, recognizing our seniors, communicating with parents on the upcoming school year, developing virtual learning options, etc. This is all new uncharted educational waters and we are all trying to work together and help each other during this unprecedented time.

Professional development programs/activities

ArkaNSPRA continues to meet at least four times during the school year. A different school district hosts each meeting. That way members have the opportunity to visit and see other campuses. As I mentioned though, our last meeting was held virtually via ZOOM and more than likely several more meetings will be held online as the new school year approaches. 

Many of our members also look forward to attending the National NSPRA conference each year and sharing new ideas with our chapter.

Major chapter issues or concerns

Unfortunately, it was discovered this year that we need to reapply for our 501c tax-exempt status. With the changing of new officers, it has been a challenge to find all the information necessary to start the process of reapplying, but hopefully that process will begin soon. It would be extremely helpful if there was an IRS representative that worked closely with NSPRA to help easily answer chapter questions.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

We continue to rely on guidance, especially during this pandemic from NSPRA. NSPRA Connect is an amazing network to help members support each other with ideas. It is nice to not have to always reinvent the wheel when we are all working towards the same goal of supporting and communicating with our school families.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

N/A

Additional items of note

N/A

 

Kansas School Public Relations Association (KanSPRA)

Kimberly Koop, President

Chapter well-being

KanSPRA’s membership increased from the previous year. We currently have 82 members.

We are slated to have our first Board meeting in August, and will have either a virtual or in-person meeting each month through May or June.

We have filled all of the positions on our Board, including a hard-to-fill West VP chair. That particular position had been empty for several years. We also plan to add a new Southeast region to make it easier on some of our newer members to actually attend monthly regional meetings. Our South Central region was spread pretty far geographically, making it a 2 hour drive or more for some members.

Our conference made enough to more than pay for itself, and our chapter is still sitting in a strong financial position. Our current account balance is $50,984.14.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

One of our KanSPRA board members put together a communications calendar for our members to use in helping promote the census. It included proposed dates, graphics, links to the Census website and post language for ease of use.

We switched website platforms from Blackboard to Wild Apricot this year in order to have a more modern look and feel and for more convenient membership management. It just went live this month, so we are looking forward to exploring it further this year. We will also continue to work with USA-Kansas for our financials, so there will be some adjusting and learning how Wild Apricot will work on that end as well.

We changed the timeline on our KanSPRA/KASB publications contest. Our KanSPRA/KASB representative was let go during KASB’s reorganization, so we will have to restructure who will be managing that this year.

Professional development programs/activities

We surveyed our membership to see what they would like to have more professional development on during our annual Fall Conference. We are exploring virtual options to provide some of those training opportunities just in case an in-person one is not feasible given the current pandemic.

We’ve shared the NSPRA virtual PD link with all of our members and encouraged them to explore those options.

Our regions host monthly meetings to share best practices, network, and provide trainings for each other.

We have a Resource Vault on our website where members can share or access flyers, parent letters, and much more.

Major chapter issues or concerns

We addressed our three main goals for the 19-20 school year and will be using survey data to set our goals for 20-21. The goals we addressed this year were: Moving our website and membership renewal to Wild Apricot and celebrating our membership. As a board, we each contacted five members and sent them a hand-written thank you, thinking of you, or note of encouragement. We also mailed coasters with a communication-themed saying to all of our current members.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

Nothing at this time.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

The Pandemic and reopening of schools. This is such a polarized topic, it would be nice to have ready-to-use resources or sample verbiage that respects both sides of the spectrum while effectively representing the school’s commitment to safety and responsibility for education.

Additional items of note

I’m looking forward to serving as KanSPRA President and hope to make our chapter stronger over the course of the next year.

 

Missouri School Public Relations Association (MOSPRA) 

Kelly Wachel, President
David Luther, Executive Director

Chapter well-being

No report submitted.

 

Oklahoma School Public Relations Association (OKSPRA)

Cara Adney, President

Chapter well-being

We are getting ready to start our recruitment/awareness campaign for the upcoming year. We have acquired a public school directory with nearly 550 superintendent email addresses. We plan to import this list into our database for informational emails regarding OSKPRA. We hope this will extend our reach to schools that do not have a designated school communications person. This information has the potential to change our membership and/or engagement next year dramatically.

We are a little behind on voting on new officers! We typically take care of this during our Spring Conference in April. Since we did not have our conference due to COVID-19, this is just now taking place. A new officer list will be submitted to NSPRA once voting is over. Nonetheless, the incoming officer candidates met in mid-July to make a plan for next year. We will be moving to virtual meetings and have several ideas on how we can reach more people through strategic partnerships. This information will be detailed in the next section.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

We had established partnerships with FinalSite, Blackboard, Eskimo Joes Promotional Products and TTCU for sponsorship opportunities last year. Two of those vendors (EJPPG and TTCU) were only sponsors for our Spring Conference. We did not take funds from them since we canceled our conference. We anticipate we will have their support as we begin to revise our sponsorship packages for 20-21.

We have new opportunities to partner with the Oklahoma State School Board Association thanks to a long-time OKSPRA member moving from the K12 setting to OSSBA. This individual is a well-respected school communicator and will be able to connect OSSBA members to OKSPRA with ease. Her endorsement will carry a lot of weight in terms of the recruitment of new members. We will maintain a relationship with CCOSA, a long-time fan of our organization. We frequently offer our meetings/training to CCOSA members at no cost. We do this to build our network and identity with their members.

We are proposing a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of CareerTech’s Communication and Marketing Officers. We would like to hold joint virtual sessions with them. Our proposal includes OKSPRA finding/paying for a guest speaker that would address both groups using Zoom. OKSPRA sponsors would then have a chance to make a virtual presentation to both groups. Following the presentations, attendees would be divided by their service area (K12 and CareerTech) and branch off into Zoom meeting rooms where they could discuss the impact of the speaker on/with their school district. This would allow them also to share best practices, learn from each other and have a platform to build networking relationships.

In terms of membership and attendance – the officer team has prioritized organizational awareness for the next year. We want to expand our reach, prove our value as an organization and hopefully convert individuals/districts to join OKSPRA. Our membership fees are $75 a person, and we ended last year with just over 100 members. The “benefit” of membership includes access to “members only” elements – access to a closed FB group, virtual meetings and a reduced rate at our Spring Conference. We plan to continue with this price model next year.

Professional development programs/activities

OKSPRA has three quarterly meetings, monthly virtual meetings and a two-day spring conference each year. Our spring conference was scheduled to take place April 1-3 in Norman, Oklahoma, just south of Oklahoma City. Like so many state chapters, we had to cancel this event.

The officer team has worked up a draft schedule for upcoming meetings. We will refine the schedule once we find out if the CareerTech CMO group is open to joint meetings.

Major chapter issues or concerns

Sponsorships, sponsorships, sponsorships!

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

N/A

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

Outside of COVID-19?

Additional items of note

N/A

 

Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA)

Linsae Snider, Executive Director
Veronica Castillon APR, President

Chapter well-being

a.     Membership is 1094 members as preparation begins for renewals in July.

b.     Executive Committee meeting took place virtually on June 11, 2020.

c.     TSPRA will end FY 2019-2020 with $520,000 in savings, an operational budget of almost $680,000 and net profit for the year looks to be approximately $40,000. 

d.     The TSPRA Executive Committee approved a $666,450 operating budget for FY 2020-2021.

e.     2020-2021 Opportunities for Participation will be developed in July and sponsorship solicitations will launch in August.

f.       We continue to be satisfied with the current member management system, Member 365, and the awards system, Open Water, for entering and judging of Star Awards and for entering nominations for our professional awards and scholarships. 

g.     All nine regions conducted at least one virtual meeting with attendance between 12-65 attendees while CASPRA, SASPRA, SPRINT and HASPRA hosted monthly meetings throughout the year.

h.     An external audit is scheduled for August and the member audit review is scheduled for September 15.

i.       All new office furnishings have been purchased and installed in the TSPRA offices.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

a.     A new TSPRA website soft launches on July 1 and debuts on July 22 utilizing the website component of Member 365.

b.     Veronica Castillon, APR, TSPRA President, has made all committee appointments for the 2020-2021 school year.

c.     The Strategic Planning Committee transitioned to identifying three “done- in-a-year” initiatives that will include: (1) digital magazine to be published quarterly, (2) establishment of year-round online learning program and delivery system and (3) preparation for the re-location of TSPRA offices.

d.     TSPRA continues to contribute a two-page spread in the quarterly publication of the TASA INSIGHT along with a third page ad.

e.     We continue to provide training to first year superintendents through the TASA First Year Superintendent Academy.

f.       The TSPRA president continues to serve as one of ten judges for the selection of the Texas Teacher of the Year.

Professional development programs/activities

a.     The 2020 annual TSPRA Conference was held February 24-27, 2020, at the Austin Omni Barton Creek Resort with 820 in attendance, 1606 Star Awards entries, 503 attendees at the Star Awards Banquet and 55 exhibitors.

b.     Four new APRs were pinned during the first general session of the 2020 TSPRA Conference – Tami Sophia, Brazosport ISD, Megan Overman, Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD, Leanne Libby, Corpus Christi ISD, and Jeff Meador, Granbury ISD.

c.     Three TSPRA members were recognized as completing the two-year Texas Christian University Certified Public Communicator (TCU-CPC) program in 2019, another nine will complete the cohort in 2020 and another seven TSPRA members will begin year one of the two-year program in July.

d.     Three Spoken Word Media sessions (media and crisis communications training) were delivered during this fiscal year training 123 individuals and two additional sessions were canceled due to COVID-19.

e.     Planning is underway for the 2021 annual conference.  The theme is, “Tune in to TSPRA.” The conference logo appears at the bottom of this report.   An invitation has been extended to Melissa McCollum to join us. 

f.     We will begin curriculum development and recruitment for a First Year Communications Academy (FYCA) in the fall as one component of the year-round online learning program.

g.     Peer review panels continue to be scheduled for members seeking APR.

h.     To date a total of 13 Zoom sessions have been afforded to members during COVID to include legal Q&A, lunch & learn exchanges, marketing, crisis communication, and BLM discussions.

Major chapter issues or concerns

a.     When and how schools will re-open due to COVID and with very little direction and assistance from the state department of education and the development of re-entry/re-opening plans that are at the discretion of each local school district and how TSPRA can support.

b.     Tighter school budgets that will affect conference attendance.

c.     An increase in smaller school districts creating communications positions has been observed.

d.     Restrictions to school travel as a result of COVID.

e.     The state of COVID in general as we move into the 2020-2021 fiscal year!

f.       The future of sponsorships given COVID and how they are impacted by virtual platforms vs. in-person.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

TSPRA is wanting to learn all about the planning and execution of a virtual conference.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

a.     Texas is beginning to see the push among parents and legislators to allow students to receive instruction on-line yet expect to participate in UIL activities in person.

b.     Charter schools continue to be a threat to our larger, more urban school districts.

c.     We are watching closely for the number of approved applications granting on-line charter schools.

d.     We continue to suspect COVID is opening the political arena to further dismantle public education and benefit charter and private institutions.

e.     It is estimated that private school enrollment will decrease as much as 20-30% in Texas and we are anxiously observing where those students will enroll.

f.       It is also estimated a percentage of socio-economic disadvantaged students will not enroll for the 2020-2021 school year as a result of COVID.

g.     We continue to witness a trend of superintendents hiring non-communications professionals for heads of the department – giving the position to the next person in line “promised” a cabinet position.

Additional items of note

N/A

 


Southeast Region Chapters Report - July 2020

Mychal Frost, Southeast Region Vice President

 

Alabama School Public Relations Association (ALSPRA)

Jason Gaston, APR, President

Chapter well-being

No report submitted.

 

Florida School Public Relations Association (SUNSPRA)

Shayla Cannady, President

Chapter well-being

Despite the pandemic, SUNSPRA continues to engage members and prospects with monthly professional development meetings. Fortunately, we started the all online programming prior to an economic shutdown, so the free offerings were a great benefit to School Public Relations professionals across the state of Florida. Our chapter board has agreed to serve another term, and each board member has recently submitted measurable objectives for the upcoming chapter year. We are in the process of creating a full-year plan for SUNSPRA with the hopes of increasing membership, communication and updating the chapter by-laws that need quite an overhaul. In June 2020, the executive director’s contract was renewed for a second to help with day-to-day administration.

Our membership totals have held steady at 44 representing 32 school districts in Florida. Early on, we had a goal of increasing our membership with at least one person representing each of Florida’s 67 districts, but we are working on updating that goal over a three to five-year timespan. Our communication efforts to representatives across the state have continued, and we plan to have a strong membership renewal/recruitment plan in July/August.

Fiscally, we continue to have a healthy treasury with $15,952.41 in the bank. The treasurer and executive director are currently working on a budget for the upcoming chapter year which is something relatively new for SUNSPRA. The executive director also plans to manage the budget and finance through her company’s QuickBooks to help maintain better records than just in excel.

In December, we started our re-branding SUNSPRA to the new logo shown above. Throughout the past six months, we have continued with that rebrand with our monthly newsletter, On the Horizon, to members and prospects using Constant Contact. (Please visit this link to see our latest newsletter). Our website and Facebook pages are still working in progress and will be a part of our communication goals for this upcoming year. Many things are in the works for SUNSPRA as this remains a bit of a rebuilding year.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

We had big plans to hold an in-person professional development meeting of Florida Schools Public Relations professionals, but COVID-19 has limited those chances. Initially, we discussed having a one-day event in Orlando potentially in partnership with the University of Central Florida as well as a possible partnership with the Florida Public Relations Association Annual Conference. With that even rescheduled until August 2021 and UCF also no longer offering on-campus activities, efforts turned to ensuring members and prospective members received professional development that we continued as everyone worked from home.

As previously stated, our main board project at the moment is our strategic plan with measurable objectives – something new for SUNSPRA – with our board members working through objectives they want to achieve in their roles.

Professional development programs/activities

SUNSPRA is most proud of our brand-new professional development efforts that we’ve held once a month since February. Many of the sessions were delivered as an in-kind sponsorship from long-time SUNSPRA member, David Voss’s GoToMeeting platform. However, we’ve started using Zoom for our most recent sessions.

In April and May we held professional development sessions, but in June, we chose to offer a “Lunchbox Chatter” event feeling that those related to school PR just needed to have a session to “vent” and chat. The event was very well received, and we had at least three non-members attend the event online. It was a great membership recruitment tool, and we will continue to have them in the future. We have averaged 20 participants per session.

We originally had planned a different topic for June and had not planned to hold a professional development session in July. However, considering the current climate in this nation and cultural differences being expressed in many unique ways, we chose to feature our own president, Shayla Cannady, in a session coming just this week on Cultural Awareness Through Communication. We believe this is a timely topic and anticipate strong registration numbers.

Major chapter issues or concerns

We still struggle to want to have another face-to-face professional development summit and are unaware if the FSBA Joint Conference tentatively scheduled for December 2020 will occur. In December 2019 is when SUNSPRA really kicked off our new brand and new vibrancy for members and prospects. Without knowing if we can get back to face-to-face events, providing member benefits will become a challenge. We have offered many things for free, so at some point we may need to transition to paid events or additional member benefits only available to paying members

Our leadership stream is in a good place with a strong president in Shayla Cannady and strong president-elect in Nicole Young. They have both agreed to serve another term in those roles with Nicole taking over as president in 2021. Having an executive director back in place has also been a benefit to the association.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

As we continue to enhance our professional development opportunities for members, we welcome assistance and support from NSPRA for speakers and topic ideas. We also welcome suggestions for member benefits and how to transition into paid events vs. free that we have offered this year.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

All things related to COVID-19 and school re-openings. We have received little recommendations from state DOE, so they have left the decisions up to individual districts. The gaps in student learning will be significant, so best practices for increasing communication to parents and guardians for students to excel. We welcome additional recommendations from NSPRA for all pandemic-related school communications news.

Additional items of note

None at this time.

 

Georgia School Public Relations Association (GSPRA)

Yolanda Stephen, APR, President

Chapter well-being

No report submitted.

 

Mississippi School Public Relations Association (MSPRA)

Geri Hill, President

Chapter well-being

No report submitted.

 

North Carolina School Public Relations Association (NCSPRA)

Todd Hagans, President

Chapter well-being

No report submitted.

 

South Carolina School Public Relations Association (SCSPRA)

Melissa Robinette, President

Chapter well-being

No report submitted.

 

Tennessee School Public Relations Association (TNSPRA)

Tyler Hill, President

Chapter well-being

No report submitted.

 


Mideast Region Chapters Report - July 2020

Patrick Gallaway, Mideast Region Vice President

 

Chesapeake School Public Relations Association (CHESPRA)

Ryan Edwards, President

Chapter well-being

We are doing fine as a chapter. Everything would be prosperous if not for the pandemic that forced us to cancel our spring conference, and has us on our heels about whether we'll be able to hold our fall conference. We will be discussing this at our upcoming annual meeting in 10 days, and will be developing a plan to make our fall conference virtual should it need to be later this year.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

As mentioned, we will be coming together on the 27th to discuss everything vital to our future success. I plan to not immediately cancel our fall conference to give our membership team the best chance they have at keeping our membership robust. It should come as no surprise that a physical conference away from the job with all the perks it provides people is so much more appealing than a virtual conference.

Professional development programs/activities

I believe all of us are emerged in professional development at this time like K-12 education has never seen before.

Major chapter issues or concerns

Answered above.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

I don't believe we are different than most chapters right now. We would greatly appreciate continued support through these unprecedented times.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

Covid-19

Additional items of note

Thank you for all that you do. Water is so murky and muddy right now. We value your support going forward as we see how things will evolve in the coming months.

 

Indiana School Public Relations Association (INDSPRA)

Maria Bond, President
Donna Petraits, Executive Director

Chapter well-being

Membership is currently stable and we have increased our outreach. We have expanded our board with committee chairs and maximized our video meeting capability by using Zoom for our board meetings.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

We have expanded our outreach to members by offering a “Wellness Check-IN” every two weeks. All members and our education partners are invited to join a Zoom meeting with no set agenda. It’s intended to be an opportunity to vent, share, compare and be supportive to one another. We continue as a resource for our state education organizations and local media has contacted the executive director to speak on “reopening” plans.

INDSPRA has also partnered with the Central Indiana Education Service Center in Indianapolis to create video PSA’s to support and promote our public schools, as well as build trust in returning to the classroom. The first of three videos was distributed statewide and NSPRA has received a copy. Our video team continues to develop the next two PSA’s.

Professional development programs/activities

We are supporting a state-wide grassroots program to support informal networking gatherings for regional member groups, which will continue to be virtual until the state is fully open again.

Our spring conference in March had our highest attendance and overall positive reviews for program and location. Moving it to a hotel conference facility for our two-day conference, provided better meeting and dining areas, as well as more networking opportunities. Our vendors were also more satisfied with their location and access.

Major chapter issues or concerns

Of course, reopening schools is our biggest concern. There are so many variables and potential costs – learning loss, emotional distress, financial hardships – collaboration with our colleagues will be crucial in the coming months. Racial equity and supporting those efforts across the state is also a priority.

In Indiana, vouchers, teacher pay, school funding and critical referendum management are always a concern. We are already keeping a close eye on what the new session issues will be. Despite significant cuts in the State budget, Gov. Holcomb has promised no cuts to K-12 education.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

Help chapters to understand and respond to the impact of this pandemic on education and continue to support BLM and racial equity efforts and understanding. Interpret how the negative effects of the present national Department of Education policies will impact public schools and especially all children, long term!

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

Besides the usual stuff the rest of the country is dealing with - underfunding and referenda, vouchers, gun violence, teacher pay, recruitment and retention, transgender rights, fake news . . . . . our major concerns are reopening schools, the continuing pandemic, and racial equity.

Additional items of note

N/A

 

Kentucky School Public Relations Association (KYSPRA)

Morgan Watson, President

Chapter well-being

KYSPRA is active with four board meetings per year – one at the fall conference, one at the spring conference and two in between. Our membership has stayed relatively the same since the last report.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

KYSPRA’s Oasis program (professional development awards) continues.

Professional development programs/activities

KYSPRA currently offers fall and spring conferences, but we are also looking into offering one-day workshops for professional development. Because of the pandemic, if conferences are offered, they will most likely be virtual.

Major chapter issues or concerns

We are working on boosting membership.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

Besides the current pandemic, no other issues requiring regional or national support.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

Besides the current pandemic, which is affecting everyone across the nation, there are no other state or local issues.

Additional items of note

N/A

 

Michigan School Public Relations Association (MSPRA)

Karen Heath, President
Gerri Allen, Executive Director

Chapter well-being

Supporting our members through crisis

This has been the most unique and overwhelming spring any of our members have ever experienced. From adjusting to remote learning and reinventing end-of-year celebrations to maintaining the health and safety of our staff and students and working from our homes, this was certainly not the communication situation we thought we would be navigating. Although faced with numerous obstacles, the MSRPA Chapter supported its members every step of the way. We created a toolkit that received national and international attention. We collected templates and tools from members across the state so that others could use vetted examples. We used our Annual Conference as a statewide planning session hours before Michigan’s Governor closed school buildings across the state. Our Professional Development Committee reinvented training opportunities to meet members’ immediate needs. MSPRA leaders participated in national webinars to offer support to other NSPRA chapters. We also communicated with members weekly providing mental health support, encouragement and other important resources. And, on top of it all, MSPRA applied for and earned TWO MARK OF DISTINCTION AWARDS - for Coalition Building/Collaborative Communication Efforts and Professional Development and Skill-Building. This is the 11th consecutive year that MSPRA has been named an Exemplary chapter and the third year in a row where we were honored with multiple awards.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

Toolkit for Communicating about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) 

Our COVID-19 Toolkit development spanned 6 days: February 27-March 3, 2020. Here’s how it unfolded. The virus was headed our way and on Thursday, February 27th. We were told that other state education and health agencies were working on guidance for schools. We informed our members via email and included a few general talking points in that message. We were happy to have others take the lead. We were weary, having just released a toolkit 9 days earlier for Michigan’s Read by Grade 3 Law. The next day, on Friday, February 28th, we received the promised COVID-19 Guidance—a joint memo from Michigan’s Department of Education (MDE) and Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). But also, on Friday, we were learning that superintendents were asking our members to generate COVID-19 communication materials and one superintendent even wrote to us asking, “Does MSPRA have anything on this?” By Saturday morning, February 29th, it was clear our schools didn’t have the resources they needed to communicate about the issue. So, the MSPRA Board decided to produce a Toolkit for Communicating about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). We had a conference  call Saturday afternoon, divided up tasks, wrote the toolkit over that weekend (February 29-March 1), had it reviewed by representatives from the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators (MASA) and the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA), and got it approved by our state education and health departments on Sunday night (March 1). We finished final edits and made it ADA compliant on Monday, March 2 and sent it on Tuesday, March 3 to our partners for distribution to their members and colleagues. Little did we know that the product of our cram session would become a key resource for Michigan’s schools during that time in the pandemic. We also shared it nationally via NSPRA’s COVID-19 Resource Repository. It was also featured in a Blackboard/NSPRA document: The Coronavirus Communications Crisis for Public Schools. Additionally, an epidemiologist from Minnesota, doing work for the World Health Organization, contacted MSPRA and asked permission to use our COVID-19 materials and shared them internationally. MSPRA’s COVID-19 Toolkit was also noted in various Michigan news outlets.

Emergency Child Care Communication Collaboration  

MSPRA’s COVID-19 Toolkit work led to our involvement in statewide Emergency COVID-19 Child Care communication. 

In March, MSPRA held its annual conference. We had heard rumors that the Governor was going to close schools that week, but we were not sure when. After much discussion and after writing a crisis plan for cancelling the conference itself, we held our first day of the conference—with a revised agenda so that our focus was COVID-19. We learned late in day one that the Governor's announcement would be happening that night (which was Thursday, March 12), and made the hard decision to cancel the rest of the conference so that our members could be in their districts to provide critical communication leadership. MSPRA board members also rushed to their districts and assumed crisis mode. By the time most of us got home that Friday night, we were beat. Saturday was a fog, and then we received the Sunday, March 15 morning phone call. The Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA) knew that ISDs (intermediate school districts aka education service agencies) were going to be asked to oversee disaster relief child care services for the state of Michigan—and the Governor needed help communicating the announcement, the process for enrollment and that child care was available to essential workers. MSPRA was identified as the group that could help. From that call on Sunday morning, a core group of ISD MSPRA members worked with MAISA and the Governor’s policy team helping to write the child care communication and shape the process through our lens. During that week, we worked with our partners throughout the state to put it together, while waiting for the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-16 to make it official, and dealing with COVID-19 response plans in our own districts. The Executive Order was signed on Wednesday evening, March 18, 2020 and the communication to ISDs was sent on Thursday morning, March 19, 2020. We also developed a news release to help answer media questions. While it was a challenging balance, we very much appreciated being at the table and working with our MAISA partner and the Governor’s team, to not only help formulate the communication but to help think through the child care implementation process, as well. 

Professional development programs/activities

The Annual Conference—Became a one-day event

As is our practice, we promoted our annual two-day conference with a series of electronic messages to members and others. There were website posts, conference teasers and registration reminders in our weekly MSPRA Minute that included a registration link. We also mailed a postcard to members. Our 2020 Annual Conference: “20/20 Vision for the Future of School Public Relations” was set for March 12 and 13, 2020 in Midland, Michigan at the H Hotel. But, our “vision” became blurred and we had to refocus on COVID-19. 

A total of 74 people including presenters, members, vendors and interested others pre-registered for the conference. But by start time on March 12, we had dropped to 43 participants, 3 outside presenters and 1 vendor. Some 27 registrants, presenters and vendors said they were unable to attend due to quickly changing COVID-19 developments. Prior to the conference, there were no known COVID-19 cases in Michigan. We had heard rumors that Michigan’s Governor was going to close schools that week, but we were not sure when. After much discussion and after writing a crisis communication plan for canceling the conference itself, we held our first day—with a revised agenda so that part of our focus was COVID-19. And, while about 2/3 of our registrants saw the benefit of being together with other PR professionals during this time of crisis, about 1/3 felt it was necessary to stay back in their districts. In the end, no registrant was penalized for the decision they felt they had to make. But we believed it was important to continue with the promised professional development for those who chose to attend. That decision would cause us to be fluid (our favorite new word at the conference) as the situation changed hourly. 

These unique features were part of MSPRA’s 2020 Annual Conference: 

  1. The Happiness Advantage speakers opened our conference on Thursday morning, presenting a much-needed positive message. A copy of The Happiness Advantage book by Shawn Achor was given to each participant. 
  2. Our PD Committee constantly monitored and adjusted the schedule as we went through the day, losing presenters who felt compelled or were called to return to their districts.
  3. As Thursday continued to unravel, the PD Committee moved some presentations to fill the gaps and decided to cancel what remained of Friday’s events. 
  4. We had five investment partners this year: Blackboard, Intrado/School Messenger, Finalsite, Foxbright, and Peachjar. Only Peachjar’s representative was present and had a display in the same meeting room as our large-group sessions, affording convenient access to our members. 
  5. This year, given the eroding set of circumstances, we were fortunate to have only in-state presenters. 
  6. Instead of an app, we designed a special page on our website to post our agenda information. 
  7. We heard from our NSPRA Mideast Regional Vice President Patrick Gallaway via prerecorded message

The annual conference agenda began as planned with the Happiness Advantage session. But, we had to make some quick adjustments once we learned that our Superintendent Communicator of the Year Award recipient and his Communication Director had decided to remain in their district—foreshadowing things to come. Since most of our presenters were MSPRA members, as Thursday progressed, several were called back to their respective districts in anticipation of the rumored statewide school closure. Conference planners huddled several times during the day to revise and reconfigure the conference schedule as those presenters apologetically came to us— wanting to stay but knowing they had to leave. To fill the gaps, we made some small-group sessions large group ones and even called upon a presenter who was not scheduled until Friday to be the last presenter on Thursday afternoon. He got great reviews, even without the final preparation and dry run he had planned to do Thursday night. We ended up offering two Thursday morning general sessions on The Happiness Advantage (based on the Orange Frog book) and a facilitated COVID-19 Group Discussion. At lunch, we held the Annual MSPRA Business Meeting. President Karen Heath presented the association’s Annual Report, noting the chapter’s health and its professional development offerings, along with its overall successes and challenges. After lunch, we held one round of break-out sessions that included: APR: The Accreditation Advantage (for those looking to advance in their careers), I took a job in school PR—Now What? (this session was offered at NSPRA), and Community Engagement: Alumni and Senior Citizens (targeted community engagement) with one of the two presenters covering for both of them. Following our break-out sessions, we held two more large- group sessions: Think Like a Sportswriter (tips for covering school sports from former sports reporters with a sports terminology handout—that was originally scheduled as an afternoon break-out session), and Running an Effective One-Person Communication Shop (that was originally scheduled as a skill session for Friday). That rounded out the day. We learned late on Thursday afternoon March 12 that the Governor's school closure announcement would be made that evening. Schools would be closed effective on Monday, March 16. That meant Friday, March 13 would be the only day students and staff would have to gather their personal effects. Knowing this, the Professional Development Committee made the difficult decision to cancel the rest of the conference. We wanted our participants to be in their districts to provide critical communication leadership on Friday, March 13. So, we activated our conference crisis communication plan and announced at about 5 p.m. on Thursday that Friday’s activities were canceled. But, we encouraged everyone to stay for dinner, if possible. At dinner, the Awards and Recognition Committee honored the recipient of The Gerri Allen Outstanding School Communicator Award—Keely Baribeau from Port Huron Schools. At the end of dinner, we adjourned our formal agenda and transitioned to our highly-valued informal networking. We watched the Governor’s news conference at 11 p.m. on Thursday, as she announced the closure of schools on Monday. Then, on Friday morning March 13 (after giving them a hot breakfast that we had already purchased), we sent participants home armed with resources that they helped build during a group discussion about COVID-19. Instead of attending a second day of professional development, conference participants drove back to support their districts at the start of the emerging crisis, putting into practice some of what they had learned the previous day.

After the conference, our MSPRA Board decided to refund the total registration fees of those registrants who didn’t attend. Plus, we reduced everyone else’s registration fee to the one-day rate and refunded the difference between it and what they had originally paid. And, even though we still had to pay the hotel for food and arrangements for 74 people, it was the right thing to do. We also connected with our five investment sponsors, only one of whom was physically present with us on Thursday, March 12, and offered them additional opportunities to “be in front” of our members through alternate virtual offerings including a new MSPRA “Idea Hour” set to debut on May 7. At the conclusion of the 2020 Annual Conference, we could definitely say it was a learning experience for all concerned: the conference attendees, as well as the Professional Development Committee and Board.

Idea Hours-May 7 and June 9

In response to COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, MSPRA reinvented its traditional summer Drive-In professional development opportunity to instead be a three-part, monthly virtual series called Idea Hours. The sessions feature quick summaries of what school communicators are doing in their districts centered around specific topics. Modeled to be a combination of an NSPRA Tech Slam and Gold Mine session, the fast-paced and information-packed series has been a hit!

The first Idea Hour, held on May 7, discussed End-of-Year Traditions During a Non-Traditional Time. Members from across the state shared how they reinvented graduation ceremonies, honors and award nights, special events for elementary and middle school students and so much more. The second Idea Hour, held on June 9, featured the topic, "Back to School:  The Key Questions You Need to Ask".

Panelists answered the following questions:

  • What is your district's plan/preparation for re-entry?
  • What processes are you using to develop your re-entry plan?
  • What is your role in the process as a school communicator?
  • What communication issues do you anticipate?
  • Have you been using other districts' plans for comparisons/benchmarks? If so, which ones?

The third installment of the series is scheduled for early August. The topic will be selected based on the current issues being faced by school communicators at that time.

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and the majority of participants are either new school communicators or administrators - curriculum directors, superintendents and human resource executives.

Major chapter issues or concerns

Lesson learned-MSPRA Impacted by Phishing Scam 

In the spring, MSPRA received an invoice from Sunex Business Solutions (130 St Matthews Ave Suite 302, Louisville, KY 40207), a fraudulent company posing as a web hosting service. The invoice was falsely sent to the treasurer from the Board president (email information can be found on the MSPRA website). The invoice was paid in full by the treasurer to a PayPal account for the amount of $4,850 using the MSPRA credit card - a practice that is typical when paying for our expenses. MSPRA contracts administrative and bookkeeping services through the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators (MASA). While preparing our financial documents for our board meeting, they noticed the unusual charge and asked about it. It was then that the president and treasurer realized that our organization had been scammed. Executive Board members were immediately notified and began the process of disputing the charge. Unfortunately, PayPal determined that MSPRA had voluntarily agreed to pay the invoice and that funds could not be returned. MSPRA is now in the process of working with the Michigan Attorney General’s office to learn of next possible steps to help restore the lost funds. MSPRA also refined its payment practices to ensure that multiple board members validate payments to be made in the future. (It is important to note, too, that the treasurer, who feels terrible, is not to blame for this circumstance. Not only was the chapter taken advantage of, the treasure was a victim of a crime.) 

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

  • COVID-19--Healthy and safe return to school. What will school look/feel like for students? What is the learning plan should there be a resurgence of COVID-19? Also, local school districts may be competing with each other and with the virtual education industry to attract students.
  • Funding/Economy-School districts are in limbo about how they will be funded. Districts are facing layoffs to balance budgets while at the same time being forced to pay for PPE/disinfecting/health monitoring requirements.
  • The COVID-19 induced learning gap and possible testing.
  • Public perception change - Public schools do so much more than just educate students (child care, food resources, mental health, social services etc.).
  • Federal special education laws - Services that are mandated at a federal level may require schools to restructure services offered through other school programs to ensure that students receive Free Appropriate Public Education.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

Michigan is experiencing many of the same education-related challenges that other states are facing through the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our schools have looked to other states and countries for guidance. It is extremely helpful that members from all chapters are working to share resources using NSPRA Connect. It is a great tool!

We are anticipating school budget cuts that may impact MSPRA’s membership. The Board will be reviewing membership rates at our upcoming retreat in August.

Additional items of note

  • Black Lives Matter -  MSPRA issued a statement to members reaffirming the Chapter’s stance on racism.
  • MSPRA President Karen Heath and MSPRA Executive Director Gerri Allen presented on the April 30, 2020 Chapter Challenges Solved broadcast, discussing “Strategic Collaborations Before and During a Crisis to Elevate Your Chapter Profile”. 
  • In the process of updating the chapter’s style guide, brochure and templates for promotional and marketing materials.
  • Board Secretary Holly McCaw represented MSPRA by presenting to the Michigan Association of Curriculum Directors about the importance of school communication and the RPIE process.
  • Member Tom Gould and MSPRA President Karen Heath to present at NSPRA’s virtual conference: You’ve Got This! How to Build a Successful Communication Program.
  • MSPRA members are looking forward to supporting NSPRA in its search for a new Executive Director.
  • SPRA is working to establish Region meetings to help members connect in smaller groups throughout Michigan. Dates were scheduled and then had to be canceled due to COVID-19. Plans will be revisited during the upcoming Board retreat.

 

Ohio School Public Relations Association (OHSPRA)

Lou DeVincentis, President

Chapter well-being

Membership

OHSPRA membership as of June 24, 2020, stands at 142 for the 2019-20 membership cycle.

Our membership year is September 1, 2019 - August 31, 2020. Our director of membership is working now on our “thank you” gift to our members for the summer and the renewal letter that we automatically send to members.  

We will continue to honor the incentive at the beginning of the membership year (Sept. 1, 2020) is 15% off the cost.

  • $75 Individual
  • $168 Institutional  

132 of members

  • 58 of last year’s members who have not yet renewed
    • Down from 65
  • 62 lapsed members (those who have not been members since the 18/19 SY or before)
    • Down from 70

Budget/Finances

The chapter continues to be fiscally viable and responsible. As of June 24, 2020:

  • Checking $22,706.49
  • Savings $25,659.51
  • Total $48,366.00

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

OHSPRA continued to develop relationships with a variety of sponsors to support our programming and member opportunities throughout the year. Sponsorship was mostly tied to spring conference; April 30 - May 1 (canceled). We returned the finds to these sponsors or canceled the agreement. They do want to come back though when we can hold another conference or provide other member benefits.

Feb. 7, 2020 we secured $8,000 in sponsorship for the following:

  • SchoolMessenger  |  Blue  |  $1,000
  • SchoolMessenger  |  Food  |  valued at $1,000?
  • Ten10 Design  |  Blue + Umbrellas  |  valued at $2,500
  • ParentSquare  |  Blue + SWAG  |  $1,000 + SWAG value
  • Roetzel Consulting Solutions  |  Beverages  |  valued at $1,500?
  • PeachJar  |  Blue  |  $1,000

Professional development programs/activities

Spring Conference

OHSPRA’s 2020 Spring Conference was on track to be held on April 30 and May 1 at the Renaissance Columbus Westerville-Polaris Hotel at 409 Altair Parkway in Westerville, Ohio.

This year's conference was themed “Charting Your Course” with a nautical theme. The conference was again to be hosted at the Renaissance Columbus Westerville-Polaris Hotel. The hotel has a nautical decor and we thought it was a great tie in. We were also getting pretty creative with the messaging; “Prepare to earn your captain's license as we offer an extensive two-day conference dedicated to navigating the rough waters of school PR and keeping afloat!”

Fortunately for OHSPRA we were able to negotiate with the hotel and cancel our contract with no fees or penalties to the chapter. This was an easy negotiation for us and they were completely understanding given the circumstances. This saved our budget from taking a big hit and we are incredibly grateful to the hotel.

Covid-19 Resources & Submissions

On March 11, 2020 we messaged members to begin to collect and share examples of how they were supporting students, staff and community. We created a warehouse for them on our website, accessible here

Dear OHSPRA Members, 

I know that we are all feeling the strain of what seems like a situation that changes by the minute. Of course, everything is local and what some may be dealing with in one part of our state may be drastically different in another.

You may have already developed your toolbox and created a resource center on your website for families, but we have also been working to collect examples of what OHSPRA members are assembling across the state in response to the COVID-19 crisis.  

Thank you to members of our OHSPRA Board for submitting examples of resources and messaging they have been using in their communities. Thank you to our President-elect, Lou DeVincentis for taking the time today to put these in one place on our new OHSPRA website. Also, thank you to our director of communications, Kurt Moore who will be adding to this as it grows with more ideas for communicating to families, staff and community.  

If you missed the email from our director of membership, Alicia Mowry earlier today, here are some instructions on how to create your new account on Ohspra.org if you have not had a chance to do so.

[On behalf of the Ohio School Public Relations Board, I’m thrilled to share with you that our new website has launched! This new site will add opportunities to collaborate and share best practices with each other. The username & password you used on the old web site will no longer work on the new website. Please visit this page to build your new profile – it will only take a few moments of your time. https://www.ohspra.org/protected/MemberProfile.aspx

Please note that to login to the site after your account is created and you return to the site, simply click the small downward-arrow in the upper right-hand corner of the site near the social media icons, as the login feature will appear in a drop down.

We are here to help support you wherever you are in the process or in the state. 

Thank you and let’s work through all of this together. 

Hang in there, 

Patrick Gallaway 

President 

Ohio School Public Relations Association 

“We are not at the mercy of this virus. Let hope be the antidote to fear. Let solidarity be the antidote to blame. Let our shared humanity be the antidote to our shared threat.”

~ World Health Organization

OHSPRA Achievement Awards update

Number of Entries - 107

This is an increase from 96 in 2019

The judging took place on Feb. 8, 2020

We have been announcing the Best of the Best Award winners online with videos from board members. We plan to post all of the award winners on the website in July and then have an in-person celebration/ceremony in November at the Ohio School Boards Association Capital Conference in November.   

Major chapter issues or concerns

Continue support for COVID-19 with resources and communications to members. 

Reset/Restart Ohio - We are trying to provide resources for how to get back to school this fall, the challenge is waiting on guidance from the Governor and state/local health officials. May look quite different depending on your location in the state. rural vs. urban, etc.

Working to support members with resources on race relations, equity LGBTQ+ and other challenges facing schools to provide support to ALL students.  

Our 501(c)3 status was revoked by the Ohio Attorney General; we are working through this with Tommy Jones.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

I think we are good at the moment.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

  • Reset/Restart and what Back to School may look like for districts in Ohio. 
  • Disparity between the various areas of the state and what will be the guidance/protocols going forward. 
  • Overall well-being initiatives for students & schools especially with the end of the school year as it was in Ohio.  
  • Racial injustice, LGBTQ+ issues and equality for all.

Additional items of note

COMMUNICATION TO MEMBERS

Social media:

We have been trying to ramp up our social media presence. Several board members have the ability to post to Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram which we launched this summer. We also have our chapter manager scheduling posts throughout the week to help us gain more followers.

Twitter - We have only added 3 followers for a total of 1,505 (between February and June). 

Facebook - We have gone from 445 to 489 likes, with 563 following (between February and June). 

Instagram - We have 120 followers & are following 127

We have added an incentive performance bonus for our chapter manager to assist our director of communications with growing our social media presence among members and non-members and to utilize it as a recruiting tool.  

We have transitioned our board OHSPRA Board 2020-21:

  • President — Lou DeVincentis, Director of Communications, Orange City Schools
  • Past President — Patrick Gallaway, Director of Communications, New Albany-Plain Local Schools
  • President-Elect — Alicia Mowry, Public Information Officer, Delaware Area Career Center
  • Treasurer — Patti Koslo, K Communications
  • Secretary — Audrey Holtzman, Director of Enrollment and Recruitment, Parma City Schools
  • Director of Membership — Olivia Bronczek, Communications Director, Massillon City Schools
  • Director of Communications – Kurt Moore, Communications Consultant
  • Director of Professional Development- Kari Basson, Community Relations Coordinator, Kettering City Schools 
  • Director of Contests and Awards — Melinda Briggs, Community Relations Coordinator, Little Miami Local Schools
  • Director of Partnerships — Crystal Davis, Director of Communications, Pickerington Local Schools

Mary Beddell, public relations director, Plain Local School District, serves as chapter manager (not a Board position).

GOALS

Focus for 2020-21

  • Continue to troubleshoot new website, making it more user-friendly for members
  • Meet or exceed the goal of $20,000 in sponsorships
  • Continue to enhance partnership opportunities with other educational associations in the state (presenting at Ohio School Boards Association, Buckeye Association for School Administrators, Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators, Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators and more.)  
  • Develop awards celebration presentation and process for Capital Conference in November 
  • Continue to publish quarterly Amplify Your Story newsletter
  • Improve the website’s online resources area
  • Provide regular social media updates and grow followers

 


North Central Region Chapters Report - July 2020

Peg Mannion, APR, North Central Region Vice President

 

Illinois School Public Relations Association (INSPRA) 

Carol Smith, President

Chapter well-being

No report submitted.

 

Iowa School Public Relations Association (ISPRA)

Beth Strike, APR, President

Chapter well-being

No report submitted.

 

Minnesota School Public Relations Association (MinnSPRA)

Tami DeLand, President

Chapter well-being

No report submitted.

 

Nebraska School Public Relation Association (NebSPRA) 

Jeremy Maskel, President

Chapter well-being

No report submitted.

 

Wisconsin School Public Relations Association (WSPRA)

Tracy Habisch-Ahlin, President

Chapter well-being

No report submitted.

 


Northeast Region Chapters Report - July 2020

Angela Marshall, Northeast Region Vice President

 

Connecticut School Public Relations Association (ConnSPRA)

President position vacated August 2019

Chapter well-being

No report submitted. 

To some extent the pandemic stalled ConnSPRA’s efforts to regroup and revitalize the chapter.

 

New Jersey School Public Relations Association (NJSPRA) 

Lori Perlow, President

Chapter well-being

Our chapter continues to grow and become more diverse with various school employees joining. As of February 21st, we have 73 registered members, which is just two more than last year’s final count. We typically pick up a few new members in the spring and in advance of our school communication awards program.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

No new updates.

Professional development programs/activities

Due to COVID-19, we had to cancel all spring events, which included a special event on hate/bias in schools. We are committed to rescheduling in the future.  We successfully held our annual meeting virtually on June 9th. In addition, we held a mini-series of workshops to address members needs during COVID-19. We’re in the process of determining plans for our summer planning meeting.  

Elections took place virtually as usual this spring.  Our exec committee will remain the same. However, we are focusing on succession planning in advance of the spring 2021 election.   

We’re in the process of revising our school communication award criteria. We are shifting from reviewr.com to google to save money and time. The submission time period will take place this summer as usual.

Major chapter issues or concerns

On a positive note, we saw a membership increase during COVID-19. Members who joined in March or later, were able to do so for free. Since we had to pivot with our offerings, we intend to reduce membership dues next year for those who were paid up.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

N/A

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

Not sure how much this impact others, but CARES Act funds may be able to be used for communication services. This could be a good opportunity for district needing additional support and for those without any comms pros on staff.

Additional items of note

N/A

 

New York School Public Relations Association (NYSPRA)

Adrienne Leon, APR, President

Chapter well-being

NYSPRA continues to have an active membership and is thriving fiscally despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

The NYSPRA annual conference, slated for March 15-17 in Syracuse, NY, was canceled due to the pandemic. The New York 

School Board Association’s conference slated for New York City this coming October was also canceled, meaning NYSPRA will not be attending the annual conference expo nor holding our annual awards luncheon. 

We were able to hold two panel discussions for members this June: 

  • Planning for Reopening: The Role of School PR 
  • Opportunities and challenges brought on by the COVD-19 school closures

Professional development programs/activities

In addition to what is listed above, our annual awards contest and annual communicator of the year award nominations are in progress. The deadline for entries was July 23, 2020. We also continue to maintain an active Facebook group for members. Regular communication from the chapter/chapter president also occurs to members through email.

Major chapter issues or concerns

Whether or not to hold our spring 2020-21 conference. We are currently brainstorming ideas for additional opportunities for virtual trainings/panel presentations.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

Ways for the chapters to support members in obtaining their APR, including mentoring and connecting NSPRA chapters with PRSA chapters for greater collaboration.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

The ongoing pandemic and related communications issues, including engaging families in a remote environment and the home-school connection.

Additional items of note

We are looking to revisit/revamp our strategic plan that was created a few years ago and create a more formal digital/social media strategy.

 

Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association (PenSPRA)

Angela Linch, President

Chapter well-being

PenSPRA’s year got off to a good start, and then like COVID-19 hit!  PenSPRA enjoyed a very successful membership drive that netted 66 new members and 100 returning members. In addition, we had a successful communication contest, and were well on our way to having a successful symposium when COVID 19 closed down all public and nonpublic schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Fortunately, many of our sponsors and our attendees have chosen to “roll-over” their registrations for our Spring 2021 symposium.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

We have added the position of Outreach Chair to the PenSPRA Executive Board in order to foster stronger relationships with Pennsylvania associations, and SPRAs.

Professional development programs/activities

Due to COVID-19, many of our school districts in Pennsylvania are starting the school year online; therefore, PenSPRA is developing a series of webinars, online training programs, virtual social opportunities for our members.

Major chapter issues or concerns

As with many in school communications, we continue to struggle with building support for public education on the state level. Pennsylvania ranks 46th in the country in the state’s share of funding for public education. Only 38 percent of the costs of public education is covered by the state, the remainder of funding is made up primarily of from local school property taxes.   

 In the midst of the pandemic, we struggle with the issues of equity.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

Providing a strong voice for public education at the national level. Providing materials, guides and templates regarding COVID-19 for our members.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

A lack of cohesive guidance on a national or state level for schools to provide instructional models for the 20-21 school year.  Using public schools as the scapegoat for not getting the economy up and running in the midst of the pandemic. As a result, the next crisis our public schools will face is a reputation crisis.  

Racial equity and justice:  How to engage all school communities in authentic conversations regarding racial inequities and social injustice that is meaningful and transforming. 

Maintaining connections and avoiding burnout when the crisis is unending.  Most school communications staff have been in crisis communication mode since March 2020.  And, we are moving from one crisis to the next closing, moving to online, virtual graduations, hybrid learning models, starting school year online, social distancing, and wearing masks.  School staff including school communication professionals are unable to take a breath and stop and plan before the next issue hits.

Additional items of note

N/A

 


Northwest Region Chapters Report - July 2020

Curtis Campbell, Northwest Region Vice President

 

Idaho School Public Relations Association (IDSPRA)

Kathleen Tuck, President

Chapter well-being

IDSPRA is an active chapter, with a stable membership. Idaho’s rural nature means many of our districts are small and public relations/communications duties often fall into the “other duties as assigned” category. Those districts that do have a dedicated communications professional are members of the chapter.

Professional development programs/activities

IDSPRA holds an annual daylong conference (cancelled this year due to the pandemic) where we invite guest speakers, review common concerns and share solutions. This year we hope to add some interval speakers, via zoom, to help us address issues related to the virus.

Major chapter issues or concerns

Lots of expectations for immediate communication and data results but little financial support.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

More shared speakers would be a great help for chapters in states with fewer members and resources. I would love to see presentations similar to those at the national conference be available to state chapters. Also, video resources – simple explainer videos that can be adapted (including our own logo, etc.) by Idaho school districts. Most of us work in one-person shops and finding time and resources for video projects is difficult.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

Idaho’s education funding requires ongoing levies and bonds. At the same time, voters are experiencing fatigue as districts come to them every one or two years asking for support while property values continue to rise and the economy tanks. Finding ways to educate our communities about why we are asking (again) and what those funds will do for kids is an ongoing challenge.

Additional items of note

N/A

 

Oregon School Public Relations Association (OSPRA)

Laura Conroy, President

Chapter well-being

Our membership is holding strong. We are in a good position financially. Our 2020-21 board has begun meeting regularly again. We recently surveyed our members to seek information about what kind of professional development opportunities they would be likely to participate in this year.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

We received good feedback from our members regarding the Winter Storytelling Summit with WSPRA. Our board is interesting in pursuing this joint event every few years.

Professional development programs/activities

Based on our survey of members, we are looking into providing monthly virtual professional development opportunities for our members, as well as a more informal “virtual check-in” to see what other members are working on/dealing with. We are planning our fall conference to be held virtually in October.

Major chapter issues or concerns

With school district budgets being cut in Oregon due to COVID-19, we do have some concern that our membership will decline because districts are cutting professional development and may not cover membership fees. Our board has discussed whether to offer a certain number of membership fee waivers this year. We are also concerned that conference attendance, should we choose to offer in-person conferences will be low. We are concerned about this for two reasons. The first is from a health and safety perspective and members being uncomfortable in large group gatherings. The second is that travel has been restricted for many districts in Oregon due to budget issues.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

We would love get ideas on how to connect virtually or virtual professional development, maybe see how other ‘SPRAs are doing it.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

Our state passed the Student Success Act and we were looking forward to stable funding for K-12 education for the first time in 30 years. Unfortunately, those funds will be greatly diminished due to COVID-19. In addition, our state school fund budget is likely to be reduced and most districts are making deep cuts, all while trying to spend extra funds on health and safety issues due to COVID-19.

Additional items of note

N/A

 

Washington School Public Relations Association (WSPRA)

Tove Tupper, President

Chapter well-being

Our membership has grown this year, especially in the months surrounding and following the initial response to COVID-19.  We launched our membership renewal/registration period in July, and have already seen and increase in new members, over what we saw last year. In the first week, we had a total of 5 new-to-the-chapter members, over zero that we saw in that same time period last year.

Chapter projects/collaboration efforts

Our latest project which is still in the very early development phase centers around Camp WSPRA, an overnight training opportunity centered around team crisis communications planning. Our hope is that next summer we will be in a place where in-person learning will be able to take place again. More information about this will be available in our next report to the NSPRA Board.

Professional development programs/activities

In the wake of COVID, we have launched a Cocktails and Communications and Coffee and Communications virtual networking and professional development series for our members. Our first Communications and Cocktails launched in April, on the same night our Annual Conference would have normally kicked off. It was attended by more than 40 members. It was a time to gather, take a breath, and commiserate with our colleagues across the state and do a wellness check in using ThoughtExchange to do an activity about what we were most thankful for and what we were most concerned about moving forward.

Our Communications and Coffee session launched on June 5 and centered around Stephen Nichol’s presentation on equity in communications around the pandemic.  We partnered with Blackboard to sponsor the event, providing members with a $5 gift card to Starbucks and also used their Collaborate platform to conduct the meeting and used their interactive polling and presentation tools.

These two events served as the test for our we will run our professional development this coming year as we expect that all professional development will have to be held virtually first for safety and health reasons, but then later possibly due to budget and travel restrictions within districts. We have a series of virtual professional development opportunities scheduled through the winter with sponsorship opportunities available. The first will be held on Aug. 18 and features Kevin and Chris Tennill, who presented at NSPRA Live this past summer!

Major chapter issues or concerns

Our biggest concern is what school funding is going to look like in the coming years and how our chapter can flexibly handle what that might mean for membership and professional development.

Issues or areas that could use NSPRA regional or national support

With the announcement that NSPRA Seattle will be a “go” at some point in the future, we are excited to partner with NSPRA to make this the best NSPRA National Seminar it can be.

State or local issues that NSPRA should keep an eye on

Please continue to keep equity, inclusion, and diversity at the forefront of everything you do. While we recognize everyone is learning and growing, as a national organization supporting school districts, please ensure that NSPRA leaders have true willingness to examine their own biases and beliefs and be open to being models for chapters and members on how to continue moving forward. There have been some missed marks in the last year that have been disappointing to see.

Additional items of note

N/A