NSPRA National Seminar: Action Labs & Special Sessions

Action Labs and Special Sessions offer the opportunity to go in-depth on a topic in a two-hour format. Action labs are interactive mini-workshops that include a “hands-on” component, and provide tactics and strategies adaptable for immediate use by participants in their own districts. 

Check out this year's offerings below! 


Monday, July 15

Tuesday, July 16

Wednesday, July 17


Crisis Readiness: Get Ready Now

Action Lab – Monday, July 15, 1-3 p.m.

While extreme cases capture the national media’s attention, crisis situations happen every day in our schools. Whether it’s a fender-bender bus accident, a misinterpreted comment on social media, a childish prank or a major incident with death and destruction, schools must be prepared to communicate with the media, parents and communities. In this action-packed lab, you will learn skills, rehearse real-life scenarios and leave with a framework for your local crisis communications plan.

Presenter: David Voss, president, Voss & Associates

Managing Common Crises: Keeping Your Head While Others Are Losing Theirs

Special Session – Monday, July 15, 1-3 p.m.

School PR careers and reputations are often made or broken on how well we handle the day-to-day crises that are as commonplace in schools and school districts as the common cold during flu season. Student and employee protests, misbehavior and arrests, superintendent gaffes, school board missteps, inclement weather calls, budget shortfalls, athletic eligibility controversies, testing errors, data breaches, budget shortfalls, or school testing. In this info-packed session, find out how to identify vulnerabilities, plan interventions and map out response strategies, messages and systems in advance. Get ready and build political capital now before today’s routine issue escalates into a full-blown crisis. Find out how to keep a cool head and what to do if and when things do implode, and use some recent real school case studies. 

Presenter: Nora Carr, Ed.D., APR, chief of staff, Guilford County (N.C.) Schools

Nora Carr, Ed.D., APR

When Losing Isn't an Option: Constructing a Winning Bond Campaign

Action Lab – Monday, July 15, 1-3 p.m.

If elections were decided by facts alone, more school bond campaigns would end victorious. Yet much of the nation’s approximately 7.5 billion square feet of K-12 school facilities continue to age and deteriorate because districts struggle to engage their communities in meaningful ways that earn votes on election day. Learn the skills needed to develop a comprehensive campaign plan that addresses everything from fundraising and volunteer recruitment to messaging and social media management. Leave with a draft outline of a campaign plan tailored for your district.

Presenter: Nathan McCann, Ed.D, superintendent, Ridgefield (Wash.) School District

Nathan McCann, Ed.D

Where Americans Stand on Public K-12 Education

Special Session – Monday, July 15, 1-3 p.m.

The landscape of K-12 education in the United States has shifted substantially in the last 10 years. Where Americans Stand on Public K-12 Education, a report issued just months ago, explores the perspectives of particular populations on specific topics in K-12 education. Discuss national trends identified in the report with one of its authors, and gain insights into stakeholder opinions to better inform your local communication strategies.

Presenter: David Schleifer, Ph.D., vice president, director of research, Public Agenda

David Schleifer, Ph.D.

Creating a Safe Space for LGBTQ+ Students Through Communication

Special Session – Tuesday, July 16, 1-3 p.m.

For many students, knowing that allies exist in their school districts is a source of strength, safety and support. Research shows that LGBTQ+ students in inclusive school districts feel safer, are less truant and have higher academic achievement than those in less-inclusive districts. Participants will learn how to influence top-down organizational support for LGBTQ+ students and walk away with communication tips they can implement immediately in their districts.

Presenters: Joshua Sauer, digital media specialist, Moore Norman (Okla.) Technology Center; Carla Pereira, APR, communications director, Peel (Ontario) District School Board

Joshua Sauer  Carla Pereira

It’s an Emergency! You Know Your Plan. Do You Know Your People?

Special Session – Tuesday, July 16, 1-3 p.m.

Relationships matter. They matter most in an emergency. When bad weather, a social media threat, or a large-scale emergency strikes, your relationships with city, county, regional and state public safety partners are essential. Knowing key people and their roles, understanding each other’s needs and working in concert will make or break your communication efforts and can even affect the threat response itself. Learn from one of the fastest growing counties in Texas how they invest in cross-organizational relationships to keep people safe and public trust intact.

Presenters: Tim Savoy, chief communication officer, Dr. Eric Wright, Superintendent of Schools; and Lt. Jeri Skrocki, sheriff’s office, Kharley Smith, director and emergency management coordinator, Laureen Chernow, communications manager, Hays County

Tim Savoy  Dr. Eric Wright

The Enrollment Marketing Playbook: Tools, Tips and Tactics to Drive Results

Action Lab – Tuesday, July 16, 1-3 p.m.

Is enrollment growth an expectation in your school district? Explore successful marketing strategies at the elementary and secondary levels that have increased enrollment for the past decade and helped to build a secure financial outlook, outstanding opportunities for all students and a satisfied community. See how a communications team can use tools and technology to make the most of a carefully managed budget. Take away new ideas for building your school district’s brand with a significant, long-term return on the investment.

Presenters: JacQueline Getty, Ed.D., executive director of communications, and Lyssa Campbell, APR, communications coordinator, Minnetonka (Minn.) Public Schools

JacQueline Getty, Ed.D.  Lyssa Campbell

Gold Mine Roundtable

Special Session – Wednesday, July 17, 1-2:30 p.m.

Long a favorite session of Seminar participants, the Gold Mine roundtables let you gather a treasure-trove of best practice ideas on a variety of topics to try in your district. Here’s your chance to attend three mini-sessions of 20 minutes each (Seminar session speed dating!). Plus, you’ll receive a resource drive containing tip sheets from all the roundtables at the end of the session. This is your opportunity to capture the best ideas from your colleagues in a time-saving format.

Six Critical Conversations You're Not Having: Being Real in a Fake News World

Special Session – Wednesday, July 17, 1-3:00 p.m.

We now communicate in a world where the person who shouts the loudest and most often is viewed as the one with the facts. Every day, the churn of social media, the short attention span of audiences and the sharp polarizing of opinions makes it harder and harder for school districts to genuinely engage with their publics. And sometimes that means breaking down barriers and creating conversations where none exist. 

In this new and timely session, explore:

  • How audiences now determine what is “fact” – and not.
  • Why we need to talk more with those opposed to our work.
  • The role of traditional media – and there still is one.
  • Why targeting your message is more important than ever.
  • Why sometimes an ally is even better than a friend.

You’ll leave with a fresh, hopeful perspective on your ability to communicate, connect and engage for public education.

Presenter: Brian Woodland, APR, founder, BrianInspires (Ottawa, Ontario)

Brian Woodland, APR

Standing at the PR Crossroad: When Privilege Meets Social Justice, a live #k12prchat panel

Special Session – Wednesday, July 17, 1-3:00 p.m.

What is our responsibility as #schoolPR professionals when we find ourselves at the intersection of privilege and social justice? As strategic advisors, we must help school leaders acknowledge microaggressions and build skills to rise above racism and move toward cultural competence. Engage in a live #k12prchat on the topics of equity and diversity, gain ideas for starting the conversation in your own community, and walk away with tips, tactics and a sample cultural competence action plan.

Presenter: Julie Thannum, APR, assistant superintendent for board & community relations, Carroll (Texas) Independent School District, and panelists to be announced

Julie Thannum, APR