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 10
Tuesday, July 11
Wednesday, July 12
Action Lab – Monday, July 10, 1 – 3 p.m.
Recent events have given rise to new conversations about race and culture. But real equity leadership requires understanding of change management and a willingness to engage in courageous conversations. “Random acts of equity” are technical solutions applied to adaptive problems, making us feel good but not sufficient to ensure racial equity. This Action Lab will explore how to press for better outcomes by challenging entrenched traditions, asking tough questions, and advocating for meaningful change. Learn how to advance your own equity leadership and develop a framework for a strategic communication plan for change. You’ll leave the session with a better understanding of the key concepts of racial equity and intercultural competence along with strategies for incorporating an equity lens into your district vision and avoiding equity traps. Discover why “structural tension” is necessary to initiate courageous conversations and how to use matrices for assessing where current personal and organizational practices fall on the intercultural continuum. Collect case studies, tools and examples to lead similar exercises in your district.
Presenters: Susan Brott, APR, director, communications & community engagement, Edina (Minn.) Public Schools; and Barbara Olson, APR, director, school & community relations, Osseo Area School District, Maple Grove, Minn.
Action Lab – Monday, July 10, 1 – 3 p.m.
In today’s mobile tech world, if you’re not tapping the power of digital storytelling, you are missing critical connections to your key audiences. This Action Lab will highlight the latest trends in video creation, demonstrate equipment and show you how to record and edit footage with easy-to-use smartphone apps. You’ll gain a better understanding of the power of digital storytelling to build and maintain positive relationships with stakeholders and walk away with a how-to toolkit you can use to train staff in your own district. Train-the-trainer takeaways will include links to tutorial videos, tip sheets and downloadable slide decks to turn your staff into storytelling ambassadors for your schools. Learn how to take your DIY video efforts to the next level from an award-winning videographer whose back-to-school videos have been seen by millions worldwide.
Presenter: Derek Duncan, senior digital communications specialist, Parkway Schools, Chesterfield, Mo.
Special Session – Monday, July 10, 1 – 3 p.m.
Perhaps no topic today is more challenging to discuss than transgender students and school bathrooms. The interactive Special Session will provide you with a simple framework for talking about this subject and include time to practice applying that framework to real life scenarios and questions, i.e., “Why can’t transgender kids just use the nurse’s bathroom?,” “Who is protecting my child?,” and “I’m simply not comfortable with this.” Through role-plays and debriefs, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to respectfully address even the most difficult questions. Learn concrete approaches for addressing this sensitive topic from a former school and district administrator, professor of educational leadership and school reform coach who is now a leading authority on creating gender inclusive schools. Gather resources for responding to questions and concerns from board members, administrators, teachers and community members. Leave with an organizing framework designed to de-escalate the emotions that frequently accompany these situations along with an FAQ document endorsed by multiple school leadership and mental health professional associations.
Presenter: Joel Baum, senior director, professional & family services, Gender Spectrum, San Leandro, Calif.
Special Session – Tuesday, July 11, 1 – 3 p.m.
Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Reality TV: Putting Relationships Back Into Public Relations
Reality TV is changing reality and the rules of engagement for communicators. And it’s not all bad. This Special Session will show you how to harness the power of lessons learned from reality TV to move your agenda forward and make real change happen in your district. You’ll discover: how the reality TV world has changed our world of school PR; why you need to re-think how you build, maintain and nurture relationships that matter; how the power of relationships is the key to making an impact in your district; and ways to transform the surface-level relationships that predominate society into deep and important connections. Learn specific strategies to work with your most important connections – your superintendent, cabinet and board; how to remain authentic and understand the power – and the very real limits – of social media; how your relationships with media, students, staff and the community need to change in a reality TV world; and why only relationships can move the inclusion agenda forward. There’s no easy way to get the rose, win the immunity challenge or emerge victorious in the battle round, but this session will provoke, inform and build your relationship knowledge and skills so you can be a trusted advisor in your district.
Presenter: Brian Woodland, APR, director, communications & community relations, Peel District School Board, Mississauga, Ontario, Can.
Action Lab – Tuesday, July 11, 1 – 3 p.m.
Conversations around diversity are by nature challenging, especially in today’s unsettled political climate. This Action Lab will focus on why these types of dialogues are important and share hands-on activities for creating a safe space for these conversations. Learn how superintendents from Mercer County, N.J. made a collective commitment to focus all high schools in the county on diversity issues and partnered with the Center for Supportive Schools to host a powerful forum on the topic. Attended by teams of students and educators from every high school, they engaged in conversation, built awareness and fostered action around issues of race, gender and class – with follow-up work taking place back in individual schools. Explore what goes into creating a Day of Dialogue through engaging in activities experienced by Mercer County’s students and staff. Gather best practices that have defined the county’s diversity work, learn what worked well and what they would change, and how dialogues have continued in the districts. You’ll leave with a sample Day of Dialogue agenda, ideas and tools for activities and some guiding questions to focus the conversations among groups.
Presenters: Crystal Edwards, Ed.D, superintendent, Lawrence Township Public Schools, Lawrenceville, N.J.; Thomas Smith, Ed.D, superintendent, Hopewell Valley Regional School District, Pennington, N.J.; and Abby Attias, Ph.D, vice president, Center for Supportive Schools, Princeton, N.J.
Action Lab – Wednesday, July 12, 1 – 3 p.m.
In this age of increasing family and community voice in all areas of school district operations, you’re sure to encounter advocates, upset parents and professional agitators on a regular basis. This Action Lab will equip you with specific strategies to build parent/guardian capacity to advocate productively for their children or issues, increase a meaningful and equitable parent and community voice that your management team and school board will listen to in decision-making, and help you lead your team in setting boundaries with High Conflict People. Learn how to shift the mindset about conflict from something problematic to a necessary part of becoming a trusted school system. Discover an effective system for dealing with complaints, gather ideas for engaging low income, English-learners and disenfranchised parents, and understand the connection between family engagement and community relations. Take part in small and large group activities and leave with strategies for getting an equitable parent voice on districtwide issues, including listening circles, surveys and community forums.
Presenters: Kate Hazarian, director, family engagement & partnership development and Trent Allen, APR, senior director, community relations, San Juan Unified School District, Carmichael, Calif., and NSPRA Southwest Region vice president
Special Session – Wednesday, July 12, 1 – 3 p.m.
Accountability for measurable results and data-driven decision-making are not just for school-based personnel and superintendents. As a school public relations professional, you can’t really drive strategy discussions or provide adequate counsel to principals, department heads, superintendents and school boards if you can’t use research and data to demonstrate what works and why, and know how to tailor that knowledge locally. In this informative Special Session, you’ll discover how to measure, use and report on what matters in order to gain important insights, improve effectiveness and build credibility and budgets. Learn the pros, cons and purposes of various research and evaluation sources, methods and tech tools, including online surveys, tracking systems, phone polls, focus groups, interviews and automated services. You’ll have a chance to work in small groups on case studies to match goals to measurement/evaluation strategies and leave with resources, tools and a new awareness of professional benchmarks and best practices in measurement and evaluation.
Presenter: Nora Carr, Ed.D, APR, chief of staff, Guilford County Schools, Greensboro, N.C.
Special Session – Wednesday, July 20, 1 – 3 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 four 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. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to capture the best ideas from your colleagues in a time-saving format.