Tara Drey - 35 Under 35

35 Under 35 Class of 2018-19
Tara is one of 35 professionals, age 35 and under, who is part of the Class of 2018-19. These 35 individuals are emerging leaders who are making a difference in school public relations.

Tara Drey
Brooklyn Center (Minn.) Community Schools

What does leadership mean to you? 
Some of the most effective leaders I’ve been able to work with are authentic, passionate, humble and appreciative of their colleagues. Great leaders are often great mentors and know how to develop talents and passion in others. They also recognize when they don’t have all of the answers and aren’t afraid to be vulnerable and spend time in the ambiguity.

What was the most fulfilling professional moment you have experienced? 
Some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had working in school PR are with our students. I strive to include student voice in our district’s story. One specific moment that comes to mind is when I was interviewing students about their most positive experiences in school. One student said that while it was great that our school had new flexible furniture and technology resources, it was the teachers and staff who actually had the greatest impact in his life. Too often, we don’t give our kids the credit they deserve. They are wiser beyond their years and I try to visit our schools as much as possible for this reminder.

What is the most challenging and/or rewarding part about working in school PR? 
The most rewarding aspect of this career has been my interactions with students. From the first grader who loves to talk about her favorite book, to the senior who tells me he didn’t believe he could succeed until his teacher told him he could, there are so many incredible stories in our walls that we get to share with the greater community. The most challenging part of our work is recognizing the change that needs to happen and the slow pace it moves at. Every student deserves to succeed but the needs for each student to succeed are different. The design of our schools was not set up to personalize the learning journey for each child. I would like to see our systems continue to work towards meeting the needs of each student and family.

What’s your favorite work app and personal app?
Photography is one of my favorite parts of my job and Lightroom is my favorite app to organize and edit. My favorite personal app… I go back and forth between Twitter and Instagram but can anyone really say they love Twitter in 2018-19? I like to stay informed because much of what’s on social media spills into our profession. 

What book has inspired you professionally? 
Yes, And, from The Second City comedy group in Chicago, has changed how I approach conversation at work and at home. As communicators, we know how language can help or hurt situations, decisions and relationships. This book taught me how to be collaborative in the smallest way and how detrimental a “no, but” mindset can be. Saying “yes, and” means you’re not afraid of change, you see failure as a learning opportunity and you encourage your colleagues to think differently about established practices.

How has NSPRA and your state chapter guided you along the way?
I have worked in school PR for more than five years and I’ve been a member of my state chapter, MinnSPRA, since the day I started. I have been a director on our board and am currently president-elect. Being a member of MinnSPRA has been an incredible experience. In fact, I love school PR so much, I married it! Well, I met and married another member of MinnSPRA. School PR people are great at helping one another out. It’s such a collaborative environment, which is not something I’ve experienced in other professional organizations. I’ve also been fortunate to attend five NSPRA Seminars. Learning from colleagues all around the country – and world! – is so beneficial to keeping your skill set sharp. I’ve been able to grow and flourish in this work because of the talented mentors and colleagues I’ve met in the ‘SPRAs. 

What is a recent communications/media campaign you enjoyed – either one of your own or one you saw nationally?
I enjoyed following the work of my MinnSPRA colleagues in Stillwater Area Public Schools. They launched a campaign following the decision to close schools to help the community heal and celebrate their “Pony Pride.” The campaign, Getting to Know the “New” Stillwater Area Public Schools, earned a well-deserved Gold Medallion award from NSPRA.

What emerging trends in school public relations get you excited? 
I am excited about our ability to better personalize information for families. Websites are becoming more of a marketing and recruitment tool for prospective families and employees and less of a bulletin board for current families. As mobile apps better integrate with all of our systems, we can create a more personalized one-stop shop for families to access their information.