Saluting Excellence in School PR

“Rich, can you give me some examples of how communication and public relations performance really make a difference for local school districts?”

Too often, the uninformed more or less tell me that the PR function deals primarily with making their Boards and superintendents look good and that it has little to do with substantive issues in our schools. I always have great examples to shoot down that puffery approach to PR. At this time of year, we add some 5 to 10 more examples of just how great communication efforts deliver for our schools.

NSPRA’s Gold Medallion Awards showcase the best

NSPRA’s Gold Medallion Awards recognize the best programs submitted in this annual competition. Often, judges have a difficult time narrowing down the “best of the best.” This week we are announcing 7 award winners for the year. So, if you are looking for substantive communication efforts, take a gander at these examples (We will carry full descriptions of the programs on our NSPRA website later this year.):

  • The Duluth Public Schools (Minnesota) offered its Think Kids Community Visions and Priorities effort where it marshaled its community around its public schools to agree on a common vision and built backing of a local operating levy to support that vision. The program offers a great example of using communication in an engaging and collaborative approach by listening to the community and helping to build a sense of ownership of the Duluth Public Schools.
  • We recognized the Dallas Independent School District (Texas) for its Parent Portal System Bilingual Campaign. Engaging parents and families is critical to students’ success. Toss in the added challenge of communicating with non-English speaking parents, and you can see why this effective bilingual program captured a top NSPRA award. Training staff and parents was a critical component for this outstanding program.
  • The Peel District School Board (Canada) won the award for its Kindergarten Live! Program. With an increased effort to enroll more students in new kindergarten programs, the communication office mounted a 3-month campaign to enroll more students, educate more parents, and also help build the financial bottom-line as the system receives more revenue from the ministry of education for each child attending the program.
  • The Minnetonka Public Schools (Minnesota) earned its recognition through a program it called Creating a Culture of Innovation: Minnetonka Innovates Campaign. The program energized and motivated staff, created new ideas meeting school board criteria, and helped to implement 3 new initiatives in the school district.
  • The Houston Independent School District (Texas) PowerUp Communication program helped pave the way for successful distributing and implementing of nearly 18,000 laptops to students in 11 high schools. In an atmosphere where national headlines frequently highlight one-to-one efforts that did not work, the Houston ISD’s implementation succeeded because of its comprehensive communication and engagement efforts.
  • We honored another Canadian School Board, Trillium Lakelands District School Board, for its “We’ve Got You Covered” Secondary School Pathways to Success program. Understanding that students and parents alike are always a bit nervous making the transition to high schools, this communication effort allayed those fears by making sure it offered all the answers and boosted confidence as students started their journey through high school.
  • A third Minnesota district, the Bloomington Public Schools (There must be something in the Land of Lakes water!), was recognized for its winning 2013 Safe and Innovative Schools referendum project. The referendum was created to provide increased technology and improve safety and security measures for their schools. The comprehensive, research-driven campaign worked using a volunteer citizen and staff committee to complete the elements of a successful campaign.

All these award-winning programs cast a spotlight on great, substantive school public relations. But they also make their school boards, superintendents, staff, and communities look good in the process.

Doing great work and making sure decision makers know about it is also an important task of today’s PR professional. Winning an NSPRA Gold Medallion is one substantive step in that direction.

Rich Bagin, APR
NSPRA Executive Director

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