Integrity Is Everything

IMG_8594 (2018_01_11 18_36_47 UTC)Some Musings About Our Profession

My friend and mentor Ken Weir always prompts interesting discussions about our profession. He always makes me think more deeply about things.

Early in my career he noted that some people say that our job is just to make people look good — like rearranging a flower display so that the most beautiful and long-lasting flowers are front and center to pleasingly carry the “look” of the entire arrangement.

Sure, we all do that in various ways sometimes, but no more than a mother does as she straightens the collar of her son or pats down a stray hair or two before the photographer takes his picture.

Really, we all want our families and colleagues to look good. And if we can help in some way, that, too, becomes part of our job.

But sometimes making our districts look good or protecting their reputation can be high-wire act when it comes to some major issues in our school communities. Our personal integrity and professional code of ethics come into play, and we need to stand firm when unethical situations barrel toward us.

Let me give you an example:

Years ago — before the social media explosion, I received a call from a memb44743905011_5499891846_o-removebger in a suburban district. He was seeking counsel on this situation:

The kindergarten wing of the school district’s elementary school had just burned down and the plan was to move the kindergarten students to the high school.

The kindergarten parents almost revolted because they were worried about how their children would be treated. But the district assured the parents that their 5-year-olds would use separate entrances, would not be in harm’s way, and would never interact with the older students.

Shortly after the move, our member told me that a gun was found in a locker of one of the high school students and that locker was along the hallway leading to the kindergarten class.

He asked if he should disclose this finding to the elementary parents.

After questioning him a bit about the details of his situation (Who already knows? Were the police notified? Was the high school student apprehended? Was anyone hurt?), I told him that he needed to be transparent and authentic. He needed to treat the situation with the sensitivity and empathetic communication that a true pro like him could deliver.

Well, it turned out that his bosses felt differently. They never felt the need to communicate with the parents in their district. This situation never went public.

Such were the days before social media. Be forewarned: this incident would never happen like this today!


This story underscores the fact that one of the true hallmarks of a healthy profession is its code of ethics and how people in the profession practice it every day.

We hold NSPRA’s ethical standards high and expect that all of our members feel the same. Spin doctors, con artists, fake news advocates need not apply for membership in a professional association like ours.

Take some advice from one of our retired members. Judi Willis, APR, says it well:

“When you walk out of the office at the end of your career, the most valuable things you’ll take with you are your integrity and reputation. Protect them!”

— Judi Willis, APR


A maxim for all of us to remember as we put our ethics into practice every day.



Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director


Photo of child by Jim Cummings, APR, Glendale Elementary School District


Explore posts in the same categories: school PR, standards and ethics

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