Internal Communication Is Critical for Success

Posted 04/06/2017 by schoolpr
Categories: Communication, internal communication, school communication, school PR

tagline iconCreate a Culture of Communication in Your Districts

Recently, I spoke before a group of superintendents when I received an Outstanding Friend of Public Education Award from the Horace Mann League. I most appreciate that honor and I also used my acceptance to speech to share some messages with these leading superintendents who rally around public education.

One topic I covered was internal communication — one of the weaker components in schools that we often find when we conduct communication audits around the U.S. and Canada. What follows is an excerpt from that speech on internal communication:

As we complete communication audits for school districts across the country, we see that by far the weakest component is internal communication.

Ideally, we want all staff to become ambassadors for their schools, to vote in finance elections where it applies, and to become advocates for their schools, their children, and their communities.

Unfortunately, this rarely happens.

Lots of lip service is given to having internal communication, but it often breaks down quickly as pockets of staff have little knowledge or a feeling that they know what is really going on.

They report little authentic engagement — even when their input is sought on topics of mutual interest. Most school districts have a problem in closing the communication loop when it comes to internal communication.

Superintendents can make a big difference in setting the parameters for the importance of communication at every level. Our experience tells us that communication accountability is rarely measured and that may be the clue to solve this disparity.

We need to hold principals, central office administrators, service personnel supervisors, and others accountable with a communication component in their evaluations. (What gets measured gets done.)

Some do a great job communicating internally, while others ignore it. I can’t tell you how many times we have heard from a staff member, “Well, I find out what’s happening around here by calling my colleague in another building because their principal tells her staff what is going on and why decisions are made.”

In many cases, staff actually want to know what’s going on and can’t get an answer without fishing for it.

It does not have to be that way.

As superintendents, you can begin by modelling an approach to start the process to make internal communication a priority. You can begin by planting the seeds for a culture of communication in your district.

All staff are part of your communication effort and, by making a commitment to communication awareness and with a bit of training, you can make it happen.

To make my point about the power of internal communication, one staff member recently reported from an audit of a school district with 25,000 students:

“When the district’s tagline is not believed by the frontline, this district is headed for big trouble.”

Repeat: “When the district’s tagline is not believed by the frontline, this district is headed for big trouble.”


Let’s make internal communication a priority in our school districts.



Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director


A New Strategy for Marketing in this Era of Choice

Posted 03/13/2017 by schoolpr
Categories: accountability, school choice, school communication, school PR


Recently, I spoke before a group of superintendents when I received an Outstanding Friend of Public Education Award from the Horace Mann League. I most appreciate that honor and I also used my acceptance to speech to share some messages with these leading superintendents who rally around public education.

One topic I covered was marketing in this era of choice. What follows is an excerpt from that speech:


Focus on the LOCAL SCHOOL, Not the School District Per Se

Now may be the time to take a different strategy when it comes to competing in this era of choice.

We can continue to whiz on one another when it comes to achievement results, graduation rates, college acceptances, etc. We also can brag about the fact that we teach ALL students — not just those who could be considered— in youth sports vernacular— the traveling squad of an elite under-13 b-ball team.

But, guess what?

Much of what we say doesn’t matter.

As much as that hurts me to say it, much of what we say doesn’t matter. But we do need to continue to say it — except with new approaches and different audiences.

Only our advocates and perhaps a few reporters seem to listen to us. So to return to this era of political communication, you can see that OUR base listens to us, while THEIR base obviously doesn’t.

I am asking you to consider switching strategies.

Focus on your individual schools because on the local level, your Snyder Elementary School is being compared to the ABC Charter Academy down the street.

It is time to talk about individual schools and not just your school district.

For most parents and decisionmakers, it becomes a SCHOOL versus SCHOOL issue.

I urge you take fresh look at this approach and begin a process of defining an identity program that is built by parents and staff at each of your schools. Your staff and parents need to believe that their Snyder Elementary School offers a great opportunity for their children and that your staff goes the extra mile and cares about their children.

Late this summer, NSPRA will be offering a guidebook on Making and Marketing Your School as a School of Choice. The booklet explains a process of getting staff and parents together, collaborating to solve some image problems that their school may have, and then developing a marketing plan to maintain and boost enrollment in their school. It also urges readers to look at the messaging of the ABC Academy on the other side of the street, see what they tout that may be attacking one of your perceived weaknesses.

Taking this School versus School approach allows you to play your comprehensive district’s card as a value-added benefit. All the auxiliary services and benefits that you provide — from counseling, the spectrum of Special Ed programs, co-curricular opportunities, and enhanced technology programs — all add up to a major plus when people consider choosing a school.

If what you offer is unmatched, say so with a checklist approach similar to a report card that clearly communicates what your competing charter doesn’t have. We need to be proactive about our attributes in this era of competition.

A commitment to this school-by-school strategy can benefit you in various ways:

  • It can reduce your need to focus on perceived Big Public Education problems. You know that past national surveys like the Gallup/PDK say that schools across the country are not doing well. But then they , for the most part, give favorable rankings to their local schools. You will be dealing with what’s really important to your local community, their kids, and their schools.
  • Our research over the past 10 years continues to reveal that school-based communication is often the most read communication offering in school districts today. You have always had the attention of parents. But now in this era of over-communication, it is more important than ever.
  • Believe it or not, in a single second, 2.5 million emails are sent, and in that same second:
    • 193,000 text messages are posted
    • 219,000 posts are added to Facebook
    • 7,2590 tweets are sent


To break through this clutter, you need an interested audience.

And you have it, for the most part, with your PARENTS.

Most parents and families have a vested interest in their child’s school — much more than in your school district. Take advantage of it and build support at the school level.

It will spill over into their next school in your district and continue through their entire time with your schools. You can then convert these parents into supporters for your schools. They understand your schools and will not believe the public-education bashing because their experience trumps all the negative rhetoric they hear.

But this will not happen unless we continue to be proactive in developing school communication programs at each school.

Begin looking at your individual schools and assist them in getting better and building an identity. And then make sure parents know of all the good things happening in their local school along with the value-added support provided by your district’s array of additional services.

We urge you to consider this school versus school approach as that’s how most parents and families approach their “choice” decision.




Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director




Overcoming the “Viral Disruption of Pure Nonsense”

Posted 02/10/2017 by schoolpr
Categories: Communication, school communication, school PR

news-2Don’t know about you, but I’m getting less tolerant of the growing discussion of facts, alternative facts, and the fake news label. I previously offered my “fake news” advice in the last submission of  Always Something.

Communication organizations are wearing their codes of ethics, beliefs and core values as badges of honor to remind folks what we all stand for. See NSPRA’s bedrock of statements at and NSPRA’s code of ethics at And by the way, through NSPRA President Julie Thannum’s leadership, we are now embarking on codifying a set of core values for NSPRA.

In one sense, it is a bit sad that we still have to remind everyone where we stand on ethics and our beliefs. I firmly believe that the way we practice our profession easily “trumps” (sorry about that; couldn’t resist) the need to brag about our guiding principles.

Can’t help to think about the old Dragnet TV series (now on cable channels) with Detective Joe Friday who would ask direct questions and guide respondents with his almost patented, “Just the facts, Ma’am’” response. He was a no-nonsense guy who relied on facts to solve the case. He didn’t ask for “alternative facts” or “fake news” because he knew they were distractions to getting to the truth.

In that light, now we are seeing more of a push-back from journalists who are standing their ground, and even increasing coverage of governmental operations and policymaking. Jeff Bezos, the fairly new owner of The Washington Post, has used his Amazon success story to increase staff to follow the actions on the Hill and the Oval Office.

Famed journalist Ted Koppel offered the following in a recent column in The Washington Post:

It sounds dangerously undemocratic to argue against broadening the scope of the White House Press Corp. But we are already knee-deep in an environment that permits, indeed encourages, the viral disruption of pure nonsense.

The only appropriate response is an even greater emphasis on professional standards: factual reporting, multiple sourcing, and careful editing…. Rarely in the nation’s history has there been a need for objective journalism that voters and legislators alike can use to form judgement and make decisions.

He quotes John Adams with, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”


As all this swirls around in Washington and state houses, local leaders need to stay committed to the facts in their messages as they explain what’s needed to become even better for their communities and children. We also need to reach out to the seemingly newly empowered segments of our community to show them what’s needed for their children and their schools as well as what the impact would be of cuts for those same kids and communities.

Here’s a real example in practice: My late brother, Dr. Don Bagin, once went to a local taxpayer’s group meeting and sat in the first row taking notes and asking questions which surfaced answers or non-answers unhelpful to the taxpayer’s group. At that time, he was the communications director for the local schools, and his presence helped to professionally disarm the messaging from that group in a local upcoming board budget vote.

Heed the call: Continue to stand up for what’s right for the children in your community.

If we don’t do it, who will?


Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director




Fake News and What Superintendents Can Do About it in Our Schools and Communities

Posted 01/06/2017 by schoolpr
Categories: Communication, news, school media relations, Storytelling

news11“Fake news” used to be somewhat fun and usually harmless. It even gave me plenty teachable moments throughout my extensive communication career.

Here are two examples of what I mean:

  • Long before social media arrived, I tried to show how to shoot down the damaging effects of spreading school district rumors with various clerical support staff. In one workshop of 20 administrative assistants, I split the group into two sets of 10 and then read separately to the first staffer in each group a “juicy” rumor about the district or superintendent. Then confidentially, each person would whisper the rumor to the next person until the 10th recipient announced what she heard. Both groups finished with surprisingly different messages and more important, they both were so far from the “truth” of the original message. I would then read the original script, folks would laugh, and I would try to seize the moment to teach about veracity in rumors and what staff members should do when they heard rumors in their system. The exercise made a stinging point about how spreading fake news messages distorts the truth.
  • Another “Fake news” approach was to create fake headlines or postings to prevent leadership from making decisions that would not “play well” for staff relations or in the court of public opinion. I once counseled a superintendent to talk frankly and compassionately within legal bounds about an alleged rape at a high school. He refused to do so. I quickly mocked up a few fake headlines to drive home my point:

    Superintendent Smith Denies Alleged Rape at High School, But Police Confirm It

    High School Staff and Students Report Sexual Misconduct Incident; Superintendent Unaware

In this particular case, the fake news headlines did not work the way I planned. This superintendent ran away from transparency and didn’t take my advice — and then he was forced to run away from the district about 10 months after this incident.

So I used to use “Fake news” as a tool to “slap some practical reality and consequences” into the thinking of school leaders.

This Anecdotal Research and Insight May Help Superintendents

With the recent presidential campaign, I’ve learned from editorials, opinion pieces, and professional journalists’ analyses that dispense advice about the “war of information” and how to make sure people accept and understand your brand of truth.

Our quick research on the topic found an array of articles that were much too long for this piece. But seeing just a few excerpts from our findings may help us set the stage for lessons about what superintendents can do now:

“The press takes him (Trump) literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”Salina Zito in The Atlantic

RB: So we cannot report or act on what he actually says — not sure this is a good lesson for local, highly accountable superintendents.



RB: To get my point this next segment, substitute education leaders when the author mentions journalists:

Journalists (education leaders) need to think politically about journalism (education leadership) itself, which does not mean to politicize it. Like it or not, the press (public education) is a public actor, currently in the fight of its life against forces that want to bring it down. This is a political situation par excellence, but nothing in their training or temperament prepares journalists (education leaders) to fight the kind of battle they’re in. They think they would rather chase stories, publish what they find, and let the politics take care of itself. But that won’t cut it anymore.

What I mean by “think politically” involves basic questions:

What do we stand for that others also believe in? Who is aligned against us? Where are we most vulnerable? What are our opponents’ strengths? How can we broaden our base? Who are our natural allies? What can we unite around, despite our internal differences? What are the overlapping interests that might permit us to make common cause with people who are not journalists (education leaders )? — Jay Rosen, PRESSTHINK, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University



The distinction between “troubles” and “issues” was struck by sociologist C. Wright Mills in the 1950s. He said troubles were the problems that concern people in their immediate experience. “An issue is a public matter: some value cherished by publics is felt to be threatened.”

When the issues that get attention fail to connect to people’s troubles, or when common troubles don’t get surfaced and formulated as public issues… that is where journalism-as-listener can intervene, and earn back trust. Whenever troubles don’t match up with issues, there is trust to be won for journalists able to listen better than systems that are failing people. The author used the movie, Spotlight, as an example of turning individual troubles into public issues. — Jay Rosen, PRESSTHINK, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University.

RB: We all have to do a better job of listening to all people, not just to our usual suspects. In helping us chart the path for better performance and support for public education, authentic engagement strategies must come into play.



David Ignatius, of The Washington Post, wrote a piece after the election entitled, The Truth Is Losing. In an interview with the State Department’s Richard Stengel, Ignatius offered observations and comments. A few are:

  • Stengle noted: “We like to think that truth has to battle itself out in the market place of ideas. Well, it may be losing in that marketplace today. Simply having fact-based messaging is not sufficient to win the information war.”
  • The article points out that going “tit for tat” in arguing with extremists through social media was not that fruitful. Stengel noted that by empowering others to be the messenger — as they could make the case more emphatically. “The central insight was that we’re not the best messenger for our messages because in the post-truth world, the people we are trying to reach automatically question anything from the U.S. government.

RB: In some of our larger school communities, this may be tactic to consider as we move forward.


Strategies and Tactics to Help Superintendents Deal with Fake News

I offer these ideas as trial balloons for you and your team to consider in the year ahead. From my standpoint, the more global advice may work best as you consider what may work well for your community.

One thing is certain: The playing field has changed, and we need to be prepared for all forms of pushback. Increasing numbers of our residents feel more empowered than ever to chime in with their messages about our public schools.

We need to listen more in multiple ways

No matter the size of your school community, you can bet that pockets of parents, staff, community leaders, residents, and students feel disenfranchised as a result of decisions that have affected them. The recent election demonstrated resoundingly, I think, that we do not regularly connect with these groups. We need to genuinely understand their “troubles” before those troubles become major issues. Or even as I mentioned above, although people’s troubles may not be strictly district issues, they need to know that we are concerned about helping to solve them. We must demonstrate through communication and action that we are responsive to their concerns.

You should consider using a full arsenal of engagement and listening strategies ¾ from very simple feedback devices to more elaborate communicate responses to very focused engagement and collaboration strategies. You must bring community members together to work on problems or issues to validate your authentic concern that all people will be heard. By working together, you’ll build a better understanding in the community and that will begin to chip away at the notion that “our schools don’t listen to me.” Closing the communication loop is key.

Begin or revitalize a true Key Communicator Program

This trust-building tactic is critical in today’s instant communication world. You truly need a Key Communicator Program to inspire confidence in what you say and do.

Unfortunately over recent years, we’ve seen an increase of watered-down Key Communicator Programs that have turned into little more than a list-serv in certain communities. If you’re tapping the old and new power structures in your community, regularly meeting with small segments of your key communicators, and communicating with them electronically, you’ll be on your way to building a base of well-respected spokespeople for your schools.

Remember, many parents and others may prefer to hear their school messages from respected leaders and neighbors rather than from a school official. If run appropriately, this Key Communicator process can help you develop credibility in this era of anything-goes social media. If your system is very large, you and your area superintendents should consider implementing multiple programs that cover all of the clusters in your system.

One last note on Key Communicators for now: People need to get to know you face to face. Only then can you can begin using your earned credibility through videos, Twitter, email, Facebook, etc. But first you need to start with in-person meetings — otherwise people may just see you as another empty pitchman or woman for your schools — sort of like the ones you see on late-night insurance commercials.

May the truth be known: Setting-the-record-straight feature on websites and social media

We’ve seen districts dedicate a section on their websites or Facebook accounts to set the record straight. Even though research may show that fake news may still overcome this attempt, it’s often refreshing for school employees to know that someone is defending “the truth” about their schools.

My favorite story involves a budget task force that offered its community a survey on making budget cuts. The survey had a number of the usual items but also asked open-ended questions about possible cuts. Previously, a rumor in the community had sparked a controversy about the superintendent’s so-called $900 car allowance. That car allowance was the Number One response for what people wanted to cut from the budget — for a whopping savings of $10,800 from the $85 million budget. Truth is, it turned out that the superintendent did not even have a car allowance in that system.

Fake news strikes again.

Be prepared. Set up a process for staff to report fake news items to you so that your leadership is aware of what’s out there. Once you know, you can decide what to do or not to do but, some staff member who has good judgment should be responsible to monitor the fake new front on a daily basis.

Teach, preach, and model analysis tactics about fake news

In our schools, we teach students how to become analytical readers because we know that’s a critical skill in becoming more successful in life. We need to remind our staff, parent groups, and others to practice those analytical skills as well.

We need to ask: What is the source of the information? Who funded the study or report? What other items have been produced by the author or publisher in the past? How wide or small was the research? What can be done to verify this information? Where else can we find similar information?

You know the drill; we just have to remind our colleagues to practice it — often and diligently.

Think politically to move your agenda forward

All those questions we noted in our research really do fit for education leaders — especially in the area of vulnerabilities. Our critics or the budget advocates for vouchers and other devices certainly attack public education on performance, but recent studies show that many public schools actually perform equal to or better than some private institutions.

It’s time to assess all those questions mentioned earlier so that in the coming days you do not feel blind-sided by attacks from voucher advocates and others.

And, remember, it’s all about the kids

Most of us remember the line about keeping focused that staff used during the Bill Clinton presidential campaign: “It’s the economy, Stupid!” Well, for us, it’s really all about the kids.

Distraction through social media is what drives a fake-news approach to campaigns. We urge you not to fall for those traps. Stay focused on why we all entered the education profession.

It’s all about the kids and what we can do for them within the financial means and talent we can offer.

Keep asking how any of the changes proposed will make a difference for the students in your schools. What can they do to make your children better? What can they do to make the vitality of your community stronger?

Stay focused on the kids and proceed accordingly.



Rich Bagin, APR

Executive Director

A Superintendent’s Gift That Keeps on Giving

Posted 12/08/2016 by schoolpr
Categories: Education, General, school communication, school PR

gift-3Every superintendent needs one of these gifts to be successful. In fact, every school board member should make sure they provide the motivation and support to make this gift a reality.

So, what type of gift are we talking about?

It’s the gift and insight of a professional school communicator. Just look at the advice our savvy members gave when we created a poster a few years ago entitled NSPRA Members Know.

Here’s a peek at their wisdom:

NSPRA members know —

  • Tradition is a guide — not a dictate.
  • Experience allows you to ask the right questions.
  • People make mistakes and what happens next is the important thing.
  • Managing your community’s expectations is perhaps the most important thing you can do.
  • Stay organized and positive during the budget season.
  • Campaigns are not about issues, they are about voters.
  • That being strategic makes everything else fall in place.
  • That being there matters.
  • When to give the person being interviewed the high sign to STOP TALKING.
  • How to stay calm in a crisis and provide communication leadership.
  • Having a brochure and a video isn’t a communications strategy.
  • If you are not taking care of students, you’d better be taking care of someone who is.
  • Trust starts by being human, and builds by being honest.
  • The joy of seeing a child recognized, a parent helped, and a community proud.
  • That it is important to have communicators at the decision and planning table.
  • If we don’t stay in touch, we will soon be out of touch.


Most successful superintendents understand the true value of a seasoned communicator at their side. In today’s world of instant communication, fake news, and self-anointed expert bloggers searching for followers, they understand the critical role of a school communication professional.

It’s time to give superintendents the gift of a professional communicator. You can start with a free kit for superintendents on starting a program and follow it up with a free subscription to Communication Matters for Leading Superintendents. You can find both of these items on our website at And to continue to receive weekly advice in a clear, concise and brief format, become an NSPRA member or subscriber through our website.

We wish you all a great holiday season and brief respite from the stress of leading our schools through some perceived rocky political times.gift3


Together let’s make 2017 a year in which we continue to do what’s right for all our children and where we clear a path for more support of public education.







Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director









Standing Tall for Public Education

Posted 11/04/2016 by schoolpr
Categories: school communication, school PR

cheerleaderIn the past year, I noticed a few instances of people making a difference by standing up for public education.

No, I’m not talking about the campaigns to rally support because we need to wake up legislators at all levels so that they seriously look at how some of their initiatives harm our school children in local communities. The farther decisionmakers are away from everyday school life, the closer they are to making bad decisions.

We applaud statewide and local rallies, social media campaigns, and concentrated efforts to make positive changes for all children wherever we can. Many NSPRA members are leaders in these support-building efforts.

Creating a Culture of Support for Local Educators

I am talking about a powerful face-to-face local strategic tactic based on local leaders’ standing with and beside our education community. For example, this year alone I have learned about:

  • Business, government, and faith leaders of a local community who enthusiastically hailed high school teachers back to their school by forming a two-sided welcoming gateway. The video showed these respected leaders clapping and cheering the staff on to say that they are so important to their community. The video was then distributed for the community and school district employees to witness the stamp of approval given by these community leaders. Media coverage extended the impact of this seemingly simple tactic to help teachers feel good about what they do and to see how appreciated they are by these leaders.
  • This same approach was also implemented at middle and elementary schools, but this time parent group members recruited other parents to help with this welcome back and appreciation approach to instill support for educators in their schools.
  • At the student level, we have seen, via video streaming, high school seniors returning to their neighborhood elementary and middle schools and parading through the hallways garbed in their graduation outfits so that elementary students can see the older kids from their neighborhood who are happy and successful about graduating and proving that the youngsters, too, will be doing the same thing 4 to 10 years from now. Again, videos captured the excitement and smiles on the faces of the kids and are shared with parents in their communities. This tool motivates students to stick with their public schools as they can see first-hand just what lies ahead for them.
  • Younger students seeing themselves in their older peers can boost their self-worth and also helps keep your students in your schools. Often we lose students when they make the transition from elementary to middle or from middle to high school. So we have seen older students returning to their feeder schools to talk about what lies ahead for them. Often the older students wear athletic jerseys, cheerleading and band apparel as well as sharing other school club activity materials. It all helps to build excitement for the students’ next step in their systems.


Low-Cost Approach to Build Support

Creating a culture of support does not have to cost a great deal of money. It takes time to organize activities and the effort needs the cooperation of principals and other staff members to make events happen. For those educators who fret about students’ leaving our schools for other opportunities, giving back some time to build continued support should certainly be worth the investment.



Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director


Photo by Jim Cummings, APR, Glendale Elementary School District

Uncommon Accomplishments by No Ordinary Joe

Posted 10/06/2016 by schoolpr
Categories: tribute

joe-3-jpgBlogs give us permission to be more personal and opinionated. And this one is just that.

Last week we learned of the sudden death of a long-term NSPRA member, leader, and friend, Joe Krumm, APR. I am still a bit numb from this harsh reality, but I would like those of you who never had the opportunity to work with Joe, to have some insight to learn from this role model for our profession. Joe was a special human being who epitomized the soul of what a top pro can do for your entire school community.

Joe worked in the North Clackamas School District (Milwaukie, Oregon) since 1990. He started out as a one-person shop and grew it into a comprehensive program focused on all levels of engagement and social justice in his greater Milwaukie community. In August, my wife Carolyn and I hosted Joe and his wife Colleen for two nights during his east coast major league baseball park tour. They both appreciated MLB and their beloved San Francisco Giants.

We are so glad for that visit because we had the leisure time to engage in wonderful discussions about national politics, School PR, and future endeavors. We laughed over those two days as Joe and I realized that we both had led our first NSPRA sessions on the “one-person shop” early in our careers.

Joe Served on NSPRA’s Board Twice

Fortunately for us, Joe served two tenures on the NSPRA Board: First, as a  Northwest Regional VP (2000-2003), and then as NSPRA President in 2012-2013. We worked closely together during his presidency and that’s when I learned first-hand about his love for his family and his parental priorities and his deep feeling of the need to do more for all Clackamas children.

Joe was a force who never stopped thinking and working on behalf of his family and community.

Comments and testimonials continue to flow into NSPRA on Joe’s passing. Here are just a few examples:

  • Joe’s reach was far and wide locally, regionally, and nationally. You didn’t need to be with Joe for more than a minute to know his deep love for his family, his music and his community. Joe was the foundation for building strong collaborative relationships between the District and students, their families and the community. His leadership for social justice and equity for all students was always as the heart of his work — to help each student succeed. Matt Utterback, North Clackamas Superintendent
  • Joe was one of the best PR pros I have ever had the opportunity to sit with and discuss our profession and its impact on children. Joe’s musical talent for performing helped him to not take himself so seriously — it is what preserves sanity for those of us who have done this for a few years. Joe also understood his role in impacting the future for children and he played that gig to the fullest as well! Tim Hensley, APR, Past NSPRA President
  • Joe was always so gracious, kind, unassuming as a leader and friend. What a tremendous loss to the NSPRA family, his own family and his school district. Susan Hardy Brooks, APR, NSPRA Past President
  • He was no common Joe, but a tremendous man of uncommon accomplishment and capacity. Rich Bagin, APR, NSPRA Executive Director
  • He was determined to make public relations a valid, no-spin approach to getting information to people who were interested in the schools. He really held the community together in ways that are going to be difficult to replicate. I can’t believe that he’s not going to be around to joke with and hear play his drums. Lew Frederick, Oregon State Representative
  • He was an amazing person, and when you met him, you knew you had just met one of the kindest and most generous men you will ever know. Laura Edmonds, President North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce
  • Shoes and a little boy ball cap; contemplative, kind, enigmatic, dedicated — deeply dedicated; played drums like he was pounding our troubles into dust. Jim Dunn, APR, Past NSPRA President


Red Shoes, Good Music, and Accountability Connections

During his first tenure on the NSPRA Board, Joe used to bring his computer and portable speakers to play music. I remember more Board members looking forward more to the musical break than to covering the items on our agenda.

Joe loved his family so much in so many ways. But I especially remember his glee when he was telling us about the stand-up comic jokes of his son, Martin. And they were really funny jokes!

Joe was known for his penchant for red sneakers and music. He actually gave elementary instruments to the NSPRA Board members as his thank-you gift when his term had ended. In recognition, discussions are already underway about how NSPRA members may have a red-shoe tribute throughout our San Antonio Seminar next July.

Some say there is little connection between student achievement and a comprehensive communication program. Joe tirelessly demonstrated tangible connections and helped NSPRA with its benchmarking project to prove that theory wrong. During that project, we both collaborated about the accountability issue and reminded anyone who would listen that our raison d’être was the improvement of teaching and learning in our schools.

My personal last memory of Joe was during our August visit to attend a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and his beloved SF Giants in D.C. Before the game,  we had a chance to stop off at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial; the photo above shows Joe walking into the memorial with his Willie McCovey shirt and red shoes. If you look a bit ahead, you can see Colleen in her scooter beginning to scan the wonderful social justice quotes depicted throughout the memorial. It was a meaningful morning, but the only thing missing was Joe’s drum set. You can bet he’s now playing his social justice “set”  for us in the next steps we all take in our profession. Joe taught us well and now it is up to us to continue the beat of this one highly respected and admired man.

Joe’s wife of 32 years, Colleen Murray, has said, “I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection for how they saw Joe and I appreciate it very much, because that’s exactly how I saw Joe.”

Colleen, that’s how we all saw and knew Joe as well.


A memorial service for Joe Krumm is scheduled for Sunday, October 23, at 2 p.m.:

Rex Putnam High School, 4950 SE Roethe Road, Milwaukie, OR 97267

Donations in Joe’s memory can be made to North Clackamas Education Foundation:

6031 SE King Road, Milwaukie, OR 97222 or online at North Clackamas Education Foundation.

In addition, NSPRA members may also want to honor Joe with a donation to NSPRA’s foundation. Just go to and follow directions to contribute to the Foundation for the Advancement of Education in Joe’s name. The funds are used for member scholarships to the NSPRA Seminar.


Rich Bagin, APR

Executive Director NSPRA