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Today, on School Communicators Day, I am announcing that I am taking a leap…

In 2006, I took a giant leap out of the classroom and into a role as an instructional technology specialist. I remember on my first day, I called my mom in tears, “I cannot do this! I have NO IDEA what I am doing!” Her advice: go to Target, get all new office supplies and organize the heck out of everything in your new space. (I mean, she gets me!) I did just that, and after putting my hands on each item in my new computer lab, I felt ready to hit the ground running.

In 2016, I took another giant leap out of the technology world and into the brand new office of communications for Brenham ISD. I had no experience. I had no network. I had NO CLUE! But I went to a Spoken Word training in New Braunfels ISD where I learned about TSPRA and met the first few members of my CASPRA family. I felt at home and I was ready to dive in.

Today, on School Communicators Day, I am announcing that I am taking yet another leap. I am leaving the school PR world to take on the role of Marketing Manager for Education Advanced, Inc., an educational software company. 

While I am SO EXCITED about this new opportunity and the professional growth it will offer, I am heartbroken to leave my school PR family. So many of you have been my mentors, my rocks, my advisers and my friends. You opened your arms to me and welcomed me wholeheartedly into the school PR family. My TSPRA, CASPRA and ETSPRA family – you guys always have my back. My NSPRA and #k12prchat family – you invited me in and made me feel like “one of you.” I feel like I have “grown up” under your care and I am forever grateful.

As we celebrate school PR pros across the nation today, I can say with certainty that there is no network like the school PR network. I’ve never worked with professionals who are more willing to accept and share. I want to thank each of you who has ever answered my SOS call, responded to my panicked text, shared with me your documents and/or ideas, or done any number of things that school PR pros do to build each other up. YOU are the good!

I am not sure what’s going to happen to School PR365 from here on out. (Anyone want to take it over?! Hit me up!) Thank you for reading and supporting this passion project. It has truly been my pleasure and I hope our paths cross again!

I would love to network with you outside of School PR365. Follow me on Twitter here. Connect with me on LinkedIn here.

If you know of any school PR pros who would like to move to the beautiful and historic Brenham, Texas to join the first public school district in the state, please share the job posting here.

It has been my pleasure and my honor to work and serve with you!

Branding, Communication, Culture, innovation, Leadership

Unboxing of What’s Worth Doing: Cards for Your Next Step

Several years ago I happened upon a Kickstarter campaign for a company seeking support for what they called a “Brand Deck.” I supported the campaign, received my Brand Deck, and have used it several times – most recently with my team at the beginning of the year to help define our departmental identity and set goals.

A few months ago I came across another Kickstarter campaign for a company seeking support for their newest project, “What’s Worth Doing: Cards for Your Next Step.” It looked intriguing and sort of resonated with me, like the Brand Deck did, so I decided to pledge my support of the project and secure an advanced order.

My “What’s Worth Doing” cards came in last week and I was SO EXCITED to dive in. I took pictures as I opened the package and tried the sorting activity so I could share the experience, in some way, with you! They also have a nice video explanation on their Kickstarter page here. I think I could do this exercise a dozen times, and at different points in my life/career, and come up with new and different ideas to shake things up.

Many of us have had to pivot in these last few weeks to learn new ways to do our jobs, find creative solutions to problems, and innovate with others in a space we never dreamed we’d be in. I am excited to keep exploring how “What’s Worth Doing” might help me break out of my traditional boxes to find new and exciting ways to adapt to these changing, and challenging, times!

Google

Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 choice board for my own children (or are the my pupils now?)

If you’re a parent and you’re in school PR, you may be like me … wondering how to keep your own children engaged in ANYTHING remotely instructional while you work from home to handle communications for your district.

Now, this choice board is nothing fancy. It’s not research-based, standards specific or even approved by my boys’ teachers. (Don’t tell!) BUT, it’s ready to go, easy to follow, easy to modify weekly, and easy to replicate, since it’s in a Google Docs format. (Go to File > Make a Copy to create your own.)

If you need something to fill in the gaps between what your district has provided and the countless other hours you have to fill … or if you just need something to get your kiddos started at all, I hope this might help!

GOOD LUCK to all of you! I continue to be eternally grateful for our school PR community and the leaders in districts across our state and nation who are working around the clock to serve our students. I see all that you are doing and I appreciate YOU!

Communication, Culture, Leadership

Set up a “good news stand” on your campuses to capture the best stories and reconnect with your staff and students

One of the hardest parts of my school PR role is balancing administrative tasks with my role as chief people person and lead storyteller. It’s easy to get sucked into the “at my computer” and “in meetings” duties more than the “get out and see real, live kids and staff” responsibilities. Here’s the saddest part of that scenario, the longer you go without visiting campuses regularly, the more you feel like an imposter when you do visit. 

Now, I have worked on almost every campus in Brenham ISD over the last 18 years, so admittedly, I still feel very much at home when I visit most schools. BUT, staffing changes and the growing distance between me as “one of them” and me as “one of THEM” have created some challenges. The start of 2020 (+ our AMAZING #k12prbooks title Stories that Stick by Kindra Hall) renewed my desire to get out there, connect with my people and tell our district’s stories. To help facilitate that and take a more intentional approach, I decided to set up “good news stands” across our district. Here’s what I did…

Good News Stand Plan

{email to admins with idea}

Subject: I can’t wait to share your good news!

Good morning! I am so excited to office from your campus soon to spend an ENTIRE DAY spreading the good news about your students and staff! You don’t have to do anything special on this day, but I do need help selecting a date that will work for you and your campus. I also ask that you please allow me to use a space on your campus (empty classroom, conference room, library, closet, hallway, corner) that can be easily accessed by your staff on that day.

Please click here to select a date. {link to Google Form here}

On your preferred date, I will be asking your staff to stop by and “tell me something good” and/or invite me into their classrooms to see your students in action. All of my media posts that day will be about YOUR staff and students! 

THANK YOU for being our district’s best storytellers and for allowing me access to your campuses! Great things are happening all over Brenham ISD and I am so proud to be able to share your good news!

TECH TIP: Create a Google Form with your available dates in a dropdown question format. (Be sure to give admins plenty of choices!) Then, use “Choice Eliminator” in your form to remove options from the list when they have already been selected.

{email to campus conference}

Subject: Raise your hand if you want a jeans pass!

The start of a new year has renewed my focus on finding the good news on our campuses and sharing it with the world! Tomorrow I will be on your campus all day long and I’d love to hear some good news. Find me and tell me something good, any good news at all, and I will give you a jeans pass. EASY! 

OR, click here to book an appointment slot {link to your preferred appointment tool} and invite me into your classroom for a few minutes to see your good news in action. In return, I’ll give you a jeans pass AND enter your class into a drawing for a class pizza party. Mmmmm!

You see the good news on your campus and in your classroom each and every day. I need your help to make sure our community also sees the great things happening in Brenham public schools. THANK YOU for being your campus’ storytellers and for allowing me access to your classrooms! Great things are happening all over Brenham ISD and I am so proud to share your good news!

TECH TIP: Use Google Calendar appointment slots to add the classroom visit invitations to your calendar and the requestor’s.

My first good news stand was last week at one of our elementary campuses. I’ll be honest, I was nervous. I had NO idea how it would go (perhaps they’d think this was the dumbest idea ever?!). Nope – it.was.awesome. I hadn’t even been on the campus for 10 minutes and someone had already shared good news with me! (Jeans passes are VERY powerful!) I literally set up my laptop on a metal rolling cart in the hallway of the front office – it was the most perfect, visible place to be! At the end of the day, 17 staff members had shared a piece of good news and I had been invited into 5 classrooms! There were several times when I thought I might burst into tears – it was that good.

I have to give a shout-out to my pal Corey Ryan who is the chief communications officer in Leander ISD and the Central Area TSPRA VP. He did a great activity at a CASPRA meeting called a “school story takeover.” Check out his NSPRA Tip Sheet below for even more ideas!

I would love to know how you are engaging with your students and staff, being intentional about campus visits, and telling your best stories. Share your ideas in the comments below or email me to collaborate!

Communication, Community Relations, Culture, Google, Productivity, Time Management

Work smarter, not harder with Autocrat (to automatically generate printable recognition certificates!)

Earlier this week I presented a session at TASA Midwinter in Austin about how our district is engaging our community, parents, students and staff. After the session, I got a common question about how I’m using the Google Sheets Add-On, Autocrat, to automatically generate printable certificates for our district employee recognition program. Check out the short video below for the steps you can take to set up your own work smarter, not harder system using Google Forms, Google Docs and Google Sheets. Then, check out the presentation for 21 other ways we are engaging our district and community stakeholders. Let me know if you have some ideas to share! I’d love to collaborate with you!

Communication, innovation, Leadership

Are you thinking of earning a school PR master’s degree? See my 5 reasons for choosing this one!

Over the last couple of weeks, several of my school PR friends have reached out to get more information or ask questions about the master’s degree I recently earned from Texas Tech University. In December, I earned a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Innovation from TTU and I cannot say enough good things about this program. I would go back and do it again in a heartbeat and here are 5 reasons why:

  1. Although the work was challenging, the workload was realistic for a working professional. I have a full-time school PR job and two boys under the age of 10 and managing it all was totally doable. Admittedly, there were some late nights and more than a few weekends, but that should be expected in any post-graduate program.
  2. Each professor provided relevant and thoughtful content, timely feedback, and meaningful projects. I am MOST impressed with the faculty at TTU. They truly took the time to get to know me and I felt a connection with each one of them. There were several video chat opportunities that I took advantage of and I really think that contributed to my personalized learning experience.
  3. Each discussion board was rich with diversity, as I was one of the only school PR pros in the cohort. In the beginning, I was intimidated that I did not have a communications background; however, I soon realized that we can learn A LOT from our industry friends, and vice versa! I loved digesting the varied approaches to communication situations that were presented.
  4. Each course offered me new insight into how to approach strategic communications. Without a doubt, 100% of the content presented throughout this program could be applied to my work in school PR! One of these days I am going to post “42 lessons this 42 year old graduate student learned about communications and school PR” to share it all with you! 🙂
  5. This is a fully online, non-thesis program. The TTU program is 100% online and does not require a thesis. Instead, you will complete an applied project, which is SO MUCH MORE fulfilling. I chose to do my project on brain science and bond election visuals. It was FASCINATING and incredibly applicable to my field.

If you have any other questions or would like to know more about my experience, please feel free to reach out. I am happy to share! I am also attaching my degree plan and the program handbook that might give you some more information about the content and pacing. As we say in Red Raider country, “Wreck ‘Em!”

Branding, Communication, Community Relations, Culture

Ignite systematic change and engage a diverse community! C4 Yourself: Cultivate Community, Communication & Culture

Happy New Year, all! I hope you enjoyed a restful break with loved ones and have returned with a renewed energy and passion for serving in your district or organization. As we say here in Brenham ISD, today is a GREAT DAY to be a Cub! 🙂

While I was walking the stage in Lubbock last month, the Brenham ISD Community Services team was presenting at the 2019 Statewide Parental Involvement Conference in San Marcos, Texas. This team consists of Karem Chandler, F.A.M.E. Parent Liaison; Georgiane Gessner, Community Services Associate; Shawn Mays, Social Emotional Coordinator; and Rebecca Wachsler, Social Emotional Coordinator.

These ladies did an OUTSTANDING job of sharing how our fairly rural district is igniting systematic change and engaging a diverse community. They shared simple strategies that break down barriers, change public perception, and build a community of public school supporters. No budget? No worries! Most of the strategies they shared can be achieved with even the smallest departments and budgets (I know … from experience!). We invite you to check out the presentation below to get ideas you can implement immediately to maximize your resources and get a big return on your investment.

We’d love to hear from you if you have questions, ideas or feedback!