Monday, June 22, 2015

Thanks for a great year!

Dear KYSPRA Members:

It has been an honor to serve as President of the Kentucky School Public Relations Association for the 2014-15 school year. I have enjoyed working with you as colleagues and friends across the Commonwealth as well as with those in the National School Public Relations Association. I hope KYSPRA has been and will continue to be a valuable resource for leaders in Kentucky schools.

I now pass the KYSPRA gavel to Cindy Williams of Henderson County. The Executive Board and Board of Directors have great things planned for the 2015-16 school year!

I look forward to seeing everyone at future professional development events as well as around the world of Twitter (@LeslieAMcCoy).

Thanks for a great year!

Leslie McCoy
Public Relations Coordinator
Bowling Green Independent Schools

Friday, June 5, 2015

Congratulations KYSPRA! 2015 Exemplary Chapter

Dear KYSPRA Colleagues:

I’m excited to share that KYSPRA has received a 2015 Mark of Distinction Award and has been named an Exemplary Chapter by the National School Public Relations Association. The award is based on the Special Focus Area: Professional Development/PR Skill Building and a focus on value-added membership.

The official letter from NSPRA Executive Director Rich Bagin, APR states, “The judges were impressed with the comprehensive year-long program and KYSPRA’s continued efforts to provide quality professional development and support for members that is timely and relevant, and that addresses a variety of communication topics.”

As recipients of this honor, KYSPRA will receive the following incentives:
  • A $200 discount certificate for one 2016 Chicago Seminar registration;
  • One PR Power Hour in 2015-16;
  • And a copy of NSPRA’s Rubrics of Practice and Suggested Measures benchmarking resource.

In addition, KYSPRA may now use the “Mark of Distinction” logo on its website, letterhead and other chapter publications.

KYSPRA will receive the Mark of Distinction, Exemplary Chapter certificates at the Nashville Seminar on Sunday, July 12, at 1:00 p.m. during the Annual Meeting & Celebration of Achievement.

I’d like to say a special thank you to the Board of Directors for all of their work throughout the year planning and leading professional development sessions, attending and brainstorming at meetings, assisting with membership surveys and sharing information on the KYSPRA blog and Twitter. I would also like to thank all members for participating in KYSPRA activities and events, sharing great work and projects, and for providing feedback to add value to the organization.

Congratulations to all for a GREAT 2014-15 year in Kentucky school public relations!

Leslie McCoy
KYSPRA President, 2014-15

Monday, June 1, 2015

Listening Lessons from Kentucky’s Largest Local Board of Education

By Brad Hughes
KSBA Director of Member Support/Communications Services

Over time, when we have an article in this magazine about a program in the Jefferson County Public Schools, a not-uncommon reaction is, “Well, that’s Jefferson County. They have the resources.” Or “Well, that’s Jefferson County. They have enough students who need such a program.” Or “Well, that’s Jefferson County. They can do it/have to do it because the district is so huge.”

That may be a fair observation on many topics. However, a long-standing JCPS board exercise represents a large-district practice that could benefit any local board in the Commonwealth, regardless of the numbers of students, staff, buildings or buses.

Called Community Conversations, these sessions by board members, and district and school staff, have gone on for years. But the current version incorporates a variety of ways for district leaders to share information, while engaging others face to face in an informal atmosphere.

As I live in Louisville, the Jefferson County Board of Education is my local board. I’ve attended several of these sessions over the years, witnessing the evolution of the process. So I attended one late-winter and one early spring “conversation” to get a sense of how the sessions are being conducted these days.

Structured pitching, unstructured listening
Each JCPS board member conducts two sessions over the course of the school year, meeting not at the central office but rather in a school in her or his district. The meetings start at 6 p.m. and run for between 75 and 90 minutes; light refreshments are provided.

Every session follows a basic format:

The building principal briefly shares the good things happening in the school, followed by an also-brief commentary by the superintendent, and an equally brief self-introductory “perspective” by the board member. This whole section takes 15-20 minutes at most.

The bulk of the time becomes a question-and-answer, open-floor period for parents and school staff. Some of the inquiries are fielded by the superintendent and/or the board member; other times, an attending central office staffer with responsibilities related to the issue may be asked to chime in.
For the two “conversations” I attended this year, the first drew perhaps 40 participants; the second more than 60. Both groups were a mix of teachers and parents as well as teachers who were parents of children in other JCPS schools.

The Q&A period mirrored many issues which, perhaps not surprisingly, had made local news stories during the year: how the district allows/restricts school choice, rules on purchases of school supplies, communications to parents, tight budgets, staffing, calendar issues and others.

A few things that struck me as best practices for anyone trying to replicate these “conversations:”

• You don’t need to answer every question on the spot. Answer those that you can, but resist the desire to come up with a response when you aren’t certain. Promise to look into it and get back with the correct information.

• Be a visible listener. Superintendent Donna Hargens was especially noticeable taking notes, recording inquiries and identifying common hot-button issues after the meeting concluded.

• Board members came prepared to talk about specific things, and didn’t go on the defensive when a tough plea was put on the floor. They calmly explained how the board made its decisions, and some of the factors involved, acknowledging choices often were difficult.

• When both sessions were over, the board members and the superintendent hung around for individual talks – some brief, some extended – which created a controlled opportunity for attendees who wanted a more personal exchange.

The Last Word
One obvious observation is that those who turned out for the Jefferson County Community Conversations are the already engaged.

They cared enough to come to a night meeting to complain or to seek answers. They are among parents and staff who can best share good news, and also be able to rebut claims by others that the board and superintendent don’t care, and won’t listen, and just come to the central office every month and make choices some folks disagree with.

In other words, they are opinion makers and these sessions can help put their opinions in a new light.

And that’s a message worth getting out.

Written for the KSBA Kentucky School Advocate, May 2015. Published with permission.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How to Embed Video Content to School Webpage or Blog

Kentucky Educational Television has a new feature for online content, with the ability to embed their videos onto school or blog sites. Therefore, sharing video directly from the school site. The following steps will demonstrate how to share a KET video, as well as share KET's most recent Education Matters show, "Reading by Third Grade."

First, from the website with the episode, click SHARE VIDEO in the upper left corner of the video.

Next, copy the text listed as "Embed code."

On the school website, teacher page or blog, locate the option to insert the code. This will be listed as HTML or Source <> or something similar. Toggle or click then paste the embed code. Two examples:

Blogspot HTML
CMS Source with embedded video

Toggle back to Compose or click Source again and save the page with the code embedded.

Education Matters, "Reading by Third Grade"

Friday, May 15, 2015

Summer Professional Development Opportunities

Below is a list of professional development opportunities offered throughout the summer that have sessions or topics related to school communication, public relations, and school leadership. In order by date of event.

Graves Co. Schools Communication Classes: June 1
Earn three hours of EILA credit free-of-charge from either or both of two relevant communication classes. District community relations director Paul Schaumburg, an adjunct college communication instructor, will lead the classes.

1. “PR 101: Communicating Your Message by All Means” addresses news writing, interviewing, and photography tips to maximize publicity. Specific categories include “Committing to Communication,” “Mixing with the Media,” “Partnering with Internal Publics,” and “Reaching Out to External Publics.” Sub-categories include “Meet the Press: Conveying Your Message,” “Get the Picture: Focused Photography,” “Nimble Newswriting,” “Illuminating Interviews,” “Effective Events,” and “Crisis Communication.” The class will be held in the Central Elementary School Library from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday, June 1.

 2. “Everyday Communication: Understanding and Being Understood” addresses effective interpersonal communication principles for professional educators and others by understanding other people, expressing yourself, and creating climate and culture conducive to clear communication. Sub-categories include communication overview, effective language, nonverbal, perception, listening, climate, culture, conflict, and personality typing. The class will take place in the Central Elementary School Library from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, June 1.

To register, specify the class(es) you will attend. Email

KY Safe Schools & Communities Conference:
June 15 – 17, Marriott Louisville East
A wide variety of school safety topics will be addressed in the Kentucky Safe Schools and Communities Conference. Law enforcement officers have again teamed with school personnel to produce comprehensive school safety training sessions that address issues such as human trafficking, natural disaster response, bomb threat management, social media, bullying, suicide prevention, law updates, and much more. 

KSBA Summer Leadership Institute:
July 10-11, Marriott Griffin Gate, Lexington
(Agenda not yet finalized, however could be communications or engagement related sessions.)

National School Public Relations Association Annual Seminar:
July 12 – 15, Nashville, TN
Raising Our Voices for Educational Excellence

KASA Leadership Institute:
July 15 – 17, Louisville Galt House
Trifecta: Living. Learning. Leading.

Additional opportunity:
Outstanding Achievement in School Information Services: Entries due July 3

More information: This page includes the instructions, Call for Entries and the official Entry form. There are major changes including a completely online entry submission process!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Details for OASIS 2015: Deadline July 3

We are most pleased to invite your participation in the 2015 OASIS (Outstanding Achievement in School Information Services) Professional Development Program for KYSPRA members and school personnel in districts with a KYSPRA member.

All of the information you’ll need is right here: This page includes the instructions, Call for Entries and the official Entry form.

There are major changes in the program this year – this biggest being that the entry submission process is completely online this year. We’ve been studying programs operated by other associations and have taken their processes, done some tweaking, and surveyed the KYSPRA Board of Directors to craft what we hope will be a most beneficial process for your participation.

New to OASIS 2015:
  • All entries will be made either via email of the entry saved as a Word or PDF, or via link to a video, online product or very large product saved to your district website.
  • Several category changes have been made to reflect suggestions as well as to eliminate categories of little participation in past years.
  • An email address for questions as well as the submissions has been created –
  • The entry fee this year has been reduced to $45 for each entry.
  • No POs or checks are to be submitted. We will invoice the KYSPRA member with a final total once all of your entries are received and recorded.
  • Engraved awards will be made for any entry/entries earning a Distinguished or Proficient rating by the panel of professional communications judges; the previous honorable mention category will be recognized with a framed Certificate of Achievement. The awards ceremony will continue to be at the KYSPRA Annual Conference this fall.

We hope that the online participation process will be easier for you to participate, to gain the comments and insights of the judges and to earn well-deserved recognition by your peers and in your home district.

The entry deadline is July 3, so now is the time to start thinking about the best of your work this year and products you’d like some peer reviews to make improvements for the future.

Brad Hughes
KSBA Member Support/Communications Services

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Do board members have a role in telling school success stories? Absolutely!

By Brad Hughes
KSBA Director of Member Support/Communications Services

Quick quiz: What song from the Tony-winning Broadway musical and Oscar-winning motion picture, The Music Man, has leadership lessons for board members and superintendents? (Hint: It’s not “Shipoopi.”)

Answer: “76 Trombones.” The song clearly puts the title character, Professor Harold Hill, out front. However, that role would be meaningless without the following of “a hundred and ten cornets” and assorted other musicians in the show-ending parade.

When it comes to educating a community about what’s going on within its public school system, the superintendent has the role of the “Music Man.” And every school board member is a key player in the district’s band, orchestra or chorus. Each has both solo and ensemble performances that are vital to reaching staff, parents and other taxpaying citizens about the district’s goals and objectives.

During a couple of workshops at this year’s KSBA Annual Conference, participants posed questions tied to this subject.

Seeking opportunities
One question was pretty easy: “Is it OK for a board member to retweet (on Twitter) a district announcement that school has been called off for bad weather?”

Forwarding district-produced information to constituents should be a regular function of board members. And it shouldn’t be limited to social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Over time, some board members have created email distribution lists of people keenly interested in a school or in districtwide issues. It’s almost a certainty that redistributing district announcements would reach people in your more personal audience bases who might have been missed by the central office communications efforts.

Others board members are themselves members of civic groups like the Rotary, Lions, Civitan and BPW. Some of these organizations have member newsletters, and most newsletter editors are in search of content. The same option applies to the program chairmen who have to fill an organization’s speaker slot at the monthly meeting. They can be easy pitch recipients for board members once a year.

Another question was a bit more complex: “Should board members be putting out their own ‘take’ on an issue when that differs from a recommendation by the superintendent?”

Giving the public all sides of a pending board decision is smart. Superintendents frequently spell out the pros and cons when making their cases for a recommended board action. Board members seeking public input must be conduits to constituents – and that should mean sharing all the factors, not just those that favor or oppose one point of view.

However, attacking an administration proposal seldom serves children in the classroom. A board member stating his or her reasons for favoring one direction is doing the job he or she was elected to. Not all votes will be 5-0 on a typical Kentucky school board. The public deserves an exploration of differences, but not to the point that criticisms undermine the credibility of fellow board members or the superintendent.

Bottom line? Creating an engaged community requires a team – or, if you will, a band – to spread the word. The superintendent, aka the band director, isn’t always going to get perfect pitch from the trumpet section, but it often takes a good brass corps to really sell the tune to the audience.

The Last Word
Another test for your imagination.

Michael Jordan may be the greatest player in the history of the National Basketball Association, but without the other Chicago Bulls players, he wouldn’t have six NBA championship rings.

Sir Paul McCartney has had an incredible career as a solo artist, but does anyone really think he would be so revered if he hadn’t started as a member of the Beatles?

One staple in the speeches by Kentucky’s outstanding superintendents and school board members at the KSBA conference is the reference to the importance of the other members of the district leadership team. They don’t differentiate between director or a player. They share a common theme of working together to produce a symphony of support for teachers and students in the classroom.

And that’s a message worth getting out.

Written for the KSBA Kentucky School Advocate, April 2015. Published with permission.