TSPRA traces its origin back to the summer of 1962, at the annual convention of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) in Denver, Colorado. A group of 11 Texas delegates led by Don E. Matthews, outgoing NSPRA president and an assistant superintendent in Dallas ISD, met to begin the process of forming a chapter. The Lone Star Chapter was officially launched at the TASA/TASB Convention in Austin with Matthews as the first president. Membership dues were $5, and in a letter to members, Matthews wrote, “... our purpose is to help bring about harmony of understanding between the schools of Texas and their publics.”
The first real chapter meeting was held in 1963 when the chapter had 57 dues-paying members, most of whom were superintendents. Chapter members began presenting workshops at the Texas Association of School Administrators’ Conference as early as 1967.
In 1971, the Lone Star Chapter changed its name to Texas Chapter, National School Public Relations Association. In 1975, the bylaws were amended to state that the organization would also be known by the initials TSPRA, standing for Texas School Public Relations Association.
In 1972, TSPRA was rated as the best NSPRA chapter in the nation and the association continued to be a perennial NSPRA Blue Ribbon Chapter, as well as receiving honors for Distinguished Chapter and Outstanding Year-Round Project. In 1987, 2000, 2011 and 2017 TSPRA hosted the National School Public Relations Association Seminar. TSPRA has a rich tradition of providing leadership to NSPRA. Seven members have served as NSPRA president: Don Matthews, Lloyd Bell, Larry Ascough, Bonnie Ellison, Steve Knagg, Dorian Martin and Julie Thannum. Ascough, Ellison, Knagg, Rodney Davis, Bob Sharp, Louise Henry and Julie Zwahr have served as South Central Region vice president.
In 1972, TSPRA petitioned for and was granted affiliate status with the Texas State Teachers Association. TSPRA, along with many other education associations, discontinued this affiliation in 1976 after the TSTA-NEA unification. In June, 1976, when Rodney Davis, Dallas ISD, was president, the Executive Committee adopted the Articles of Incorporation. In March, 1977, TSPRA was chartered as a 501(c)(3) Texas Corporation under the name Texas Chapter, National School Public Relations Association, which remains the legal name of the association today.
TSPRA’s first executive secretary, Dick Smith, published the first newsletter using the name, TSPRA UPDATE, shortly after he was hired in 1975. Smith served in the position until December 1980. Don Agnew, followed Smith and served until 1988. Smith and Agnew handled TSPRA's business in conjunction with their school public relations duties.
In August, 1988, TSPRA contracted with Annell Todd to serve as executive director and to provide association management under the auspices of her business Annell Todd Communications. The move established a state office and visibility in Austin. In 1996, Todd became a full-time employee for TSPRA, and Janet Crock moved from part-time to full-time administrative assistant in July 1997.
TSPRA’s visibility and credibility continued to grow with members serving on statewide committees and frequently presenting at state and national conferences. Annual projects such as the Texas Public Schools Week Promotional Kit, Star Awards Communications Awards and the Key Communicator Award have brought recognition to the association.
Since the late eighties TSPRAns have provided training for thousands of education professionals. TSPRA also collaborates on projects with other state education associations and the Texas Education Agency.
In 2004, Annell Todd retired as TSPRA's executive director and the association conducted a nationwide search for a new state office leader. In April 2004, Judy Farmer, former executive director of TAPE was hired for that role.
In September 2004, TSPRA expanded its membership with the addition of the Education Foundation Division. Membership levels in this division are open to staff and board members of an education foundation whose primary purpose is to support a Texas public school district or an individual public school. The position of Chairperson of the Education Foundation Division was added to the executive committee to provide leadership and direction for these foundation members. Education foundation topics were expanded at the annual conference.
TSPRA launched an expanded website in September 2005. The site included a Members Only Area, Online Membership Directory, Document Vault, Discussion Forum, Education Foundation Area and information on the association, its products and services. Throughout 2005-2009, the association continued to grow and expand its web services adding downloadable products, webinars, and offering customer service and tax rate election workshops. This growth prompted another major website expansion in the summer of 2009 that allows members more access to update their information, order and register online, participate in polls, blogs, discussion forums, and more. Also during this time, the Texas Public Schools Week campaign was revamped to a year-long campaign called Celebrate Texas Public Schools.
After six years of leadership, Judy Farmer retired in June 2010 and again the association conducted a nationwide search for its next leader. This time they found that leader on their own executive committee. Linsae Snider, who was serving as a vice president, moved up to the executive director's role in July 2010.
In the early part of the 2010's, TSPRA began to move its annual conference from Austin again, hosting the event in Arlington, Houston, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and more. Conference attendance climbed approximately 60 percent in these years, culminating in the largest numbers yet at the 2016 Annual Conference in Horseshoe Bay, which had more than 600 attendees. Increased vendor, sponsorship and partnership opportunities stemming from the larger conferences bolstered TSPRA's finances, making possible an increase to the staff in the form of a full-time communications coordinator.
Among those partnerships were an MOU with Texas Christian University's Certified Public Communicator program, resulting in a number of TSPRA members receiving this certification, and an agreement with Spoken Word Communications of Houston to provide Media and Crisis Communications and other types of training to our members throughout the state. Additional sponsorships led to the creation of the Celebrate Texas Public Schools Video Contest, which invited campuses from around the state to submit videos detailing how their campus celebrates public education to win cash prizes.
To help smooth its election process, TSPRA instituted an electronic ballot for elections to the Executive Committee. The structure of that committee changed in 2015, when the members approved revisions to the TSPRA bylaws that added a third At-Large Vice President position and designated those positions to represent the diversity of expertise within the membership.
TSPRA received an NSPRA Mark of Distinction as an Exemplary Chapter in 2014, and members from Texas held national leadership roles in NSPRA, including Julie Zwahr serving as South Central Region Vice President from 2011-2015 and Julie Thannum elected as NSPRA president for 2016-2017.
The future for TSPRA is bright and the association continues to search for new ways to fulfill its mission to improve public education in Texas by promoting effective public relations practices, providing professional development for its members, and improving communication between Texans and their public schools.