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2017 Chapter Award Winners

The chair of TSPRA’s 2016-2017 Professional Awards Committee is Charlotte LaGrone; Weatherford ISD. Other committee members include Julie Zwahr, Denton ISD; Craig Eichhorn, APR, Alief ISD; Andy Penney, Frenship ISD, Suzi Pagel, CFRE, Midway ISD/EF and Lyndall Gathright, Corpus Christi ISD

2017 Professional Achievement Award: Veronica Sopher; Fort Bend ISD


Professional Achievement recipient Veronica Sopher, with Relatrix's Mark Franke



"She is the “go to” person for all area members. Veronica has mentored numerous TSPRANs and she is always there to answer questions, share resources, brainstorm ideas and offer advice, especially to area members who have never experienced the things she has.

"She most recently led the effort that culminated in Leander ISD winning the 2016 H-E-B Excellence in Education Large District $100K Award earlier this year. Veronica spearheaded the campaign through strategic planning and a focus on telling the LISD story.

"Veronica comes from a long-line of public education advocates and she knows how important it is to get the media to cover a story about a seemingly small story about a student’s achievement, or a teacher’s new program. Veronica knows how important it is for principals and receptionist to have talking points to share with frustrated or confused parents. Veronica knows how important it is for parents to understand the process of a school program in their native language. She knows how important it is for the Board to have all of the facts to help govern and set policy. She knows how important it is for legislators to have quick data at their fingertips before they cast their vote on the House or Senate floor. Veronica knows that parents make the strongest and most compelling advocates. She knows this because she has spent the last 13 years in school public relations doing just that. And more importantly, she is sharing that with other TSPRANs, which only benefits more students across the state."






2017 Most Valuable Member: Patti Pawlik-Perales, Alamo Heights ISD


TSPRA President Ian Halperin, awards committee representative Craig Eichhorn, Most Valuable Member Patti Pawlik-Perales and West's A.J. Morgan.



"As president of TSPRA in 2013-2014, Patti was a people’s president. Her ease of being with everyone, no matter their geographic location in the state, or what they did at their organization, was apparent. When she talked to you, you knew that you were her priority and she focused on you – no matter the distractions around. That is a skillset that not every PR person possesses.

Although Patti is no longer on the TSPRA Board, she continues to be a cheerleader for all of us. She is someone who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk in support her professional organization. No matter the situation, Patti is always the first to volunteer, and is the one who organizes gifts and recognitions for anyone – no matter what the milestone or occasion."






2017 Rookie Of The Year: Kim Cathey, Floresville ISD


Awards committee representative Lyndall Gathright, Rookie of the Year Kim Cathey and O'Connell Robertson's Amy Jones..



"Two weeks later, this school PR Rookie, who had just created the district’s first-ever
Communications “Department” (a department of one), had her district’s only high school hit by
a a tornado. With the district website down and limited power in the small town of Floresville,
she managed all communications to the community regarding closures and day to day
operations and the numerous changes that were occurring hourly. All students and teachers 
were relocated to temporary classrooms in practice gyms and portable buildings.

"Considering the amount of communication that is required for students, parents and staff, coupled with the requests from media, one can only imagine the work load for this rookie! Yet, she managed it all, keeping a focus on the positive!

"As buildings were rebuilt, roofs repaired, and students and teachers moved back in to the buildings and a more “normal” routine, our Rookie continued to work toward promoting her schools and district in the best light."






2017 Bright Idea Award: K-TOR Radio; Galveston ISD

ElementarySchoolMate Bright Idea web

and Elementary Schoolmate's Rick Hill with Bright Idea recipient Michael Dudas of Galveston ISD .

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"This new creative endeavor and community partnership is one of the most unique projects within a high school setting.  Since the show’s inception last September, the guest list has included members from the local City Council, representatives from the Parks Board, a local realtor, two editors from the local newspaper, the District’s superintendent, Ball High School’s principal, and many other representatives from local businesses and community organizations.  We were thrilled at the overwhelming eagerness for guests to participate. It was a general consensus by the guests after their particular appearances, that all were truly amazed that high school students were producing a professional radio talk program within an educational setting.  Many of our guests have become new community partners and friends.  Needless to say, Michael’s “bright idea” is an innovative hook to get the movers and shakers of the community onto the high school campus!

"Michael’s original “bright idea” of a weekly radio show featuring the happenings around the school, District, and local community has now quickly, in just a few short months, grown into a 24/7 internet radio station. To say the least, this endeavor is quite unusual within an educational setting. It takes a tremendous amount of innovative thinking, inventive planning, and collaborative design that links the outside community to our District’s Ball High School."






2017 Media Award: Chris Saldaña, KEYE-TV CBS Austin


Blackboard's Lindsey Fishback and Lawrence Coleman with Media Award winner Chris Saldaña, anchor with KEYE-TV CBS Austin



"As a school public relations professional, it is exhausting mitigating stories like the shigella virus, students bringing weapons to school and teacher misconduct to name a few. I can always count on Chris to promote the mission of public education: students learning new things in engaging environments.

"Ultimately, Chris truly cares about the work he does. When he arrives to film in the morning at our schools he is constantly smiling, filled with energy and eager to interact with our students. Based on his level of energy, it is always hard to believe that he begins his workday around 3 a.m."






2016 Key Communicator

For a complete list of Key Communicators, click here.

2016 Key Communicator Award
Sponsored by





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SchoolMessenger's Jim Duggan, 2016 Key Communicator Shanna Peeples, and TSPRA President Ian Halperin at the 2016 TASA/TASB Convention in Houston. 

National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples named TSPRA’s 2016 Key Communicator


The Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA) has named Shanna Peeples, the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, as the recipient of the association’s 2016 Key Communicator Award. Peeples receives the award in recognition of her efforts as an ambassador for public educators throughout the country during the past year.

Peeples will receive her award, sponsored by SchoolMessenger, from TSPRA President Ian Halperin at the 2016 Texas Association of School Administrators/Texas Association of School Boards Convention, to be held in Houston from September 23-25, 2016.

“Shanna is an exceptionally qualified recipient for TSPRA’s highest honor,” said Halperin. “She has been a champion for public education not just in Texas, but across the globe.”

As an English teacher and instructional coach at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Peeples taught a wide range of students, from AP classes during the school day to those at-risk of dropping out during the school’s evening credit recovery program. She worked with English language learners with backgrounds in 27 different languages. “She seems to have an innate ability to understand where her students come from, their personal stories and cultural history, and makes that a part of how she advocates for them,” said Viet Tran, one of her former students.

Those experiences helped shape her message as an ambassador and advocate for teachers during her tenure as the nation’s top teacher.

“Ms. Peeples has not only used her year as the nation’s top teacher to talk about the positive,” said Texas Association of School Administrators executive director Johnny Veselka, “she has also worked hard to shape the national conversation about reaching students in poverty and those who have faced other extreme challenges. At every opportunity, whether it was a one-on-one interview with a reporter or a speech to a ballroom full of people, she shined the light on these challenges facing public schools and on the importance of public education.”

As National Teacher of the Year, Peeples traveled more than 200,000 miles, spoke in 27 states and five countries, delivering more than 300 speeches on public education and her experiences teaching students living in poverty or new to the country.

“We simply cannot think of another teacher in this city, in this state or in this country who has done more work to communicate the good work of educators than Shanna has in the past year,” said Chris Hays, CEO of Panhandle PBS, who featured Shanna in an episode of the station’s newsmagazine, Live Here, in November. “She shared her experiences as National Teacher of the Year and discussed the diversity of her students and the effects of poverty upon them.” A portion of the episode was translated and shared with educators in Shandong Province, China.

Peeples’ efforts have won her recognition from across the nation. She is a 2016 National Education Association Global Learning Fellow, a member of the Global Teacher Prize Academy, Scholastic’s National Advisory Panel and the U.S. Presidential Scholar Blue Ribbon panel. She received Texas A&M University’s Outstanding Educator Award and the Texas State Teachers Assocation’s Instructional Advocacy Award.

“In my role as a Texas State Representative, I meet many exceptional individuals all over our great state,” said Texas State Representative Four Price, “Shanna Peeples is a standout. She possesses great communication skills and characteristics that I know will continue to serve her and her profession well.”

Before becoming a teacher, Peeples worked as a reporter for the Amarillo Globe-News. She earned her bachelor’s degree in at West Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in education from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Since 1981, TSPRA has recognized a Key Communicator for outstanding contributions to public education through effective communications. The recipient may be a legislator, educator or a professional in another field who has improved school communications, or a member of TSPRA who has contributed outstanding service to the profession of school communications. Recipients have included leaders from business, media, PTA, politics and education. A complete list of past recipients can be found on TSPRA’s website at www.tspra.org/awards/key-communicator/list-of-key-communicators

SchoolMessenger is the sponsor of the Key Communicator Award sponsor. SchoolMessenger is a strong supporter and valuable tool for school districts throughout Texas, and TASA/TASB conference attendees are encouraged to visit their booth at the Austin Convention Center in September.

Charlotte LaGrone of Weatherford ISD chairs TSPRA’s 2016 Professional Awards Committee, which includes Julie Zwahr, Denton ISD; Patti Pawlik-Perales, Alamo Heights ISD; Andy Penney, Frenship ISD; Suzi Pagel, Midway ISD Education Foundation and Allison Lewallyn, Mesquite ISD.


2016 Chapter Awards

The chair of TSPRA’s 2015-2016 Professional Awards Committee is Veronica Castillon, APR; Laredo ISD. Other committee members include Tim Carroll, APR; Allen ISD; Marco Alvarado, Lake Travis ISD, Rachel Frost, Terrell ISD and Erin Kleinecke, Willis ISD

2016 Professional Achievement Award: Monica Faulkenbery, APR; Northside ISD


Professional Achievement recipient Monica Faulkenbery, APR, with Relatrix's Mark Franke



"Monica Faulkenberry embodies the ideals of school public relations professionals and serves not only our organization in a number of ways, but she serves her school community and represents all of us in a manner which benefits public education.

"Monica has served our organization and its members for more than 15 years and has always stepped up to serve on committees, provide professional development and encourage TSPRANs to complete the process to achieve APR. Monica has a strong work ethic and an impeccable record which speaks volumes of her quality of work. Monica shows up with a smile on her face and encourages others to do the same, she mentors others with her mere presence. When I think about TSPRA, I think about Monica and the things she has taught me without even knowing she influenced me. She is the epitome of a mentor as she does it without even trying!






2016 Most Valuable Member: Louise Henry, APR; Harris County Department of Education


Awards committee representative Rachel Frost, Most Valuable Member Louise Henry and SchoolMessenger's Frank Catalano.



"Louise has received more than 80 state and national public relations awards for effective branding, communication and marketing.  Louise is known in education PR circles as an innovative, strategic thinker and leader who can problem solve, as well as make you smile.

"Louise has served on and elected to more than 25 committees and board positions, many of these through TSPRA. She most recently has been involved in one of the newer TSPRA committees called Celebrate Texas Public Schools (CTPS), a reformed Texas Public Schools Week campaign that is now year-long.

"She has presented more than 30 workshops on communication, public relations, branding, marketing, community involvement, crisis management, media relations, fundraising, government procurement and more.  I have lost track of how many of Louise’s presentations I have attended throughout my tenure in TSPRA. They have always been informative and adaptable for my needs."






2016 Rookie Of The Year: Tiffanie Blackmon-Jones, Dallas ISD


Awards committee representative Erin Kleinecke, Rookie of the Year Tiffanie Blackmon-Jones and O'Connell Robertson's Amy Jones and Cathy Brandewie.



"Today, this former rookie is anything but. She is a true equal to everyone in the department and is frequently called on to apply her expertise and creativity to all manner of projects. Colleagues respect her insight, willingness to take on new projects, ability to quickly grasp complex issues and add value to the team’s coverage of the programs, activities and people of our district. 

"A highly dependable and skilled communicator, Tiffanie performs a broad variety of duties in the department. She covers events with multiple skills—as a photographer, a stand up broadcast reporter, a writer and, increasingly a marketing strategist." 






2016 Bright Idea Award: Picture YourSelfie At College; Mission CISD


Bright Idea recipient Craig Verley of Mission CISD and Elementary Schoolmate's Rick Hill.



"As the selfies were sent in, we then would confirm their names, year of high school graduation and which high school they went to. We also asked them to answer a couple of questions relating to their college experiences that we could use in association with our project. 

"Once we had a nice batch of selfies and quotes in place, we created posters, using the Picture YourSelfie at College phrase, and using an Instagram inspired graphic, to share the pictures and quotes of our own graduates pursuing their college dreams. The posters are put up throughout our schools and buildings. A version of the Instagram inspired graphic was also created for further sharing through the district’s two main social media channels, Facebook and Twitter. The #PictureYourSelfieatCollege hashtag was also implemented as a part of the project. 

"The response from the schools and parents has been very positive. The response from the graduates sending in their selfies has also help fuel the fire to succeed for the college students. Many of the students who participated could be considered among our average students in high school. They have taken great pride in their thoughtful responses to our questions and the fact that they are now becoming role models for other students in the schools they attended while at Mission CISD."






2016 Media Award: John Garrett, Community Impact Newspaper

Media Award John Garrettweb

Media Award winner John Garrett, publisher of Community Impact Newspaper



"With more and more printed newspapers quickly going out of business, it is refreshing to see the Community Impact Newspaper flourishing. Known for its outstanding graphics and well-written articles, this newspaper is proving that 'Print Ain’t Dead.'

"Every issue in our region includes at least one article about education and the two public school districts within the readership area. The reporters and editor support the school districts coming to Board meetings, events and establishing a strong rapport with district leadership. The articles are positive and informative as well as thorough and well-researched."






2015 Key Communicator

For a complete list of Key Communicators click here.

2015 Key Communicator Award
Sponsored by





Texas House Education Chair Jimmie Don Aycock named TSPRA’s 2015 Key Communicator

Aycock headshot webThe Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA) has named Jimmie Don Aycock, Texas state representative and chair of the House Public Education Committee, as the recipient of the association’s 2015 Key Communicator Award. Aycock receives the award in recognition of his decade’s worth of work in the Legislature to improve and defend the Texas public education system.

Aycock will receive his award, sponsored by SchoolMessenger, from TSPRA President Lorette Williams at the 2015 Texas Association of School Administrators/Texas Association of School Boards Convention, to be held in Austin from October 2 through 4, 2015.

“The Key Communicator Award is the most prestigious honor bestowed by TSPRA,” said Williams. “Representative Aycock’s record as a champion of public education in the Texas House of Representatives makes him a deserving recipient of this award.”

Aycock represented District 54 in the Texas House of Representatives from 2006 until his retirement at the end of the 2015 Legislative Session. During his legislative career he served on the Culture, Recreation and Tourism; Agriculture and Livestock; Defense and Veterans’ Affairs; Higher Education, and Redistricting committees and most notably as chair of the Public Education Committee during the 2013 and 2015 sessions.

As chair, Aycock shepherded House Bill 5 through the 2013 session, significantly reducing end of course testing for Texas students and creating more paths to graduation for Texas students.

“Chairman Aycock is highly respected by his peers in the Legislature as well as by those of us who advocate on behalf of Texas public school districts and students,” said Amy T. Beneski, associate executive director with the Texas Association of School Administrators. “As a former member of the Killeen ISD Board of Trustees, he understands that to effect good policy for Texas students, one must listen to the professionals who have dedicated their lives to educating those students — teachers, principals, superintendents and other educators.”

In 2015, Aycock proposed legislation that would have added $800 million from general revenue to the $2.2 billion in the House’s original budget proposal. Though he pulled that bill from the floor in the face of apathy from the State Senate, his efforts helped kick start a conversation about repairing the state’s school finance system that many predicted would never happen before the Texas Supreme Court ruled on the state’s latest school finance case.

“His bravery in attempting to address school accountability, school turnaround measures and school finance in one session will not soon be forgotten,” said James B. Crow, executive director of the Texas Association of School Boards.  

Throughout his tenure in the Legislature, Aycock has been a vocal defender of Texas students and teachers, celebrating the good news of public education while highlighting the challenges educators face in keeping standards high. His belief in a system that serves Texas’ 5.2 million students has made him a consistent opponent of efforts by lawmakers to introduce private school voucher systems to the state.

“His vision of a Texas that is concerned about its citizens, fair in its dealings, and efficient and equitable is laudable. As a visionary leader Representative Aycock may have no equal in the Capitol,” said Barry Haenisch, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Schools.

Aycock’s lengthy record of public service in and around his home in Bell County includes service on the Killeen ISD Board of Trustees, the Central Texas College Board of Trustees, the Comanche Hills Utility District and Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce. He received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree from Texas A&M University in 1970 before serving as a captain in the U.S. Army until 1972.

Since 1981, TSPRA has recognized a Key Communicator for outstanding contributions to public education through effective communications. The recipient may be a legislator, educator or a professional in another field who has improved school communications, or a member of TSPRA who has contributed outstanding service to the profession of school communications. Recipients have included leaders from business, media, PTA, politics and education. A complete list of past recipients can be found on TSPRA’s website at www.tspra.org/awards/key-communicator/list-of-key-communicators.

For the fifth consecutive year, SchoolMessenger is serving as the Key Communicator Award sponsor. SchoolMessenger is a strong supporter and valuable tool for school districts throughout Texas, and TASA/TASB conference attendees are encouraged to visit their booth at the Austin Convention Center in October.

Veronica Castillon of Laredo ISD chairs TSPRA’s 2015 Professional Awards Committee, which includes Tim Carroll, Allen ISD; Steve Valdez, Weslaco ISD; Rachel Frost, Terrell ISD; Erin Kleinecke, Willis ISD and Marco Alvarado, Lake Travis ISD.


2015 Chapter Awards

The chair of TSPRA’s 2014-2015 Professional Awards Committee is Brian Morris, Lubbock ISD. Other committee members include Lynda Queen, ESC Region 16; Tim Carroll, Allen ISD; Kristyn Hunt, Port Arthur ISD; Mark Kramer, Channelview ISD and Adam Holland, Longview ISD

2015 Professional Achievement AwardMARK THOMAS, Birdville ISD


Shellie Johnson, Keller ISD, Megan Overman, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD and TSPRA Past President Julie Thannum pose with Mark Thomas.

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"Through the years, Mark has proven himself to be a dedicated, articulate, knowledgeable and reliable voice within the district and community as a whole. Mark is adept at communicating with all segments of the community (parents/families/community leaders and/or media) in a professional, calm and diplomatic manner regardless of the event, issue or situation being addressed. 

Among his staff, Mark is known to be an encouraging, inspiring, humble, supportive, patient and giving individual who daily leads by example...Mark Thomas is the consummate public relations professional and an undeniable asset to Birdville ISD."



2015 Most Valuable Member AwardLORETTE WILLIAMS, Corpus Christi ISD


Lorette Williams poses with her Most Valuable Member plaque.




"Lorette's dedication and commitment to all the members of our professional organization is admirable. She chaired the bylaws committee and their efforts to address some bylaws recommendation. She made sure all members have been informed of the recommended changes and have made the extra effort to communicate and explain these recommendations. 

"Her years of service to TSPRA and current task this past year more than qualify her as TSPRA's Most Valuable Member."




2015 Rookie Of The Year: JAMIE FAILS, Kerrville ISD


Awards chair Brian Morris, O'Connell Robertson's Cathy Brandewie, Rookie of the Year Jamie Fails and TSPRA President Denise Blanchard.



"Even though new to the job, Jamie Fails did not let her freshman status overshadow her initiative and motivation.

"Amidst the extensive responsibilities and high expectations of the new position, she added volunteerism and support for her Texas School Public Relations Association team. When asked to become a membero f the evolving Celebrate Texas Public Schools committee, she quickly said yes and played a vital role in the planning and facilitating of a retooled campaign, the launch of a new website, the creation and implementation of a state-wide video contest and the promotion and marketing of the campaign and contest."





2015 Bright Idea Award: LUBBOCK ISD


Lubbock ISD's Nancy Sharp and Sarah Ancell with Elementary Schoolmate's Rick Hill, center. 



"'Supply our Students' (SOS), a new initiative to place 55 gallon barrels in all nine United, Market Street and Amigos locations in Lubbock was underway. Customers were also able to make monetary donations at the grocery checkout. School supply lists were visible to all shoppers and a QR code was included for easy access to the supply list which included: pencils, glue sticks, crayons, pens, composition books, highlighters, index cards and scissors.

"More than twenty 55-gallon barrels of school supplies and $4,500 were collected during the SOS school supply drive with United Supermarkets. All 57 Lubbock ISD campuses were provided with gift cards and supplies, based on student need. The supplies were distributed to campuses in Lubbock, Frenship and Lubbock Cooper ISD and made available to students and their families during open house the week prior to school. "




2015 Media Award winner Dave Berry photo

Dave Berry, retired editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph.




"Dave Berry’s desire to understand a topic fully and maintain a strong working relationship with the district with a positive attitude was always evident. 

"Berry organized meetings between school district officials, members of the Tyler ISD Board of Trustees and the paper’s staff to discuss topics ranging from state funding cuts to changes in the accountability system. These meetings promoted an understanding of these topics not just between an education reporter and source, but among editors and officials in the administration. 

"Berry is a past president of the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors Board of Directors, and the recipient of that group’s Jack Douglas Award, its highest honor for editorial excellence."