- Jump to: From TSPRA Executive Director Linsae Snider
On my mind
It is November! Guess that is no surprise to most of you! Football season is nearing the end and playoffs are about to begin. Bands have performed in marching contests. Volleyball season has ended and basketball is about to begin. Teachers are getting accustomed to preparing for STAAR. Most of you are already working on next year’s school calendar. We are all learning as much as we can about STAAR and communicating every piece of new information received from TEA. I suppose we are getting used to the budget cuts.
The ultimate reason we know it is November is that Star Awards entries have been submitted! Over 1000 entries have been processed in our office over the past two days. Judges have some tough work and hard decisions to make in the coming weeks. The quality of work submitted has been exceptional!
There are few items on my mind and worthy of sharing.
Moak, Casey, & Associates released findings from a recent survey showing how state budget cuts have impacted our public schools. Texas districts are employing an estimated 32,000 fewer staff today. Read the white paper to get a glimpse at ways the funding cuts continue to affect public education.
While attending an area meeting a couple of weeks ago, HB 1907 was a topic of conversation. This legislation made changes to the student arrest notification statute, most notably in the way law enforcement and school districts exchange information about juvenile arrestees. Dr. Carol Simpson, Associate, Schwartz & Eichelbaum, Wardell Mehl and Hansen, outlined the changes for us. Read the summary here.
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A long standing TSPRA member, Kirk Lewis, Ed.D., superintendent, Pasadena ISD, was recently honored as one of four Texas Tech University Distinguished Alumni for 2011.
The awards are designed to recognize and honor alumni who have made significant contributions toward furthering the excellence of Texas Tech University through outstanding accomplishments, careers and/or through extraordinary measures of service.
As Kirk was the TSPRA president (2003-2004), we thought this would be a good opportunity to get him to reflect on his career in education, school public relations and his membership in TSPRA.
When asked, what would you say to a college student contemplating a career in school communications/public relations? Kirk replied, "There are few career pathways in which effective communication and public relations are not essential to personal and professional success. The person trained in oral and written communication will tap those skill sets daily regardless of the profession he or she enters. I chose school communication as a way of using my talents to give back to my community. There may be nothing as fundamental to our community or national future as public education. Effective communication goes a long way toward rallying public support behind the vision and work of public education for a greater outcome for all children."
We have a number of new TSPRA members coming on board this fall, what advice would you have for those presently starting out in school public relations? He responded, "Most of us who enter school communication know very little about the art and science of teaching and little about the educational support functions required to facilitate learning at all levels. My advice is to make time to dig beneath the surface of all facets of the profession. Learn as much about what it takes to education children as you can. Only then will you be able to share the intricacies of the work to the public at large. The greater your understanding, the greater their understanding. The greater their understanding the deeper their support. Listen. Learn. Ask questions. Grow in the profession."
When you started out as an administrative assistant to the superintendent at Pasadena ISD 25 years ago, did you ever aspire to the superintendent's position? "The thought of becoming superintendent was not even on the edges of my radar screen. My professional path was an evolution of my experiences, my understanding of our district and the community and my relationships with the people of the district and the Board. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. There were probably others who saw this potential long before I did. I doubt that I could have made that jump without the lengthy term of service in this community and this district," Lewis said.
What skills are needed for a successful career in school public relations and how have those skills helped you in your second career as a school district superintendent? Kirk said, "A successful career in school public relations requires sound fundamental communication skills and the ability to build relationships. The credibility you gain as a communicator translates into the trust necessary to build those solid relationships. In the end, your credibility is your ticket. There is also a huge advantage as a communicator if you can look at an issue, dissect it and get a handle on every conceivable outcome. Then, you need the ability to find the desired outcome and be able to create a path through the minefield to get your organization where it needs to go. That ability is invaluable to the organization’s leadership."
He then added, "When you look at it deeply, the skills sets required of a superintendent, particularly in a large district, are not that different than the skills needed of a seasoned communication professional. Communication. Relationships. Vision. Problem solving. Leadership. Truthfully, I don’t know if a school public relations professional (like myself) would be successful in a small district as superintendent. I have the luxury of having educational specialists and professionals to address the curriculum and instructional issues in which my knowledge base is more limited. That’s not necessarily true in a smaller district where the superintendent has an active role in every area."
How has TSPRA and its members helped you throughout your years in public education? "It probably took me five years as a TSPRA member before I truly realized the wealth of knowledge within the organization that I had left untapped. Once I realized I could pick up the phone and seek advice, opinions and swap frustrations with other knowledgeable professionals, the organization took on a whole new meaning for me. The collective wisdom of the membership was a godsend. The workshops and conferences provided my professional development and my refuge. People of TSPRA are my friends, colleagues and in some cases, my confidants," he said.
Would you have any words of wisdom for TSPRA members, from a superintendent's point of view?
"· Never stop growing in your profession. See yourself as not just a communications professional, but also an educator. At first, I felt my knowledge of public education was a mile wide and an inch deep. I became more effective when my knowledge was a mile wide and a foot deep.
· Be someone whom your superintendent can trust. He or she needs to be able to “think out loud” with you without fear that the discussion creeps outside the office. Learn his or her voice. You often speak for the superintendent. Make sure the message is consistently reflects the superintendent’s vision.
· In dealing with critical issues, be someone who not only sees the forest and the trees, but also the root system. My experience as a pr person and a superintendent is that you until you treat the issue at its root, you never really fix the problem.
· Superintendents and other educators have a tendency to speak about facts. Help them learn to tell the stories. Facts inform, but stories resonate. Inspire.
· Develop a passion for what you do and for whom you do it. Education is not about the adults in the room. It’s about the kids. Let them renew you.
· Much of the media, politicians and public today seems to think public education has failed. It has not. You have a message to share. In a world that has a hard time listening, make them hear you!"
Just a week after they were named Texas Teachers of the Year, Stephanie Stoebe and Karen Morman attended Ammerman Training in Mesquite, courtesy of TSPRA and the Ammerman Experience.
The Secondary Teacher of the Year from Round Rock ISD, Stephanie Stoebe said, " We has so much fun at training, We got to know each other better and I learned I have to stop rolling my eyes! Thank you so much for the opportunity to learn the best way to get our love of teaching across to the public. "
"The training was absolutely amazing. I learned so much about interacting with the media. Terri and Dave were very informative, caring and helpful," said Karen Morman Texas Teacher of the year from McKinney ISD.
Karen added, "There were a great many aspects to the training. One important one was having the opportunity to be asked questions and videotaped multiple times. It is surprising how much you can learn about yourself when you watch your videotape. I learned how to bridge those difficult questions and focus on my message. Another significant part of the training was hearing others interviewed and critically discussing the positives and the negatives. In fact I used their advice later that evening when I was interviewed by a reporter.
Thank you so much for providing this training. I know the Ammerman training will be a valuable resource for me as I proceed through the upcoming year, and it is comforting to know that I can consult with them if needed."
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