What does KSBA do? We provide answers to your questions – lots of ’em

By Brad Hughes
KSBA Director of Member Support/Communications Services

The setting was an afternoon “speed-dating” session earlier this fall for members of the Governor’s Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership, a Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence initiative. Each year, the institute brings in representatives of education groups so that its class members can learn about the organizations and how each might help with the parent engagement projects they are planning.

I generally focus on helping the parents with ideas on how to communicate about their projects. But in the 10- to 15-minute Q&A, it’s not unusual to get the following:

“What does the Kentucky School Boards Association do?”

Normally, I go into the regular spiel about our array of services. But in an attempt to avoid saying the same thing over and over, this time I responded, without really thinking, “Well, we answer a lot of questions, every day, every week, all year round.”

That exchange got me thinking that it might be interesting column fodder to give our readers a clearer sense of just what association staff are doing. The variety of questions my colleagues and I address on a daily basis is probably an eye-opener for folks, especially those who aren’t among our more frequent callers and emailers in Kentucky’s 173 school systems.

Out of the ordinary is the norm
On his first day on the job, new KSBA Executive Director Mike Armstrong took a call from a citizen who had no children in school but wanted to discuss why he still had to pay school taxes. That’s just one example offered by co-workers in a quickie poll on “What have you been asked about recently?” Some others:

  • Is it a good idea to host an informational meeting for the school board candidates?
  • Where can I find the rules for school districts on retaining public records?
  • What are the rules for schools when it comes to addressing student food allergies, especially peanuts?
  • Does KSBA have resources about how to invest and manage a small scholarship endowment?
  • How do we fill a vacancy on our board of education now that a member has resigned?
  • What are the board’s authority and options under the student discipline code?
  • Could you tell me about the Green Schools program and other ways we can improve energy efficiency?
  • Where do we go to access Web streaming of another district’s news conference?
  • Can you give me a layman’s explanation for delivery targets in the state accountability tests?
  • Does a board in a superintendent search have to hire from the screening committee’s recommendations?
  • How do we change our policies on how students were designated for special education services?
  • What are the laws and attorney general’s opinions on video teleconferencing of board meetings?
  • Can you help me find a document that didn’t come from KSBA; maybe you know where it came from?
  • Where can our board members get the new mandatory training in ethics?
  • Are there protocols about board meetings and how to deal with less-than-perfect behaviors?
  • Why do districts have to do facilities planning processes and how do LPC panels work?
  • How many signatures do I have to have to become a candidate for school board?

The Last Word
A staff survey about a year ago determined that there are more than 500 years’ experience – in a host of fields, not just education – among the professionals who make up the KSBA work team.

You may or may not find that impressive, but the questions above – edited big-time for space – strongly assert that this assemblage of knowledge, history and know-how is an added value to Kentucky’s public education system.

When I provide the orientation to new hires, there are two points that are always made. We don’t always give people the answers they want, but they know we will give them the very best answers we know to give. The second is a simple practice: If we know the answer, we say so. If we don’t, we don’t try to make something up. And if we know someone else who would be a better source for the information being sought, we’ll make the referral.

Based on my 21 years here, that’s the solid practice in the house. And it’s a message worth getting out.

Written for the KSBA Kentucky School Advocate, November 2014. Published with permission.

Using Evernote: Additional Info from Tracy Green

I was surprised by how few people in my Fall Conference sessions were familiar with Evernote, and many seemed curious, so I wanted to share more info. Evernote is a cross-platform notation tool … but that’s selling it really short.

Our district administrators use Evernote extensively, largely because of its portability, cross-referencing abilities and sharing capabilities. There are two primary ways to organize in Evernote: notebooks and tags.

Notebooks are great because they can be nested and they can be shared. For instance, each month our principals are provided a monthly checklist with due dates and other tasks we don’t want them to forget. We draft and archive these in an Evernote shared notebook, which our administrative team can annotate as we build the final version. We also share a notebook for our media relations, including our weekly tip sheet. Communications Assistant Lori McDowell and I can both add to the note as the week goes on, then when Friday rolls around, we clean it up and send it out.

You can also add tags to entires, which gives you a quick way to search for notes. I have notes tagged “transportation” that might be saved in a number of notebooks, but I can recall them all quickly.

Evernote also allows you to save documents, images, etc. within a note. If you have an Excel spreadsheet saved in a note, for example, you can open the spreadsheet and update it, and it’ll update within Evernote. If you subscribe to the premium version, it will make all your images and PDFs searchable, too. We archive all our media clippings within Evernote — another time that the tagging feature comes in handy, because I can pull up the “food services” tag and see not just my own notes but also any related media coverage.

Evernote is free and it is cross-platform. Mac or PC, Android or iPhone. You can take a quick note in the car and it’ll be waiting for you in the desktop version by the time you make it inside.

Oh! And reminders and list items! You can add reminders to notes, including with a time/date deadline. And, you can make lists with checkboxes — then search for notes with unchecked boxes!

It also comes with built-in PDF annotating, a chat feature (new, I haven’t tried it yet) and a presentation mode. And a web clipper. And wait, there’s more! Really, these guys should give me a job.

Click here to learn more and to download: https://evernote.com/evernote/guide/mac/

Tracy Harris Green
Director of Communications and Development
Oldham County Schools

TS and PR: A Few Thoughts

Kylie B.

I did it. I confess. I bought Taylor Swift’s 1989 and I play it more than I should. I first noticed Taylor Swift a few years ago when my sassy, blonde-haired niece was singing songs like “Mean,” while riding down the road in a backseat booster. Recently, though, I saw a news story about Taylor Swift, and even more than her catchy lyrics, the story made me think. This young celebrity (and multi-millionaire) has figured out public relations.

So, like her or not, what can we learn about school public relations from Taylor Swift?
1. Keep your message simple, but memorable.
Swift’s first number-one song, “Our Song” was originally written for her high school talent show. However, with her simple lyrics and catchy music, Taylor Swift became the youngest artist to write and perform a number-one country song. Simple, but catchy.
Our song is the slamming screen door,
Sneakin’ out late, tapping on your window
When we’re on the phone and you talk real slow
’cause it’s late and your mama don’t know 
Each and every day, our role in school PR is to share the miracles happening in schools and districts. How? Keep it simple and focus on kids. We do not have to find something earth-shattering or have front-page news every day, but we do need to pay attention to kids and know what keeps them engaged in learning. Engaging lessons and programs: that’s where you’ll find great stories, photos, or videos.
2. Share your success.
Not long ago, while Taylor Swift was jogging in a Nashville Park, she saw some young girls and families having portraits taken. They saw and recognized her, too. Instead of ignoring them or running by, Swift asked to have her picture taken with them. This obviously thrilled the young fans and will be forever remembered by the families. The story was then shared by the families, their friends, co-workers, and also made the local news. A very small, even unnecessary act, just like that. Taylor Swift knows her fans have made her successful, and the impromptu photo shoot is just one example of how she shows fans appreciation through small, simple gestures. 
In schools, we’re in the people-business, too, and more importantly, young people. So, do we take the time to provide those little extras for our kids and stakeholders? Do we make sure guests feel welcome? Do we value opinions of others and make them feel part of our team? A little extra effort can go a long way. Plus, doing things because they’re good for kids (not to get attention or media) almost always leads to the most genuine and best type of PR.
3. Create your own brand.

Taylor Swift is her own genre of music. She can write and sing country, pop, whatever, and it sells (obviously). She even helps promote other brands and has big-name endorsements from companies like Diet Coke, Keds, and CoverGirl. She has her own style and it is known worldwide! She also knows her audience and the importance of continuing to be a good role model, so parents (and Aunts) continue to buy the music, tshirts, concert tickets, etc., etc., etc. 
Each school and district also has their own brand, too. Whether large or small, with years of tradition or new in town, each school image and brand is unique. We must make sure that our school brand is positive, portraying our schools and districts as great places to learn, to work and as thriving centers of our community. Our work in communication, positive and timely, establishes this brand through our stories, our achievements, and in how we treat people.
And a bonus: Sometimes you gotta, “Shake It Off.”
Just for fun, lyrics from Swift’s most recent songs:

Not everyday in school PR is going to be fun. A little white stuff falls from the sky and based on the decisions made, you “got nothing in your brain…. or that’s what people say….” Sometimes, people do dumb things and you get asked all of the questions. And unfortunately, sometimes bad things happen and we have to deal with them the very best we can. So sometimes, yes, we just shake, shake, shake it off and keep cruising to another, better day.

(Song cover by my niece, Kylie B.)

Leslie Peek
KYSPRA President, 2014-15

O.V. Jones Memorial Award: Sherry Super

The Kentucky School Public Relations Association recognized Mrs. Sherry Super, former Public Relations Director for Pulaski County Schools, as the 2014 recipient of the O. V. Jones Memorial Award. Named for the late Superintendent O.V. Jones of Grant County Schools, the award is given annually to a KYSPRA member for outstanding service to the organization and school public relations.

Pulaski County Superintendent, Steve Butcher says, “Mrs. Super contains all of the qualities of a great public relations director; innovative, creative, imaginary, and enthusiastic. She is a great ambassador for Pulaski County Schools and for the profession she so capably represents.”

He continues, “However excellent Sherry’s abilities are for public relations service, her character far exceeds for she is a wonderful person and a true testament of integrity. She is always pleasant, caring, and so encouraging to others. She lives her life that family and others would be proud to follow.”

One of Super’s more notable events she initiated is the Pulaski County Golden Age Program or GAP for the community’s senior citizens. The annual theme-based event has grown to approximately 350 to 400 participants held in the fall each year.

Super has been a member of KYSPRA for many years and served as a regional chairperson on the organization’s Board of Directors. Congratulations, Mrs. Sherry Super, the 2014 O.V. Jones Memorial Award recipient.

Flag of Learning & Liberty Award: Public Life Foundation of Owensboro

The Kentucky School Public Relations Association recognized the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro (PLFO) as the 2014 recipient of the Flag and Learning & Liberty Award for its work and outstanding support of public education and children.

Founded 18 years ago by John and Marjorie Hager, the foundation has made education an important priority. The Public Life Foundation of Owensboro has been extremely generous in its financial support to education, but has gone far beyond financial donations to bring a voice to the community through many opportunities for public input on everything from economic development to reading programs for children.

The late John Hager and his family are former owners of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. The Hager Family has been a driving force in the Goodfellows Club, which has been reaching out to Daviess County’s less fortunate children since 1916 providing clothing, shoes, coats, dental care, and Christmas joy.

The Public Life Foundation came as a natural outgrowth of John Hager and Marjorie Hager’s desire to continue contributing to the needs and growth of the Owensboro, Daviess County and surrounding area. The Foundation continues under the leadership of Board members Sally Hager Wood, Bruce Hager, Susie Hager Alford, Stewart Hager, William Speciale, and Foundation President Rodney Berry.

PLFO revitalized and provided administrative support for the Citizens Committee on Education (CCE), an advocacy group that was instrumental in attracting the Owensboro Community College and advancing many educational projects in Owensboro – Daviess County.

The CCE commissioned a study to examine the needs and opportunities in local higher education. Consequently, Daviess County government purchased land to construct a new Western Kentucky University – Owensboro building and campus to better accommodate and attract students for their final two years at a public institution.

PLFO was one of the first institutions to endorse the merger of the state community college system and the state vocational schools.

Among the education projects PLFO has very generously supported:

· New Tech school (project-based learning) to serve Owensboro Area High School Students from surrounding counties

· BOLD scholarship fund with matching incentive

· Imagination Library providing free books to children from birth

· The Owensboro Public Schools Summer Reading Camp in 2014 and funding the Owensboro READS literacy initiative

· Town Meetings 2007 and 2010 one of the top subjects was education

· Provided grant for stipend Regional Alliance for Education

· Early childhood education meeting June 2013

· Step up for Kids (in collaboration with Kentucky Youth Advocates) October 2013

· Reading Symposium November 2013

Thank you to the PLFO for their work, making a difference in the lives of children.

Richard Thornton Award: Dr. Tommy Floyd

Photo by Rebecca Blessing
KYSPRA created the Richard Thornton Award in 2001 to honor the contributions to public education made by Thornton, a long-time KYSPRA member and past president of the National Association of School Public Relations Association. It is presented to an individual or organization for exceptional leadership and dedication to public education in Kentucky. The 2014 recipient of the Richard Thornton Award is Kentucky Department of Education Chief of Staff Tommy Floyd.

Dr. Floyd has been an educator for nearly 30 years. During his career, he has been a teacher, a coach, an assistant principal, a principal, a Highly Skilled Educator, an assistant superintendent, a superintendent, and now assists Commissioner Holliday in overseeing education for all of Kentucky’s public school children. Whether he was working in Wayne County, Somerset Independent Schools, Montgomery County, Madison County, or the Department of Education, Dr. Floyd has always seen himself as a servant leader working on behalf of the students. 

Because of his commitment to students and their individual success, Dr. Floyd has been recognized by the Kentucky Association of Secondary School Principals as High School Principal of the Year; by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators as Administrator of the Year; and also by organizations such as the Kentucky Library Media Specialists Association, Eastern Kentucky University, and the Kentucky Music Educators Association.

His work on behalf of students is not limited to the school day. Dr. Floyd also served on the National Archery in the Schools Program board; as a member of the Scholastic Administrator Magazine Advisory Council; as a member of the Kentucky School Boards Association Policy Development Committee; and as part of the Governor’s Early Childhood Council.

Dr. Floyd’s commitment to serving students has been evident throughout his career. His vision and leadership have helped to shape the future for many students and has positively impacted public education in many local districts and statewide.

Congratulations to Dr. Tommy Floyd, the 2014 recipient of the Richard Thornton Award.

Welcome to the KYSPRA Fall Conference 2014!

Follow along with Twitter updates from the KYSPRA Fall Conference 2014- November 13-14, 2014 in Lexington, Kentucky!

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