We chatted with Lesley Bruinton, president of the National School Public Relations Association, to get her thoughts on the challenges faced by districts during the pandemic and her outlook as the new school year moves forward. Here’s what she had to say.
How has your experience as the NSPRA (National School Public Relations Association) president been? How has it changed you?
This year has been like no other with the pandemic. However, for me, it has a blessing to grow as a leader, to be more intentional with my work, and more focused on making sure that I am using resources in a way to maximize our efforts.
Looking at things from a more global view as NSPRA president, how did Covid affect school staff in general, and school communicators/PR managers in particular?
I think for far too long, school communicators were an undervalued the resource. However, the pandemic highlighted our ability to provide an impact. Nowhere was this more prevalent than in the early days of the pandemic, when we saw lots of school closures. It was during this time that the school PR practitioner’s skill and resources were most needed to quickly communicate with families and employees. It was something that was called upon time and time again. Anecdotally, we have seen this transition into some communicators (finally) getting a seat at the table. I am hopeful that the elevation of the profession continues to make that happen for others.
What is the most difficult / pressing thing facing schools right now?
Generally speaking, schools enjoy great support from their local communities. However, as the pandemic raged on, we saw school communities become polarized. Now that things are starting to return to normal, I worry about the possible lasting damage that breaches like these can cause. I am, though, hopeful that a new school year will be a clean slate and we can harness the interest in schools to work together for the good of students.
What positives came out of the pandemic?
One of the things I have enjoyed seeing is the creativity and the sense of empowerment many of those who are working in these roles have had. It really has been unmatched. For me personally, seeing the work of my colleagues is inspiring and motivates me to work even harder.
If you could tell parents/families one thing, what would it be?
Schools welcome the support of families all the time, not just during the pandemic. I am hopeful that the interest shown in the inner workings of local school boards will continue once we are past this moment.
What is the bulk of your time spent on during a typical workday or week?
It often feels like a lot of my time is spent in meetings, but my favorite part of the meeting is when I have the chance to collaborate with other creative thinkers to problem solve. During the pandemic, I have had many opportunities to participate in meetings with other school leaders via Zoom. So, for me, that has been very energizing as I gear up for the next meeting.
What district leaders do you enjoy following on social media?
That’s an interesting question because I follow a lot of school leaders. I follow both school PR practitioners and superintendents who have a track record of using social media effectively. I think that was helpful for me as president because it allowed me to “see” who was doing what and I could confidently recommend them for committee service opportunities. It also allows me to see how different leadership styles have approached this crisis. While it would be far too many for me to name, I will say that I am following school leaders in all areas of the nation.
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