National School Public Relations Association
Programs and Activities, Organizational Structure, History
The National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) defines itself in its mission statement as "a professional organization dedicated to building support for education through responsible public relations that leads to success for all students." Founded in 1935, NSPRA is the professional association for school communications specialists, superintendents, and others who are responsible for improving communication within school districts and between districts and the citizens they serve.
The association's Articles of Incorporation state that its primary purposes are to serve the citizenry of the nation by promoting a better understanding of the objectives, accomplishments, and needs of public education. It seeks to accomplish those purposes by: (1) developing materials that will assist educational leaders in building both an increased public understanding of the role of education and increased awareness, knowledge, and understanding of current management practices and educational development; (2) placing before the public facts and viewpoints that will lead to a better understanding, appreciation, and support of public education; and (3) encouraging the use of sound public relations procedures by all those at work in education.
Programs and Activities
NSPRA had approximately 1,800 members in 2001, comprising both individual and organizational memberships. Members are eligible for discounted prices on association publications and seminars. In addition, the association has approximately thirty-five state chapters throughout the United States, which enable national members and chapter members to create local networks and programs for professional development.
A four-day NSPRA annual seminar is held each July, attracting more than 600 participants to different locations each year. NSPRA offers other professional development opportunities, including two print newsletters, several electronic newsletters, and workshops. In 2000 the association initiated hour-long conference calls featuring experts in various areas of communication who make brief presentations and discuss participants' questions. One of the association's print newsletters, Network, is designed primarily for school public relations practitioners and superintendents, while the other, PRincipal Communicator, is designed for elementary and middle school principals.
NSPRA initiated an accreditation program for school public relations professionals in 1976. More than 150 members achieved accredited status before the program was combined with that of the Universal Accreditation Board's Accredited in Public Relations (APR) program. The association continues to urge its members to become accredited. In 2001 NSPRA was also developing standards of good practices that educational organizations could strive for in improving their communication efforts.
The association has been a publisher of documents to help improve educational public relations since its founding. School Public Relations: Building Confidence in Education, published in 1999, gives education leaders a comprehensive overview of what school public relations is and what it can do for schools and communities. Other association publications include Dream Big: Creating and Growing Your School Foundation, Principals in the Public: Engaging Community Support, The Complete Crisis Communication Management Manual for Schools, Win at the Polls, and many others. In addition to its own publications, the association's catalog lists public relations and communications products created by other organizations.
In 1985 the association created the Flag of Learning and Liberty and coordinated an introductory campaign that saw the flag raised over all fifty state capitols on the Fourth of July that year. The flag is a visible reminder that education is critical to continuing a healthy, democratic society.
Another important service that NSPRA provides to local and intermediate school districts is a communication audit. For a modest fee, the district collects samples of its communication efforts and sends them to NSPRA for inspection by experienced public relations professionals. One or two of these professionals then conduct fifteen to twenty focus group sessions in a site visit to the district. Based on the review of district communication efforts and comments from the focus groups, the association provides an audit report with recommendations that will help improve the district's communication efforts.
NSPRA is an incorporated, not-for-profit organization. It has a twelve-member board of directors, consisting of a president, president-elect, and ten vice presidents, eight of whom are elected by association members. Of these elected vice presidents, who serve three-year terms, seven represent geographic regions of the United States and Canada, while one represents ethnic and racial minorities. Two vice presidents, representing specific constituencies, are appointed by the board to two-year terms. The first two of these vice presidents' constituencies were urban school districts and superintendents of schools.
The board, which meets three times annually, hires an executive director to carry on the business and program of the association. It develops and approves association policies, conveys ideas and interests from the membership, and approves an annual association budget. In addition to the executive director, the association has a staff of eight.
Initially, NSPRA was part of the National Education Association's (NEA's) Division of Press and Radio, created to help teachers and schools improve their communication efforts. It became an NEA department in 1950 and retained that status until the early 1970s, when it became independent.
NATIONAL SCHOOL PUBLIC RELATIONS ASSOCIATION. 2002. <www.nspra.org>.
RICHARD D. BAGIN
KENNETH K. MUIR
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