February 27, 2023 by HCDE Communications
HCDE expanded its footprint into the arena of one of its support divisions at the Texas School Public Relations Association’s (TSPRA) annual conference held in Fort Worth, Texas Feb. 20-23, 2023.
The aptly-themed “Trailblazing Together” event brought together more than 800 public information and school communications professionals who serve Texas public school districts and education associations, foundations, and organizations for professional development, resources, and networking opportunities.
Annually, TSPRA recognizes an individual who has contributed significantly to the field of public school communications with its highest accolade, the Key Communicator Award. In August of 2022, the organization announced that it would bestow this honor upon HCDE Superintendent James Colbert Jr. for his innovative use of communications to build community and relationships, and encourage support from internal and external stakeholders.
“I would like to thank our awesome communications department; our Board of Trustees; my mentor, Dr. Jim Scales, Superintendent Emeritus; I also want to thank TABSE,” said Colbert, upon receipt of the award.
As he addressed the room of school communications professionals, Colbert added, “I want to tell you how important and incredibly special I think you are. You are the tip of the spear. Public education is in a weird space right now. We’re losing people by the droves, some of them masters of their craft. We need you more than ever to be audacious, to be the truth-tellers, and to tell the true story of what happens in public education.” Colbert shared, “Public education has saved my life. I have been blessed by angels, and all those angels have been part of public education, so I appreciate every single one of you.”
Colbert is only the eighth superintendent in the award’s 41-year history to receive this recognition. Past awardees include former Speaker of the House of Texas Representatives Joe Straus, H-E-B Chairman & CEO Charles C. Butt, and Dallas businessman Ross Perot—the inaugural recipient of the award.
Afterward, Colbert and Chief Communications Officer Danielle Clark led a standing-room-only session titled, “The Secret Sauce for Success,” a presentation that outlined how communications professionals can successfully build a relationship with their superintendent and carry out the initiatives of their organizations. Additionally, Clark and Marketing & Client Engagement (MCE) Director Stephanie de Los Santos led a session on visual storytelling for photographers.
On the last day of the event, Center for Safe and Secure Schools Director Julia Andrews participated in a 90-minute HCDE-sponsored School Safety Forum led by Celina Bley, a former communications professional and the current associate director of training and education for the Texas School Safety Center. Information and updates on the latest state requirements were shared during the forum, followed by a panel discussion amongst safety directors and school communicators in which best school safety practices were discussed.