Conference Presentations

  • emailed to all registrants on November 22, 2022
  • available to members on the WSPRA website

Thank you to our WSPRA Partner Sponsors, FinalSite and Nexus Solutions!

Conference Schedule

Wednesday, November 16

2:15- 7:00 pm Conference Registration

3:00- 5:00 pm

Pre-Conference (separate registration required)
Choose one of the following pre-conference options:

Holly Henderson

Megan Sheridan

Boost your Visual Storytelling
Holly Henderson - Communication Strategist, The Donovan Group
Megan Sheridan - Communications Marketing Coordinator, St. Joan Antida High School

Improve your skills, learn new tips and tricks, share ideas! Whether you're a beginner with a passion to take great pictures, or an advanced photographer just looking to brush up or polish existing skills, this hands-on workshop will help you explore new creative ways to expand your photography skills. Then, practice the qualities of a well-designed graphic (using negative space, fonts, the rule of thirds, etc.). Bring a camera (DSLR or phone) and a device to practice graphic design principles (we will use Canva as the learning tool). This will be a friendly space to share ideas and ask questions. Get feedback on an existing project or create something new that you can use when you return to your district.


 Culture Clash: Issues Management in the Age of Instant Communication
Joan Sahlgren - Communications and Community Engagement Director, Loudoun County Public Schools (VA)

Election cycles across the country, local and state, mean more interest in schools and school boards than ever before. In Virginia, a culmination of culture-clash, the effects of an ongoing pandemic, and an off-cycle gubernatorial campaign created an emotionally charged environment. This resulted in organized campaigns that brought out unusually large crowds for every school board meeting, dominating local and national news cycles for months. Explore what does and doesn't work when anxiety over schools becomes a talking point in an election cycle.

5:00- 7:00 pm

Dinner on your own

7:00-9:00 pm

Welcome Reception - meet conference attendees; complimentary light appetizers served; cash bar 
Partially sponsored by Qualtrics
(Each attendee will receive two complimentary beverage tickets to be used during the Wednesday Welcome Reception and/or Thursday Networking Reception.)


Thursday, November 17

7:15-8:00 am Conference Registration and Breakfast (included with conference registration)

8:00-9:30 am

Julie Thannum


Welcome from WSPRA President Joelle Doye, Mineral Point Unified School District Communications Director

General Session: Grace & Grit Under Fire - Growing personally and professionally as a school PR leader
Julie Thannum, APR - Senior Strategist CESO, Interim Executive Director for Texas School Public Relations Association, NSPRA Past President

The work we do as communication professionals has evolved and changed through the years. As the nation grows more polarized and political, interest groups fight for power, and public educators often find themselves in the middle of a partisan battle for control over public education. It takes a lot of grace and grit just to stay the course, but the work we do to promote learning for all students is as important now as ever before. Finding work-life balance as a servant leader can sometimes take a back seat to the pressures and responsibilities that come with serving your school district and community in a 24/7 environment. This session will take a look at the changing role and pace of school communications, the challenges facing today's school PR professionals, and important tips for staying poised and purposeful while you are being refined by fire. Keynote speaker Julie Thannum knows what it's like to give until you feel depleted, but in this session she will share tips for staying focused on the things that matter most in your quest to finish the race.

9:30-10:00 am

Break/Resource Fair - Visit over 15 vendor booths! Engage with our WSPRA partners who make this conference possible. Visit all booths for a chance to win prizes!

10:00-11:00 am

Breakout Session - choose one of the following:

  • Building Trust through Community Engagement and Content
    Joan Sahlgren - Director of Communications and Community Engagement, Loudoun County (VA)
    When things get tough, it's more important than ever to have a strategy to get your good news out to your community. Hear ideas on how to create a community engagement approach and on how strategically crafted content campaigns can help.

  • Partners in Truth & Transparency - Media Relations That Work
    Julie Thannum, APR - Senior Strategist CESO, Interim Executive Director for Texas School Public Relations Association, NSPRA Past President
    Building trusting relationships is an important part of working with journalists in your school district. From mojos and social media trolls to the modern-day press conference, this session will look at the ever-changing role the media plays in school communications. Participants will learn tips and tactics for effectively managing media relations by partnering with journalists to share targeted messaging with key stakeholders. Learn to be more intentional in your approach to media relations and ultimately earn the respect of those who cover your district.

  • Let’s Get Back to Celebrating our Schools – The Power of Social Media!
    Dawn Brauner - Communication Specialist, Portage Community School District and Andrea Gribble - Founder, #SocialSchool4EDU
    My, how things have changed in regards to school social media! While navigating the negativity can drain your energy, there is still so much to celebrate. Grab a pep talk from Dawn Brauner and School PR’s biggest cheerleader, Andrea Gribble. They will break down five proven strategies for social media success this school year. You’ll learn:

    • How to build an army of storytellers
    • Strategies to handle negativity
    • How to plan your content
    • How to boost engagement
    • The latest social trends to help you thrive
11:00-11:30 am  Break/Resource Fair - Visit over 15 vendor booths! Engage with our WSPRA sponsors who make this conference possible. Visit all booths for a chance to win prizes!

11:30 am-1:30 pm


Barbara Hunter

Spectrum Awards Luncheon, sponsored by TeacherLists and ParentSquare
Presentation of Spectrum Awards

Introduction of the new Mary Pat Pfeil Communicator of the Year Award
This prestigious honor will be introduced at the 2022 Fall Conference and attendees will learn about Mary Pat's legacy from those who knew her best. The first award winner will be named at the 2023 Fall Conference.

Remarks by NSPRA Executive Director Barbara Hunter, APR

1:30-2:30 pm

Breakout Sessions - choose one of the following:

  • Leadership Lessons from the Frontlines of School Communications
    Barbara Hunter, APR - NSPRA Executive Director
    Experience is the best teacher ... unless you have a teacher who can share theirs. In this session, you'll hear leadership lessons that have been collected over the last 30 years during the best and worst of times in school communications. You'll be able to use these lessons to reflect on and guide your own leadership journey.

  • Making Great Video With WeVideo
    Jessica Brogley - School of Education Senior Lecturer, University of Wisconsin-Platteville
    In this session, Jessica will show you how to collect and create videos using WeVideo, a cloud-based video editing tool commonly used in education as a classroom tool for creativity and communication. Because districts typically buy multiple seats, it’s often readily available for school communication professionals as well. Jessica will give you a hands-on, crash course on editing and producing great video using this convenient and dynamic tool. As an added bonus, she’ll also cover how to get just the right shots to make your videos tell a great digital story! Bring a laptop or Chromebook to this session and clips, if you have them. This just might be a make n’ take session for you. 

  • Employee Burnout: The Role of Communications and District Leaders in Saving Public Education
    Janet Swiecichowski, APR - Vice President, CEL Marketing PR Design and WSPRA Past President
    You’ve seen the headlines: Teacher burnout — nationwide, there are at least 280,000 fewer public school teachers than there were before the pandemic. School Principals – more than 50% intend to leave the profession. Superintendents — “The toughest job in America,” according to Ron Heifetz at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard. #SchoolPR — need we say more? The future of public education depends on the energy and momentum of people who have a calling to serve. How can school communicators change the narrative?

2:30-3:00 pm

Break/Resource Fair - Visit over 15 vendor booths! Engage with our WSPRA sponsors who make this conference possible. Visit all booths for a chance to win prizes!

3:00-4:00 pm

Breakout Sessions - choose one of the following:

  • Leadership HSSD: A Community Engagement Approach to Combat Misinformation
    Brian Nicol - Director of Communications, Howard-Suamico School District
    Leadership HSSD is a program designed to provide community leaders the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the district’s mission and strategic priorities, and to combat misinformation and misperceptions about the district.  Following the pandemic, its after-effects, and a successful 2021 referendum, the Superintendent and School and Community Relations team identified an opportunity to engage and educate community leaders regarding ongoing district operations and strategic priorities. The goals are two-fold: (1) to cultivate district-informed candidates for leadership opportunities (Board of Education, Education Foundation Board, etc.) and (2) to encourage community leaders to share accurate information within their personal and professional networks.
  • Transparency to Stakeholders: Explaining Public School Financing
    Marissa Weidenfeller - Director of Communications, School District of Fort Atkinson and Jason Demerath, SFO, CSRM - Director of Business Services, School District of Fort Atkinson
    Explaining public school funding is like buying/renting a home for the first time. Lots of acronyms and fine print, learning curve of history on your lenders (community members), new/maybe going away grant money, changing interest rates, revenue limits, oh my! So how do you break the lingo of public school finance down into bite-size chunks for non-public school finance focused minds to digest? Earning the WASBO Pinnacle of Achievement Award, Demerath's ESSER Dashboard brought a new level of transparent communication to the Fort Atkinson community. During this session, Demerath and Weidenfeller will dive into what they have found to be best practice in providing transparent, and understandable finance communications to their community regarding Federal ESSER funding, operational/capital referendums, and more.
  • Response & Recovery: Managing a Racial or Bias Crisis
    Rick Kaufman, APR - Executive Director of Community Relations & Emergency Management at Bloomington Public Schools (MN), NSPRA Past President, WSPRA Past President
    Racial and bias incidents in schools have exploded causing fragmentation and division not unlike what we see across the country, especially on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. School districts don't know where to start, what to do or are taking too long to address the incident. Managing a racial/bias crisis in the moment may be one of the toughest leadership challenges, but recovering from one can be equally daunting if not more so. Learn how to create a Racial Harms Protocol and Response Plan to help school communicators and district leaders turn a racial crisis into a catalyst for positive change.
4:00-6:00 pm

Personal Time

6:00-10:00 pm

Networking Reception/Tailgate Partysponsored by School Messenger

Tailgate with food, games, prizes, time to network, and more! Bring your spirit wear! Watch the Packer game with your fellow MVPR professionals! Not a football fan? Enjoy other activities and networking with fellow conference attendees! Heavy appetizers will be served. Cash bar. (Each attendee will receive two complimentary beverages to be used during the Wednesday Welcome Reception and/or Thursday Networking Reception.)


Friday, November 18

6:00 am

#k12prfit Fun Run (3 miles), hosted by NSPRA President Cathy Kedjidjian
Runners of all levels are welcome for fitness and socializing. There's no need to sign up - just show up bright and early!

8:00-9:00 am Annual Meeting and Breakfast

9:00-10:00 am


General Session: Forging Your Path: Your District's & Your Own
Cathy Kedjidjian, APR - Executive Director of Communications & Strategic Planning, Glenview School District 34 (IL) and NSPRA President
As school PR professionals, we play a critical role in keeping our organizations on the path to achieve their mission and vision, and forging that path to establish connections throughout the community by building a strong brand. As leaders in communication and education, we also must strategically forge our own path, and build our own personal brand. Gain ideas and inspiration on navigating both journeys, and how to find the right travel companions who will help us carry all the baggage.

10:00-10:30 am


10:30-11:30 am

Roundtable Sessions
Mini-sessions on a variety of programs and best practices, with time for Q&A. During this one-hour breakout session, attend three of the following 20-minute mini sessions:

  • Quality Video Production on a Budget
  • How to create a microsite on your district website (career hub, referendum, strategic plan, summer camps, etc.) with examples and quick takeaways
  • Transparency through Community Engagement
  • How to Create Instagram Reels
  • HSSD CARE Awards: launching a new staff recognition program
  • Creating effective newsletters
  • Social Media Tips for School PR
  • Communicating Needs for School PR Professionals: Working With Your Administration, Board and Staff to Fund Priorities
  • It's More than Surveys: Community Engagement
  • Tips & Tricks for Effective Back-to-School Communication
  • Quick tips for starting a referendum
  • What's Working to Engage Families Today: Communication Tips for Leaders
11:30 am-12:30 pm

Breakout Sessions - choose one of the following:

  • Greendale & Equity: what it means and how we tell our story
    Kitty Goyette - Communications Director, Greendale School District and Maggy Olson - Director of Equity & Instruction, Greendale School District
    "Equity is the lens through which educators view all learning opportunities for students. In Greendale Schools, this is the foundation for every program, in and outside of the classroom. The road to ALL means ALL is sometimes bumpy and educating the stakeholders of our proud community can be a challenge. But the efforts are worthwhile as we work to ensure ALL students belong and are empowered to learn, grow and engage as part of a global community. Greendale’s efforts are multifaceted and include:

    • A focus on hiring a high quality, diverse faculty and staff (Greendale Schools ranked #1 with Best Teachers in the state by Niche users.)
    • Leveling Up curricular opportunities with integrated honors and eliminating barriers to high-level course content
    • Adopting an Anti-Racism and Equity policy at the Board level and creating a comprehensive Beliefs Statement 
    • Observing nationally-recognized Federal heritage months with a variety of educational, age-appropriate experiences and celebrations
    • Engaging student leaders in the Student Equity Team (SET)
    • Connecting with adult stakeholders through an Equity Network
    • Hosting community-wide celebrations of Federal heritage months
    • What’s Working to Engage Families Today: Communication Tips for Leaders

This session will share how this journey is communicated to our audiences.

  • Listening During Charged Times: Why Community Engagement is Critical to Referendum and Beyond
    Dorreen Dembski - Owner, Dorreen Dembski Communication Services LLC, WSPRA Past President and LeaAnn Odekirk - LO Consulting Services LLC
    In our current disinformation age, community engagement can be a way to truly listen to the community and hear what is happening beyond the school walls. Using referendums as an example, we will explore various forms of connecting with communities, from task forces to community conversations. Let's talk about why what works for one community may or may not work for another district. We will provide examples of how to implement community engagement and what we have learned from working in a variety of school districts. Come fill your toolbox with ideas on how to structure community engagement before, during, and beyond a referendum.

  • Building a Team of Content Creators
    Jill Johnson, Ed.D. - President, Class Intercom and Clay Reisler - Business Education Teacher, Pulaski Community School District
    Would you like help in telling your school’s story? Do you sometimes wish you could clone yourself and be in two places at once? This session will empower you to do this by creating and sustaining a social media team of adults and/or students. From recruitment to retainment to sustainment, learn how to select, train, and inspire The Content Generation®️ to take ownership of telling their school’s story. Walk away with some great tips for motivating your people to create content for someone other than themselves!
12:30 pm

Resource Fair prizes!

Visit all of the Resource Fair vendors to be eligible for a prize! Thank you to our WSPRA business sponsors who graciously donated over 10 prizes, including a $100 Amazon gift card! Prize winners will be randomly drawn from those who document their visits using an online form. Prize winners will be announced in the Palm Garden Foyer immediately after the last breakout session. Must be present to win.



Conference Fees & Registration

wspra conference registration open

Below: conference schedule and hotel reservations


If you want to register for the Fall Conference,
please email [email protected]

Cancellation Policy:

Counts were confirmed with the Osthoff Resort on Friday, Nov. 11. Full refund of fees will be made on cancellations received 10 days prior to the start of the convention. Following that date, a 40% administrative fee will be retained (this also covers the confirmed meal counts). There will be no refund for no-shows or cancellations during the event.

Conference Fees

Pre-Conference: Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Choose one of two pre-conference options

  • $60 member/$80 non-member

Conference: Thursday, November 17 - Friday, November 18, 2022

  • Full Conference: 
    $240 member/$350 non-member
  • Thursday only: 
    $220 member/$330 non-member
  • Spectrum Awards Luncheon Only (Thursday): 
    $40 member/$50 non-member
  • Special rate for the Full Conference Team of Two (members only from same district):  $450

(Non-members can sign up to be a member for $99 to receive the discounted registration rate!)

First-time WSPRA conference attendees will receive a special gift!

We have a reciprocal arrangement with MinnSPRA and INSPRA. Members of these two organizations may register for the WSPRA Fall Conference at our member conference rates. If you are a member of MinnSPRA or INSPRA, please email [email protected] to obtain the reciprocal registration code.


Hotel Reservations

wspra conference hotel reservations

If you are unable to make a hotel reservation at the Osthoff (rooms are filling quickly), we've secured another accommodation one block from the Osthoff. You can take advantage of the same special group rate at the Shore Club Resort.

Special group rates at both the Osthoff and the Shore Club Resort:

$90 - Single
$129 - Double
$180 - 2 Bedroom Suite (Osthoff only)

When you check in, remember to bring your school district’s proof of tax-exempt status.

Osthoff Resort - deadline is Oct. 21: Call 1-800-876-3399
101 Osthoff Avenue, Elkhart Lake, WI
Identify yourself as being a member of Wisconsin School Public Relations Association (WSPRA).

Shore Club Resort - deadline is Nov. 2Make a reservation online
276 Victorian Village Drive, Elkhart Lake, WI
If you are only staying one night, use the date change option to customize your arrival & departure date.


Thank you to our sponsors! We appreciate your support of WSPRA!

WSPRA Partner Sponsors:

Finalsite logo           Nexus logo

Awards Sponsors:                                                     

school messenger logo           ParentSquare logo

Networking Sponsor:

          TeacherLists logo

Friends of WSPRA:

schoolsocial4edu logo

AlwaysOn logo


CD Smith logo


C.G. Schmidt logo


 CESA 6 logo


CESA Purchasing logo

Class Intercom logo Donovan Group logo


Dorreen Dembski logo

EUA logo


Foundry logo


Findorff logo

Miron logo  Peachjar logo  Qualtrics logo