2021 WSPRA Fall Conference | November 3-5, 2021


Registration for the 2021 WSPRA Conference is now closed. For any questions please contact WSPRA President Tracy Habisch-Ahlin.

WSPRA offers the best professional development on school communications in the state. As a result, our members become experts in the field. This three-day conference will offer the opportunity to network with school communicators just like you, engage in several break-out sessions taking a deeper dive into the issues that impact us the most and share lessons learned.

Band Logo for Bad MedicineCome for the learning, stay for the fun! We're putting the band back together. Thursday evening, party with your colleagues to 80s rock hits by the Milwaukee band "Bad Medicine." Dress in your best 80s attire for a chance to win prizes! (Entertainment is included with conference registration fee.)

Cost of Attending:

WSPRA Member Fees
$60 Pre-conference (only available if also registering for Thursday or the full conference)
$220 Thursday only
$240 Full-Conference
$450 Two WSPRA members from the same organization
$40 Spectrum Luncheon Only

Non-WSPRA Member Fees
$80 Pre-conference
$348 - Full-Conference
$40 Spectrum Luncheon Only

Cancellation Information: 
A 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. There will be no refund for no-shows or cancellations during the event.

Hotel Information

Don't forget to book your room at the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan!

(920) 452-2900
725 Blue Harbor Dr, Sheboygan, WI 53081
Overnight rate: $82 single/$102 double/$122 Triple/$142 Quad
Make a reservation by 10/13/21
Identify yourself as an attendee with WSPRA 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

3:30 - 7:00 PM | Registration
Salon A Entrance Hallway 

4:00 - 6:00 PM | Pre-Conference Session
Salon BC

Community Engagement and Emotionally Charged Issues

Do you ever feel like some members of society are completely unleashed? Do you wonder how you and your team can stay ahead of a constantly shifting narrative? This session is designed to help leaders and school district staff effectively and proactively engage with the community members in a way that results in a collective and shared vision and corresponding narrative.

Presenter: Dr. Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed; Superintendent of Hopkins Public Schools in Minnesota and National School Public Relations Association Vice President at Large for Superintendents of Schools

6:00 - 7:30 PM | Welcome Reception 
Peninsula Room

Having time to network is one of the benefits WSPRA members enjoy most. Enjoy some appetizers and connect with colleagues! For those who want to get outside, the Peninsula Bonfire will be set up with s’mores. 

Sponsored by: #SocialSchools4Edu

Thursday, November 4, 2021

7:30 - 8:30 AM | Breakfast
Salon A

7:30 - 8:30 AM | Registration
Salon A Entrance Hallway 

8:15 - 8:30 AM | Welcome - WSPRA President, Tracy Habisch-Ahlin
Salon A

8:30 - 10:00 AM | Keynote Presentation 
Salon A

What Lies Ahead: Creating a Culturally Adaptive Environment for Your District

We can't predict the future, but our recent past has shown us that we can't ignore the environment around us. While some of it is noise, the conversations and cries for a culturally adaptive workplace are here to stay. How can the public relations professional champion an inclusive environment from behind the desk? This discussion will provide tips and tricks to help you kick the desk over so you can help leaders in your organization adapt to equity and inclusion conversations that lie ahead.

Presenter: Yolanda Stephen, MBA and APR; Past National School Public Relations Association Vice President for Diversity Engagement

Sponsored by: Nexus Solutions
Nexus Logo

10:00 - 10:15 AM | Resource Fair/Break
Lakeside Terrace

10:15 - 11:15 AM | Breakout Sessions #1

They Asked for What? Public Records Law and Public Relations
(Salon EF)

Wisconsin’s Public Records law is an important tenet of transparency for the stakeholders public schools serve; however, records requests often create questions for and about the organization and operations for public relations and communications practitioners. Join Shana Lewis, attorney, Renning, Lewis & Lacy, s.c. and Sarah O’Donnell, director of communications, Stevens Point Area Public Schools District for an overview of Wisconsin’s Public Records law and the public relations issues that arise when responding to requests around controversial topics. Participants will have the chance to work through several scenarios and time for Q&A. 

Presenters:  Sarah O’Donnell, Director of Communications (Stevens Point Area Public School District); Shana Lewis, JD (Strang, Patteson) (Renning, Lewis & Lacy)

Data Driving Does More Than Sit on a Dashboard
(Salon BC) 

When it comes to data management, does it feel like you are driving with no headlights? Telling a story through data and performance indicators can propel you to the next level in your communication planning. There is an entire narrative that weaves into business strategies and objectives. Learn how you can make numbers your friend so they are not only sitting on the dashboard but also telling the story of your communication work.

Presenter: Yolanda Stephen, MBA and APR; Past National School Public Relations Association Vice President for Diversity Engagement 

Making a Difference -- Maximize Your Influence and Become a Leader Worth Following
(Lakeview Room) 

Healthy school leaders make healthy school systems. Healthy school systems translate into greater academic outcomes for our students and the communities in which they live.

Our districts and schools are filled with challenges, crises and growing complexity. Leadership has changed over the past few years and it mandates a new standard of health and skill for those “worth following.” As a leader, you wear the multiple hats of people developer, ambassador to your community, communications expert, and politician. It's a lonely job because it's the only one of its kind, right?

This new standard of leadership is born out of the pain that what got us here, won’t get us there. That's the manifesto and methodology from which effective leadership is established.  During this fast paced and interactive session participants will learn the essential attributes of effective leaders and leave with several dynamic tools guaranteed to maximize your influence.  

Presenter: Dennis Pauli, Ed.D., Superintendent (Edgerton School District)

11:15 - 11:30 AM | Resource Fair/Break
Lakeside Terrace 

11:30 - 1:00 PM | Spectrum Awards Luncheon
Salon A
Sponsored by: Blackboard Inc.

1:15 - 2:15 PM | Breakout Sessions #2

Scanning the System for Positives - Communicating Hope through All the Negative Noise
(Salon BC)

Negativity in today's society can be overwhelming. In this session we talk about the importance of consistently providing positive communication regarding student and staff success, achievement and well-being within your District. We will focus on communication strategies along with how implementing tools such as social media, newsletters, and website posts can assist with positively engaging all stakeholders.

Presenters: Chris Thompson, Chief Strategy Officer; Erin Kokta, Communications Specialist; and Eric Hagen, Communications Specialist (Elmbrook Schools)

Easy, Effective and Inexpensive: Using Facebook/Instagram Ads to Support District Goals
(Salon EF) 

Have little to no advertising budget? This session will share how the Green Bay Area Public School District has been effectively using Facebook/Instagram ads to address several District needs in recent years. Participants will learn about the different types of Facebook/Instagram ads, dos and don'ts when creating ads, and targeting ads to the desired audiences. 

Presenters: Lori Blakeslee Director of Communications, and Kristin Rozek, School and Community Relations Specialist (Green Bay Area Public Schools)

They Said What?! How to Balance School Boards and Social Media 
(Lakeview Room)

Socially engaged School Board members are a blessing… but, let's admit it, sometimes they can trend in the wrong direction. Sound familiar? If so, come hang out with us and learn tips and tricks for navigating staff engagement on social media. We’ll share the good, the bad and the ugly and ways you can avoid a viral nightmare.

Presenters: Emily DeBaker, Director of Communications (Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District); Jim Strick, Communications Manager (Neenah Joint School District)

2:15 - 2:30 PM | Resource Fair/Break
Lakeside Terrace

2:30 - 3:30 PM | Breakout Sessions #3

Engage and Inform…Without the Anxiety! 
(Salon EF)

Does the idea of trying to reach your entire community make your heart pick up its pace? Join us to learn tips and tricks in creating practical and unique content as you engage your community...yes, even those who may not be your biggest supporters. This session will be informative and interactive as we will share tips and explore the topic together. 

Presenters: Kimberly Uelmen, Communications Specialist (Howard-Suamico School District);  Kate Brown, Director of Marketing and Communications (Waterford Union High School)

Panel Discussion of School Communication’s Role in Family Engagement
(Salon BC)

You’re a leader in your district. What is your role in helping teachers, students, and parents connect? How do you provide strategic communication counsel and support to district departments and building administration?  In this session review the research and data findings from the Project Tomorrow Speak Up survey assessing the changing expectations for school to home communications.  We will uncover what the data is saying about this communication, hear your peers’ perspectives in a panel discussion, and prepare you for your next steps with immediate action items you can take back to your district.

Presenters: Tracy Habisch-Ahlin, Director of Community Relations (Hudson School District); Sarah O’Donnell, Director of Communications (Stevens Point Area Public School District), Tom Acuri and Kyle Stenson, Blackboard Inc.

Finding the Right Methods to Meaningfully Engage Stakeholders
(Lakeview Room) 

Now more than ever, school districts must engage in two-way communication that enables stakeholders to provide their input on a variety of opportunities and challenges facing their local schools. Tools like online surveys, focus groups, and polling help you inform your families, staff, students, and community members—while also learning from them. Find out how to review, analyze, and disaggregate data as you continually improve your communication practices. Director of Communications Brian Nicol will also share ways Howard-Suamico has engaged its stakeholders. 

Presenters: Perry Hibner, Lead Survey Strategist (The Donovan Group); Brian Nicol, Director of Communications (Howard-Suamico School District)

3:30 - 6:30 PM | Personal Time/Dinner with WSPRA Friends

6:30 - 7:00 PM | Networking
Lakeside Terrace
Dress in your best 80’s attire for photos and conversation.

7:00 - 10:00 PM | We’re Putting the Band Back Together

Music & Fun! Come and party with your colleagues to 80s rock hits by the Milwaukee band “Bad Medicine!” Best Dressed Awards at intermission!

Sponsored by: #SocialSchools4Edu

Friday, November 5, 2021

8:00 - 8:45 AM | Breakfast and Annual Meeting
Salon A

9:00 - 10:30 AM | Keynote Presentation
Salon A

Leading, Communicating, and Empathising to Maximize Engagement

Ten minutes with Ted, and you will be energized by his optimism and passion for leadership. You will also have an understanding of why the people who know him the best say that he is "contagiously energetic, insanely curious, service orientated, and passionate about the young people of our world." Ted is a motivational keynote speaker who has presented to thousands of educators around the country. He demonstrates the power every individual carries to influence other people through optimism and cognizant leadership. Ted has been a teacher, Principal, and Superintendent. Ted is also the host and creator of “The Smart Thinking Podcast,” which is dedicated to supporting leadership in the classroom, the boardroom, and in life by sparking reflection, action, collaboration, and empathy. 

Presenter: Ted Neitzke, CESA 6 CEO & Agency Administrator

Sponsored by: Nexus Solutions
Nexus Logo

10:30 - 10:45 AM | Resource Fair/Break
Lakeside Terrace

10:45 - 12:00 PM | Breakout Sessions #4

Communicating When Bad Things Happen
(Salon EF)

Managing school public relations can be challenging at the best of times. When staff make poor choices, your job can suddenly go from zero to 60 in seconds. We will discuss communication and trust building strategies that can help prepare, mitigate, and recover from those situations that aren't your fault but are your problem. 

Presenter: Tracy Habisch-Ahlin, WSPRA President and Director of Community Relations (Hudson School District)

Maximizing Your One-Person #SchoolPR Office
(Salon BC) 

If there’s one struggle every one-person #SchoolPR department has faced, it’s finding or making time to use the best practices of strategic communications while also meeting day-to-day obligations. How do you share all the great things in your school system when you’re an office of one? Use the research, planning, implementation, and evaluation (RPIE) model. In this session, learn about setting goals, measurable objectives, and more to help ensure what matters and can be measured gets done.

Presenter: Tracy Jentz, APR, M.A., Communications and Community Engagement Coordinator (Grand Forks Public Schools, North Dakota) and NSPRA North Central Region Vice President

Using Social Media Campaigns to Increase Enrollments and Community Engagement
(Lakeview Room)

This session will detail the components of a targeted social media campaign to help increase overall student enrollment and improve community engagement for your district.

Presenters: Cassandra Schug, PhD, Superintendent; Jaime Caudle, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent (Watertown Unified School District)

Other Information

For all of our events, we have a reciprocal agreement in place with the MinnSPRA and INSPRA that allows their members to register for WSPRA events at member rates!

Have a question about one or more of the events you see below? Contact WSPRA at 608-729-6659. 

WSPRA Board of Directors
President…………...Tracy Habisch-Ahlin
Past-President…….Christina Brey
President Elect…...Joelle Doye
Vice President…….Emily DeBaker
Treasurer…………...Jim Strick
Director……..……...Debbie Brewster
Director……..……...Kit Dailey
Director………...…..Kevin Hickman
Director……….…….Patti Lux
Director……….…….Sarah O’Donnell
Director……….…….Dennis Pauli, EdD
Director………….….Stacy Tapp, APR
AWSA Liaison….Jay Posick
WASDA Liaison………...Melissa Thompson, PhD
WASB Board Liaison….Brett Hyde

COVID Protocols

We are looking forward to seeing all school PR rockstars in person at the Fall Conference! To do our best to protect our members and our guests, the Board is putting initial COVID protocols into place based on current information.
As of now, we will be requiring all attendees to wear masks indoors, with the exception of when actively eating or drinking, even if you are fully vaccinated. WSPRA will provide a mask if you do not have one. 
At this time, we are not requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test. However, please note this could change based on the most up-to-date data we have closer to the conference.
We are asking everyone to be professional and respectful of these guidelines. In the interest of everyone's safety, we ask that you not attend the event if you are actively experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and please stay home if you have any immediate family members with COVID-19 even if you are fully vaccinated. 
As you know this situation continues to be fluid and circumstances may change by the time the conference is held based on the virus or any mandates from the Blue Harbor Resort, Sheboygan County, or the State of Wisconsin. Please watch for updates via email from WSPRA and on the www.wspra.org/events website and view Blue Harbor’s current protocols at https://www.blueharborresort.com/stay/the-healthy-blue-program/
If you are not comfortable attending the conference given the nature of any current circumstances, we respect that decision and you may cancel your registration prior to the event, minus a 40% administrative fee. There will be no refund for no-shows or cancellations during the event. 

 Thank You to Our Sponsors! 

Partner Sponsor


Nexus Logo


Nexus Solutions, the exclusive statewide facility planning partner of CESA Purchasing, is 100% focused on supporting PK-12 education clients. We develop long-term facility plans that produce accurate budgets and realistic funding tools, while our comprehensive community engagement process generates broad-based support across stakeholder groups. Call Kevin Hickman today at 608.400.3708 to discuss eliminating surprises during your facility planning and communication effortsVisit Website.  

Networking Sponsor

#SocialSchool4EDU provides full social media management, offers an intensive Social Media Bootcamp, and runs a vibrant online community that provides ongoing professional development for school social media champions. Visit Website. 

Award Sponsor

Blackboard is a leading EdTech company, serving higher education, K-12, business and government clients around the world. We connect a deep understanding of education with the power of technology to continuously push the boundaries of learning. Our mission is to advance learning together with the world's education community, so that all learners, educators and institutions can realize their goals today and prepare for tomorrow. Visit Website

Friends of WSPRA

CD Smith Logo From early childhood and K-12 to Higher Education, C.D. Smith has over 85 years of diverse experience building state-of-the-art educational facilities. Our construction experts develop a complete understanding of each client’s educational and facility goals to deliver academic excellence that stretches far beyond the classroom. From the physical school buildings to the athletic complexes surrounding them, we understand the space constraints, complicated schedules and limited finances that impact facilities projects. Our team adds value and minimizes clients’ risk by estimating early and accurate costs, limiting disruptions to school operations and creating safe construction zones. Visit Website. 

CGSchmidt LogoCG Schmidt, a family-owned company since 1920, is a leader in quality construction management, general construction, and design-build services with offices in Milwaukee and Madison. The company serves the Midwest in the markets of education, healthcare, senior living, corporate, industrial, community, and religious facilities. For more information, please visit the company’s website at www.cgschmidt.com

CMS LogoCMS4Schools from CESA 6 partners with you to identify communication challenges within your schools and solve them through improved website experiences, proactive and timely app notifications, and integrated notification solutions. We help you communicate the awesome things your students and staff are doing through easy to use, efficient, and budget conscious tools. Better organize, better share and better engage with your school community today! Visit Website.

DD Communications Logo We are a team of experienced communication specialists who can help your school district with a range of services. DD Communication Services provides strategic communication, public relations, and marketing support for educational and non-profit organizations. We help your organization bridge internal or external communication gaps, help strengthen existing communication efforts within your organization, and can support your district or organization with special campaigns such as referendums, enrollment campaigns, opening or closing schools, etc. Your first hour of consultation is always free! Please contact us to see if we are a good fit for your organization! Visit Website.

The Donovan Group Logo The Donovan Group is a public relations and marketing firm that offers a wide variety of services, including consulting, coaching, communications planning, referendum assistance, surveys, video production, media relations, content creation, editing, and graphic design. Its services include a 24/7 hotline staffed 365 days a year and live crisis communications counsel provided by experienced crisis communications professionals. Its team delivers custom talking points, parent letters, news releases, social media posts and other written content when school leaders must communicate quickly. Visit Website. 

EAU Logo Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA) is best known for designing environments that elevate people’s potential. Nearly 180 employees in MilwaukeeMadison and Denver demonstrate unparalleled commitment to the markets, communities and clients they serve. The respected 114-year-old firm specializes in several markets including educationworkplaceindustrialhealthcaresenior livingmixed-usecommunity and science + technologyVisit Website. 

Findorff Logo

Findorff’s education team serves the K-12 market by partnering with schools to help them identify facility goals and construct quality buildings that enhance the learning experience. Visit Website. 


Foundry Logo

I am a graphic designer that has worked with school districts throughout the state of Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, for the past 10 years. I support and compliment the story—visually, applying the importance of functional graphic design. Over the years, I have worked on various client needs, specializing in visual brand development. I always take on a new challenge with a positive focus, and try to find the best solution for my customer. Please find me at WSPRA’s Fall Conference or email me. I will be happy to speak with you about my services and how I can support your district. 

HSR Logo

HSR Associates has 68 years of experience providing high-quality, innovative educational design and construction services for many K-12 districts and higher education facilities throughout Wisconsin and the tri-state region. Our in-house education team includes architectural, interior design, engineering, and construction administration professionals who partner with you throughout the entire design and construction process. For additional information about our in-house services and project portfolio, please visit www.hsrassociates.com 

Miron Logo
Miron has served 100+ districts and provides comprehensive services: facilities and referendum planning, preconstruction, and construction management. Our education team has guided districts through 65 successful referenda totaling over $1 billion. Visit Website. 


PRA Logo PRA is an award-winning Architectural and Interior Design firm dedicated to delivering innovative design solutions. We specialize in projects that comprise the essence of communities — where you live, work, play, learn, worship and retire. We are passionate about turning our clients’ aspirations into reality. The firm consists of 75 staff led by 10 principals, with offices in Milwaukee, WI; Madison, WI; Austin, TX, and Sarasota, FL. Our staff is organized into a studio/team format to focus resources, experience and creative synergy on client projects. We work together in teams across offices and studios to deliver excellent results for our clients. Visit Website. 

Somerville Logo

Somerville is one of Wisconsin’s largest employee-owned architecture and engineering design firms. We are known for providing innovative, sustainable and value-added solutions to our clients. With more than 1,200 projects for over 100 education clients, Somerville boasts a portfolio few firms can match. We are dedicated to our clients’ success, utilizing the latest technology in our profession, and are devoted to the stewardship the communities we work inVisit Website.