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2023 Fall Conference


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CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS/MATERIALS (login and password required)



Heidel House Hotel & Conference Center, 653 Illinois Avenue, Green Lake, WI 54941

Rooms are sold out for Nov. 9. There are currently 4 rooms left for Nov. 8. There are rooms available at the Bayview Motel (not far from the Heidel House). 

Overflow Rooms:
Bayview Motel, 439 Lake Street, Green Lake


Heidel House WSPRA Conference Group Rates:
Two queen beds: $109
Two queen beds, lakeview: $119
King Suite: $139

Reserve rooms online or by calling (920) 807-0300. If phoning, identify yourself as part the Wisconsin School Public Relations Association - Fall Conference group and provide hotel staff with guest name, requested type of room, check-in and check-out date.


Thank you to our WSPRA Partners:

Apptegy logo      FinalSite logo     Nexus logo



Pre-Conference: $60 member/$80 non-member

Full Conference: $250 member/$360 non-member

Thursday only: $230 member/$340 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):  $465 



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 to obtain the reciprocal registration code.

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.



Conference Program


2:00-3:00 pm

Registration – Not attending the pre-conference but arriving Wednesday evening?  Please join us for the reception. We will be sure to give you your name tag for the reception.

3:00-5:00 pm

Pre-Conference Sessions (separate registration and cost)

Session 1: Navigating the School Communications Road: A Guide for New Adventurers
Buckle up and join us for a PR Road Trip pre-conference session designed for new school communications and public relations professionals (less than 4 years).

A panel of four experienced WSPRA members will share insights and tips on topics such as: defining your role with administration and the school board; planning tools; marketing and branding; crisis communications; and answer your questions.

Panel: Emily Dolan, Richland School District; Kate Brown, Waterford Union High School; Tracy Habisch-Ahlin, Hudson School District; Sarah O’Donnell, Stevens Point Area School District


Session 2: Stand out in your Communication Efforts: Be Smart and Strategic to Show Results
Is your communication plan strategic or does it feel as if you are playing whack-a-mole? We all know the feeling: Do we have to respond to every request and model great customer service, or narrow our scope of work and prove the value of a strategic approach? The answer is likely both. To deliver a professional communication program we have to inch toward strategic and away from reactive communication. But how?

Tried and true, follow the RACE model, and you'll end up with a manageable (or almost manageable) communication strategy that will give you more confidence in your approach. This plan will look most closely at R - research - to plan your communication strategy; and E - evaluation - how to measure your progress along the way. We will examine research techniques you could use to develop a strategic communication plan and tools to evaluate your plan as you implement it. Participants will be asked to bring a real-life communication challenge and we will begin the RACE to a solution together.

Presenter: Dorreen Dembski, Communication Professional and Owner, Dorreen Dembski Communication Services, LLC

5:00-7:00 pm Dinner on your own
7:00-10:00 pm

Welcome Reception – Meet conference attendees and enjoy complimentary light appetizers and desserts. Cash bar, with complimentary drink ticket.  Please attend the reception, even if you are registering for the conference on Thursday morning.


7:15-8:00 am

Registration & Breakfast (included with registration)

8:15-4:00 pm

Photo of Tiffany Ogle

8:15-9:30   General Session

  • Welcome and orientation to the conference
  • Keynote presentation: “Take your brand to the bank: Learn how to boost your charisma, confidence, and communication skills!”
    Presented by Tiffany Ogle, Leadership Coach with CharismaQ | Learn more about Tiffany and her keynote presentation

9:45-10:15   Resource Fair & Refreshments

  • Visit our WSPRA business partners
  • Fill your Passport to win prizes
  • Enjoy refreshments

10:15-11:15   Breakout Session #1 (choose one of the following)

Success! A Blueprint for Engaging your Board, Staff and Community Regarding Facility and Operational Needs
Presenters: Kevin Hickman, Senior Client Executive - Nexus Solutions; Dr. Mark Rollefson, District Administrator – Yorkville Joint #2 School District
At a time when the delivery of education is transforming, time is of the essence to plan and fund flexible, safe and innovative facility solutions built upon strategic engagement strategies and tools. Participants will learn about a proven process to expedite planning, engagement with their Board, staff and community, and securing the necessary funding for facility improvements and operational needs. The presentation will be both informative and interactive, focusing on the story of the Yorkville Joint #2 School District, as well as other relevant examples that will benefit participants.

Crafting Your District's Communications Data Story
Presenters: Chris Thompson, Chief Strategy Officer; Eric Hagen & Erin Kokta, Communications Specialists for Elmbrook - School District of Elmbrook
Have you ever been asked to measure the impact of your work in communications? Do you respond with followers and website visits, but wish you could speak about social media engagements, new enrollments or time spent viewing videos? Learn about the Elmbrook Schools Communications Team's data scorecard, and how it connects communications strategies to data outcomes in support of its work. Become the model for your District's use of data and make smart use of your limited communications time and resources.

The Power of Educational Equity:  Driven by Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging
Presenter: Demetri Beekman, Executive Director for Equity and Inclusion, and Abigail Swetz, Director of Communications, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

  • Explore the fundamental concept of educational equity, explaining how it differs from equality and why creating right, just and fair educational opportunities for all students is critical.
  • Discover how intersectionality plays a pivotal role in understanding and addressing disparities in educational outcomes.
  • Learn how to recognize and acknowledge the unique experience of diverse student population.
  • Explore effective communication strategies to help advocate for and support educational equity initiatives within your institution.
  • Cover the importance of transparent and empathic communication in creating a culture of belonging.
  • The goal of the session is for every participant to leave with a solid foundation in educational equity, DEIB concepts, and effective communication strategies to drive positive change in your educational institutions.  

11:15-11:45   Resource Fair & Refreshments

  • Visit our WSPRA business partners
  • Fill your Passport to win prizes
  • Enjoy refreshments

12:00-1:15   Spectrum Awards Luncheon (included with registration)sponsored by Findorff logo   and  ParentSquare logo

1:30-2:30   Breakout Session #2 (choose one of the following)

Starting a Podcast
Presenter: Daniel Bader, Communication Coordinator and Christie Gajewski, Director of Instruction - School District of South Milwaukee
Why start a podcast? What equipment do you need? What are some elements of a successful podcast? Learn answers to these questions.

Taking a Strategic Approach to Community Engagement
Presenters: Patti Lux-Weber, Communications and Engagement Officer and Adam Mumm, Multimedia & Website Strategist - Sun Prairie Area School District
Community voice is important in our work. We want to engage; we think we are engaging, but do we genuinely know what engagement is and what it isn’t? Taking a strategic approach to engagement is understanding your goals and making a promise to those participating in what role they will play. Together, we will explore engagement tips depending on how involved you want your community to be in your process. In this session, you will learn how to strategically engage with your community to build trust and receive authentic results.

400 Years? Communicating About the State Budget: From Revenue Limits and State Aid to Property Taxes and Referendums
Presenter: Brian Nicol, Partner - Donovan Group
Wisconsin school finance remains a complex topic and communicating about the biennial budget and its impact on local school districts has gotten even more difficult. In this session we will discuss some talking points, some different ways of engaging taxpayers, staff and other community members about the state budget and what it means for those who are pursuing a referendum. Bring your questions!

2:30-3:00  Resource Fair & Refreshments

  • Visit our WSPRA business partners!
  • Last chance to fill your Passport and win prizes
  • Enjoy afternoon refreshments

3:00-4:00   Breakout Session #3 (choose one of the following)

Crisis Communication: Navigating the 💩 Storm
Presenters: Emily DeBaker, Chief of Staff; Stacy Tapp, Chief of Communication & Community Engagement, Racine Unified School District
Crisis Communication is a vital aspect of any organization's ability to handle unexpected challenges. From natural disasters and technology mishaps to those particularly cringy human-induced crises, we've (unfortunately) seen it all. Join us to explore the key principles and strategies for effective crisis communication. You'll walk away knowing what to do and what not to do and who you can call if you've reached your limit.

¿Qué? Understanding the language barrier in schools
Presenters: Shannon Valladolid, Director of Information and Public Relations; Solange "Soly" Rodriguez, District Translator/Interpreter, Deanna Kruger, District Media Production Specialist, Rebecca Bailey, Public Relations Specialist - Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District
In an era of rapid communication, it is crucial to address the language barrier that many families face in schools, particularly those who do not speak English. This session aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the challenges these families encounter and the consequences they face when left behind. Join us as we explore the transformative changes implemented by the Communications Team from the Middleton Cross Plains Area School District to support and empower all families. Key Topics:

  • The impact of language barriers on families in school communities
  • Recognizing and addressing the needs of multilingual families
  • Sharing experiences and real-life stories from families affected by language barriers
  • Strategies employed by the Communications Team to enhance communication and engagement
  • Highlighting successful initiatives and programs that promote inclusivity
  • Practical steps to implement effective communication strategies in your own school community 

Who Speaks for your Brand?
Presenters: Joy Clendenning, Business Development Rep, Apptegy; Phill Klamm, Superintendent, Walworth Jt. School District #1
Maintaining your district’s brand requires the strength of your team. You can’t be your district’s only spokesperson; you need brand ambassadors, people who wear your colors, live your values, and get others excited about your schools. We will share new research from SchoolCEO and explore who’s acting as your brand ambassadors and why that matters. With examples from school districts across the country, you’ll learn how to make brand guidelines more accessible, share positive content on social media, and thank and celebrate staff that are acting as brand ambassadors.

4:00-7:00 pm

Dinner on your own


7:00-10:00 pm


Pit Stop Party: An Evening of Speedy Stops & Spirited Sounds

sponsored by CMS4Schools logo

  • Recharge your brain and body with low-impact, easy minute-to-win-it activities: some friendly competition among WSPRA members and just plain fun . . . with prizes!
  • Enjoy the music of Galynne Goodwill who comes recommended by the Green Lake Chamber of Commerce.
  • Network with conference attendees and business partners.
  • Complimentary appetizers and desserts will be provided.
  • Cash bar, with complimentary drink ticket

7:30-8:30 am

Breakfast (included with registration) & Annual Meeting

The at-large position will be voted on by WSPRA members at the Friday, Nov. 10 Annual Meeting.

WSPRA members are asked to REVIEW THE NINE LETTERS OF INTEREST and vote during the Nov. 10 Annual Meeting, beginning at 8:15 am. 

8:30-12 noon

photo of Akwi Nji

8:30-9:45 am  General Session

  • Welcome and orientation to the day
  • Keynote presentation: “Bold Storytelling That Disrupts Tradition to Engage, Empower, Inspire”
    Presented by Akwi Nji, Founder of Powerful over Pretty. Akwi most recently served as Director of School and Community Relations and Communications at Waterloo Community School District 
    Learn how to take a wildly different approach, by incorporating strategies used in the for-profit world, to engage employees, reignite enthusiasm, and build trust with your families and community. In this interactive and engaging session, participants will reimagine how to integrate powerful graphics, videography, and copy that slices through the static and appeals to racially and culturally diverse audiences. Incorporate digital, traditional, and live media with a sustainable production schedule for a team of any size and any budget.
    Learn more about Akwi and her keynote presentation

10:00 am-12:00 noon  PR Pit Stop Roundtable Discussion

Get valuable ideas to add to your school public relations toolkit. During each Pit Stop (aka, session), choose from a variety of topics and attend three mini-sessions of 30 minutes each. Gather some practical ideas in a time-saving format. Topics include: 

  • Build Trust and Positive Public Relations via Key Processes in Your District
  • "Be a Podcast Pro"
  • POV & Empowering Student Voice: How to Leverage Social Media to Tell Your District's Stories
  • A United Voice: Creating Consistency Across Your District with a Communications Playbook
  • Building Successful Surveys
  • Preventing “Oops, we posted that?” - Auditing Social Media for Inclusive Images & Content
  • Best practices in District Branding Guides
  • Crafting Captivating School Newsletters: Engage, Inform, and Inspire Your Community
  • A Crash Course in Canva
  • Experiencing Data

12:00 noon

Closing remarks and raffle prizes

Thank you to all of our WSPRA sponsors who help to make this conference and other events throughout the year possible!