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2018 Chapter Award Winners

The chair of TSPRA’s 2017-2018 Professional Awards Committee is Ronnie Zamora; Los Fresnos CISD. Other committee members include Denise Blanchard, Amarillo ISD; Patti Pawlik-Perales, Alamo Heights ISD; Marco Alvarado, Lake Travis ISD; Holly Fuller, Decatur ISD and Mike Rockwood, Lamar CISD.

2018 Professional Achievement Award: Judith Saxton, Ph.D., APR; Mount Pleasant ISD

2018 Professional Achievement

TSPRA President Melissa Tortorici with Professional Achievement recipient Judith Saxton, Ph.D., APR.



“During her career in public education, she has helped mentor dozens of TSPRA members and assist anyone who wanted to pursue their APR,” said Rebecca Villarreal, APR of New Braunfels ISD. “Last year, one of her mentees, Angela Duitch, earned her APR and became the first TSPRA member in 12 years to earn the APR.”

Saxton has served as the APR chair for TSPRA for several years and organizes workshops at the TSPRA annual conference to help those who might be interested in pursuing the accreditation get started.

A 22-year veteran at Mount Pleasant ISD, Saxton has helped pass bonds, run the Mount Pleasant Education Foundation, and launch the district’s social media channels, all as a one-person office.






2018 Most Valuable Member: Julie Thannum, APR; Carroll ISD

2018 MVM

Carroll ISD superintendent Dr. David Faltys, awards committee representative Holly Fuller, Most Valuable Member Julie Thannum, APR and West's A.J. Morgan.



“Julie is a tireless advocate for our profession,” said Lesley Bruinton, APR, President of the Alabama chapter of NSPRA. “As a national leader, she did what local leaders do -- support membership in person.”

“Julie Thannum leads with a mix of nurturing grace and Texas charm,” said Shane Haggerty, NSPRA Vice President At-Large of Technology/Innovation. “We as school PR people are better for having had her serve us as president, and we continue to be better having her in our ranks, advocating for students each and every day."

But despite a busy travel schedule that kept her jetting across the country to various state meetings and conventions, Thannum was always available to her colleagues in Texas to lend her support or experience where it would be helpful.

“Julie Thannum is a true professional in every sense of the word,” said Joel Weckerly, Director of Communications at Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. “Her enthusiastic leadership is infectious and inspiring. Despite her demanding schedule, she always makes the time to help those who need her guidance, support or listening ear.”

“As a friend and colleague, I can always count on Julie to take time out of her crazy busy schedule and step into my world to share her personal and professional expertise,” said Deanne Hullender, Public Relations and Marketing Officer at Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD. “I am truly a better PR Professional and friend because Julie Thannum is in my life!”







2018 Rookie Of The Year: Magen Davis, Midway ISD

2018 Rookie of the Year

TSPRA President Melissa Tortorici, Rookie of the Year Magen Davis and awards committee representative Marco Alvarado.



“Her wit and assertiveness challenge the status quo, pushing all who surround her to up our game, said Traci Marlin, Midway ISD’s  Public Information Officer.  “This Star Award-winning, scholarship-winning, graduate student should be Rookie of the Year from pure talent. Fair warning: She'll raise the bar for all who follow.”

Marlin says Davis has been instrumental in updating Midway’s communications efforts, both in print and online.

“Magen brings her talent, life, and unique perspectives to school district communications,” said Marlin. “She innately grasps social media, engagement, and reach, and she's able to implement those techniques seamlessly.

“Her fresh design eye helps our overall look stay current with sharp use of fonts, layout, and new color accents for our classic red and blue. She's been crucial to major ADA overhauls, establishing partnerships with graphic design classes and the successful launch of our digital sign despite an inept sign company.”







2018 Bright Idea Award:  La Porte ISD

2018 Bright Idea

TSPRA President Melissa Tortorici, Bright Idea recipient Adam Holland of La Porte ISD, Elementary Schoolmate's Rick Hill and award committee representative Mike Rockwood.

Elementary Schoolmate Logo


Chase Chicorz returned to La Porte ISD for his senior year of high school after years attending the Texas School for the Blind and the Visually Impaired to re-assimilate with his peers and the local community before graduation.

“Though quite familiar with computers – they were his primary gateway to the outside world, after all – we learned from Chase that he all but expected his vocation would involve simple tasks, such as folding towels and sheets at a hotel,” said La Porte ISD webmaster Adam Holland.

After working with their vendor to help train Chicorz, the three-way dialogue between district, company and tester began. With Chicorz’s help, La Porte ISD were able to build a website that exceeded, tweaking rotation times to give visually impaired users time to listen to voiceovers and repositioning menus to make them easier to navigate for someone who has to wait and hear what each option might be. 

“Ultimately, our collaboration resulted in a La Porte ISD website that is more accessible than the law requires,” said Holland.  “Along the way, a bright young student who had relegated himself to a future of menial tasks, seemed to find a niche in his beloved world of computers.”






2018 Partner in Public Education Award: Laurel D'Antoni

2018 Partner in Public Education

TSPRA President Melissa Tortorici, Partner in Public Education recipient Laurel D'Antoni and awards committee chair Ronnie Zamora.  


When Hurricane Harvey left many Sheldon ISD students homeless and severely damaged a third of its campuses, D’Antoni stepped in as unofficial spokesperson, liaison and booster, using her contacts in the community to make sure the district wasn’t forgotten in the aftermath.

“She didn’t do it because anyone told her to,“ said Lila Hollin, Sheldon ISD’s community partnership coordinator, “she wasn’t even looking for recognition. She decided to help rebuild Sheldon ISD because she fell in love with the grit of our students and teachers.

“She called sports teams from across the country and asked them to step up and help.”

D’Antoni also helped direct the efforts of the Houston Rockets, where her husband Mike is the head coach, toward the district’s needs. James Harden helped served food at a Thanksgiving event at Null Middle School. Harden, Chris Paul and former Rocket Clyde Drexler helped with book drives at Null and King middle schools to provide students new books  and backpacks and restock the school library. Kari Anderson (wife of Rockets forward Ryan Anderson) and members of the Rockets Women’s Organization donated school supplies to Royalwood Elementary School along with D’Antoni.

When the waters receded, D’Antoni’s support for the Sheldon ISD community remained steadfast. In addition to making a donation to Sheldon ISD Education Foundation to help teachers restock schools with learning essentials, she continues to visit campuses and volunteer at book fairs, combining her support for the district and her work with the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation. Members of the Rockets Women’s Organization helped the foundation distribute six books to each child at Royalwood Elementary