Nixa Public Schools Receives 2014 Leadership Through Communication Award



James Minichello
703-774-6953 (cell) 

Award Recognizes Exemplary Leadership in the

Enhancement of Communications for Schools and the Community

Alexandria, Va., Nov. 19, 2013 – Nixa Public Schools, a K-12 suburban school system in Nixa, Mo., has been named the 2014 recipient of the Leadership Through Communication Award, jointly sponsored by Blackboard, the National School Public Relations Association and AASA, The School Superintendents Association. The award recognizes Stephen Kleinsmith, Ed.D., superintendent, and Zac Rantz, director of communication, for demonstrating exemplary leadership in the enhancement of school-to-parent communication within the school system and the community they serve. Nixa Public Schools serves 6,000 students in 11 schools.

The judges for the 2014 award were impressed with the high-functioning communications program that has been developed in Nixa Public Schools, noting that it is strategic, transparent and two-way in design. Since joining the district in 2000, school communications has been a high priority for Dr. Kleinsmith. It has remained the number one strategy in Nixa Public Schools’ strategic plan, resulting in the addition of a director of communication to oversee a comprehensive communication program. The focus on communication also has added: principal advisory committees; a key communicator network; enhanced interaction with the community and the media; a volunteer program; staff communication training; a crisis communication plan; and enhanced customer service across the district. The superintendent and director of communication work hard to ensure there is a united message for Nixa Public Schools.

In addition, Nixa Public Schools is commended for:

  • Building a culture where there is a common language to enhance communication. The internal and external groups clearly speak the same language as the superintendent and director.
  • Creating an environment where information can be shared in a variety of ways, including face-to-face interactions, the news media, the website, social media, district messaging, community engagement, multi-media presentations and printed materials. Their efforts have expanded relationships beyond Nixa’s “parent base” to build strong support and pride among major segments of the business community and taxpayers who do not have children enrolled in the public schools.
  • Providing the community the opportunity to offer input which is listened to and acted upon. There is evidence of trust between the district, city officials and community members, and all parties work together to do what is best for students. There is a close collaboration with a wide range of community agencies (police, fire, faith, county and city government, civic leadership, etc.) in communication that serves the needs of the community.
  • Committing to transparency: Patrons express a high level of trust in the district, which has demonstrated a willingness to share bad news as well as good news in an effort to build community trust through transparent and honest communications.
  • Empowering building administrators to take charge of their own communications programs, with ample training support from the director.
  • Responding to requests from new PR staff and superintendents in neighboring and regional districts. As a result, the superintendent and director of communication have served as mentors to their peers, fostering good school communications practices throughout the state of Missouri.
  • Developing a strong relationship between the superintendent and communications director. It is two-way, dynamic and oriented toward problem-solving, and their rapport is readily apparent. Focus groups commented on the team’s ability to work together and the community’s trust in them.

“The comprehensive nature of Nixa Public Schools’ communication program is incredibly impressive when you realize that it is overseen by a department of one,” said Rich Bagin, APR, executive director of the National School Public Relations Association. “The scope, quality and effectiveness of the communication effort is a testament to Dr. Kleinsmith’s vision and commitment and to Zac’s creativity, skill and boundless energy. It is obvious that they are both extremely passionate about their work and the students in Nixa’s schools.”

“Student success depends upon community support and effective communication between teachers, parents and the entire community,” said Mark Belles, senior vice president of Blackboad K-12. “We’re delighted to see Nixa Public Schools recognized for their comprehensive approach to improving district-wide communications and community engagement.”

“In the digital age we live in, where we sometimes have only 140 characters to share important messages, I congratulate Nixa Public Schools for its outstanding communications agenda,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA. “As we work to strengthen school systems across the country, a vital component in achieving that goal is effectively leveraging the various communications platforms available to reach key audiences. This school district has created a winning model for informing the community it serves.”

The Leadership Through Communication Award program is open to all school districts throughout the United States and Canada. The award will be presented at AASA’s National Conference on Education in Nashville, Tenn., February 13-15, 2014. A $10,000 contribution will be made by Blackboard to Nixa Public Schools to be used for student scholarships or communication activities that benefit students and schools. District leaders will also give a panel presentation on their communication program at the AASA Conference.

About Blackboard

Blackboard is the world’s leading education technology company that helps shape the future of education by delivering technology and service solutions that transform the learning experience both inside and outside of the classroom. The company’s mass communications solution, Blackboard Connect, allows school and district leaders to deliver targeted and effective voice, e-mail and SMS messages to thousands of parents, students and community members, in minutes.

About AASA
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. The mission of AASA is to advocate for the highest quality public education for all students, and develop and support school system leaders. For more information, visit Follow AASA on Twitter at or on Facebook at


The National School Public Relations Association is a professional association dedicated to building support and trust for education through effective, responsible communication and public relations that lead to success for all students. NSPRA has been providing training, services, resources and support to school leaders in North America since 1935. For more information, visit

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