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Star Awards Archive

Click the link to view the Star Awards Winner Book for a particular year. 
Currently these are the only booklets available.


2019 Star Awards Book     Press Release     Word   PDF
View the 2019 Star Awards Gallery
These links will be available 2/27/2020

2018 Star Awards Book
    Press Release:    Word   PDF
View the 2018 Star Awards Gallery

2017 Star Awards Book
    Press Release:    Word   PDF
View the Star Awards Gallery

2016 Star Awards Book      Press Release   Word   PDF  
View the Star Awards Gallery 

2015 Star Awards Book      Press Release:   Word    PDF

2014 Star Awards Book      Press Release

2013 Star Awards Book      Press Release

2012 Star Awards Book      Press Release

2011 Star Awards Book      Press Release

2010 Star Awards Book      Press Release

2009 Star Awards Book 

2007 Star Awards Book

2006 Star Awards Book

2005 Star Awards Book

2004 Star Awards Book

2003 Star Awards Book

2002 Star Awards Book

2001 Star Awards Book

2019 Chapter Award Winners

The chair of TSPRA’s 2018-2019 Professional Awards Committee is David Hicks of Allen ISD. Other committee members include Denise Blanchard, Amarillo ISD; Julie Zwahr, Denton ISD; Tiffany Veno, Garland ISD and Kyndall Jirasek, Pflugerville ISD.

2019 Professional Achievement Award: Craig Verley, Mission CISD





“When I came into the world of school PR, I was told that if I ever had a question, I could also count on Craig and ask,” said Jim Zavala of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD. “He has shared his knowledge and experience and has always been open to new trends and change. Craig has been a mentor to TSPRA members of all levels.”

Verley was elected TSPRA’s Gulf Coast Area Vice President in 2017. He has served as TSPRA’s Social Media Chair, founded and continues to organize the charity 5K Run/Walk during the TSPRA Annual Conference and won TSPRA’s 2016 Bright Idea Award for Mission CISD’s Picture YourSelfie at College campaign. 

"The best leaders inspire us to be our best. Craig Verley certainly has this effect on his colleagues,” said Veronica Castillon, APR, of Laredo ISD. “I have always appreciated Craig’s leadership skills.”

“Craig Verley has been a leader, mentor and friend in TSPRA for me since I joined in 2010,” said Corey Ryan of Leander ISD. “Craig was a friendly face whom I relied on to find a place in the organization, both in the RGV and at the state level. When I moved to Central Texas, I continued to connect with Craig as a valued resource.”






2019 Most Valuable Member: Beth Trimble, CPC, Red Oak ISD





“Beth is a true TSPRAn at heart,” said Megan Overman, CPC, of Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD. “She personifies the mission of the organization and works to improve opportunities for us all to be stronger communicators in our communities.” 

Trimble, who completed a term as one of TSPRA’s at-large vice presidents in February, was one of the first two school district communicators to join Texas Christian University’s Certified Public Communicator program in the summer of 2014. Following her lead, more than 20 TSPRA members have graduated since  2015. Trimble now serves on the CPC board, helping ensure the program continues to meet the evolving needs of TSPRA members. 

“She was instrumental in promoting and encouraging me to consider the CPC program,” said Renae Murphy, CPC, of Rockwall ISD. “As a member of the CPC advisory board, she represents TSPRA and helps guide a flourishing program to meet the needs of our profession.”

“Beth cares about professional development for TSPRA members and the ways it can deepen and expand knowledge,” said Jacqueline Lambiase, a professor at TCU’s Bob Schieffer College of Communication. “She knows the advantages and necessity of boosting the strategic thinking abilities for communicators whose jobs are hard, as they support their districts with storytelling to attract and keep students, families, great teachers, and more.”







2019 Rookie Of The Year: Emily Solis, Frenship ISD





“Her professional skill set of written and visual communication, strategic innovation and support of many district initiatives has lifted the level of our professional quality to new heights,” said Andy Penney, Frenship ISD’s Director of Public Relations and Information. 

Within six months of starting at Frenship, Solis had launched the district’s first-ever magazine, a 64-page back-to-school publication that saw more than 15,000 copies distributed. 

“All the page layouts, graphic design work and content organization were produced through her creative eye,” said Penney. “Not only did the magazine serve as a great promotional tool for us but it also included 34 business sponsorships which Emily secured totaling $27,200. The final product generated more than $13,000 in net revenue for our department.”

She revitalized Frenship’s Homecoming celebration, partnering with the Chamber of Commerce to turn a football game into a three-day celebration including a community dinner, alumni golf tournament, parade and street dance, including fireworks. 







2019 Bright Idea Award: North East ISD



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North East ISD receives the award in recognition of its Meals for Shields program, which seeks to improve police-community relations by offering a free lunch to area police officers visiting district elementary schools.

“We want to show the kids that the officers are their friends,” said North East ISD Chief of Police Wallace McCampbell. “We want to make them safe and we want them to be able to come to us when they have a question or a problem.”

Officers participating must be in uniform when they check in at the front office. They go through the lunch line with students and sit at tables with them to eat their meals. 

The benefits of the program are twofold: Students grow more familiar with law enforcement in their communities, and those officers gain insights into how schools operate that could keep students safer in an emergency situation.  





2019 Media Award: Deborah Knapp - KENS-5

Deborah Knapp Photo




In 1999, Knapp launched the KENS 5 Excel Award, which recognizes an outstanding public school teacher from each of San Antonio’s 19 local school districts. Recipients of the Excel Award receive a $1,000 check thanks to a partnership with Credit Human and are featured in a broadcast on KENS 5.


“She is more than a news anchor who shares the public education news,” said Patti Pawlik-Perales, Communications Coordinator at Alamo Heights ISD. “She is a friend, a supporter and someone who seeks to shine the light and focus on all that is good about public educators and education.”

In 1994, Knapp established a scholarship to her alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, awarded to a San Antonio student who has demonstrated a commitment to community. She serves on the boards of the Boy Scouts of America and the Old Spanish Missions, the organization that restores and maintains San Antonio’s historic Mission churches. She has received the Director’s Community Leadership Award from the FBI for her years of community involvement and has been inducted into the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame. 






2019 Partner in Public Education Award: Fred Markham



Harris County Department of Education logo


“The Texas Pioneer Foundation has provided resources to build the impact and capacity of hundreds of education foundations, said Laurie Cromwell, President of Foundation Innovation. “Those foundations have in turn become the charity of choice for education and have raised millions of dollars for Texas public school programs.“

The common theme throughout Markham’s work is boosting education foundations not merely through a one-time donation, but by increasing their ability to go out and secure many more donations. Texas Pioneer Foundation awards grants to bring in experts to assist new foundations just starting up or dormant ones in need of a jump start.

In 2012, the Texas Pioneer Foundation launched the Texas Education Foundation Network, which has provided networking opportunities, training and resources and a forum to share best practices for Texas education foundations via regional trainings and an annual conference that is free for all TEFN members. 

“Fred Markham is a true visionary,” said Suzi Pagel, Director of Corporate and Community Development for the Midway ISD Education Foundation. “He sees the potential for education foundations to not only build capacity in funding the public schools, but also to serve as a bridge between the public schools, parents, staff, and those who may not be directly connected with the public schools in their community. Our schools and our education foundations are all stronger because of the work of this humble, generous man. “





2018 Key Communicator

For a complete list of Key Communicators, click here.

2018 Key Communicator Award
Sponsored by









Pastors for Texas Children founder Charles Foster Johnson named
TSPRA’s 2018 Key Communicator


The Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA) has named Reverend Charles Foster Johnson, founder of Pastors for Texas Children, as the recipient of the association’s 2018 Key Communicator Award. Johnson receives the award in recognition of his work as a champion for public schools and adequate school funding.

Johnson will receive his award, sponsored by West (SchoolMessenger solutions), from TSPRA President Kristin Zastoupil at the 2018 Texas Association of School Administrators/Texas Association of School Boards Convention, to be held in Austin September 28-30, 2018.

“Rev. Johnson has worked tirelessly recruiting and leading advocates who know that a strong public education system is a moral imperative,” said Zastoupil. “His unwavering defense of Texas students and educators makes him a deserving recipient of this award.”

Johnson founded Pastors for Texas Children in 2013 with the mission of providing “wrap-around care and ministry to local schools, principals, teachers, staff and schoolchildren; advocating for children by supporting our free public education system to promote social justice for children and advancing legislation that enriches Texas children, families and communities.”

Most prominently, Johnson and his organization have been outspoken opponents of legislative attempts to divert funds from public schools via voucher schemes, believing them to be antithetical to the goal of providing a free publication for all Texas children.

“For years, our schools have been somewhat alone in their advocacy for fair funding and programing,” said Mike Moses, former Texas Commissioner of Education. “Thanks to Reverend Johnson, they have engaged in the debate regarding appropriate support for public schools. Reverend Johnson and the organization have made strong arguments that have been warm and welcomed by Texas educators.”

Johnson has spread that message through his use of social media, speaking appearances at conventions and on university campuses and television appearances. He has also amplified it by recruiting his fellow religious leaders to help spread the message of Pastors for Texas Children in their communities.

Johnson is the founder and co-pastor of Bread, a faith community in Fort Worth, Texas. He has served churches in Mississippi, Kentucky and Texas during his career, including Second Baptist Church of Lubbock and Trinity Baptist Church of San Antonio. He spent two-years as a Visiting Professor of Preaching at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology.

“Reverend Charles Foster Johnson is one-of-a-kind,” said Barry Haenisch, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Schools. “He is a most-effective public speaker, he is a man of action, he is generous with is time, and he cares passionately about Texas and the 5.3 million school-aged children who populate it. He is definitely the most-effective communicator for public education in our state today.”

Since 1981, TSPRA has recognized a Key Communicator for outstanding contributions to public education through effective communications. The recipient may be a legislator, educator or a professional in another field who has improved school communications, or a member of TSPRA who has contributed outstanding service to the profession of school communications. Recipients have included leaders from business, media, PTA, politics and education. A complete list of past recipients can be found on TSPRA’s website at www.tspra.org/awards/key-communicator/list-of-key-communicators

West (SchoolMessenger solutions) is the sponsor of the Key Communicator Award. West (SchoolMessenger solutions) is a strong supporter and valuable tool for school districts throughout Texas.

David Hicks of Allen ISD chairs TSPRA’s 2018 Professional Awards Committee, which includes Denise Blanchard, Amarillo ISD; Julie Zwahr, Denton ISD; Tiffany Veno, Garland ISD and Kyndall Jirasek, Pflugerville ISD.

2019 Key Communicator


charles c butt heb

Chairman and C.E.O. of H-E-B Charles Butt Named TSPRA’s 2019 Key Communicator Award Recipient

The Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA) has named Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of H-E-B, as the recipient of the association’s 2019 Key Communicator Award*. Butt receives this award in recognition of his work as a champion for public education. Over the years, he has greatly enhanced the academic experience of thousands of students, teachers, administrators, school boards and districts.

Butt has developed several initiatives, including Raise Your Hand Texas, a non-profit advocacy organization that works to strengthen Texas public education. Butt committed $50 million in scholarships for high school students who commit to a career in teaching. The organization also invests in leadership development and coaching programs for principals and campus/district teams, provide grants to innovative education organizations, pursue research-driven public policy advocacy at the state level and inform and engage the public on issues impacting all students.

Created in 2002, the H-E-B Excellence in Education Award Program is designed to honor outstanding public school professionals and to thank them for their dedication and commitment. Since its inception, the program has awarded more than $10 million in cash and grants.

Butt has also committed millions of dollars to open a network of Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) schools in Texas. The announcement first came in 2016 with the first school opening in August 2017. In May 2019, the CAST Schools Network announced the August 2020 opening of its fourth campus along with a $2 million award.

Finally, in 2017, Charles established The Holdsworth Center, investing $100 million to create a non-profit leadership institute for Texas public school administrators. The Center is named after his mother, Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth, who taught school in the 1920s in Center Point, Texas.

In a letter penned by Butt on The Holdsworth Center website, he states: “We live in a time when support and funding for the nation’s public schools is declining and faith in the system is eroding. My investment in The Holdsworth Center is a vote of confidence in our public schools. I believe that the future economic outlook for our state and our country depends on our ability to provide a high-quality education to each and every child. With Texas school districts serving 10 percent of the nation’s children, I believe we have a tremendous responsibility and opportunity to provide the best possible education to all kids. But it has to start with great leaders—supportive principals, administrators, superintendents, and teacher leaders in every classroom. There is no shortcut and no silver bullet. If we want to get to the root of making long-term, sustainable improvements to public education, we’ve got to invest the time to go deep within our districts. We need to strengthen the leadership pipelines that can build the foundation for a stronger system and provide more opportunities for growth for our teachers. My hope is that over time, we provide education leaders a place to turn to for growth and that our comprehensive approach will serve as a model to replicate across the nation.”

Intrado (SchoolMessenger solutions) is the sponsor of the Key Communicator Award. Intrado is a strong supporter and valuable tool for school districts throughout Texas.

This year’s TSPRA Professional Awards committee included: Chairperson Susan Ard, CPC, Cleveland ISD; Patti Pawlik Perales, Alamo Heights ISD; Julie Thannum, APR, Carroll ISD; Cynthia Ybarra Leal, Mission CISD; Kate Hope, Magnolia ISD; Erin Gregg Lubbock ISD

* Since 1981, TSPRA has recognized a Key Communicator for outstanding contributions to public education through effective communications. The recipient may be a legislator, educator or a professional in another field who has improved school communications, or a member of TSPRA who has contributed outstanding service to the profession of school communications. Recipients have included leaders from business, media, PTA, politics and education. 

Click here for a complete list of TSPRA's Key Communicators 


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Photos from the presentation:

key communicator presentation


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.

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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