In another life, Kelly Tess may have become a reporter. Though in this one she is a superintendent, Dr. Tess has not lost her desire to inform.
Tess, in her second year as superintendent of Winnetka Public Schools, was one of 25 superintendents nationwide selected as a 2023 Superintendent to Watch by the National School Public Relations Association.
According to the association, the award honors superintendents who are using technology to engage and inform students, families, employees and community members, as well as those who are expanding two-way communication and outreach efforts.
Tess told The Record that communication is vital for the district and its families.
“We have this next generation that has different expectations of what strong communication looks like,” Tess said. “We want the touchpoints and connection and to make them brief and accessible to where (the families) are.”
A highlight of the district’s recent communication efforts is “Winnetka Voices,” a podcast that launched last year and that features conversations with educators, students and other special guests. Tess is a regular on the podcast.
Other communication initiatives include increased social media activity, which often spotlights students in the classroom; and the development of a digital app allowing parents to report absences and other items. The district also recently updated its website.
According to NSPRA this year’s recipients understand the critical role that effective two-way communication plays in building trust.
“Each of these leaders have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to championing innovative communication strategies to advance their district’s success,” NSPRA Executive Director Barbara M. Hunter said in a statement.
Tess is one of two Illinois superintendents to be honored, joining Dr. Mary Gorr, of Mount Prospect District 57.
The honorees will also be recognized at the NSPRA 2024 National Seminar in Seattle/Bellevue this July.
“This is a very nice honor,” Tess said. “It’s not a huge group and that makes it special to be named. I know the other superintendent in Illinois and she is an outstanding leader. It’s pretty cool to see our names in that space.”
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