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2023-24 Communications Contest Judges

Thank you to all of this year's Communications Contest judges!

Shaneka Allen

Shaneka Allen is the Public Information Officer for Jackson County Public Schools in Sylva, North Carolina. She has successfully completed two degrees, Associate in Arts – College Transfer and Associate in Applied Sciences – Adver sing and Graphic Design. Shaneka is a self-taught photographer of fourteen years, with a history of portrait, event and sports photography.

In August of 2019, Shaneka began working at Haywood Community College in Clyde, NC as the college’s graphic designer. During her three and a half years within the marke ng department, Shaneka’s design work and photography helped lead the department to winning four medallion awards from the Na onal Council for Marke ng and Public Rela ons, which included three bronze and one gold award out of over 280 submissions regionally.

In February 2023, Shaneka was blessed with the opportunity to serve the students of Jackson County Public Schools as the new Public Informa on Officer. Within her current role, she is responsible for website edi ng and training, social media management, crisis communica on, and covering events throughout the district. Shaneka is a current member of NCSPRA and NSPRA.

Ashley Boyd

As a creative and successful communications professional with over 13 years of experience on a high-impact communications team, Ashley Boyd has worked on large-scale communication and marketing campaigns, advocated to legislative representatives and shared relationship-building techniques and strategies with numerous district-level groups. In her work as communications manager at the Chester County Intermediate Unit, Ashley manages a wide variety of customer interactions, which can include everything from quick, internal culture-building emails to executive-level speeches and presentations. She is a current member of the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association (PenSPRA), the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and the PA Association of School Administrators (PASA) and earned her Crisis Communication certification from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Ashley earned her master’s degree in communication from Drexel University and her bachelor’s degree in business and communication from Arizona State University.

Amy Buckman

Amy Buckman joined the Lower Merion School District as Director of School and Community Relations in March 2018, after spending 28 years as a television news reporter and producer, including 25 years at Philadelphia’s powerhouse 6abc/Action News. Determined to use her communication skills in support of vitally important, mission-driven work, she transitioned into public relations, first in support of journalism, as Manager of PR and Special Events for the Philadelphia Inquirer and then by returning to the school district from which she graduated to promote high-quality public education for all students.

Jen Chicosky

Jen Chicosky is a seasoned professional with a rich background in education and marketing. She holds a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Penn State University and a Master's in English from West Chester University. Her academic journey continued with a master's in digital innovation in marketing from Temple University, combining traditional and digital marketing expertise. With nearly two decades of experience, Jen has taught across various grade levels and currently serves as the marketing and community engagement manager at the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU). Her role involves maintaining a strong brand presence through online and offline channels, managing budgets, and offering insights to senior leadership. Jen holds certifications in Google Analytics and Salesforce Administration, showcasing her expertise in education and marketing. Her dedication and innovation consistently contribute to the success of her field.

Jessica Duff

Jessica Duff currently holds the title of Executive Director of Communications for the Pulaski County Special School District. In her role, she oversees internal and external communication and marketing for 26 schools within the District as well as its administrative offices. In addition to internal and external communication, Jessica handles all media relations for PCSSD and assists with a team of professionals on community relations.

Prior to working at PCSSD, Jessica was the Director of TraDigital Strategy at Team SI, a digital marketing agency in Little Rock, Arkansas. During her five years at Team SI, Jessica managed various client's marketing needs. Before Team SI, Jessica worked nearly a decade in the TV and radio business. Her experience in the fast-paced, always-changing news world adequately prepared her for the innovative, intense atmosphere that is school PR.

LaShonda Eaddy

Dr. Eaddy is an assistant professor at Penn State. Her passion for public relations has taken her from corporate communication to the classroom. The self-proclaimed “practitioner scholar” understands the integral roles that public relations professionals and scholars play in the development, understanding and growth of the profession. She is accredited in public relations (APR) and has spent time primarily in the healthcare industry and was recognized in Dallas PRSA’s inaugural 40 Under 40 2021 honoree class. Most recently, Dr. Eaddy was selected as a PRO PR GLOBE Awards Laureate.

Dr. Eaddy’s passion for the public relations profession and research is evident in the classroom. She believes future public relations professionals are the key to bridging the gap between the industry and academe. Her goal is to use her professional experience to help students connect theory and practice and develop an appreciation for both. Dr. Eaddy’s courses help students develop critical-thinking skills that will be essential to their professional and personal success.

Dr. Eaddy believes it is her duty to not only produce quality academic scholarship, but to repackage her research and identify ways to share it with communications professionals who can use it to enhance their communication strategy. She is accredited in public relations, demonstrating her public relations expertise, and maintains her professional networks as a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and Page Up member, as they are invaluable to ensuring that practical applications and considerations remain at the forefront of her research agenda.

Dr. Eaddy is a highly-sought after speaker, giving keynote addresses and serving as panelist for several industry organizations such as UK-based Public Relations and Communications Association; PRSA; Page Up (an Arthur W. Page Society membership organization); and the Ethics Compliance Initiative TM. Her industry ties help her continue to forge relationships with key industry professionals. These connections also deepen students’ experiences through industry expert guest lectures by helping students cultivate relationships with industry leaders and providing experiential learning opportunities, as well as fostering curricular innovation based on industry insights. To continue reading, click here.

Tonia L. Farnum

Tonia Farnum served as the communications manager for the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU), overseeing media relations, website management, social media, and duplication and mailroom operations until her retirement in December 2023 after 29 years of service. During her career at CCIU, she also oversaw student events and had extensive experience with event planning, project management and public relations services. She was also the recipient of many communications awards throughout her career.

Originally from Downingtown, Pennsylvania, Tonia was 12 when she and her mom moved to Euless, Texas, graduating from Trinity High School in 1986. She returned to Pennsylvania in 1987 and worked as the quality assurance coordinator for G.O. Carlson, Inc., a stainless steel company located in Thorndale, Pennsylvania. While there, she was responsible for ensuring that each order met government and industry specifications prior to shipment. During her seven years at G.O. Carlson, Inc., she also served as the company’s internal auditor.

Tonia served as board secretary for CCRES Educational and Behavioral Health Services from 2004-2019 and was a member of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association (PenSPRA).

Tonia studied Human Performance Management at Immaculata University, earning a bachelor’s degree with highest honors.

In her spare time, Tonia enjoys playing golf, cooking and spending time with her family and friends.

Jessica Hull

Jessica Hull serves as the Executive Director of Communication and Community Engagement for Roseville City School District. She brings nineteen years’ experience as a leader in school communications in Northern, Central and Southern California. Her expertise includes social media, crisis management, community engagement, and media and public relations. She believes well-informed students, families and citizens are the greatest assets to a school system and focuses all communications to create dynamic, two-way conversations within communities. Mrs. Hull is currently serving her second year as President of the California School Public Relations Association (CalSPRA) and is an active member of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA).

Renee Janowicz

Renee Janowicz, APR, is a former print journalist who has worked in the field of public relations for 20 years. She is a vice president at Laura Bishop Communications (LBC), for which school districts and related organizations make up more than half the client base. Ms. Janowicz leads the firm’s strategies for bond referenda and capital campaigns. With more than 30 of those in her rearview, she has developed distinctive and successful tactics for engaging, educating and motivating voters.

Ms. Janowicz has a strong background in media relations, education issues, and award-winning writing. She leverages experiences with schools, nonprofits, and corporations to help LBC clients develop strategic communications programs. They appreciate her ability to engage a range of audiences through the written word, and to track nitty gritty details so nothing gets overlooked.

Ms. Janowicz has presented at large professional conferences and small-group workshops about conducting capital campaigns, preparing for crisis communications, effectively using social media, and advancing school district brands. She is a member of NSPRA, as well as New Jersey SPRA and its Programming Committee. She has judged contest entries for NSPRA and Illinois SPRA. 

Gina Lavazza

I am the Director of Communications for Bloomington Public Schools, District 87 in Bloomington, IL. This is my second year in the position but I have been with the district since 2010. Last year I was nominated for the Emerging Communicator Award by our local chapter of the Women in Communications group. 

Before coming to the school district I lived in Italy for 10 years (where I met my husband and my son was born). In Italy I taught English at an elementary school/middle school as their "mother-tongue teacher" until I became proficient in the language- then I was happy to find a job in Media Relations in a Press Office- where I acted as the international department. I was there until me and my husband decided to move stateside. 

I am a graduate of San Francisco State University, where I earned my bachelor's in Cinema and a minor in journalism (with a focus on photojournalism). I love that my current position takes me back to my roots - I am passionate about photography and now I get to do it as part of my job!

Monica Lester

Monica Lester, APR, is a senior communications strategist and manager with an expertise in public education. She has worked for Capital Region BOCES in Albany, N.Y., for the past 17 years providing communications support to K-12 public education clients. Monica is currently a program manager in the Engagement & Development Services Division where she leads a team of 10 communications professionals. She has served on PRSA’s APR Marketing Committee since 2021 and joined the APR Accreditation Committee for the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) this fall. She received her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) in 2020, and has a B.A. in Writing/Spanish from Loyola University Maryland and a M.S. in Journalism from Boston University.

Stephanie Madden

Dr. Stephanie Madden is an assistant professor of public relations in the Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State University. Her research focuses on the intersections between activism, risk and crisis communication, public safety, and social media. Dr. Madden earned her B.A. in communication studies from Vanderbilt University and a M.A. and Ph.D. in communication from the University of Maryland. Prior to pursuing her Ph.D., Dr. Madden was a full-time researcher at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence. During this time, she helped to develop a FEMA-accredited risk and crisis communication training and conducted research on FEMA's Wireless Emergency Alert system.

Theresa Marsden

Theresa currently serves as communications coordinator at Avon Grove School District, where her responsibilities include efficiently conveying district initiatives, highlighting student achievements, and maintaining community involvement. Before joining Avon Grove, Theresa played a key role in strategic communication efforts at both the Delaware County Intermediate Unit and, more recently, the Chester County Intermediate Unit. Beyond her involvement in organizational communication, Theresa's previous positions at a non-profit and the U.S. House of Representatives have significantly contributed to her expertise in community engagement and public policy. She earned her bachelor's degree in political science from the Pennsylvania State University.

Aurora Meyer

Over her 20-year career, Aurora Meyer has developed an impressive track record of increasing the size and engagement of relevant audiences by using analytics and social behavior analysis to guide strategic decision-making. Aurora is an award-winning social media strategist, regular speaker and workshop presenter.

She takes organizations from measuring vanity metrics to proving the ROI of public relations initiatives. Her industry peers recognize her with multiple awards for social media strategy and campaigns in addition to a MarCom Gold award in 2019 and several National School Public Relations Association awards for her work in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

A PRSA-accredited public relations professional, Aurora is entitled to use the APR professional designation.

Dave Nielsen

Dave Nielsen is a member of NSPRA (National School Public Relations Association) and TSPRA (Texas School Public Relations Association) with 17 years of experience working in PR & communications for schools. He began his career working with websites; has won awards for photography, web, and computerized presentation; and now works frequently “behind the scenes” with crisis communication and strategic planning. He is an active Rotarian, serves on the advisory board of the local YMCA, and was selected for NSPRA's 35 under 35 Class of 2020-2021. After sometimes receiving unconstructive comments from his own award submissions, Dave began volunteering as an awards judge with a personal goal of providing uplifting and actionable feedback.

Emily F. Popek

Emily F. Popek, APR, is a communications strategist with Nichols Strategies. Emily has been working with K-12 communications clients in New York and California since 2016. She lives in upstate New York.

Liz Robbins

Liz Robbins is in her eleventh year as the Director of Communications for Tipp City Schools, a district with 2,500 students just north of Dayton, Ohio. It is a small community with a vibrant downtown and residents who are ardent supporters of the district. We pride ourselves on our tradition of excellence, quality curriculum, and opportunities for students. Before joining Tipp City Schools, Liz worked in a similar role for a small private school, spent many years as a broadcast journalist in radio and television, and spent time doing communications work for the state senate. She has never had a job she didn't love! She is also proud of the many honors and awards from the Associated Press, UPI, CASE, OHSPRA, and NSPRA.  

As empty nesters, Liz and her husband enjoy cycling, traveling to see their children, cooking, and occasionally watching a Netflix series.  

Bob Satnan

Bob Satnan, communications director for Sedalia (Mo.) School District 200, is in his 10th year in school PR after working almost 30 years in professional newsrooms. He was the Missouri School Public Relations Association (MOSPRA) Professional of the Year in 2021 and is chair of MOSPRA's annual Communications Awards Program. 

Jennifer Shealy

Jennifer Shealy has worked in the public-school communications field since 2010.

Currently serving as the Director of Communications for Downingtown Area School District (DASD), Jennifer directs and develops all district and administrative communications and marketing campaigns across 16 schools. Her leadership through strategic communication initiatives supports DASD by increasing transparency, building stakeholder trust, enhancing community engagement and managing district reputation.

Ms. Shealy earned a Master of Science in communication from Drexel University and a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh.

A DASD graduate and resident, Ms. Shealy enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.

Jess Shirley

Jess Shirley is a strategic communications professional with over a decade of experience in the education and healthcare industries. As internal communications manager at UPMC, she manages the corporate intranet for more than 96,000 employees and leads technology change communication efforts. Her previous roles at Carnegie Mellon University and the Chester County Intermediate Unit encompassed marketing and recruitment strategies, social media management, graphic design, and videography. She's passionate about leveraging digital tools to enhance the employee experience and redefine the way we work.

Melissa Smith

Mrs. Melissa J. Smith is an impactful, creative marketing professional with over 20 years of local, national and global experience spanning industries such as manufacturing, financial services, pharmaceutical and education. She thrives on developing brand positioning and messaging and delivering upon the goals and objectives of those she works with. The perspectives and experience gained from her more than 12 years in the advertising agency environment has transitioned well into driving branding and strategic marketing in the educational space. Mrs. Smith has been with the CCIU since 2015 and has played an active role in the refresh of marketing and communications across the organization. Mrs. Smith has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management from LaSalle University and a master of business administration (MBA) from West Chester University. Mrs. Smith has presented on branding at local and national communication conferences and has led multiple branding workshops within the CCIU and with school districts.

Beth Trapani 

Beth Trapani is a school communications consultant who works with school districts and educational organizations across Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley. Beth leads Trapani Communications, specializing in proactive, issue-based communications, crisis communications, and support for school districts to strengthen their internal and external communications systems. She works closely with superintendents and their communications and administrative teams, focusing on strategic messaging and collaborative planning. Trapani Communications offers a variety of communication services and support.

Beth brings a background in journalism to her work, having spent the first part of her career as a broadcast and print journalist. She was a morning anchor and reporter for KYW radio and TV and UPN-57 TV in Philadelphia, KDKA radio in Pittsburgh, and was a reporter at several newspapers including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Beth also worked for Bellevue Communications, a prominent Philadelphia public relations firm, focusing on crisis communications with clients including Temple University Health System, the Kimmel Center, and Comcast.

Shannon Wilson

Shannon Wilson is the associate director of communication at the Villanova School of Business (VSB) and serves as an adjunct instructor teaching professional development to undergraduate business students. She is responsible for media relations, stakeholder communication, branding and social media for VSB. Before joining Villanova University, she worked at GEICO and later at Tierney, a full-service creative agency, where she developed and executed strategic PR campaigns for a variety of audiences, including corporate employees, executive management, agency clients and media outlets. She earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations and Spanish from The Pennsylvania State University.

c/o Chester County Intermediate Unit

Downingtown, PA 19335

Phone: 484-237-5171

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