Fall 2016 Conference Session Descriptions

The 2016 MinnSPRA Fall Conference is Thursday, November 17 – Friday, November 18 at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest, 7025 Northland Dr N, Brooklyn Park, MN 55428. Click here to view the conference at-a-glance. Click here to register for the conference.

Thursday, November 17

Noon – 1 p.m. – Registration

1-2:15 p.m.Keynote Speaker: Happiness Fitness — Strategies for More Joy in Your Life
Presenter: Dianne Callahan, Lighthearted Life
Everyone encounters tough times in their life, but not everyone lets those challenges keep them down. Dianne Callahan is an award-winning public relations professional, non-profit executive, encouragement speaker and a three-time cancer survivor with a powerful message for all of us. This session will teach you how to increase your resilience and your happiness fitness using strategies similar to those we use to build our physical fitness (no sit-ups required). Through her authentic and down-to-earth style, will share recent scientific research data on positive psychology and walk us through exercises to increase our own happiness fitness.

2:15-2:45 p.m. – Networking break

2:45 – 3:45 p.m. – Breakout Sessions

  • Equity Leadership – A Moderated Conversation
    Presenter: Freida Bailey, Principal on Special Assignment, St. Louis Park Public Schools
    What does it mean to be an equity leader? And how do you practice equity leadership within your team and school district? Join us for a moderated conversation.  We will discuss a range of issues, including how to navigate politics and policies to make change from within, how everyone has the ability to close the opportunity gap, and how to nourish yourself as a transformative leader.
  • How to Wage Peace in your Community
    Presenter: Jim Lukaszeski, APR, ABC
    Has your community ever become upset about a change being proposed in your district? Unless you are really lucky, the answer is likely yes. In this session, Jim Lukaszewski, internationally- known public relations and crisis communication consultant, will share specific, proven strategies for establishing powerful stakeholder relationships, dealing candidly, openly and compassionately with the pain and suffering a community may be feeling. He will also describe how to resolve issues, reach agreement, reduce contention, and build a more powerful, positive future for your district and community.
  • Minnetonka Public Schools’ Journey to Improve Online Community Engagement
    Presenters: Janet Swiecichowski and Jennifer Valley, Minnetonka Public Schools; Finalsite, sponsor
    Join Minnetonka Public Schools’ communication staff members Janet Swiecichowski and Jennifer Valley, along with Chelsea Janke from CEL Marketing | PR | Design, as they provide an insider’s perspective on the journey their district took to reconstruct their district’s primary communication tool, their district and school websites. With significant district initiatives in play, this tool needed to become a vital component of a winning strategy. You’ll be able to see where the district was at with their online presence, learn more about what they were looking for from the next solution it adopted, how they went about identifying and reviewing various potential solutions, what the decision was and why, the experience they went through in building the new sites, and finally you’ll see a presentation of the finished product. They will also address issues such as ease of use, the growing pains of change, teaching non-tech savvy parents how to use a responsive site, reasons to automate much of what they do, and the importance of an editorial calendar.

3:45 – 4 p.m. – Networking break


  • How technology is changing the way we create and digest news
    Presenter: Jon Savitt, Writer
    We’re experiencing a shift in the way we produce and digest information. Traditional ways of reaching our audiences are fading, as innovative, authentic ways to connect emerge. From print to the introduction of radio and television, to the current influence of digital platforms, the way content is delivered has constantly shifted alongside our environment. So, what’s next? In this forward-looking presentation, we’ll explore the new frontier of video as a unique way to authentically engage and connect with audiences. From The White House’s partnership with Funny or Die to the popularity of Snapchat to the creation of Facebook Live, we’ll take a look at the importance of video and how brands are hitting the record button to give meaning to their audiences.
  • Everyone is a Designer
    Presenter: Charlie Miller, Co-founder, Chief Design Officer, Vidku News

5:30-6:15 p.m. – Dinner

6:15 – 7:30 p.m. – If I was in Charge … How I would redesign schools to help all learners
Panel Discussion: Voices of Minnesota Students
As school communicators we spend a lot of time engaging various stakeholders in the work of our organizations, sharing stories of how we are improving the learning experience for students. There is no shortage of voices — staff, parents, school boards, community members, elected officials, business owners, etc. — telling us about what we should or should not be doing in schools. But too often, this important conversation is void of the most voice in our system, the voices of the learners we serve everyday. Join us for a spirited conversation with the true expert voices of the school reform discussion. We have assembled a diverse panel of student voices, representing a vast array of learner experiences, from urban to suburban to outstate, voices from different cultures and backgrounds with a variety of abilities and interests. Hear how our customers would redesign schools and what they want all those other stakeholders to know about their learning experiences.   

7:30 p.m. – Informal Social

Friday, November 18

7:30 – 8:30 a.m. – Registration and Breakfast

8:30-9:30 a.m. – Backstory: Stillwater Area Schools School Closure Case Study
Featuring: Carissa Keister, APR and Superintendent Denise Pontrelli
For the better part of the last year, Stillwater Area Public Schools received persistent media coverage, social media attention and organized opposition surrounding its recommendation and eventual board decision to close three schools in the district. While we have witnessed the story unfold on the public side, the story of what was going on behind-the-scenes was not widely told. Presented by Stillwater Superintendent Denise Pontrelli and Community Engagement Manager Carissa Keister, this “Backstory” session will provide insider insight of what unfolded with this situation. Along with a brief description of what happened, our presenters will also share how they managed the situation and what they learned that can help others survive a similar situation.

9:30 – 10 a.m. – Networking Break

10-10:45 a.m. – MinnSPRA Book Club
If you’ve always wanted to be part of a book club, this is your chance. Choose one of the three books listed and read it before the conference. Come to the conference with your book highlighted, flagged and underlined. You’ll be sharing your insights, reflections, questions and comments with others who chose the same book. It’ll be just like the book clubs you always hear about…without the wine. One free book choice with registration so be sure to register with enough time to read the book! Click here to learn more about Book Club.

  • Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing by Jamie Holmes
    Holmes is a Future Tense Fellow at New America and former Research Coordinator at Harvard University, Department of Economics
    Life today feels more overwhelming and chaotic than ever. Whether it’s a confounding work problem or a faltering relationship or an unclear medical diagnosis, we face constant uncertainty. And we’re continually bombarded with information, much of it contradictory … Being confused is unpleasant, so we tend to shutter our minds as we grasp for meaning and stability, especially in stressful circumstances. We’re hard-wired to resolve contradictions quickly and extinguish anomalies. This can be useful, of course … But our need for closure has its own dangers. It makes us stick to our first answer, which is not always the best, and it makes us search for meaning in the wrong places. When we latch onto fast and easy truths, we lose a vital opportunity to learn something new, solve a hard problem, or see the world from another perspective. In other words, confusion—that uncomfortable mental place—has a hidden upside. We just need to know how to use it. This lively and original book points the way.
  •  The Innovative Mindset: 5 Behaviors for Accelerating Breakthroughs by John Sweeney and Elena Imaretska
    Sweeney is the Owner/Director of Brave New Workshop, Minneapolis; Imaretska is Vice President of New Products, Partnerships and Sustainability for the corporate speaking and training business of the Brave New Workshop
    The Innovative Mindset calls the accepted definition of innovation into question, urging you to consider how innovation might function as a behavior that you perpetuate, rather than an inflexible theory or corporate-defined initiative. By asking yourself what it takes to be innovative—and by being honest with yourself about the answer—you can incorporate innovation into your life much in the same way that you would a behavior to help you lose weight, increase your strength, learn to play the piano, or improve your relationships. This groundbreaking text helps you identify what you need to do in order to become more innovative and less fearful, and assists in creating a regimen that transforms how you act. The Innovative Mindset reevaluates the nature of innovation and shows how a change in perspective can lead to more dynamic, more successful endeavors.
  •  A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota by Sun Yung Shin
    Sun Yung Shin is a Minneapolis author, poet, editor and columnist
    In this provocative book, sixteen of Minnesota’s best writers provide a range of perspectives on what it is like to live as a person of color in Minnesota. They give readers a splendid gift: the gift of touching another human being’s inner reality, behind masks and veils and politeness. They bring us generously into experiences that we must understand if we are to come together in real relationships. Minnesota communities struggle with some of the nation’s worst racial disparities. As its authors confront and consider the realities that lie beneath the numbers, this book provides an important tool to those who want to be part of closing those gaps.

10:45 – 11 a.m. – Networking Break

11 a.m. – noon – Breakout Sessions

  • The Creative Leader: How to Inspire the Best Ideas, Solutions and Service
    Presenter: Dianne Callahan, Lighthearted Life
    Modern leaders are faced with challenges that require creative, sometimes non-traditional solutions. Public relations professionals who can tap into their creativity to solve problems, provide alternative perspectives and inspire new strategies for continuing challenges are highly valued. This session will teach you how to unleash your own creative genius through discussion and activities, and use it to grow ideas that will inspire others to think bigger and do better.
  • Are You Sifting Too Much Gravel When You Feel You Need to be Focusing on the Big Rocks?
    Presenter: Peter Krembs, University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management & the Center for Character-Based Leadership
    This session will help you deepen your self-awareness about your default mindsets at work, which will in turn help you pause to be more strategic rather than reactive in how you orient to expectations coming toward you.  For more than 40 years, Peter Krembs has been coaching executives and guiding leaders across the country and around the world to effectively navigate change. His focus is on Character-based Leadership Development —looking at mindsets and how we channel emotions in support of making the best possible use of our skills and experience —and he has an academic background and consulting experience in the field of organizational psychology. And his work in several school districts has helped him understand some of the unique challenges of leading strategic communications in school systems. During this session we will use a self-administered inventory to help you reflect on your typical “default mindsets” you use at work. Peter will then engage you with questions about mindset differences with those you serve and those you address in at work and in other spheres of your life.The intention is to help you use this framework to build relational bridges as effectively as you can. You will leave this session feeling more confident about the choices you have and enhance your leadership mindset.  
  • Leading Change Across the K-12 Landscape
    Presenter: Blackboard, sponsor
    Education is changing constantly, and with these changes come new challenges. Teacher demographics, parent preferences for classrooms and communication, and new technology all require a new approach to how educators facilitate student success. In this session we’ll look at some of these changes, and discuss ways that schools across the country are addressing these challenges, and how Blackboard can help!

Noon – 1 p.m. – Lunch

1-2 p.m. – Election 2016: What Happened and What Does it Mean
Presenter: Dr. Bill Morris, Morris Leatherman Company
It is fair to say that Election 2016 will be one for the history books. The outcome of this election — at national, state and local levels — will likely have a far-reaching impact on issues that affect public education. This session will feature a conversation with Dr. Bill Morris, president of the Morris Leatherman Company, and long-time observer of all things political. Bill will share his insights on the why behind what happened and help us to understand the impact of Election 2016.

2-2:15 p.m. – Networking Break

2:15 – 3:30 p.m. – What Can We Learn From …. BEER!
Featuring: John Klick, President of Excelsior Brewing; Dan Jacobs, President/Co-founder of Bald Man Brewing; and Dan Schwartz, Co-Founder/CEO of Lift Bridge Brewery
Imagine an industry in which every company sells the same product. An industry that relies on each company’s success to consider itself successful. An industry that favors mutual innovation over individual competition. Sound familiar? Public education? Nope, it’s the craft beer industry. Sometimes the answers to education leadership can be found in a local taproom. Join us in this spirited conversation with several local breweries as we find out, what can we learn from craft beer? Topics will include branding in a crowded market, fostering a community that supports one another and innovating to improve the products and the industry.

Click here to register for the conference.