Patti Pawlik-Perales has enjoyed a diverse career in public education, serving school districts across South and Central Texas in the areas of educational television, communications, public relations, marketing, and service to education foundations.
A 1984 graduate of A.C. Jones High School in Beeville, she attended Texas Tech University, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree. She went from college classroom to public education at KBSD, the educational access television station at Brownsville ISD, where she served as a scriptwriter and station manager, writing, hosting, and producing numerous television programs.
Her career in public education continued at San Benito CISD, where she helped build a new educational access station and partnered with San Benito High School and the Career and Technology Program to develop and launch a media technology program for students that earned numerous accolades. After moving to the San Antonio area, she worked for New Braunfels ISD’s instructional television station and served as a communications specialist. Soon after, she was hired at Alamo Heights ISD, where she served 14 years as a communications specialist and communications coordinator for the district. In 2022, she returned to her hometown to join the Beeville ISD team, where she served as director of Communications and Foundation.
Pawlik-Perales retired from her public education career at the end of June, marking 34 years of dedicated service to the students, schools, and districts she supported. On July 1, she stepped into her new role as executive director of the Texas School Public Relations Association. A career-long member of TSPRA, she continues the work of leaders before her, providing professional development, strategic learning, networking, and connectivity for the organization’s members. She is focused on serving TSPRA members and supporting those who tell the unique and inspiring stories of Texas students, teachers, families, and schools. TASB talked to Pawlik-Perales about her new role at TSPRA. Her comments have been lightly edited.
Q: What Are You Enjoying Most About Your New Role?
A: I absolutely love the opportunity to get to know our membership. We have a talented #TSPRATeam that is serving in unique ways to promote the amazing work of our Texas public schools, students, teachers, staff, and the communities that support them. Each #TSPRATeam member has a huge heart for public education, and they all love the work they do. It is such a joy to meet them where they work, learn about their unique challenges and celebrations, and learn how to better serve them professionally through TSPRA.
Q: What’s Been Most Surprising?
A: Texas is a big place, but the will to ensure the success of our students and schools is even bigger. The connectivity between schools, districts, organizations, and communities is amazing. When you are working in a district, with laser focus on the work before you, you know the support of your district colleagues and friends. When you have the opportunity to look up from that local work, you realize the true scope of support that spans the state. It is amazing!
Q: What Are Some of the Key Challenges Facing Texas Public School District Communicators Today?
A: Things move so quickly. Technology has made our jobs easier, but there also exists the expectation for quick responses to requests that come via email, text, messaging via social media, and more. The job has never been what some might call an “8 to 5,” but now, the work bleeds over into evenings, weekends, holidays, vacations. The ability to carry your work in the palm of your hand, to always be just a click away, is empowering and exhausting. Work-life balance is essential for our communications professionals and our districts as a whole!
Q: What Are Some of the Opportunities?
A: School communicators have so many new tools to help share the good news about our Texas public schools. We can share the initiatives, events, announcements, achievements, challenges, successes, and celebrations, while we are literally right in the moment, using social media, video, live streaming, graphic software platforms, and more to enhance our messaging and engage our communities. It is empowering to be able to show and share what is happening in our schools and the success of our students, their teachers, and the community that supports them, every day.
Q: How Is TSPRA Helping its Members Handle These Challenges and Maximize These Opportunities?
A: TSPRA has been the trusted professional organization of choice for school communications officers for more than 60 years. Our mission ensures that we promote effective public relations practices, provide professional development for our members, and improve communication between Texans and their public schools. To do this work, we provide our 1,200+ members opportunities for networking and support, online learning opportunities, monthly newsletters filled with industry information and timely topics, access to hundreds of examples of professional communication documents in our unique TSPRA Document Vault, 60+ opportunities to enter our awards contest to have their communications work professionally critiqued, emails that provide updates on legislative and other issues affecting Texas public schools, and access to our four-day annual conference with 20+ hours of professional development. Learn more.
Q: Based on Your Experience, What Are Some of the Best Ways for District Communicators to Work with Their District Leadership, Including School Board Members, to Better Communicate with Students, Parents, and Community Members?
A: School communications professionals work to be transparent in their communications, within the parameters of the law. Sharing information that is factual and timely is the best communications practice no matter who you are in a school or district. Share the facts, provide as much information as you can, while remaining positive and sharing your unique story honestly.
Q: How Can Board Members Help Amplify the Good News in Their Districts?
A: It’s simple. Share it! When something great is happening in your schools, say it, share it. When you meet a talented teacher during one of your school visits, tell his or her story and how impressed you were by them and their work. When a gifted student shares what they are learning at a board meeting, during a classroom presentation, on the playing field, in a fine arts program, or career and technology education competition, compliment them. Tell others about all of the amazing things you see and what a privilege it is for you to serve and see the work of your district unfold daily. Tell them about how your district has overcome challenges and how you work together collectively and collaboratively to ensure continued growth and success. Tell them how proud you are to amplify the good news, to serve as an ambassador for your ISD. Your words will inspire others to do the same!
Q: What Three Words Would You Use to Describe TSPRA?
A: Dynamic. Trusted. Professional.
This article was first published in the Sept/Oct 2023 issue of Texas Lone Star.
Photo: Communications professionals Maury Vasquez, San Antonio ISD; Patti Pawlik-Perales, TSPRA executive director; Kim Cathey, Judson ISD; Anne Marie Espinoza, Uvalde CISD; Monica Faulkenbery, Northside ISD; and retired KENS Excel Award Coordinator Paige Ramsey Palmer, gather during a San Antonio Area meeting of TSPRA.
Laura Tolley is the managing editor of Texas Lone Star.