NCSPRA presents its highest individual honor to Jessica Swencki
NCSPRA President, Ken Derksen, presents the Barry Gaskins Outstanding Service Award to Dr. Bev Emory who accepted the award on behalf of Jessica Swencki.
The North Carolina School Public Relations Association (NCSPRA) proudly presented its 2022-2023 Barry Gaskins Outstanding Service Award to Jessica Swencki for her exceptional service to school public relations in North Carolina as well as her extraordinary leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Bev Emory, a retired leader at the NC Department of Public Instruction and a former colleague of Swencki's, accepted the award in Swencki's place. Swencki was not able to attend the ceremony due to a family emergency. The presentation took place during NCSPRA’s annual Blue Ribbon Awards ceremony in High Point on February 10, 2023.
During 2020 and into 2021, Jessica Swencki led the COVID communications efforts for all of North Carolina’s K-12 public schools. The NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) tapped Swencki to lead their COVID communications efforts because of her experience in school public relations. Swencki was serving as NCDPI’s Sandhills Regional Director. However, her background in school public relations made her the perfect person to serve as the point of contact between NCDPI and every school district in the state when it came to COVID communications. In that role, Swencki collaborated with the NC School Public Relations Association (NCSPRA) as well as superintendents and school communicators across the state to make sure that students, staff, families, and communities received the latest and most accurate information about COVID-19 and how it would impact public education. “There wasn’t a moment that went by that we weren’t thinking about school communicators and the Herculean task that they, their superintendents, and all school staff were facing 24/7,” said Swencki in her remarks, which were read by Dr. Emory. “Like them, we were on a mission, and our mission was to try to create a pipeline of condensed, reliable information in the sea of information that was flowing from every angle.”
Swencki built and executed an effective crisis communications plan that helped sustain North Carolina’s 115 school districts throughout the pandemic. Her efforts earned her the respect and admiration of educators across the state and made her the very deserving recipient of NCSPRA’s highest individual honor for excellence in school communication.
“For months, Jessica worked in collaboration with a cross-section of state officials and education association leaders to help public schools effectively respond and operate in the new COVID environment,” said NCSPRA President, Ken Derksen. “Jessica immediately brought NCSPRA to the table to ensure our professional PR lens and boots on the ground experience could be elevated into the conversations and planning of State agency leaders. Under Jessica’s leadership, critical resources were developed and weekly calls and updates were had with PIOs and superintendents across the state to ensure all of our schools and districts were able to effectively communicate and engage their school communities.”
After retiring from NCDPI in 2021, Jessica Swencki joined myFutureNC as its Deputy Director. myFutureNC is a statewide nonprofit organization that is focused on the educational attainment of students.
Prior to her retirement from NCDPI, Swencki served as the Sandhills Regional Director for NCDPI. Before joining NCDPI she served as Implementation Coordinator for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s Laboratory School. Her experience also includes being Chief of Quality Assurance and Community Engagement for Brunswick County Schools, regional Exceptional Children Program Coordinator, and Exceptional Children Program Director for Brunswick and Pender Counties.
Throughout her state service, Swencki has been recognized as the Sallie Mae First Year Teacher of the Year, Pender County’s Teacher of the Year, the North Carolina Council for Administrators of Special Education’s Outstanding Administrator, and the recipient of the Family Support Network Linda J. Alford Advocacy Award. NCSPRA awarded Swencki a Blue Ribbon Award in recognition of her marketing and communication plan for the 2016 Brunswick County School’s Bond Campaign. Jessica’s reputation is built on her unwavering commitment to improve outcomes for all students and families, and her advocacy for North Carolina’s public schools.
Swencki, a first generation college student, is a proud recipient of the NC Teaching Fellows and NC Principal Fellows scholarships. She is a two-time alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and holds her Master’s in School Administration and Bachelor of Arts in Special Education with concentrations in learning and emotional disabilities.
Jessica Swencki’s career story is one of productivity and success at every level, which is why she is extremely deserving of NCSPRA’s most prestigious award.
■ About the Award
The Barry Gaskins Service Award is the highest honor bestowed on an individual by the North Carolina School Public Relations Association. The award is named in memory of Barry Gaskins, the first public information officer for Pitt County Schools in Greenville, who was known to so many people as “Mr. School Public Relations.”
Barry was a trailblazer in our field, and he helped to put the North Carolina chapter on the map. Barry Gaskins is the reason why North Carolina is viewed as one of the top state chapters in the country.
He served our state organization so well and even took his service, leadership, and vision to the national level, serving as president of the National School Public Relations Association from 2001 until 2002.
Barry died unexpectedly in March 2003 at the age of 49. While Barry is no longer with us, his legacy lives on through the Barry Gaskins Award.
Click here for more information and a list of past winners.