About Us - History of SUNSPRA

SUNSPRA has a strong heritage and proud 40 year history. From humble beginnings, in the 1973-1974 school year, our association was given birth by a group of founding fathers which included Vern Pickup-Crawford of Palm Beach County Public Schools and now with Schoolhouse Consulting Group. We thank Vern for sharing the historical account which follows.

During the early 1970’s, the number of school districts in Florida having a public information program began to expand from two or three districts to several more for a variety of reasons, among them: 

- The advent of school desegregation which required accurate, quick response to the news media and community to quell unfounded rumors and to assist with the human relations process of integrating Florida schools;

- The need by some districts to turn to voters for millage approval for school construction as the state had no dedicated source for public schools (PECO did not start until after 1973);

- Partnerships with local business and industry to assist companies relocating employees into Florida from out of state; and

- District school boards and superintendents wanting to make sure their publics – employees, parents, students, and community stakeholders – were kept up-to-date on school news and activities rather than relying solely on local news media.

With the encouragement of then National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) Executive Director Roy Wilson and Florida Department of Education (DOE) staff (Howard Friedman and Al Erxleben), school district representatives from Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Joy Reese Shaw); Brevard County Public Schools (Van Savell); Pinellas County Public Schools (Dan McAuliffe); Hillsborough County Public Schools (Paul Brown); Duval County Public Schools (cannot recall name); Orange County Public Schools (Barbara Springer); Palm Beach County Public Schools (Vern Crawford) and others pursued forming a Florida chapter of NSPRA.

In the 1973-1974 school year, the Sunshine (State) Public Relations Association or SUNSPRA was formed and chartered with Dan McAuliffe of Pinellas County Public Schools as its first president and Al Erxleben of the DOE staff as its first secretary.

By 1976-1977, the chapter had members from nearly all medium to large districts and several smaller counties in Florida where the representative may have had multiple assignments. SUNSPRA also was the first "outside" group to become an active participant in the June and December Florida School Boards Association (FSBA) / Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS) Joint Conferences.

In 1978, when the Florida Association of School Administrators (FASA) was formed, SUNSPRA members debated whether to become part of FASA. Because of the alliance with FSBA and FADSS, the decision was made for SUNSPRA to remain a neutral organization.

- Written by Vern Pickup-Crawford            

Today, of course, SUNSPRA continues to be involved with conferences conducted by FSBA, FADSS, and FASA.



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