Program manager Jessica Scheckton named NSPRA 'front-runner' for Northeast region
From the time Jessica Scheckton first began working for BOCES as a communications specialist in 1998, it was clear she'd never be content with doing anything at 99 percent. After eight years with the Bethlehem Central School District, during which she won a prestigious National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) Gold Medallion award for communications work surrounding a 2003 bond vote, she became a program manager for the BOCES Communications Service in 2006.
Recently, NSPRA recognized Scheckton's drive and determination once again by naming her the NSPRA Front-Runner for the Northeast region of the country.
"NSPRA Front-Runners are members identified by the NSPRA Executive Board as emerging leaders who are doing outstanding work for their schools, their chapters and for NSPRA," according to a description on the association's website. "They have demonstrated professional leadership at the state and national level and/or have been recognized for innovation and excellence through NSPRA award programs or presentations."
Although Scheckton has been a member of NSPRA, it's likely that her work at the local level triggered the national attention. Scheckton has worked closely with the New York State School Public Relations Association (NYSPRA) for much of her career at BOCES, coordinating its annual contest recognizing excellence in school communications. She is currently the NYSPRA board's president-elect for 2013.
In her program manager role at BOCES, the reach of her work extends far beyond local school districts. Most recently, she helped lead an initiative to explain the requirements of New York's new property tax levy cap. That public information campaign helped school leaders statewide communicate with greater confidence and clarity about legislation that is changing the game for public schools.
"I think this is an indication of the great work that our people at BOCES do," said BOCES District Superintendent Charles Dedrick of Scheckton's award. "It's terrific that Jessica is being recognized for her work on a national level, because it shines a brighter spotlight on the good work that she's doing and the good work that's being done at BOCES on behalf of our school districts."
"Jessica is one of the brightest people I know," said Deborah Bush-Suflita, senior program manager for the BOCES Communications Service. "She's passionate about her work and it comes through in an unrelenting commitment to go above and beyond in her work for school districts."
Dr. Marie Wiles, superintendent of the Guilderland School District, said Scheckton played a central role in helping the district transform the way it engages the community.
"She worked very closely with our board (of education) communications committee and really pushed our thinking, asked tough questions, and really helped us think about how we have a two-way conversation with our community," Wiles said. "We'd have ideas, and if we were a little off topic, she didn't have a problem saying, 'let's think about this.'"
"Her big question all the time is 'what's your goal?'" Wiles continued. "We always go back to that question — it has served us very well to think that way. Our region is really fortunate to have such a fine communications service, and people like Jessica make that difference. We're very fortunate to have her as a resource."
Scheckton says much of the credit for this national recognition of her work goes to her colleagues.
"I know how helpful the team has been for me," she said. "Working with this team is one of the things I enjoy most about my career."
Bush-Suflita is quick to point out that Scheckton contributes positively to the communications team as well.
"Ask anyone on the communications staff and they'll tell you Jessica is tough," Suflita said. "She's not afraid to challenge people — myself included — if she thinks you're holding back or capable of better work. But she's just as quick to roll up her sleeves and help you map out a complex public engagement campaign, hunt down an obscure statistic or coach you through a nerve-wracking school crisis."