Heather Daniel, director of communications and policy at Edison Township Public Schools, was recently named the 2024 Communicator of the Year by the New Jersey School Public Relations Association.

The annual award recognizes exemplary leadership and commitment to enhanced communication and relationship-building between public schools and the stakeholders they serve. NJSPRA President Paul Zeller, and Maren Smagala, NJSPRA’s president-elect and its 2021 Communicator of the Year, presented Daniel with the award during the organization’s Spring Workshop on March 12.

“Heather Daniel epitomizes all that our COTY Award represents,” Zeller said. “She excels in all four areas of the award’s focus – leadership, communication, professionalism and community involvement.”

Dr. Timothy Purnell, executive director and CEO of the New Jersey School Boards Association, also praised Daniel. “I had the privilege of collaborating with Heather prior to joining NJSBA,” he said. “It was evident to me then that she prided herself on taking a methodical approach to our work – and her communication with stakeholders was always flawless. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to education and the advancement of students, and I congratulate her on winning this well-deserved honor.”

Examples of her many accomplishments include district rebranding, including social media and website redesigns, communication to support passage of a $66 million bond at Wall Township Public Schools (her previous district), effective public speaking and presentation skills and successful media events and relations. Daniel also continues to hone and share her knowledge and skills, obtaining a certificate in social media marketing from Cornell University and participating in the NSPRA/AASA Leadership in School Communications Program. This past summer, she was selected to serve as a mentor in the Braven Fellowship program, nurturing underrepresented young talent in the communications field.

The superintendents of both Edison Township Public Schools and Wall Township Public Schools submitted nomination letters. Edison Township Superintendent, Dr. Edward Aldarelli, stated, “Ms. Daniel is an exemplary leader who inspires and empowers her team and our staff to excel. Her strong leadership skills, combined with her strategic vision and attention to detail, have been instrumental in driving the success of our communications department along with our curricular and school expansion initiatives.”

Dr. Tracy Handerhan, superintendent of Wall Township Public Schools, wrote, “Her outstanding leadership, creativity and passion for enhancing communications have had a long-lasting impact on the culture and progress of the district.”

Three veteran accredited school communication professionals from across the country served as judges for the Communicator of the Year award and unanimously agreed Daniel should be the 2024 recipient from among those nominated. As this year’s NJSPRA winner, Daniel now becomes eligible for a newly created National School Communicator of the Year Award from the National School Public Relations Association to be announced in July 2024 at its National Seminar.