About The Donovan Group

Nation’s Leading School Communications Firm

The Donovan Group is an award winning school district communication, marketing, and public relations firm that focuses exclusively on public education. Our focus is on strengthening the connections between local public schools and their families, staff, students, partners, and community members. We believe that, through exceptional communication, school and district leaders can build a high level of trust within their communities.

We Support Public Education

When we work with school and district leaders on their communications efforts and messaging, we recommend they speak to the “why” behind what they do. For our clients, education is a calling. The same is true for the team at the Donovan Group.

Beyond our expertise in communication, public relations and education policy, we are driven by the positive impact we are able to have on schools and students across the country.

Our firm was founded in 2004 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For several years, we focused on serving the needs of public schools and districts in our home state. Later, we took what we learned to expand to other states, starting with Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Today, we serve school and district leaders across the country. Along the way, we’ve added many truly talented and passionate education communication and school PR professionals to our team.

While the Donovan Group continues to grow, we remain true to our core principles of helping schools, school districts, and educational organizations tell their stories, engage their stakeholders, and deliver the best possible opportunities to their students.

Stay in touch and get all the latest in school district communication.

Our Team

Steve Bailey

Steve Bailey

Partner

Steve assists schools and districts with communication planning, surveys, referendum efforts, urgent and crisis situations, copyediting and content development on a daily basis.

Before joining the firm in 2009, Steve served as a campaign manager for a U.S. Congressional campaign and worked with several nonprofit advocacy organizations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New York. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has experience in both print and broadcast news reporting.

Previously, Steve was executive editor and president of the Donovan Group’s sister company, ProPRcopy.

Jerry Gallagher

Jerry Gallagher

Partner

Before joining Donovan Group, Jerry spent 19 years as a broadcast journalist in Iowa and Wisconsin. He was a news anchor in Waterloo, Sioux City and Eau Claire. Jerry earned a Midwest Regional EMMY in 2015 for his story, ‘Brothers in Arms,’ about his father’s trip on an Honor Flight. He also received several other EMMY nominations over the years for his reporting on topics like education, including a special report on Common Core.

Jerry grew up in Strawberry Point and Storm Lake before earning his degree at the University of Northern Iowa.

Liam Goldrick

Liam Goldrick

Partner

Before joining the firm, Goldrick spent nearly two decades in educational policy and communications. For 12 years, he served as policy director at New Teacher Center, a national nonprofit organization focused on accelerating educator effectiveness. Liam previously served as education policy advisor to Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and as senior education policy analyst at the National Governors Association. In the 1990s, he worked in Vermont state government and politics.

Liam graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Boston College in 1993 and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 1995. Liam is a resident of Philadelphia, where his two children attend the city’s public schools.

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Dr. Lori Mueller

Partner

Dr. Mueller is an experienced educational leader and superintendent who has been nationally recognized for her work in school communication. She leads the Donovan Group’s efforts in Florida.

For six years, Dr. Mueller served as district administrator of the School District of Baraboo in central Wisconsin. In that time, she led significant continuous school improvement through district strategic planning processes. She also led efforts to engage community members in successfully passing the two largest capital referendums in her district’s history, totaling $63.65 million.

In addition to her experience as a superintendent, Dr. Mueller has served as a teacher and a director of curriculum and instruction. She has presented at regional, state and national conferences on topics related to grading for communicating student learning, developing assessment literacy, gifted and talented services, implementing a Response to Intervention framework, continuous school improvement, strategic planning, crisis response and engaging the community in advance of a facilities referendum.

Dr. Mueller holds an Ed.D. from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. She also received a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a bachelor’s degree in French and health education from UW-Whitewater.

Brian Nicol

Brian Nicol

Partner

Brian brings 17 years of PK-12 public education experience in the state of Wisconsin, having previously served as director of communications for the Howard-Suamico School District for nine years and a sixth-grade teacher for eight. Nicol and HSSD won the Wisconsin School Public Relations Association’s top honor, the Lighthouse Award, in 2015 and 2020. The district was also recognized with a Gold Medallion award from the National School Public Relations Association for its successful 2018 operational referendum campaign. Nicol holds a bachelor’s degree in human biology from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Marian University.

Katelyn Adams

Katelyn Adams

Communication Specialist

Katelyn Adams works with public schools and districts in Iowa and across the county as a communication specialist. She provides project management, content and social media management, and a wide range of other communication services to our clients on a daily basis.

Before joining the Donovan Group, Katelyn served in various public relations, marketing, and education positions. She has also served on various committees and boards, where her primary focus has been project management and communication planning. Katelyn has a bachelor's degree in corporate communication and business from Buena Vista University.

Stephanie Brownlee

Stephanie Brownlee

Social Media Strategist

Stephanie helps public schools and districts share their stories and engage their communities through social media content and strategy. Before joining the Donovan Group, she was a director of communications for a thriving school district in Iowa. She also has experience as a school district marketing specialist. 

Stephanie’s work has been recognized by the Iowa School Public Relations Association, through which she earned 15 Awards of Excellence.

Through her focus on social media, Stephanie aims to elevate the social media presence and community connections of public schools, ensuring their stories get the celebration and recognition they deserve.

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Derrick Docket

Director of Branding & Design

As a communication strategist, Derrick Docket helps public schools and districts tell their stories through marketing, content creation, graphic design, branding, communication planning, and video production. 

Before joining the Donovan Group, Derrick served as director of marketing for The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum. Prior to that, he was the chief communications officer and director of marketing for the Wentzville School District in Missouri. There, he created and launched an advertising and sponsorship program that partnered with local businesses to support student-centered activities and athletic programs. He also led a logo and brand refresh during a district strategic planning process and designed new logos and branding for new schools. 

Earlier in his career, Derrick oversaw and produced digital social media, graphic design, live video streaming, and other digital content for the NCAA Division I Missouri Valley Conference. He also has experience working with advertising and direct marketing agencies.

Derrick holds a bachelor’s degree in art and design from Missouri State University. 

Katie Drida

Katie Drida

Director of Social Media

As a social media strategist, Katie Drida brings a passion for sharing the stories, celebrations, and community connections of each school district through their social media platforms. She enjoys focusing on what makes each school and district unique and how to best engage students, families, staff, and community members.

Before joining the Donovan Group, Katie taught middle and high school English Language Arts for seven years, while also serving in various communication roles on several educational support and extracurricular teams. Through these roles, she combined her skills in graphic design, content writing, and engagement to promote community involvement. In her spare time, Katie also enjoys working with local nonprofits like The Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin where she is the current development and communications coordinator. Katie holds a bachelor's degree in English Education from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Emma Durlflinger

Emma Durflinger

Social Media Strategist

As a social media strategist, Emma works with public schools and districts to help engage their students and communities through social media. 

Before joining the Donovan Group, Emma was a digital marketing manager for a restaurant in the Des Moines area, where she oversaw the company’s entire social media presence. She’s able to leverage her experience in marketing and brand storytelling to benefit schools and districts on a daily basis. 

Emma graduated from Indian Hills Community College with a degree in interactive media technology.

Ben Gallagher

Ben Gallagher

Director of Video Services

Since joining Donovan Group in 2020, Ben has produced videos for a wide variety of school districts across the country. His work helps school districts tell their stories and provides information about unique programs, special events, student achievements, extracurricular activities, and more.

Ben grew up in Storm Lake, Iowa and graduated from Storm Lake High School in 2021. He continues to reside in Northwest Iowa.

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Amanda Getgen

Communication Strategist

As a communication strategist, Amanda Getgen works with public schools and districts across the United States, focusing on content writing and editing, communication planning, social media, graphic design, crisis communication, and more.

Before joining the Donovan Group, Amanda served as communications coordinator for the Tomah Area School District. She received the 2022 Wisconsin School Public Relations Association Lighthouse Award, along with four Awards of Excellence from WSPRA for her thorough and eye-catching work.

Before finding her passion in school communications, Amanda served in the United States Army. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design.

Vanessa Hamlett

Vanessa Hamlett

Communication Specialist

Vanessa Hamlett works with public schools and districts in Iowa and nationwide. Her primary focus is helping schools increase the positive impact they can have on their communities through effective communication.

Before joining Donovan Group, Vanessa was a software developer for RFA Engineering in Dubuque, Iowa, where she gained valuable team experiences and improved her technical skills. Additionally, she completed an internship with the National Security Agency in Maryland.

 

Vanessa holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Mathematics from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa.

Holly Henderson

Holly Henderson

Lead Graphic Designer

Holly Henderson works with public schools and districts across the United States, assisting with efforts related to content creation, communication planning, visual storytelling, social media, graphic design, crisis communication and more.

Before joining the Donovan Group, Holly served as marketing and communication specialist for the School District of Baraboo. She received the 2019 Wisconsin School Public Relations Association Lighthouse Award, along with 10 Awards of Excellence and four Awards of Merit from WSPRA.

A well-respected school communication professional in Wisconsin, Holly has presented and served as a keynote speaker at numerous conferences and events. Before serving in school communication, she was a copy editor and advertising executive for Capital Newspapers. Holly received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Perry Hibner

Perry Hibner

Lead Survey Strategist

Perry works with public schools and districts in Wisconsin and Illinois on surveys, polling, focus groups and data analysis services as part of Donovan Group Surveys and Intelligence.

Before joining the Donovan Group, Perry served as the Director of Communications for a decade for the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District. His department received multiple Wisconsin School Public Relations Association Awards of Excellence and Awards of Merit. He also was instrumental in MCPASD passing referendums in 2012 and 2018 for a combined $199.7 million, with each having more than 70 percent support.

Perry has also served as a high school social studies teacher. He worked at the Wisconsin State Journal for 25 years, including the last 15 as assistant sports editor. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from the University of Wisconsin Madison, along with a history minor and teacher certification from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Becky Huenink

Becky Huenink

Senior Project Manager

Serving as the point of contact for many Donovan Group LLC clients, Becky is in charge of project follow-through and document editing and proofing.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Becky served as a social worker in which she assisted individuals with special needs. She also worked with the Wauwatosa School District as a liaison between school staff, parents, and business members collaborating toward a safe, united community.

Ethan James

Ethan James

Video Specialist

As a video specialist, Ethan helps public schools and districts share their stories and bring to life the amazing things happening in their buildings, classrooms, and communities. His primary roles include capturing footage and editing and producing attention-grabbing video content for our clients.

Raised in Storm Lake, Iowa, Ethan graduated from Storm Lake High School and received a bachelor's degree in communications and digital media from the University of Northern Iowa. He currently lives in northwest Iowa.

Tracy Jentz

Tracy Jentz

Director of Survey Research

As director of survey research, Tracy provides both a research and communications perspective in asking questions, providing insight, and helping find solutions. She has a deep passion for public education, along with collecting and using data to inform decision making.

Before joining the Donovan Group, Tracy spent more than 10 years as communications coordinator for one of the largest school systems in North Dakota, where she provided a strategic communications and research focus through her award-winning work. She has presented at several state and national school communications conferences and served a three-year term on the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) Executive Board.

Tracy holds a master’s degree in sociology and a bachelor’s degree in communication, both from the University of North Dakota. She has also obtained Accreditation in Public Relations (APR).

Morgan Klingbeil

Morgan Klingbeil

Communication Specialist

As a communication specialist, Morgan provides project management, social media management, content writing and editing, strategy, and a range of other communication services for public schools and districts on a daily basis. 

Prior to joining the Donovan Group, Morgan served as marketing coordinator for Iowa Lakes Community College, where she managed marketing projects to meet the college's brand guidelines, assisted with social media management, and provided photography.

 

In her free time, Morgan provides photography services through her small business, Circle M Photography. She holds bachelor’s degrees in Animal Science and Ag Education-Communications from Iowa State University.

Jake Kurtz

Jake Kurtz

Communication Specialist

Jake Kurtz is a communication specialist who works with public school districts in Iowa and throughout the country. Before joining the Donovan Group, Jake spent 16 years as an editor and reporter in the Midwest, including tenures at the Des Moines Register and Pulitzer Prize-winning Storm Lake Times. The University of Iowa alumnus has received multiple honors for government and education reporting and is a past recipient of the Iowa Newspaper Association’s Genevieve Mauck Stoufer Outstanding Young Journalist Award.

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Brooke Pisciotto

Lead Communication Strategist

As a communication strategist, Brooke Pisciotto helps public schools and districts tell their stories through social media, written content, graphic design, communication planning, and much more.

Before joining the Donovan Group, Brooke was a fifth-grade English language arts teacher, where she served on the school improvement team and sponsored the art club. She was also an assistant editor at The Bradley Scout, where she wrote and edited stories on a wide variety of subjects. She also has experience as a freelance writer.

Brooke combines her background as both a teacher and a communication professional to meet the needs of our clients on a daily basis. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Roosevelt University.

Emily Rojas

Emily Rojas

Communication Strategist

As a communication strategist, Emily works with public schools and districts across the United States to help them tell their stories, engage their communities, and communicate effectively. 

Before joining the Donovan Group, Emily served as director of communications for Dalton Public Schools. During her time there, the district received seven gold awards from the Georgia School Public Relations Association (GSPRA), including two Best in Category awards for special events and social media. 

Emily is passionate about public education and enjoys helping share the amazing things happening in schools and districts every day. She holds a bachelor's degree in public relations from Lee University.

Isaiah-Smith

Isaiah Smith

Communication Strategist

As a communication strategist, Isaiah Smith collaborates with public schools and districts nationwide, helping them craft compelling narratives, foster community engagement, and master effective communication practices.

His journey in communications began as a sports journalist, where he earned several state-level awards for his exceptional storytelling and coverage of athletic events.

Prior to joining the Donovan Group, Isaiah served as a digital communications specialist with the Douglas County School System. There, he oversaw the district's digital footprint to create a unified and impactful experience for visitors. His work helped the district earn several awards from the Georgia School Public Relations Association (GSPRA) across numerous categories.

 

Isaiah holds a bachelor's degree in mass communication from Georgia College and State University.

Ella Stockwell

Ella Stockwell

Communication Specialist

Ella Stockwell works with public schools and districts in Iowa and across the country as a communication specialist. She provides project management, social media management, and a wide range of other communication services to our clients on a daily basis.

Prior to joining the Donovan Group, Ella served as a social media assistant where she shared a brand’s story on social media, provided photography, selected visuals, and offered counsel on best practices in social media management. Ella holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Joseph’s College.

Michele Wickus

Michele Wickus

Senior Associate

Michele has 30 years of experience in public service and education. Before joining the Donovan Group, she was a social worker, special education teacher, alternative education coordinator, principal and director of special education and student services for a school district.

Michele’s experience working within systems in education and other community collaborators has been at the forefront of her career. She has specialized in special education programming and differentiation. She has also extensively trained in Title IX and supported districts in investigations and outcomes that support all involved. She has been involved in numerous OCR complaints and investigations and has assisted districts in moving forward with compliance and supportive outcomes.

Michele holds a bachelor's degree in sociology/psychology from the University of Utah and received a master’s degree in educational leadership from Edgewood College.

Joe Donovan

Joe Donovan

Founding Partner

In addition to working with hundreds of schools and districts on their communications efforts, Joe has advised state superintendents, state legislators, mayors, and members of Congress.

Prior to founding the Donovan Group, Joe was a partner in and the vice president of an education research firm. He was also the spokesperson at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and worked as a director in the office of US Senator Herb Kohl.

Joe earned a BS degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and an MA degree in educational policy studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Our Principles

  1. We believe a high-quality public education is a human right and that all American children—regardless of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or ancestry, as well as that of their family—are entitled to a great public education.

  2. We believe public education is one of the fundamental elements of our democracy. It is one of the best ways for all of us to make use of the talents provided to us by our maker.

  3. We believe public education is changing and improving, and we believe that we can play a supporting role in fostering this change. We believe the best days of public education are yet to come.

  4. We believe that those who are part of this educational change understand the responsibility to ensure all students are served, including our most vulnerable students. In public education, when we say we serve “all” students, we truly mean all.

  5. We believe in honesty, transparency and forthrightness, and we understand the responsibility we have in providing taxpayers who invest in their public schools with outstanding value.

  6. We believe in respecting the unique talents, skills and gifts of every team member and working together to achieve goals on behalf of our clients and the students and families they serve.

Let's Talk!

Get in touch with the Donovan Group to see how we can support your school communication and public relations efforts.

We’re here to help your school or district at any time. You can reach us at (800) 317-7147.