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Executive Director's Letter: Bringing the industry together - It's a New Year!

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

Governing Board
Front row, from left: Steve Miller, Irvin Simon Photographers; Courtney Lutz, Visual Image Photography; Claudia Dencer, Leonard's Photography; Tom Struzziero, O'Connor Studios; and Jake Mark, Dorian Studio. Second row, from left: Michael Bell, Bell Photographers Inc; Chip Wagner, Wagner Portrait Group; Cindy Gallien, Photo Texas Photography; Ed Geskus, Geskus Photography Third row, from left: Aric Snyder, Inter-State Studio & Publishing Co.; David Crandall, SPOA executive director; and Mike Harris, Victor O'Neill Studios Fourth row, from left: Josh Cady, Cady Studios; Mike Strawbridge, Strawbridge Studios Inc.; and Rodney Halterman, HR Imaging

SPOA’s governing and executive boards met in Houston this last month, the first time ever the 15 industry members had all been together in person. Some of them had not seen each other in a decade. It was an impressive beginning to bring together leaders to address the issues directly affecting our industry. Here are some points of the governing board discussion:

  • First and foremost, the governing board established a new SPOA mission statement: To Advocate, Educate, Preserve, Protect and Promote the great school traditions of school photography and yearbooks. This statement encapsulates what we as an association are trying to accomplish, both today and over the next decade. This mission informs our programs, our education, and our training.

  • The governing board elected a new Chairman, and we are excited to announce a first in the industry. Claudia Dencer of Leonard’s Studio will be the first female Chairman of the Governing Board and to what our records show as the first chairman of any of the previous industry trade associations.

  • Sony provided an incredible lunch to kick things off and then presented their plans for a new school training series being launched this fall. This will help create a new generation of school photographers and bring the excitement of photography back to schools. Sony will provide, through a partnership with SPOA, a platform to teach basic photography training for students along with many other exciting opportunities.

  • We had all of our Strategic Partners either in attendance either virtually or in-person. ImageQuix and PhotoLynx provided an incredible Governing Board dinner and presentation on our first evening, while the next morning Fotomerchant provided an incredible breakfast buffet as well as purchased custom logoed Helly Hansen jackets for both the governing board members and executive board members.

  • In addition, Studio Source Yearbooks, provided a great afternoon lunch with APS following up with an incredible dinner and experience at an off-site upscale restaurant that included a bocce ball tournament. Idiom Connect, WaldoPhotos, 36Pix, PhotoDay also participated in other ways that made this meeting simply incredible.

  • The governing board took strong action to address the issues between the school photography industry the software industry and the yearbook industry. We have some exciting news coming regarding our new one-export standard for the software industry which will radically impact the bottom line of many companies and industry providers. We will continue to find common ground with the secondary yearbook industry and work to solve some of the challenges that face the great traditions of school pictures and yearbooks.

  • Both boards spent considerable time discussing membership value and cost. SPOA is the association for every company in the school photography industry, no matter the size. The programs and services for the industry will focus on pressing needs for everyone, including leadership development, selling technique and training, cybersecurity, student privacy, tax issues, industry marketing research and much more.

  • Part of SPOA is recognizing the history and tradition of school photography. There are plans in the works for a National History Museum for School Photography & Yearbooks, featuring pioneering ideas in cameras, printing technology and products like school IDs. Our industry has nearly a century of innovations to highlight and SPOA will lead the efforts in honoring and capturing those stories, artifacts and content. This will all start with SPOA having a small history museum on show at the International Conference on School Photography and Yearbooks this June.

  • The board also toured the Westin Galleria Houston, the site of our first conference, the SPOA International Conference on School Photography and Yearbooks, June 7-11, 2022. The International Conference on School Photography & Yearbooks is built for all companies and all roles within the industry. Our general session speakers range from the US Department of Education personnel and existing district leadership to professional speakers and trainers from Fortune 500 companies and experts like Dale Carnegie Training. The Westin Galleria Houston is an impressive venue for our first in-person conference. You don’t want to miss it!

As the executive director, it was a blessing to see our board members interacting in a whole new way. Many of them have long histories, as competitors and rivals, but for the good of this industry, these executives set aside those old rivalries and worked together on projects that solely focus on the betterment of our industry. It was simply incredible to see old walls broken down and bridges being built. That is what an industry association can do. That is what we are doing and I could not be more excited. I left that meeting almost pinching myself to see if that really just happened. It is hard to put into words how amazing it is to see the leadership, servant leadership, and humbleness that was shown by these executives. We have big things planned for this year and you want to be a part of it. My hope is that no matter how small your company is or how large it is, that 2022 you will make a simple decision and that is to join our effort and become a member of SPOA today!

Over the next few months, I will be traveling to speak at both national and state educational associations on behalf of our industry as well as visiting and speaking to a number of our member companies. Next week we are excited to be at SPAC 2022 in Las Vegas. The boards and I will be hosting a Luxury Suite Reception on Thursday and I will be presenting on Saturday. I look forward to visiting with our members, meeting new companies and sharing the great mission of our association. I wish all of you the best start to a new year and thank you for all you do for our industry.


David Crandall

Executive Director

School Photographers of America


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