Dear Jennifer Sprague: Earning Your Big Bucks at DISD is a Snap

Categories: Schutze

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Jennifer. May I call you that? This is just between us. I like your picture. There's a certain assertiveness there. I just like it. And this has all been so unfair so far.

These news hacks -- guys like Dallas Observer Editor Joe Tone, Unfair Park EditorEric Nicholson and that TV guy over at Channel 5, Scott Friedman -- keep doing hatchet-jobs on you, making a big deal out of the fact that you're getting a $185,000 salary as the new top public-relations person for the Dallas school system.

They won't stop harping on how you're only 31, you made only 86 grand at your last job and your new boss, Mike Miles, who was your old boss in Colorado, is paying you more than top PR people just about anywhere on earth including the White House.

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Jennifer Sprague, DISD's new PR chief
Well, I know how you can tell those guys to stuff it. You just march in here and slap a little discipline into them. Show them what the big bucks buy. Make them eat their little small carping envious words. They actually like it when you do them like that. Give the Dallas schools a good reputation. Put a stop to the negative stories. Get the happy news out there. Get those ink-stained wretches and talking heads to stop saying bad stuff.

Make it all shiny and good. That's all you have to do, Jennifer. Then you'll be worth every penny!

Heads up. Here's a bad story that's only going to get bigger. I spoke with Dallas school trustee Bernadette Nutall recently, and she reminded me of something we mentioned briefly here back in She has assembled data from the administration showing that of all African-American students who graduate from Dallas high schools, the number deemed adequately prepared for college is three out of 100.

Three percent. Jennifer, that is a real bad number. The overall drop-out rate is already horrible. You hear all kinds of numbers, but the most likely one is about a 60 percent drop-out rate between ninth grade and graduation.

So you figure you're already losing at least 60 percent of the kids in the system generally, and then, of the black kids who do make it to the graduation ceremony, only 3 percent can read, write and do math at an incoming college freshman level.

That's an awful story. It tells people that the Dallas school are pretty much an utter failure. Any school system can teach natural students. The test is always going to be kids at risk.

When George W. Bush was our governor -- George W., Jennifer -- his education people pretty much proved with hard data that at-risk kids can be taught to the level of rich white kids by the end of the third grade for the same money it takes to teach them nothing. So continuing to teach them nothing is bad. Real bad.

Jennifer, here's your chance. Mike Miles has told the media here that you're going to bring about a whole new paradigm in media relations. So you go do it. Prove him right. Don't let that 3 percent story get traction. Have the media do a positive story instead.

I've been watching local PR operations for a long time, so, if you don't mind, I actually think I know how this is done, and I would like to share that with you. On the day the media hounds start paying attention to the 3 percent story -- some son of a gun like that TV guy or somebody starts asking pokey questions -- here's what you say:

"We're not here to talk about negative stories about our schools. I want you to focus instead on the many great achievements of our school system. Instead of this negative story about dumping 97 percent of black graduates into the crapper, I want you to do a positive story about a wonderful modern dance competition at the arts magnet school drawing praise already from dance professionals nationwide."

Listen, Jennifer, if you tell them, they have to do what you say. You can trust me on this. Do you trust me? I mean, you can really trust me. Why wouldn't you trust me? You think I'd try to set you up? Give me your hand. Allow me to lead you down this path.

All you have to do to get past the criticism about your salary is convert the public image of the school system to a positive one and get the local reporters to stop doing negative stories. And the way to do that is to just put your foot down and crack the whip.

People have actually done this in the past. We had a superintendent here named Rojas whose PR person went through a very similar experience and process.

Give us some discipline, Jennifer. The whip. You won't believe the outcome. Ask Rojas. I'm not exactly sure where to find him these days, but you can ask your assistant, Jon Dahlander. He knows where all the bones are.

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11 comments
kblevans
kblevans

Obviously the School District needed a major change, which is why they hired the best out there! We need Mike Miles and Mrs. Sprague. All you haters, are just soooooooo jealous! Yeah, you wish you made as much as Mrs. Sprauge. How about get a job and find something to do with your life other then be jealous and post wrong comments about other people. Obviously you don’t have your information straight. How about you learn what is going on before your speak your mind. You sound ridiculous and uneducated.

kristi_nix
kristi_nix

As one of the ink-stained wretches known to shoot flaming arrows at our local district officials from time to time, I laughed out loud when I read this, a real, live belly laugh. I'm going to go make all my bitter, envious newspaper friends who still have jobs read this, it is just that spot on. 

However, I'm starting to worry the TASB mafia will catch on to what the new DISD administrators are earning and send out their flying monkey army of HR consultants to every school board meeting in Texas to warn trustees administrative salaries are now way below average compared current staffing trends, right? I'm just saying...

Mr. Blonde
Mr. Blonde

Bottom line: Miles is porking her.

kblevans
kblevans

Yeah, you wish! How about get a job and graduate from high school! You obviously are not educated!

The Credible Hulk
The Credible Hulk

I'm guessing the impact your individual situation is to the right of the decimal point in the statistical analysis of this problem.

Hilary Jirasek
Hilary Jirasek

Statistics are great, but keep something in mind about them. Often, how the state defines/measures a term that we all think we know, is not how it is defined in common vernacular. For example - I graduated from a DISD school in the late 90's, using DISD's top graduation track at the time, and did it graduating a year early (with honors). The state of Texas actually gave me money congratulating me for graduating a year early.  Despite the state's actions with me personally, Texas also punished my school because I was labeled a drop out for reporting purposes. How did that make sense?  It turns out that Texas law (at that time) defined drop outs as ANYONE who failed to graduate after 4 years in high school.  So even if you graduated a year early, you were considered a drop out because you didn't graduate at the end of year four.  I did graduate, I did not drop out - and the state congratulated me individually, while punishing my school (and thus the district) in its reporting. When I inquired into why the school was punished for my 'dropping out' - I was told that the computers have a starting date for students, and a pre-set graduation date for each student.  If for ANY reason you do not finish (be it graduating early, moving out of the district, etc.) at the 4 year date that the computer has noted - it automatically labels you as a 'drop out' for reporting purposes.  There was no way to correct/amend that label to show the graduation and drop out statistics to be correct.  That being said - hopefully for this much money Miss Sprague will find a way for things like that to be corrected in the statistics, or at least she can shed light on these problems that need to be addressed at a state level so that the teachers unions, other school districts, PACs, private citizens, etc. can start working together to be sure that the numbers we are given are being measured accurately.  (After I graduated, I was told about the reporting conundrum it caused.  I couldn't help but asking our school's counselor questions like: 'Why doesn't the state have better computer programs for this stuff?  These numbers are critical and there is no way they are accurate!  Why award the student for behavior that you punish the school and district over?')  If anyone out there wants a really interesting research project - this could definitely be one! The state of Texas still has some wild ways of measuring things (and I'm betting the US Department of Education does as well!)  DISD does have big problems, but I wonder how things would look if the statistics were measured accurately?

Dunbar
Dunbar

So you do have a vague idea of how it works JS.  The only problem is she's knocking down 185K and all you are is the head of a rag like TO!  It's not about the money either, right JS?  You just want to be a journalist and change the world? Stay with it big  guy.  You're doing  great job.

WhatIfUnicornsFartRaInbows
WhatIfUnicornsFartRaInbows

You think you "destroyed" a ton of peer-reviewed science with your what-if libtard fantasies LOL!!!! Even if your hypothetical fantasies were true, it would have absolutely no effect on the masses of stupid violent blacks we are stuck with today. Your what-ifs change nothing. Even if true, no change would be seen for generations and nothing about our present situation would be affected at all. I'm sticking with the peer-reviewed science, thanks. Duh

WhatIfWhatIfWhatIf
WhatIfWhatIfWhatIf

Since you failed to post any actual data that refutes anything I posted, and instead you only wrote a bunch of hypothetical 'what if' wishful thinking, I'm sticking with the peer-reviewed science, thanks. I do agree with you that Obama is a problem though ;)

Prprofessional
Prprofessional

That is what PR people do. Communicating through the news media is usually only a small part of their responsibilities. That doesn't answer the question of why a person barely qualified for the job was given a $$100,000 raise to take it. 

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