Miles: If Jennifer Sprague Were a Fat White Dude, Her $185K Salary Wouldn't Be an Issue

jennifer-sprague.jpeg
Incoming DISD superintendent Mike Miles called Saturday's sit-down with the board a retreat, but that's probably a misnomer. The meeting was long and took place on a weekend, and there was a platter full of bacon, but Miles didn't give an inch.

In a Q&A session with media beforehand, Miles fielded question from the handful of reporters who had managed to straggle into the DISD administration building by 7:30 on a Saturday morning. Things kicked off with a softball about the recently released results from the STAAR exam, which were underwhelming. Miles said he has glanced at the data but not enough to form a definitive opinion.

The preliminaries out of the way, the line of inquiry pivoted, immediately and permanently, to the eye-popping salaries of Miles' four named cabinet members, in particular the $185,000 being raked in by Jennifer Sprague, the communications chief he's importing from Colorado Springs.

The questions went something like this: Really? $185,000 for a PR flack? How do you justify paying a 31-year-old naif more than the White House press secretary, not to mention the communications chiefs of pretty much every major school district nationwide? Isn't that a slap in the face to the rank-and-file teacher who has seen his pay stagnate and the parent whose kid's school DISD just closed to save money?

Miles basically reiterated what he had previously told the Dallas Morning News: Sprague is worth the money. She's a phenomenal talent with shelves full of national and state communications awards, and she'll be doing more than simply spitting out press releases. In Colorado Springs, for example, her efforts quadrupled parent involvement in the schools, and she successfully implemented a campaign that got more kids into the classroom on time, reading every day at home, and doing their homework.

Same with the other cabinet members. Incoming operations chief Kevin Smelker will find millions in savings for the district next year, money that will go to improve quality of instruction and student achievement. And if you have people who can do that, should you really quibble with a six-figure salary?

"We've got to stop being penny wise and pound foolish," Miles said.

But then, as if the stream of urine Miles was sending into the hornet's nest was not forceful enough, Miles blamed the media for sensationalizing the story.

"If Jennifer Sprague was an ugly, slightly older male," Miles asked, would there even be any controversy?

"I think the answer to that question is no."

Actually, it's not. You just more than doubled the salary of a person you imported from your old job in a climate of austerity. That person now makes more than the city's police chief. To do PR. That's a story, and an utterly fair one. Of course, Miles is right on one point: There wouldn't be the Bobby Petrino whispers if Sprague was a fat old dude. (For the record, Miles said he is not friends with Sprague or Smelker. "I've never had coffee with either of them.")

All that said, it's not much of a surprise that Miles came out with rhetorical guns blazing. Had he walked back his first major move as superintendent in response to a bit of public criticism, what happens when he starts canning teachers?


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18 comments
Wesatch
Wesatch

Dallas has been trying to clean up and straighten up DISD since 1972. What a joke, Just another bunch of administrators sucking up big bucks before moving on to their next sucker school district before it blows up again in DISD.

Jared Heath
Jared Heath

Yes, 185,000 for a fat white guy doing that job would be just as bad.

Jkrouse
Jkrouse

The last question is the most important. What will happen when he starts canning teachers? It would have been easier on all of us if Miles had hired Sprague at, say, $100K to start and "bumped" the salary up WHEN she proved herself worth it. Will she EVER be worth 4 teachers?

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Only if she can consistently spot her fastball and throw first pitch strikes.

Rusknative
Rusknative

 if you have to ask THAT question, you are not very bright

Rusknative
Rusknative

 he could have said something wise like "Black Hole" and gotten EVERYONE all upset like at the County Commissioner's Court.....what the hell does he owe the reporters other than blunt talk.....they are going to spin it however THEY choose anyway.  he was MUCH more polite in his language and metaphor than I would have been for such stupid opinioted "questions"....which were not questions, they were accusations.

Rusknative
Rusknative

 the kids in DISD do not give a crap about what the leaders of DISD do....they do not "look for messages"...that is left up to the Monday Morning do nothing Quaterback blog posters in Dallas to look for.....the kids just go to school because it is the law.

Rusknative
Rusknative

 he drinks tea maybe.....why so critical??

Rusknative
Rusknative

 brilliant......Obama blames Bush for the last 4 years of HIS failure...and you want DISD cleaned up in two weeks.....YOU are an idiot.

Rusknative
Rusknative

well maybe it takes a TON of money to HIRE competent people to come to work in executive management positions in a school district as crappy as DISD filled with pathetic board members and complaining racist minority teachers and a city news media that criticizes everything anyone attempts to do that will help sell newspapers and advertising. Add to that having to move to and live in filthy Dallas county managed by idiots, thieves, and filled with ethnic striff...and pay taxes out the wazoo for pathetic services.....THAT IS WHY SHE GOT SUCH A RAISE.   NO ONE WANTS THE JOB, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

leftocenter
leftocenter

Except I don't believe you are 32...

Da Truth
Da Truth

I don't care if she looked like Mary Suhm or Rush Limbaugh. It is an issue regardless of what she looks like. The facts are that she only has a bachelors degree and is getting a raise of $90,000 for a job that paid less before her arrival. And she is not the only one, among the incoming staff mentioned. And DISD supposedly has no money, closes schools, and lays off teachers. Nobody sees a problem with this? I am 35 years old, have a bachelor's degree with a double major, and make $62k a year in my profession. Can I now go to my boss and tell him I am underpaid by over $100k? I'm a fat white guy so it shouldn't be a problem, right?

Guest
Guest

It's certainly not as if Dallas, as a city, is "anti-good looking".  Take a look around Mr. Miles...there's some damn fine looking folks here.  But even the best looking chicks in the world can't just "walk on" to the Cowboys Cheerleader squad. There's a pretty extensive process.  I just think that someone making that kind of scratch should be vetted a little more before she's fitted for her boots.

Cliff Dweller
Cliff Dweller

"If she were a differently-abled, myopic, transsexual nobody would bat an eye."  Makes almost as much sense as the original statement.

DISD is Crumbling
DISD is Crumbling

 I'm reminded of Shakespeare's idiom "thou dost protest too loudly."  Mike Miles' first thought was of Sprague's looks when it came to evaluating her salary.  It was either the first thought that popped into his head or the one he thought was most persuasive.  We're criticizing spending money during a financial crisis, and all Mike Miles can think about is that Jenny is a young, thin, blonde, female?  Although her experience is important for evaluating a proper salary, why is he injecting race and gender into it?  Answer: because he is, um, "injecting" race and gender into, um, it.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Last time I checked, there were about 500 openings for teachers in DISD and that was early June. Why?  Because everyone is trying to get out.   The thanks you get for showing up to make a difference in this district is no pay raise while a new crew of out-of-towners make ridiculous money.  You get to watch kids shiver or broil in dilapidated buildings, you get slapped with a just-for-spite 45-minute extension to the day, and you get told your job depends on test scores the new super has barely glanced at. And btw,  I was told that Spruce HS missed AYP again.  It has close to the highest number of TFA teachers in the district and they weren't able to make much of a dent.   The problem isn't the teachers, but I bet blaming, bullying, harassing, and punishing teachers is going to be the grand plan to justify these salaries.  It wont work, but the money will be gone anyway.

Paul
Paul

If this were an "ugly, slightly older male", we would be questioning it even more as others have pointed out the position is way overpaid. Why hasn't anyone questioned why the DISD HR and Payroll Departments have been completely out of the loop on the job position requirements and compensation? Calling these positions "cabinet level" means squat, especially since these jobs have a better compensation package than those for the White House Cabinet.

RTGolden
RTGolden

It's a good thing Educate Dallas' money was poured into the school board elections.  They make sure we'll continue to have a school board that propagates situations like this.  In turn, this will keep the Dallas Observer writers busy and employed and off the welfare rolls. Seriously though, I wonder how many of Nuttall's supporters (remember, Nuttall was on the board that gave Miles this much latitude in hiring) are having a V8 moment right now.

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