Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What is it with Communications Directors?

One of the first acts of Mike Miles, the new superintendent of the Dallas school district (DISD), is also the source of one of his first crises. It's the exorbitant salaries he's given to his top aides, including a $185,000 salary for the communications director he brought with him from his prior job, Jennifer Sprague.

There's no small amount of irony involved in a communications director finding herself at the center of a PR disaster. Her boss made things worse by saying the only reason Sprague's salary is an issue is because she isn't "an ugly, slightly older male." You'd think a $185,000 communications director would have known to get to the superintendent and brief him on what not to say. You know you're not living up to the job title when, instead of reporters asking you questions about your boss, they are asking him questions about you.

My reaction to this latest embarrassment from Dallas was to take smug satisfaction in thinking that my own suburban school district is immune to such embarrassments.

After the jump, rethinking my smug attitude.

I offer two news stories without further comment.

The first is from the February 22, 2012, edition of RISD Notes, the employee newsletter of the Richardson ISD (RISD).
Richardson ISD Superintendent Dr. Waggoner announced today that Ms. Candace Ahlfinger has agreed to fill the position of Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs for RISD. Ms. Ahlfinger will be coming to the district from Pasadena ISD, where she is currently Associate Superintendent for Communications and Community Relations.
Ms. Ahlfinger will begin her duties in RISD on March 19 and is replacing former Executive Director for Communications and Public Affairs Jennie Moore, who resigned.
Source: RISD.

The second is from five months earlier, from a story in the September 30, 2011, edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
Jennie Moore, who was arrested last week at her home in Forney during an investigation into the missing money, was president of the Crowley Education Foundation for two years as part of her job, said her Dallas attorney, Bret Martin.

Moore, who now works for the Richardson school district, is out of jail on a $40,000 bond.
The Richardson district said in a statement that Moore, its executive director of communications and public affairs, was placed on administrative leave Monday.

"The allegations against Ms. Moore are unrelated to her employment in RISD," the district said.

The statement also included support for Moore from Richardson Superintendent Kay Waggoner.

"Jennie Moore has been a valued, effective and respected employee during her tenure in RISD," Waggoner said. "The district will continue to gather information and we have no timetable for additional district action."

Different school districts. Different directors of communication. Totally different circumstances. Still, I have to ask, what is it about directors of communication? Don't they know they should be communicating the news, not making it?