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Dear Jennifer Sprague: Feeding Principals Empty Catchphrases Does Not Count As Communications

With the school year underway and Mike Miles' graphically detailed list of all the ways that DISD fails, it's been easy to forget about communication chief Jennifer Sprague's short resume, outlandish salary, and her cringe-worthy performance at her first board meeting this summer.

But lest you forget about Sprague entirely, Matthew Haag brings us a reminder today in the Morning News.

Haag reports:

In recent weeks, DISD communications chief Jennifer Sprague has distributed fliers to principals and assistant principals that coach them on how to best communicate with parents and community members. The multipage brochure recommends "power words," "acknowledgement phrases" and "headlines" in communicating with parents.

Specifically, school administrators should be sure to lard their conversations with phrases like "We are all about improving student performance and the quality of instruction; that is the expectation," and "Destination 2020 will take five to eight years to achieve, but we will make significant progress in one year."

If you think this makes the principals sound like poorly programmed robots, you're right. If it reminds you of a vision of an Orwellian dystopia in which truth and free thought are subverted through the manipulation of language, you're also right. The phrases were crafted with the help of Merrie Spaeth of Spaeth Communications, who helped torpedo John Kerry's campaign with the Swift Boat ads. And finally, if you think its ridiculous that the $185,000-per-year communications director can't come up with a list of anodyne catch phrases, then you're also right.

Creating a positive image of the district is a legitimate goal, but the way to achieve it isn't to feed the community stockpiled bullshit from a poorly written script. DISD should shoot straight with parents. They deserve at least that much.


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