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Dallas ISD principals given buzzwords and phrases for when parents ask about the district

In What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten? I created a Chinese menu of a school reform press release: Choose one power word from Column A, one from Column B, and one from Column B. Ahead of my time, I guess. The book is still as current as tomorrow's school reform news and available at Amazon for 1 penny.

By Matthew Haag

Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles wants the district to undergo a makeover -- including how it communicates with the public.

In June, Miles hired his spokeswoman from his former Colorado school district and named her to a cabinet position, a move that showed the importance Miles was putting in communication and marketing.

The past few weeks, communications chief Jennifer Sprague has distributed flyers to principals and assistant principals on how to best communicate with parents and community members. The multipage brochure recommends "power words", "acknowledgement phrases" and "headlines" principals should use when parents have questions.

If a parent asks about the new administration, a principal might reply, "District leaders are student-focused in their decision making."

Or: "The superintendentâs plan brings stability and a clear direction to the district."

The brochure includes 27 so-called "acknowledgement phrases" -- âIt dependsâ or âThatâs trueâ -- and 13 detailed responses -- âOur work will be professional, equitable, rigorous and student-focused.â

Sprague, Miles and consultant Merrie Spaeth, the cruise director of the Swift Boat, of Dallas-based Spaeth Communications, Inc. crafted the phrases and words. Sprague said that the district hired Spaeth with private donations.

âThere are a lot of positive developments at DISD and our goal is to enlist everyone in the district to communicate the positive news,â Sprague wrote in an email to me. âThis is not to say we only discuss good news, but it is our goal to build confidence and trust that DISD has a positive vision and is making progress.â

The phrases are generally positive about the district. One touts the current four-year student graduation rate of 77 percent. Another highlights the expected gains from Milesâ âDestination 2020â³ plan.

âEffective communication is very important,â Sprague said. âThe power words and headlines are a helpful tool and/or guide to use while speaking to families and stakeholders, and answering questions about Destination 2020.

In recent days, Miles has distributed suggested âconversations startersâ for PTA conferences or talks with parents. It recommends encouraging parents to make sure their childâs homework is completed.

Some phrases include:

âThank you for coming to the school.â âYour child is good hands at this school.â âWe are all a team at this school.â

Sprague predicted that the âpower wordsâ will make an impact.

âThe power words piece will make a significant impact by providing principals and assistant principals with a tool and/or guide to become more effective communicators,â she said.

** If the âpower wordâ generator doesnât work, try reloading the page. A special thanks to DMN data guru Daniel Lathrop for creating the generator.

Matthew Haag writes about the Dallas Independent School District. Follow @matthewhaag on Twitter, @DallasISD_News on Twitter and the Education Blog on Facebook.

— Matthew Haag
Dallas Morning News





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