DISD's new boss defends eye-popping salaries

DISD salaries

Credit: WFAA

New Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles defends super-sized salaries for his top lieutenants even as the district faces a crippling budget crunch.




Posted on June 9, 2012 at 5:56 PM

Updated Sunday, Jun 10 at 3:00 AM

Do higher paychecks ensure a better quality staff at DISD?

DALLAS — Mike Miles, the new superintendent of the Dallas Independent School Board, defended the eye-popping salaries for his incoming cabinet, and even suggested one administrator was being targeted because of her good looks.

“We’re paying for national level talent,” Miles said Saturday morning at a news conference before his first school board retreat. “I’ve brought in competent people. You will find that out when they get on the ground here.”

As he puts together his leadership team, the salaries of Miles' four lieutenants will range from $182,000 to $225,000.

  • Chief of staff Alan King will make $225,000 a year.
  • Kevin Smelker, the operations chief, has a $220,000 annual salary.

Miles is bringing at least two leaders with him from Harrison School District 2 in Colorado Springs, where he is the outgoing superintendent.

Among those arriving from Colorado is Jennifer Sprague, 31, who will serve as the district’s communications director. Her salary will more than double to $185,000 — $50,000 more than her predecessor. She’ll be making more money than Dallas police Chief David Brown and even more than White House spokesman Jay Carney.

“If Jennifer Sprague were an ugly, slightly older male with 20 years' experience and won all these national awards, would any of you in this room make a story out of it?” asked Miles. “I think the answer would be 'no.'”

Board members worry the terms are especially generous, considering the fact that DISD faces a $36 million deficit. The district closed 11 schools this year and expects to cut 400 positions.

“I think the perception is that they’re too high,” school board trustee Dan Micciche said when asked about the incoming salaries. “If I were personally setting them, I don’t know if I would set them at the same levels.”

Other trustees question whether the administrators will justify the extra cost.

“I think we’re going to want to see we get our value for the money,” added trustee Elizabeth Jones. “If we’re going to be paying more, then we would like to see a much different level of overall performance.”

Miles insists the new chiefs will justify the additional expense. He feels his finance director, Kevin Smelker — who will be making $220,000 a year — will find millions of dollars in savings in the coming years.

Miles has three positions left to fill on his seven-member cabinet. Despite a week of controversy, he insisted Saturday he will not rein in future salaries as he hires more administrators.

“I’m going to make decisions that make sense,” Miles said. “I’m not going to make decisions because the media’s giving me a hard time.”

Mike Miles receives a salary of $300,000 a year, but he could be eligible to earn lucrative bonuses totaling $200,000 for reaching goals set by the school board.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com