We’ll file this one under “You get what you pay for.”
I was perusing the Park Record this weekend and noticed an ad from the Park City School District:
A Communications Specialist may help the district, if they use the person correctly. A person with enough experience and understanding of our community can probably find ways to educate the public on important issues and concepts the school district is undertaking.
Yet, they’ll need someone who is really good and can find new ways to reach the public. Members of school board or the Park City School Superintendent are on the radio almost weekly. The Park Record wants to ensure the public receives information about our schools and regularly publishes school articles … it even has an Education section. So, the traditional media bases are already covered.
In order to add benefit, this person will need to find ways to contribute that the Superintendent and school board are not currently doing. Traditionally, this sort of role would do the following for the school district:
- Works with local media outlets (Park Record and KPCW) to ensure stories are being both written/aired and in the correct way
- Creates social media content that attempts to disseminate the school district’s ideas and messaging
- Organizes events where school personnel meet with the public to talk about ideas
- Controls information output from the school district
- Handles incoming requests from media
The new Communications Specialist will have to do these things for sure, but he or she will also need to find new ways to go above and beyond. Given that the school district is coming out of a failed bond election, where trust was a major issue, this person will need to find a way to convince the public that the school district is trustworthy again.
So what does the Park City School District need? A SUPERSTAR that will work with the superintendent, administrators, and the school board. The Communications Specialist needs the experience to educate the district on communications but also the confidence to ensure that her talents are actually used. If the district doesn’t follow the suggestions of the Communications Specialist, it will be wasted time, effort, and money.
This brings us back to the school district’s job description. Did you notice two key points in the description above? First, it’s part-time (20 hours per week). Second, they are paying $11-$14 per hour. From my experience, a person in charge of messaging needs a full understanding of every issue. They need to understand the motivation for our government making decisions. They need to understand how the people will view the decision. They then need to direct the actions of everyone involved. Most importantly they need to be GOOD at what they do.
It appears that the school district is hoping to pay someone $12K-$15K per year to do this job. Just for reference, you can make just as much (or more) per hour ($13/ hour) being a cashier at Papa Murphy’s Take and Bake Pizza. The issue is that a GOOD Communications Specialist costs GOOD money. If you look at what Summit County or Park City pays for a similar position, they are full-time jobs and pay at least $50K. This is likely still below market value for an experienced individual.
By the way, the University of Utah is hiring a Public Relations Specialist and the pay range is $38K to $70K. It is a full time job and pays 60% more at the bottom end and 133% more at the top end than the Park City School District is willing to pay.
I frankly don’t understand where the school district is coming from. The bond election process seems to indicate they have a communication issue. In the run up to the school bond election, I visited with various school board members and their arguments made sense, but the message wasn’t communicated effectively to the public. Yet, now they “go cheap” on a Communications Specialist.
Perhaps they will luck out and find someone who is highly qualified, who is willing to accept less than market value, and who wants to help out the school district. However, finding a “normal” candidate who is an exceptional communications expert for $15 an hour is crazy.
It seems either the school district has been told they should really have a communications expert but don’t really want one because they think they can do it themselves … or they aren’t living in the real world.
While perhaps I’ll be surprised and they’ll find the next Ari Flescher at firesale prices, I doubt it. Perhaps, they’ll find someone who is capable for the price and they get some value out of it. More than likely they’ll find someone willing to do the job for basically nothing and they’ll get what they pay for.
What I really fear is that the district’s “communications expert” is being hired so that the district can say they specifically hired a person, in the wake of the bond defeat, to gather “the people’s feedback” thus showing they are listening to the community. If that’s the motivation, the eventual outcome of that decision will only paint the district in a worse light.