EPISD–marketing, Tim Holt responds

Tim Holt is an EPISD administrator that writes a blog dealing with educational technologies.

He sent us an email the other day that contained this:

28 Responses to EPISD–marketing, Tim Holt responds

  1. Anonymous says:

    Too many minorities in school and they’re dumb compared to the majority white kids who were in school 50 years ago. You know, when SAT tests weren’t considered racist.

    You can hire all the PR firms in the world but the schools will still be filled with minorities who are not as smart as the white kids in the private and charter schools. HACEP baby farm kids.

    So stop whining, stop testing and just accept that we’ve seen the future and it’s stupid minority kids soon to be majority kids. It’s where the world is going – stupid. You know, like Mexico, Afghanistan, Bongo Congo.



  2. Just Another Angry EPISD School Volunteer says:

    Mr. Holt,

    When you categorize the all the readers of this blog as “angry” , it shows your own view of district parents. Many of the followers of this blog are committed community members, who donate their time and money to make EPISD schools the best they can be. Labeling us is an easy way to dismiss our perspective. It’s also consistent with the district leadership … constantly dismissing any opinion that does not reinforce its own directives.

    Funny … after the recent bond passed, Ms. Fenonbock was very happy to declare, “we won!” She doesn’t get it. This district is not about money. It’s about learning. “We” win, when students learn and when they succeed, not when her Congressional campaign gets a kickstart.

    You forgot to mention one instance when a school district needs to brand … when its leadership is not committed to teaching and learning – the key “products” that your customers seek. Branding, in this case, becomes a fancy phrase for “bullshitting.” Unjustified $40K raises and sloppy allocation of funds are the real reason that we don’t have adequate funds to offer quality education in this district (not your ongoing whining about Austin tea parties).

    There’s one little problem with your little diatribe on branding … People living outside the EPISD boundaries know its limitations. Marketing doesn’t work when the product itself is compromised. It was hard for Chipotle to sell burritos when customers were food poisoned. EPISD will have the same problem, no matter how much it spends.

    The district’s biggest problem, however, is the great ChupaCabrera himself. Like Mexico’s mythical chupacabra, el ChupaCabrera is also a legendary creature – legendary to EPISD teachers and students because he’s never seen in classrooms or schools. Instead of attacking local livestock, he sucks life from our students’ learning through his incompetence, petty politics, and commitment to football. His term as our superintendent is an opportunity cost of that our children and our community can ill afford to pay.

    That’s why we are angry !!! We care about our kids and don’t believe that you or your boss share our commitment to our children’s learning. Your latest missive only confirms what I already thought, Mr. Deputy Dawg.


    • Tim Holt says:

      Dear JAAESV,
      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post. As I have said before, my blog entry was an attempt to explain why a school district, ANY school district, might want to employ a marketing firm. I do not speak for EPISD. As my blog says on the front page before ANY articles:

      “This blog is designed as a sandbox of my thinking and most of the posts are related to the job I have. However, the comments and posts are in no way reflective of my employers.”

      Thanks again for carefully reading my blog post. I look forward to you posting a response on my blog site. .


  3. Rye Winterweet says:

    Notice the use of “customers.” Interesting that the branding is aimed not at students, nor parents, nor teachers, but “customers.” My principal uses this word all the time. Keep the customers happy she says. No longer are the teachers, support staff, or other employees important, it’s all about customers. Sounds as if Mission Chevrolet is running the district. It’s all about you, wait, no, the customer (the parent), no the brand. Where does rigor fit into the brand? Educated by rigorous work by tough teachers and still grumpy.


  4. Dan Wever says:

    Tim Holt uses the following to justify his long article on the greatness and necessary of school districts marketing their educational wares.
    “For it to make sense however you have to think critically about WHY a district would want to market it’s services. It comes down to the reason ANY business or organisation would want to market itself: Getting more customers.”
    Let’s look at some real EPISD finance figures from TEA PEIMS reports. The year is 2015-2016 as this is the last year that ACTUAL financial data is available.
    Total number of students ————59,772
    Total Revenue All Funds————-651,873,455
    Total Cost to educate one student —10,906
    Now, we are going to blow the trumpets and do the marketing and increase our enrollment of students to 60,000 or a gain from other districts of 228 students.
    These 228 students bring in state and federal money worth ——-$1,722,996 ($7,557 per student)
    They do not bring in any property tax therefore, it only costs them $7,557 to buy an education from the EPISD.
    So, we have property taxpayer funded students costing $10,006 and non-property paying students paying $7,557. And what really happens when this type of transaction occurs, money is taken away from the property taxpayers kids and it is given to the new students to make up the shortage.
    So Tim, if this is the object of getting more customers, then your marketing company better be good at selling snake oil because the public, when they understand, if ever, what is happening will not bite even with dancing girls at the snake oil waggon.


    • Tickedofftaxpayer says:

      And the bigger question to ponder is why does it take more than half a billion in revenue (this doesn’t include the bond issue) to educate 60,000 students? I think Dan’s comments about administrative salaries, consultants and third party educational programs answer that question pretty well. Schools are a lot like cars. Anything with four wheels and an engine that runs reliably will get you to work. Yet some folks drive BMWs while others drive Fords or Yugos. Public education was designed to create access to education to our entire population. It wasn’t designed to be a Cadillac or a BMW, just a nice reliable Ford. However, public school administrations are now trying to compete with private school options by adding luxury car features. We’d be better off with a system that universally provided a good standard education. If parents want more than that, let them pay for it either with special tutoring or private school.


      • Dan Wever says:

        The Texas State Constitution require taxes to be collected for Public Education. A large part of our property taxes goes to school districts for the purpose of Public Education along with money that goes to The City for Fire Departments and Public Safety Officers (Police).
        Now if a person was not satisfied or felt unsafe because his neighbors house burned down or another neighbor was mugged in broad daylight in front of the police station and this person built a barbed wire fence around his property and put in a fire alarm system complete with water sprinklers, what do you think would happen if this person went to the city and demanded their tax money back to pay for their home “improvements” because of what they chose to do to their house. They would, of course, be laughed out of City Hall and rightly so.
        So, how in the hell can we allow people to come into our public school bank and demand their money back because they want choice in where and how their children are educated. These people have always had a choice. They can choose where they want their children to go to school and what they want them to learn but they cannot or at least should not be able to do it with Public Education money.
        Public Education is supposed to give every child in America an equal opportunity for Education, and in fact, is probably the most important element in making this country great, not again but still.


  5. Tickedofftaxpayer says:

    And a brand isn’t owned by an entity. The entity can manage perception of the brand via its messaging, but market perception of the brand will ultimately define the brand. When I moved here in 97 folks were proud of EPSID, Realtors touted it. Brand wise all the right stuff was happening. No marketing being done and it has much lower school taxes. EPSID’s brand today is a district recovering from a cheating scandal that is fiscally irresponsible. And the behavior it continues to engage in reinforces that brand. It will get worse as the debt service on the bond issue kicks in and property taxes continue to rise. And blog posts like we are discussing today just underscore how out of touch the folks at EPSID are on this topic.


  6. Dan Wever says:

    Tim’s post was a great example of what public education is up against from people in favour of Educational Reform. Get rid of what was in place because it was not working and change our whole educational philosophy to Active Learning and Project Based Learning, two forms of teaching that do not have any data showing that they will work with EPISD students. We took thousands of years of teacher experience and threw it out the window and started to retrain all of our teachers in this new teaching method. And as for the great idea of “marketing”, you need to understand how the EPISD was convinced to use a $250,000 marketing company as they were hired in June of 2016 just before the 667 million dollar bond issue was passed in November. Of course if you asked any administrator if this company did anything to help or sway voters in this bond election they will tell you of course not, they were just puffing up the EPISD to get new students, because of course it is against the law for the district to spend even a nickel on promoting the bond election. Of course, Tim’s position that pays over a hundred thousand dollars a year and deals with Technology would probably have no problem with each student sitting at a computer and learning online all day long. I wonder why the district supplied our new middle school students with Apple computers at a cost of over $12,000,000 when I think most people would understand that PC’s would have been cheaper but I am sure Tim would tell us why this was done.
    I am sure it would astound the public if the salaries of administrators were printed and then show the total cost of consulting paid to non-employees. Still Grumpy Tim. 🙂


    • Tim Holt says:

      Hi Dan, Thanks for taking the time to read my post.
      I was trying to explain how public school districts, (esecially urban ones) in general, are up against forces that they have never encountered before (hostile politicians, an angry electorate, charter schools and vouchers, dwindling enrollments, and changes in the way the public views education) and therefore there might just be a need for marketing.
      You read a lot more into that than I think is there.

      Keep being grumpy!


    • Unhappy Employee!! Don't tell me if I'm Unhappy to go somewhere else. This is my District, I've lived here in El Paso longer than Cabrera has. says:

      Question to all. If EPISD is struggling to give their employees pay raises, how is it possible to give Cabrera his salary, $45,000 extra for the Bond issue, which he had nothing to do with, it was his Bond Committee who did the work, plus a raise. Where is Finance coming up with the money for that. The District pay for his insurane. Other Employees received a raise plus an increase in health insurance. How are we to survive the cost in living increase, based on the so raise. I’d like to know who made him King, where he does nothing for the District and Employees, he only takes care of himself. He doesn’t care about the students or Employees. Employees need to do something about him.


  7. elrichiboy says:

    Branding and marketing are two parts of the same meatball, but they’re not the same. A brand is what the good and service is and also how people feel about that good and service. The gestalt of a good or service, if you will. The EPISD brand should be the DNA of the EPISD. What are EPISD’s Brand Values? Delivering a quality education and economic efficiencies would be a good place to start. Honesty and transparency, maybe. I’m not seeing any of that.


    • Exactly. Thank you. Maybe instead of hiring somebody, anybody to “Improve, create” the EPISD a “Brand”, they could waste even more TAXPAYER money and hire an “Honesty, INTEGRITY Investigator”, kind of like the one the City, City Council wastes OUR money on. “Investigate” themselves. That way there is no more “Wrong– doing” within EPISD.


  8. Just a long rude, obnoxious rant by an EPISD employee. Disrespecting, ridiculing taxpayers, ANY ONE who has comments, questions, disagrees with the waste, tax, spend, tax some more, is “OLD, Retired, Disgruntled “, RACIST also, I spose. These are the very people, HOMEOWNERS , Retires who are FORCED to provide for, support the Society of Corruption at EPISD. THEY take from US whatever THEY want and blow-off, waste MILLIONS$$$$ on whatever THEY want. Most of it going to friends, family, organizations, LAWYERS outside of El Paso. Yeah EPISD needs a “PR Rep” , for the same reasons that criminals need lawyers.


    • TIm Holt says:

      Hi Charlie.
      I am not sure you read my post. It is not a rant at all.
      I am not speaking for EPISD in any way in my blog post. Just trying to explain WHY a school district would want to hire a marketing firm.


      • An “EPISD Administrator that doesn’t speak for EPISD”. Okay. McDonalds, needs a “Marketing Firm”. So does Walmart, Macy’s, Airlines, Auto makers, Food products, etc, etc. Those MARKETING strategies are directed to getting PAYING customers in the door to BUY whatever they are selling. What exactly is EPISD “Selling US”?? That THEY need to waste MILLIONS$$ on army of Lawyers to “Protect, defend” THEM? That TAXPAYERS need to give a Superintendent an obscene, outrageous, HALF-MILLION$$ pay check just because………………And yet “Johnny, Suzie” graduate High School and still can’t read, write or do math? What is it HE does for that huge give away? And still Cabrera and his side-kick, the Board President, continue to waste, tax, spend, tax some more because THEY CAN. Because there is always another tax INCREASE, always another BILLION$$$ Bond THEY can find ways to blow-off.


  9. Tickedofftaxpayer says:

    And let’s really drill down to the performance issue, which Tim’s reply below alludes to. Kids with parents who are engaged in their learning outcomes typically perform better because their parents set up an accountability structure at home. Those parents are often willing to pay for education if they feel it is better than the public school option. That is why charter schools and private schools are the “enemy”. If those schools are successful they siphon off the high performing students, leaving the public school systems with the kids whose parents aren’t engaged with their learning outcomes and the behavior problem kids that private schools reject. That increases workload and lowers academic performance metrics ultimately making the schools less attractive and ultimately threatening the job security of administrators who are otherwise hard to fire (good teachers will always have employment options). All that said, engaged parents with disposable incomes will always recognize that their kids will learn better in an environment filled with kids in similar circumstances. A public school will always be a mix of kids who want to learn and kids who are in school because the law says they have to be. Private schools will always have the advantage of “exclusivity”. Marketing doesn’t change that dynamic. Public schools are like horse and buggy drivers fighting to keep horseless carriages off the streets. Unfortunately, since their funding comes from taxpayer pockets, we are forced to pay for a battle they won’t win.


  10. Reality Checker says:

    Tim’s categorization of all who disagree as “grumpy old guys” with “only partial knowledge” is presumptuous and speaks volumes about his own prejudices. Insulting people isn’t the best way to get people to “listen” to him. It’s also disingenuous and self-serving of him to choose not to respond here, but then send an e-mail promoting his his post on his own blog.


    • Tim Holt says:

      Hi RC,
      Thanks for reading my blog post. I am not speaking for EPISD in any way in my blog post. Just trying to explain WHY a school district would want to hire a marketing firm. I thought the topic was of interest beyond just the poeple that read this blog (I do have readers that don’t visit EPS) so that is why I made it an seperate blog entry.

      The email I sent to Brutus was not an advertisemtn in any way. I merely sent him it as an FYI. He chose to post the link on his blog.



      • Brutus says:

        Mr. Holt is correct. Posting the link was our choice.


      • Reality Checker says:


        Just to be clear, I didn’t read your post. You lost me at “grumpy old guys with partial knowledge of a topic.” Just because you work in education doesn’t make you the only smart guy in the room.

        It’s humorous for you to respond by saying that your reason for making it a “seperate” [SIC] blog entry was because it was of interest to other “poeple” [SIC] who don’t follow this blog. Your real reason for posting it elsewhere was reflected partly in your statement that Brutus posted – your disdain for elpasospeak readers and what they might say. You also knew that Brutus has always been quick to encourage his readers to visit other blogs.

        If you want to be viewed as an expert on education, check your spelling. You have three misspellings of simple words.


  11. I wonder if Tim Holt even has kids. Yes, I am retired. But, we did raise four kids, and we both worked to afford the home we provided and we always considered schools when choosing the homes we had (three homes, as our kids grew, and our income allowed). We never felt that choosing to send our kids any great distance from home was a viable option, because of many reasons, none of which Mr. Holt mentions. And, frankly, I doubt if many people today can choose to send their kids any great distance from home. Education should not be a competitive sport, you know. As long as districts adhere to State and Federal guidelines, there should not be much difference between them. If there are, I just do not see marketing as being necessary. Frankly, methinks he doth protest overmuch.


    • Tim Holt says:

      Hi John,
      Thanks for taking time to read my blog post.

      Some of the Charter schools coming to El Paso are online, like the picture of the billboard in the article. No travel needed.

      You might check out the articles I referenced in Forbes Magazine for more info about how districts across the US are using marketing.


      • Tim Holt says:

        And John, yes I have 4 children, all of which have been at one time or another through the EPISD schools: 2 graduated from Chapin, one from Coronado, and the last one, graduated from Canutillo Early College. ( although she dis attend some EPISD campuses in her elementary years.)


  12. Tickedofftaxpayer says:

    First, I am not a grumpy male retiree. I am a taxpayer with no kids whose EPSID taxes run over $5k a year. And I’m very aware that over the last 20 years corruption and incompetence has made that bill higher. Like it or not I’m a customer too. I believe the role of public schools is to provide a basic education option to the community. If the quality of that option isn’t sufficient to put students in the seats then the district should shut down schools. The concept of open districts is bad because it encourages public schools districts to compete against each other. Closed districts that haven’t had the performance issues found in EPSID have folks with kids making real estate purchases within district borders. In this El Paso’s case, district consolidation might be a better step. Yes private schools and charter schools advertise. The whole point of that option is to put competitive pressure in terms of academic excellence on public schools because like it or not public school systems often turn into bureaucracies that deliver mediocre results. That’s the problem with the public sector these days. Most taxpayer supported entities have lost sight of the fact that they exist because taxpayers write a check and that their primary job should be delivering excellence at as low a cost as possible. Instead it becomes all about growing the enterprise. And from a marketing perspective, the rise of the Internet and social media should lower the cost to do parental outreach. When I was in school there were no school websites, email newsletters or Facebook pages. Those all represent options to educate the public at lower cost than billboards and paid advertising. And because everyone understands the concept of a school district (whereas charter and private schools need to actually tell the community they exist), parents automatically look for websites and Facebook pages related to the district. The much sadder part of that blog post is that the writer feels the best way to justify his existence and the money spent on branding is to insult his critics. That says a lot about the caliber (or lack thereof) of the marketing professional the district has hired.


  13. ripper1951 says:

    Tim makes some valid points. Things will never go back to the same old same old. Of note though is the money part. Out of district enrollees bring state seat money but none of the local tax assessments from property taxes travel with the student. Charter schools take advantage of this by setting up operations in school district and only recruiting from that district area.


    • Tim Holt says:

      Thanks Mike. That is correct. The Charter schools are coming in force to the El Paso area in the next few years, as stated repeatedly by Ross Moore. They will begin with SISD, which has the exact demographics they crave: Young families with lots of expendable income.


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