Fifteen days is all Black Horse Pike Regional School District (BHPRSD) needed from the Philadelphia public-relations firm it brought in to handle media inquiries and crisis management in the wake of perhaps the biggest scandal in district history.
Braithwaite Communications' bill fell within BHPRSD Solicitor John Wade's estimate that the Philadelphia PR firm's services on the Triton teacher-student sex case would cost the district $10,000-$15,000.
The final bill: $14,883.84.
Of the $14,883.84, $14,425 went to pay for 74.5 billable hours worked by Braithwaite staff, while $458.84 went to sub-vendor PR Newswire for distribution of the district's original statement to media outlets.
The nearly $15,000 invoice was submitted to Wade's law firm, Wade, Long, Wood & Kennedy, which hired Braithwaite on behalf of the district.
The law firm brought in Braithwaite on Oct. 3 after consulting with district officials about an anticipated "media barrage," according to Wade.
According to Wade, Long, Wood & Kennedy's billing statement for October 2012, it began discussing the short-term contract with Braithwaite and other companies on Oct. 2.
BHPRSD does not have a public information officer on its payroll.
"By doing this, we've created a situation that gives the central office and our legal staff more time to deal effectively with the issues that we were dealing with on a 24-hour basis," Wade told a sometimes hostile crowd at BHPRSD's Oct. 11, 2012, meeting.
It was during that mid-October meeting that Wade assured residents Braithwaite would only cost up to $15,000.
Braithwaite account supervisor Sarah Lindsay was on the case by the time charges were announced against five Triton educators accused of either participating in or covering up teacher-student sexual relationships at the Camden County Prosecutor's Office building in Camden on Oct. 4.
A breakdown of the services for which Braithwaite was paid to provide the district, direct from the Oct. 31, 2012, invoice it submitted to Wade, Long, Wood & Kennedy:
- 5 hours - Crisis counsel, strategy and planning
- 25 hours - Communications materials: media statement, phone scripts, email news statements, letter to parents, website statements, media policy staff email, video message scripts for students
- 11 hours - Black Horse Pike Regional School District Board Meeting: report to the community, talking points, scripts, question and answer documents, communications coaching for Superintendent staff
- 15 hours - Handling of all media inquiries (questions, fact verification, updates, statements)
- 5 hours - Media monitoring, news coverage summary reports (as needed)
- 8.5 hours - Client communications
- 5 hours - Attendance at Camden County Prosecutor's Office press conference, Black Horse Pike Regional School District Board Meeting
Two of the three Triton teachers accused of engaging in inappropriate relationships with students during the 2011-12 school year pleaded guilty to an official misconduct charge on Feb. 11, as did one of two administrators accused of covering up the relationships.
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