By Andrea Lucia

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – On Saturday, new DISD superintendent Mike Miles defended the top salaries he has awarded new cabinet level staff, claiming they will be well worth it.

“We have to have a first rate cabinet, of national quality, if we’re going to be the premier school district in America,” Miles said.

Still, with 11 schools closing, teacher salaries frozen, and custodians taking a 10% pay cut, the timing is drawing some heavy criticism.

“It’s a slap in the face to your teachers, custodians, people in there working with the kids,” said NEA Dallas President Angela Davis, earlier this week.

The biggest buzz has surrounded the superintendent’s pick for communications chief, 31-year-old Jennifer Sprague.

A carryover from his district in Colorado, she will earn 185 thousand dollar a year, about $100,000 more than she makes now.

Miles, though, was skeptical of the reason his hire is getting so much attention.

“If Jennifer Sprague were an ugly, slightly older male, with 20 years of experience, who had won all these national awards, would any of you in this room make a story of this?”

“I think age is probably more of a factor than sex,” said Beth Weller, an involved DISD parent.

She is eager to see if Sprague really is worth that six figure sum.

She’s hopeful, though, especially if it means improved communication with the district.

“A lot of DISD parents – they’re not aware of what the various magnet programs are, what the transfer options are, what the graduation requirements are,” Weller said.

Miles is predicting a better qualified, more efficient staff will ultimately save the district money.

Just give him a chance, he says, and he’ll prove it.

“The proof will be in the pudding,” Miles said.