Carroll 'loses' one mark, but is still big dog in license plates

Posted Tuesday, Mar. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Some Midland High School Bulldogs are barking about beating the Southlake Carroll Dragons by selling more high school license plates on the first day they were available for sale in Texas.

Trouble is, the Dragons weren't aware there was a contest.

"Midland High School sets new license-plate record in Texas," a news release sent out last week announced.

The release came from My Plates, a company that works with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles making and selling specialty license plates. More Bulldogs plates were sold Wednesday, the day they were launched, than Dragons plates on the day they debuted three years ago, the release stated. First-day sales score was 39 to 35, the Bulldogs boasted.

"We're real proud of that," said Midland High marketing teacher Justin Walker. "For the first-day sales, all my classes did a grassroots, viral marketing campaign."

Indeed, in the weeks leading up to the Bulldog plates' premiere, the school, its district and a significant percentage of the roughly 114,000 people in the West Texas oil fields town pushed hard to set record sales.

Midland High marketing students led the way, the My Plates news release said.

"They posted and texted and tweeted, and it all paid off," the release said.

Maybe the reason no one in the Southlake Carroll school district imagined that their first-day sales record had been beaten is because Carroll, the first public school district in Texas to sign a contract with My Plates, didn't realize they were competing with Midland and other districts that have sold the plates.

"This is not a contest," said district spokeswoman Jayme Rodriguez.

Walker wasn't buying that.

"With any assignment you do, you want to teach your students to do 110 percent," he said. "Not putting that much effort into first-day sales is not an option here at Midland High."

But selling 39 plates the first day didn't seem to impress Rodriguez.

"I was thinking if they sold 3,900 that would be something," she said.

Only about 1 percent of Texas drivers will spring for the additional cost of specialty plates, said Kim Miller Drummond, a My Plates spokeswoman.

Specialty plates start at $55 more than the standard plate fee for any vehicle, and the price increases with additional personalization.

Since the November 2009 introduction of specialty plates, Texans have purchased more than 138,000 My Plates, putting more than $15.1 million into the general revenue fund, Drummond said. The 12 school districts that have signed on with My Plates get 10 percent of the proceeds from sales.

The plates are part of Southlake Carroll's overall strategy for supplementing conventional sources of revenue, Rodriguez said.

"License plates are a wonderful way to celebrate school pride and make some money," she said.

Money earned in Carroll's decade-old marketing program is not subject to "recapture" by the state, so the district keeps all those dollars, Rodriguez said.

While only 190 Dragons license plates have been sold since the school's 2010 launch, that's good enough for top seed in the overall statistics. Jesuit Dallas is No. 2 with 67, and Highland Park is No. 3 with 61.

Second-day sales naturally dropped in Midland, Walker said late last week.

With eight state football championships under its belt, devotion might come naturally at Carroll High. The closest Midland High has come is runner-up in 2002, when it lost 33-32 to Converse Judson.

That might explain why license-plate sales became something to bark about.

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620

Twitter: @fwstevans

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