Data Clerk’s Emails Threaten Teachers With Piranha Attack


Angeline Fu

Russell’s office decor shows what will happen to teachers if they don’t get their grades in on time.

By Angeline Fu, Cambridge High School

With January behind us and the school grind now in full swing, you may be thinking longingly back to winter break.

But while you were cozied up at home drinking hot cocoa and watching “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” your teachers were busy getting your grades turned in with the continuous threat of attack by piranhas and bloodhounds in their heads.

These threats come in the form of emails filled with bright colors, funky fonts, pictures, jokes and unique vocabulary. The mastermind behind it all is data clerk Jessamy Russell.

“More than one or two have told me how much they fear me. It’s so sweet when they do,” Russell said in an interview in her room deep in the counseling office. “One of my teachers told me you walk the perfect line between love and fear, and I was like ‘aww, that’s so sweet’.”

Russell, who became the school’s data clerk in the middle of the 2016-2017 school year, is in charge, among other things, of making sure teachers submit grades on time for progress reports and report cards.

Russell said entering mid-year is part of why she creates her emails the way she does.

“Nobody knows you’re here, and all of a sudden, you’re in charge of the school,” said Russell. “I wanted to do something that was both fun and attention-getting so that it wouldn’t just be another email from admin because this is information they need to know.”

Russell uses a unique style to ensure her emails don’t get lost.

In the past, she has used details, such as writing in a pirate voice on Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day and greeting teachers as “imperfect meat popsicles.” For the remainder of the school year, her threat of choice is wolverines.

“Nobody wants to get mangled by a wolverine, I’m telling you that,” said Russell.

Nobody wants to get mangled by a wolverine, I’m telling you that.”

— Russell

Russell has certainly grabbed the attention of some teachers who didn’t need any more context when asked about “Mrs. Russell’s emails.”

“My first question really is, ‘How long did it take you to make this email?’ because of all the different quotes, fonts, color schemes — mostly red for blood — it’s overwhelming to look at, but wow,” said history teacher Lauren Hall.

“The amount of creativity in the ways she’s threatening to hunt me down does make me want to get my grades in in time,” said Hall.

Teachers hear from Russell four times per semester.

“I’d rather her say dragons are gonna get my children than, ‘If you don’t return my emails, you’ll be reported to administration’,” said economics teacher Bryan Wallace. “I think it’s a creative way to import repercussions.”

Russell said she’s received a largely positive response to her email style, with many teachers telling her they love reading her emails, even after they’ve completed all their grades.

She said the only criticism she’s gotten from some teachers is they can’t handle all of the colors but still appreciate the emails, and she addresses this by putting all of the vital information in one spot for those who want to skip the artistic parts.

“I do try to keep something in there that’s fun because that’s my signature style, and people don’t forget it,” said Russell. “Now I feel like if I don’t, I’m gonna super disappoint my fanbase that wakes up in the morning just to read my emails.”

Now I feel like if I don’t, I’m gonna super disappoint my fanbase that wakes up in the morning just to read my emails.”

— Russell

Russell said she doesn’t think too far in advance for what to put in her emails but does save the occasional good idea if one comes up. Her ideas don’t always come quickly.

“I can always tell when you didn’t read my email,” said Russell. “I didn’t spend three hours on that for you not to read it. My emails are more important than anyone else’s.”

Grade submission is a two-day process, and it is because of the shortness of the period that Russell sends so many emails in that time.

Russell spends those two days keeping track of who has or hasn’t submitted grades and who might be having trouble, while also meeting with every single teacher to verify his or her grades.

“It’s insanity,” said Russell. “Sometimes I think, ‘Oh, it’ll be great.’ It gets more tense as the day goes on.”

Through the intensity of her emails, Russell’s ultimate goal is to get all grades completed on time.

“I always empathize with her frustration, like with my students who don’t turn assignments in on time,” said Hall. “I don’t think [her email style] changes my behavior … ”

“It changes the way I feel about my behavior,” Wallace said, completing Hall’s thought.

Under Russell’s leadership, the school has achieved 100 percent completion of grade submission multiple times.

“I’ve seen other data clerks days after the deadline at training still putting in grades,” said Russell. “I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, my teachers rocked it, showing up other schools.’ What can I say?”

This story was originally published on The Bear Witness on February 3, 2019.