A note to Rhonda Corr Saegert, future superintendent of Dayton Public Schools

Dear Ms. Corr-Saegert,

I’m the one who asked you about school grade alignment changes in the middle of the ship sinking, and yes, I’m also from Cleveland (Cleveland Heights) and will be glued to the game tonight.

In your first meeting with DPS staff, you mentioned that a blogger had criticized you for leading with your adoption story and poor powerpoint skills. That would be me.

You weren’t the only candidate who read my blog, doing your homework on DPS, Daniel Schorer not only read it, he accosted me in the hallway to the bathroom that night with an outstretched hand- and introduced himself. I didn’t want to introduce myself to him because of my bias to Mr. Lawrence being IMHO the best candidate to solve our problems, but as I heard my name slipping out of my mouth- he said “I read your blog, and I want to sit down with you if I’m selected.”

I would suggest you do the same. You are about to undertake a monumental challenge, with very little actual institutional knowledge about our city and how it works. There are 2,494 published posts on this blog, and literally 10x that in comments, over the last 10 years. This is the blog that covers Dayton politics, it is well read, by friend and foe. I will give you the unvarnished realities of Dayton and the challenges that you are facing. Many of them will depend on competent communications practices- something DPS has struggled with.

Even in researching the candidates it became really obvious that DPS doesn’t fare well compared to Beavercreek, where the boards first choice worked. Searching for Susan Hayward brought up a competent page on the Beavercreek Schools site– searching for David Lawrence or Greg Roberson and you get a cabinet page, with a link to their email, instead of their credentials (Most people end up on my blog for Lawrence which ranks higher than anything else he’s been published in locally).

As to your presentation, while you may believe your adoption was the defining moment of your life, I don’t think you had anything to do with it. If you think that makes an iota of difference in your ability to turn our district around, I’d like to hear your rationale. You had limited time to sell yourself, and that was time wasted. I’ve had discussions with David Lawrence about how to sell your vision of the changes needed for DPS and I’ve advocated for a Pecha Kucha style presentation- 20 slides, 20 seconds each, that clearly and forcefully layout a plan. This presentation format leaves no room for excess, for ancillary ideas, it’s a globally accepted format to challenge people to change their thinking- and it brings a rigor to presentations. Not only should you have a PK to presentation, you should integrate it into the curriculum, setting a challenge to students with their new Chromebooks – have a district wide competition, to present their ideas with confidence.

You will need to turn to outside sources to work with your rebranding efforts. You will need to find a company that has the tools and smarts to re-position this district as anything other than the worst school district in Ohio. I own one such ad agency. I believe my firm has the tools and skill set to help you do it, but, by no means just take my word for it, do a search of “Dayton Advertising Agencies” and see if The Next Wave comes up in the top of your organic search. Look for the post Agencies That Aren’t The Next Wave — The Next Wave and start reviewing sites. Look for content that teaches and informs, look for discussions of how to do effective marketing, branding, building a brand voice. Narrow it down- interview the creative leaders of the four or five that you think fit your vision of communication strategies. Ask them how much they think it will cost a year for their services, and how much it will cost to effectively change the culture and brand perception of Dayton Public Schools? Ask what their first steps would be? Ask what they’d do if they were you and had no budget? Find out who would be their point person on the account, and what kind of access you’d have? Ask for before and after case studies of changed perceptions for their clients. Then hire someone. Push it past the board as a non-negotiable. Stanic did.

You took a contract for one year, for $140K. We both know that’s a low number for a huge challenge. The one year contract on a two year problem doesn’t exactly show they had the full confidence in you. Hopefully, there is a big performance bonus in it, or at least a healthy renewal built in after the one year training wheels come off.

Stanic rented an apartment downtown. Not that you will get to see the inside of your abode much this first year, but, if you really want to make a statement, buy a house. In the district. I’m going to say in Historic South Park, but that’s personal bias. The number one problem we’ve faced for the last 30 years I’ve been in this neighborhood is that young people buy here, but leave as their kids turn 5. You need to meet them, hang out with them, come to our Porch Patio and Deck parties (you missed the one last night), and figure out how to stop that trend.

I’ll also throw in this idea- hire Dan Schorer right now. Put him in charge of hiring 100 new to the district teachers. Have him go out and talk to the community and sell your vision while you sell it internally. Bring his political glad handing skills to the district. He’s already liked by the board, and you’ll need help. Base his compensation partially on minimizing the amount of money the district pays to outsource teachers. Have him work on making sure the teachers we have, come to school.

You have one year to prove yourself. You see yourself as a Michelle Rhee and must be prepared for the same kind of love/hate she’s engendered over her career. Look to your staff carefully and figure out who are the doers and who have ridden in on the “friends and family plan” that has allowed the Peter principle to flourish within the district. Ask hard questions. Those who can, will have answers, those who can’t answer, find their replacements quick. Having rot within the organization just spreads rot.

Last but not least, if we are going to roll out 1-to-1 computers, that cost $200 each, stop treating them and like some kind of Tiffany ring. Give them to the kids, teach responsibility, accountability and pride in ownership. Don’t spend $1500 on locking carts- spend it on proper carrying cases. Don’t give them the keys to the universe- only in school, let them take them home. Set up programs where kids can work to earn money to pay for damage they did, don’t sit and make excuses like “parents won’t pay.” It’s bad enough we stopped letting kids take textbooks home as if they were also works of art- don’t make the same mistake again. The internet, the computer, is the key to personal pursuits of knowledge, give our kids an equal chance. This is the one issue on the Technology Review Committee that has me livid. You can fix it.

And if you want the rest of my ideas on how to help you succeed, you should be able to figure out how to contact me, my LinkedIn is up to date (is yours?).

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