Dayton Public Schools fail marketing 101

This is far from the first post on the extended failure of Dayton Public Schools to manage their marketing resource acquisition.

If this is your first time finding out about this, this post is the full recap, with all the documentation to let you examine the process and see how to fail at issuing an RFP for professional services. First clue- don’t have a single marketing professional on staff to help you evaluate what you are buying.

Second clue: have someone who has no knowledge of how to pick an ad agency write the RFP/RFQ.

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The initial RFP for “Comprehensive marketing services” issued by the Dayton Public Schools

With that said, here is the absolute failure that they issued to start the process. It was missing so many key pieces of information, like a budget, an objective, that it made me wonder if there was anything already written to serve as a guideline for picking an ad agency for governmental organizations. There wasn’t, so I wrote this for The Next Wave blog: Hiring An Agency: The R.F.P. Guide (for Governmental Organizations)

Well, actually I wrote it after the School Board missed their original start deadline of Sept. 21, and threw out the recommendation of their purchasing department who ran this “process” on November 1st.  It was pointed out that their “RFP process” kept favoring big firms, who they’d already worked with, and that the scoring rubric seemed to be off- especially since my firm had real diversity qualifications (Certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business by the VA, HUBzone by the SBA, Ohio ED/GE). They also wondered how a team that included a photographer, Larry Price, who has won an Emmy and the Pulitzer prize for photojournalism twice, didn’t rank higher as “qualified.” Five firms applied. Due to a cc instead of bcc on an email, I knew who the competition was. Had the process been handled competently, my bid should have been very well received.

Superintendent Corr’s answer was to suggest they go out and ask other districts how it’s done. Next came a new instrument to ask for proposals- this one, a Request for Qualifications. The difference being that the purchasing department is supposed to be ranking how qualified each agency is to do the job – to suggest who the board should consider issuing a contract with. Since there isn’t really supposed to be any proposed work, the instrument should be administered in a way that’s kind of like the Pepsi Challenge- blind of branding, just asking to see examples of past work, and describing the skill set of each organization. Yes, you can ask for prices- for a set service, but, usually, you would leave out anything that would tip off an evaluator who submitted what.

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DPS issues RFQ to replace RFP for marketing services

This wasn’t how they did it. In fact, much of the RFQ was a copy and paste job from the RFP. They were still asking for timelines, plans, and now, added how would you spend $75K. This time only 3 of the firms bid, with one subcontracting one of the other first round bidders to fill their “diversity” quotient.

The RFQ asked for a lot of “reporting” proof. Can you show that your marketing dollars spent were effective type things? Showing Neilsen numbers (as Ohlmann does for a lot of their response) doesn’t tell anyone how many widgets were sold. And, unless it’s the EFFY awards (Effectiveness), no ad awards shows actually care if your ad actually sold more widgets, but awards were important. Laughably, The Ohlmann Group bragged at length of how they’d won lots of “Mercury Awards” from the local ad club- the only problem is, they aren’t real awards given by judges- it’s a popularity contest- much like what the Dayton Business Journal does with “Best Pizza in Dayton” awards.

The RFQ, much like the RFP was based on a Board provided guesstimate of total hours of 3120- or 1.5 man years. This district is in much greater need of 1.5 man years- especially if they are hoping to do a rebrand. Both Ohlmann and The Next Wave would want to fix the website that was built in a proprietary content management system (supplied by the third bidder Upward) that has already cost the district a small fortune. Hilariously, it can only be maintained by one person in the district, the current default Public Information Officer Jill Drury, who came out of TV news and has no marketing chops.

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DPS Q&A for the RFQ

There was a Q&A issued 2 days before the turn in deadline of 20 January, 2017. In it, it clearly put a cap of $300K on the project. My firm, The Next Wave bid under it, at a fixed price to deliver 3.5 man years or 7280 hours. And, as a caveat, as long as we were on retainer and doing the work we specified- all the other stuff that they never budget or foresee, we’d do it at the effective rate of $41 an hour. The other two bidders were considerably more expensive- with the average hourly rate of $113 for the “winner” picked by purchasing and hired by the board without a contract review before the vote.

Now, what I’m asking you the reader to do, is to pretend you care about your school district, and where public dollars are spent. And take the time to actually read the proposals submitted by each of the three agencies.

Then read the score sheets/evaluators forms. Then read the contract issued to the Ohlmann Group, waiving the 48 hour rule to vote on it a week early at a meeting without public comment. Then, you decide- who had the best plan, the most cost effective proposal?

Remember that there is still a digital divide in Dayton and that the households feeding DPS schools are mostly poor and many don’t have reliable high speed internet. Also know that almost all broadcast media would have serious over-reach, delivering the DPS message to people who wouldn’t send their kids to DPS if you paid them (the exception being St. Ivers- I mean, Stivers).

That’s why The Next Wave proposal for a media spend of $75K a year was to hire someone in each neighborhood to meet the kids at the central bus stop and take attendance as the kids got on the bus. Then to follow up in the neighborhood with housecalls on homes where the kid may didn’t made it to the bus- and to try to figure out what the district can do to get the kid in school- all before the bus even makes it to the building. Novel idea? Creative? More valuable to the district than a TV campaign? You tell me. Some friends of mine who run a very hot shop in Minneapolis have a mantra- “Actions speak louder than words.” Doing things always beats talking about them in our book too.

Here are the documents provided by the DPS legal counsel for each agency. Note, she gave me scans of printouts, not the original high resolution PDF’s that each agency submitted, with the hope that the low-fi, non-ADA compliant docs wouldn’t be able to be posted and indexed as well- but, don’t worry- I ran them through OCR. Only The Next Wave doc has working links.
Note, the Ohlmann and Upward submissions both run 100 pages. The longest proposal we’ve ever done for a non-governmental client has run 6 pages. Why government purchasing departments think requiring so much information actually helps the process is beyond me.

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The Next Wave RFQ response

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The Ohlmann Group RFQ response

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The Upward Brand Interactions RFQ Response

Next is the evaluators score sheets. We were told there were 5 evaluators and that one was the superintendent. One can assume the woman from purchasing who ran this mess, Teri Allen, was also one. Obviously, after me calling for her firing after the first round debacle, she’s going to score for anyone but The Next Wave.

The comments in scoring are very different for the three firms.

Of course, my mockery of the actual RFQ in our response- which had the audacity to ask for an Org chart when DPS barely has one, isn’t helping engender warm fuzzys, but, this district has serious problems and asking about org charts makes me wonder?

How does an Org chart make you do better ads? Websites? Video production?

The real key is to read the RFP and then realize the RFQ is yet another cut and paste job- looking to create “gotchas” instead of to actually evaluate what an agency is bringing to the table.

I always tell new clients that hiring an agency is a lot like dating- it takes almost a year before you really know enough about each other to do anything really great. Of course, if you baseline is decades of mediocrity, it’s not too hard to look amazing out of the box.

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The RFQ scoring instrument

The last document is the actual contract, which was presented to the board on board docs as a $112,500 contract instead of $345K. Then there were the two additional “option years” making the whole thing a million dollar commitment.

The school board actually bought this contract, without reading it. Mostly because they were told they had a 90 day out (which was specified to all bidders in the RFQ).

The contract has one hinkey legal mistake, that should make it null and void:

2. In the event of a conflict, precedence shall be given to the following order: (1) this document, (2) the Request for Proposal, and (3) the Contractor’s proposal response, (4) “SOW’ for specified project scope.

Uh, what RFP? This was a response to an RFQ. The RFP had been withdrawn. Of course, you can’t see the top secret RFP, unless it’s actually awarded. Of course, The Next Wave proposal didn’t shy away from sharing our ideas fully- because, well, we actually care enough about this district to have done all this journalism to expose the incompetence at the top.

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The DPS contract with the Ohlmann Group

The real question is, how many people will take the time to examine all this? Probably not many.

That’s why we produced a video to walk you through the whole thing- ending with the absolutely insane meeting between Board Members Adil Baguirov, Sheila Taylor and John McManus with the representatives from the Ohlmann Group.

We’ve already posted and talked about this meeting, and a few of you watched the whole 90 minute debacle. The meeting was mostly Dr. Adil Baguirov showcasing his marketing expertise, including advocating for the use of Flash- a web application that’s almost universally despised by any modern web developer and has never been usable on any Apple iOS device.

You are probably wondering what the next step is? It’s pretty obvious that after calling for the resignation of 5 board members, and Superintendent Corr, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll change their mind and hire us. Of course, come Jan 1, 2018, there will be four new board members who may want to be able to fully explain why the current board and their picks for Superintendent and Treasurer have caused this district more trauma than triage.

There is another post coming that should clearly change the course of coming board action, but, it will take a considerable amount of time to write and fully document. It’s the final chapter for one of the DPS pretenders.

In the mean time, to those of you who take the time to read all the docs, I’d love to hear your evaluation of this three ring circus.

DPS bus buy should get someone busted

You read about the U-turn the School Board seemed to pull last Thursday at their “review session” last week on Esrati.com Dayton Public Schools. Unsafe leadership, unsafe buses

Today, we bring you the emergency meeting of the finance committee, the meeting that was hastily called after last Thursdays discussion.

The first question should be of course, why the rush? Did a district that hasn’t bought a standard school bus since 2010 seriously not have a full plan in place? This is the purchasing department that also knows how to run an RFP/RFQ process for marketing so well that they can present their findings to the board, without substantiation, or even a contract to review- and the board buys it lock, stock and barrel.

Going back to that marketing contract- the one where district legal counsel Jyllian Bradshaw spent an inordinate amount of time telling the board that if they were to listen to a presentation, or review the documents, they would have to recuse themselves. “You have to follow our scoring rubric” were her instructions.

So when Dr. Adil Baguirov presents his document “DPS New Bus Purchase: buy 30 buses, or finance or lease 60 buses or 115 buses?” to the finance committee tonight, does this mean he built a rubric, went out to bid, accepted bids and scored them? Did I miss something and find out he’s now on payroll in the purchasing department? And, superintendent Rhonda Corr who is the CEO of the district, is allowing this to happen? Didn’t she learn anything in Chicago when her boss got sent to prison for kickback contracts?

Since when do school board members negotiate contracts?

When is someone going to investigate Baguirov’s role in the real estate negotiations that sold the Patterson Co-Op site for half the value of a parking lot a block away? Why wasn’t the board and superintendent informed of a $900K offer on the Patterson Kennedy elementary site that was previously offered for a minimum bid of $720K but got no bids?

The more we watch the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education, the more questions we have. Maybe that’s why they meet more, do less, and have worse schools than any other district in the region.

Note- this bus issue brought board members Sheila Taylor and John McManus out, possibly causing this to be an illegal unannounced meeting of the School Board. Sitting mute- doesn’t really solve the issue. Dr. Walker even said Dr. Hazel Rountree wanted to attend, but didn’t for that very reason. This issue was so supercharged that Board member Joe Lacey said he was resigning his duties as finance committee chair for this issue when it is to be presented at the board meeting tomorrow.

Here’s the video of the meeting. Please feel free to share in comments what lines you like best- as our board members go where board members never should be involved.

Why Dunbar lost. Why DPS lost.

There wasn’t supposed to be an executive session at last Thursday’s Dayton Board of Education meeting, but there was.

It was over 2 Dunbar assistant coaching positions. Sheila Taylor took offense to seeing Alfred Powell Sr. and Darran Powell, get hired as Assistant Boys Track Coach and Assistant Girls Track Coach respectively. What happened in Exec, I don’t really know- but, I do know that both of them are part of Dunbar Basketball Coach Pete Pullen’s brain trust. Pete Pullen who also got knocked out of being the Dunbar Athletic Director.

Why this was done just before the boys basketball championships is anyone’s guess. Why Dunbar lost by 30- well, that’s just what happens when the community loses respect for a district that made an irrational choice for superintendent, has been embroiled in controversy since she showed up, and has lost the confidence of parents- many of whom, took their kids to Trotwood.

The case for a different choice.

When the three finalists were released for the second round of superintendent candidates, the community saw one thing: disrespect.

Not making the cut was the defacto deputy superintendent, home town boy, graduate of Dayton Public Schools- Chief of School Innovation, David Lawrence. Who, btw, played growing up with City Commissioner Joey Williams who was on the 1984 Dunbar Boys Basketball team that won state. Lawrence won state in Track in 81, 82 and runner up in 84. His name is still on the wall at Welcome Stadium for his track records.

So when the two old friends watched the debacle at Trent Arena, they both noticed the former DPS parents, sporting Rams shirts.

It pained both of them, because, even if DPS academics weren’t tops, the City League football and basketball programs were always a point of pride.

And now that too, is slipping away, no matter how much new district AD Mark Baker tries.

The sad thing is, once you look at this slide deck- without the words to explain it- you’ll see that just like our athletic programs used to be tops- the board just bought out someone for “over $200,000” who actually had a plan to put this district back on track. Remember the “A” grade on Annual Yearly Progress- that pulled the districts rear out of the fire, was the last gift of the departed administration lead by Lori Ward and David Lawrence.

The other superintendent candidates, look like little league punters with their “plan” to fix things. Just watch the video, and read my analysis of The Three Ring Circus.

Why did our board pass over David Lawrence?

What I heard was that Dr. Adil Baguirov pushed hard for an outsider and convinced the weak members of this board, that any internal candidate wouldn’t have the skills to fix a large urban district- because if they did, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Apparently, Baguirov is a pretty convincing salesman (as we’re seeing with the RIF, and the bus purchases, and of course the 1-to-1 computers which he takes full credit for), as the board passed Lawrence over for Rhonda Corr, a rookie superintendent who even had to explain her baggage of association with corrupt leadership and kickback schemes in Chicago.

Considering the questions this blog has raised about the RIF, the real estate deals, and now the bus deal, all with strong connections to Baguirov, one wonders if he didn’t handpick Corr so if any of his questionable behavior gets exposed, he has the perfect fall girl to pin it on?

Next steps?

Lawrence has said he has zero interest in coming back to DPS, especially with the current board. Face it, only the insane would accept a job working for this crew.

Considering his legal leverage over the board who broke their buyout contract with him in the process of approving it, there are grounds for removal of 5 of 7 board members, if citizens collect the mandated 4500 signatures. Would remaining board members McManus and Taylor pick 5 replacements that would be able to woo him back?

Would they have the balls to pursue termination of the just approved contract with Corr? Her negligence in causing this clusterduck should be grounds to void the recently signed 3 year contract with the deposed board.

Or, does Dayton find itself stuck with this rudderless ship? Word is local universities looking to give full ride scholarships to our best and brightest, aren’t getting calls back from Ms. Corr.

It’s sad that the kids of Dayton have to wait until January 1, 2018 for the natural process to replace the four fools who were unopposed 4 years ago. Word is Ron Lee, Hazel Rountree and Dr. Adil Baguirov aren’t even running again- and Joe Lacey should never see another elected position after any sane voter watched this video:

But, don’t worry, there is more dirt to come. It just takes me a while to put all these things into a format that’s clear for you.
If you’d like to support my efforts- just remember, there is a donation page https://esrati.com/donate

Thank you for paying attention. It’s time to stop the losing.

Dayton Public Schools. Unsafe leadership, unsafe buses

Last night the Dayton Board of Education had a “review session.” Yes, it was a Thursday night meeting, instead of a Tuesday. Yes, it forced Board Member John McManus to have to call off work. Dr. Robert Walker and Ron Lee weren’t there. They held it in the room outside the board room- at the big square table. It was at least ten minutes in before Board Member Sheila Taylor who has repeatedly told them she is hearing impaired, had to ask for microphones. The board wasn’t taping the session, but I was.

Good thing I did, because yet again, we had a train wreck.

Or, more accurately a bus wreck.

And, yet again, no one in the DPS purchasing department under Treasurer Hiwot Abraha was fired.
The last time DPS purchased full sized buses was 2010. That means our newest buses are 7 years old. According to the expert from the Ohio Board of Education, Robert Harmon, buses in Ohio last 12.5 years- and our average fleet age is 13.5. Buses usually are retired at 150,000 miles- and Dayton has 40 over 200,000 miles. Every time the state comes to inspect, DPS loses  7-10 buses at a moments notice because the buses are deemed unsafe.

Dayton has a fleet of approximately 180 buses, and should have been replacing about 30 buses each year for the last 7 years to keep the inventory in rotation. But they didn’t.

You can blame the last school board, you can blame the last administration, you can blame anyone you want, but the reality is, without operable buses, kids don’t get to school. If they don’t get to school, well, that’s how the district gets straight F’s.

Parents are frustrated. Kids are losing. The district under Rookie Superintendent is a rudderless ship. This is the leader that gave me a first marketing assignment of how to improve attendance back in July. First clue: get the kids to and from school.

If you need evidence of failure- read this email I received today from the grandmother of a student who worked in my office under YouthWorks about 4 years ago:

No Bus, No Solution!
Hi, I am (youth works student’s) grandmother an I have sent emails, called both the Superintendent of DPS and to the head of transportation about not having a bus for my grandson to come home on because at times I do not have the money for bus fare or we have no ride to pick him up! 3 times this week no afternoon bus and went through this in Oct.2016 for 2wks. I have to keep him home due to this at times since no one can let me know that yes there will be a bus this afternoon! Since (grandson) is mildly Autistic this stresses him out and I don’t like that because of DPST they are not doing their job and say the same thing over and over! I have got to the point of thinking of pulling him out of school and do homeschooling because of the busing problem. Also there was no morning bus twice the week before and we have to be outside at 5:45am for the morning bus and had stood out side for 45minutes waiting in 6 degree temperature or even colder! Even email John McManus too  last night when I saw him on the news. I don’t want to hear about what may be done in the future they need to do something now! Is there anyone who can get in touch with? I just don’t know what to do! Thank you,

Coincidence? There are no such things.

The proposal on the table was to out right buy 30 buses for 2.5 million or so. The transportation experts both said you need at least 60 this year and the same amount each of the following year. They also pointed out that buses are currently around $85K each and next year they are projected to cost $100K. So every bus you buy now, saves you $15k- or to put in a marketers terms, buy 6 and the seventh this year is free. Put another way, the costs of maintaining current buses is also getting cost prohibitive as well, never mind you are failing the kids.

But, here is where it got weird: while the transportation guys knew we needed 60 instead of thirty, no one from purchasing had a justification for the 30 number- or why we were buying the buses outright for cash. There was no decision matrix, no chosen vendor, no information about warranty, vendor, or long term strategy.

Purchasing was deaf, dumb, mute and uniformed.

Then came Dr. Adil Baguirov to the rescue. We should finance 100 buses this year, it will cost us the same this year as buying 30 outright.

Wait? Where did he get these numbers? How did he know?

And why didn’t anyone else know?

Deja vu all over again, this sounds like the CareSource deal, which only the guy who has a private business in the health care sector seemed to know all the details. And the Patterson Kennedy land offer, where again, he was the only board member who knew there had been a $900K offer on the land- that had been rejected without being presented to the Superintendent and the full board.

No, not Dr. Baguirov, the guy who claims his main business is trucking and logistics? Yup. That guy.

The only board member who buys commercial vehicles for his business knows the whole set of options better than the people we pay to manage our district transportation system and guide purchasing.

By the end of the meeting, while Treasurer Abraha can’t figure out if we are leasing or financing the 100 bus fleet- she caves to say “acquiring” – the board wants a proposal on Board docs asap so we don’t have to waive the 48 hour rule to commit to spending 8.5M on buses next Tuesday.

That’s right- we only needed 30 buses at 5:30 but by 8, it was 100 and we’re going to have yet another meeting on Monday afternoon of the finance committee to knock this deal down in a hurry.

5:05 pm today from Cherise Kidd via email:

Special Meeting – Finance Committee March 20
In accordance with Section 3313.16 of the Ohio Revised Code and File: BD of the Handbook of Policies, Rules & Regulations of the Board, I hereby call for a special meeting of the Finance Committee of the Board of Education of the Dayton City School District, Montgomery County, Ohio, to be held on Monday, March 20, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. in the 5th Floor Conference Room located at the Administration Building, 115 S. Ludlow St., Dayton, OH 45402.
The purpose of this meeting is to discuss potential financing options for the purchase of buses.
The media is being advised of this meeting in compliance with the Ohio Sunshine Law.

Respectfully,
Robert Walker, D.Min.
President
Dayton Board of Education

Not that the board can whip up the money and just run down to Joe’s School Bus lot and pick out 100 bright shiny buses anyway- the wait time according to the experts is 6-8 months from order to delivery, but we have to do this deal in a hurry. Sort of like the contract with the Ohlmann Group that the board wasn’t allowed to see, voted a week early on, and then wondered why nothing had been done three weeks later, and oh yeah, btw, the deal wasn’t for $112,500 a year like on Board Docs, but for $345 a year, with a one year contract and 2 one year extensions (more on this to come).

This is just one more example of the incompetence of a criminally negligent school district at managing the health, welfare and safety of our schools. ?Buying buses is just part of the solution, we’re still failing at routing, staffing, and demonstrating competent leadership.

A real superintendent would have fired someone for even suggesting that a 30 bus purchase was a viable option, here, we didn’t.

It’s time to remove this school board, superintendent, treasurer and legal counsel for gross incompetence. The only way to do this is to collect over 4500 signatures and present the failings of this board to make reasonable and competent decisions.

This one, has put children in danger.

That’s not what schools are supposed to do.

Whaley unopposed, Shanklin resigns, DPS is still a clusterduck

If Nan Whaley thinks the reason she’s unopposed is because she’s doing such a good job, she’s as delusional as DPS Superintendent Rhonda Corr and the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education. If any of them had any sense, they’d do what Wilburt Shanklin did- resign. Shanklin was the embattled nominee to the Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission who was appointed by the County Judges illegally, since he was already sitting on a county appointed board.

The reason Nan is unopposed is partially because no one wants to run against a candidate with $140K in the bank, and a record of spending half a million to run for a job that pays $47K a year. The other reason is that the petition process is so flawed, it should be illegal to use the city prescribed petitions. I’ve written extensively about these bad petitions- with their non-required “Ward and Precinct” boxes- and the requirements for notarization, but the main question is since when was graphology a requirement for working at the BOE? To say you can’t recognize signatures – when collected via a clipboard- is just one way that the partisan Board of (S)Elections keeps people off the ballot. Any process that generates a minimum 20% failure rate by even the most careful candidates- should be re-evaluated.

If my father hadn’t died, it my mother didn’t have dementia and I was the sole caregiver, you can bet your last nickle that I would have run. Although, they’ve often found reasons to disqualify my petitions at huge cost to the voters in the past.

That there is no primary gives the commission challengers more time to do the work and to raise the money. Hopefully, the voters will realize that with no chance of replacing Nan- maybe it’s time to add some people who do more than dress well and say yes to her highness on command.

The Veterans Service Commission position will be filled by the judges within 60 days. I’m a member of both the American Legion and the Disabled Veterans of America. I’m requesting my name to be on the list- or will be submitting my name on my own. I believe there is lots of room for improvement to the VSC- including doing what the law requires- immediate aid, when necessary. Shanklin probably resigned because it was becoming apparent that he wasn’t going to survive the court scrutiny. Mark one up for Mat Heck’s Montgomery County Prosecutors office. They actually acted on public bodies breaking the law.

Which is the lead in for the shit show at the Board of Education which I’ve been covering extensively since the Board decided to replace Lori Ward and Craig Jones with, well, there may not be words….

Last week we covered the Board violating the contract that they spent months negotiating to buy out David Lawrence, before they even approved it. Mat Heck, did you pay attention? Then there was the issue of them waiving the 48 hour rule to vote to accept a contract a week early to hire the Ohlmann Group to do their marketing. Two weeks later, Ohlmann still wasn’t on the job according to Hazel Rountree, who was wondering why no one was showing up to the DPS Virtual School meetings. This started another discussion at last nights meeting. That is after “Parliamentarian” Joe Lacey was looking at the wrong agenda and they passed motions on something that was never properly moved or seconded.

The board hadn’t heard from Ohlmann- who wasn’t entirely sure the District had committed to them. The solution? Create more stupid board lead task forces to tell the “experts” they hired- how to fix the problems the board keeps creating. We went to one today and filmed. Dr. Baguirov thinks he’s an expert at web design and usability now – and even suggested using Flash on the site. He showed off charter school sites- and their emphasis on enrollment on the front page- and thinks the district needs to build enrollment landing pages. Wow, this is some comprehensive strategy in the works. The people from the Ohlmann group sat there and nodded- and said the board needs storytellers. Working with a camera on them didn’t make them too happy. We’ll post that session tomorrow- right here. (posted 6pm Mar 9, 2017)

Never mind that Ohlmann was the highest bidder by $50K and over the stated limit the district announced. If this had been a construction contract, it would be void for exceeding the estimate by 10%, but, surprisingly, there is very little real law in Ohio on how to conduct competitive bids by school boards.

We’re starting to think the real value to our agency is to do a reality webshow on Disaster Districts, sort of like Kitchen Nightmares or Restaurant Impossible. The board should welcome this, since we’ve seen where reality TV stars end up these days.

Two things to think about from this post: This blog lead the way on calling out Shanklin’s appointment to the VSC and he’s gone. And, after me chastising the board for not taping all their meetings and not using a PA to help Board Member Sheila Taylor hear- they started to tape the off week meeting in the room of the square table- and using microphones for about 60% of the time.

Progress. It comes slowly in Dayton Ohio.

If you appreciate all the work we do here at esrati.com and would like to support it- we have set up a donation page. Every little bit helps us be able to shoot these public meetings and present them with analysis. Thank you.

We’re glad you’re our neighbor signs

We're glad you're our neighbor signImmigration ban 2 just went into effect today. If you, like me, realize that we are a nation of immigrants and want to send a message of acceptance, these are the signs that have been popping up all over South Park, St. Anne’s Hill, Dayton View and elsewhere. We’ve printed and sold almost 250 in a few weeks.

We’ve heard people have seen prices as high as $25 ea. My printing prices are not only the best in Dayton, we’re doing these at a steep discount to help spread the word. And, you can help support this website through your purchase at the same time.

18×24 on 4mm Coroplast, same, yard signs, both sides, In 5 languages:

  • Kinyarwanda
  • Spanish
  • English
  • Arabic
  • Turkish

$8 with a stake, $7 without- including tax. Pickup at my office, 100 Bonner St Dayton OH 45410 from 9am to 6pm M-F. We can also have the prepaid for pickup at the Second Street market on Saturdays. Best way to guarantee your sign will be here is to buy and pay online.

If you want larger quantities, or shipping, please call during business hours: 937-228-4433

Remove 5 members of Dayton Public School Board of Education? Yes please.

If you’ve been paying attention to the many meetings of the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education, you know that it’s turned into an absolute shit show since they picked Rhonda Corr as Superintendent. Just recently, they gave her a three year extension to her unorthodox one-year initial contract, after less than 7 months on the job- 7 months of turmoil and strife.

Not that the board needed Corr to create this mess, they do well on their own.

However recently, they’ve taken their incompetence to the level of criminal gross neglect- as showcased by their ignoring the first clause of the buyout contract with David Lawrence that they were supposed to vote on without comment.

The week prior, they voted early to award a contract that was published as $112,500, waiving the 48 hour rule only to have an hour conversation about a contract with the Ohlmann Group, that they obviously hadn’t read, or understood. The real amount of that contract, only revealed through a public records request that took too long, and was delivered on a ream of paper instead of the requested digital documents, $345,410 per year- with two additional one year options, making the contract worth a potential $1,036,230.

Considering that there were only 3 bidders, the second place bidder was at $321,100, and that the RFQ had stated that the cap was $300,000, one wonders why the only bidder under the cap wasn’t awarded the contract, especially, since it was the only true minority qualified business. (That bid was submitted by my firm, The Next Wave).

An old adage comes to mind, it’s called the rule of “P’s” – “Prior planning prevents piss poor performance.” Which fully sums up the actions of this board and leadership. How hard is it to publish an agenda? How hard is it for board members to take the time to either read what they are voting on- or, ask and get competent explanations from staff on what and why they are being asked to vote on.

The 48 hour rule exists for a reason- to allow both the board and the public to review actions of a public body before a meeting. It is only supposed to be waived when there isn’t time to properly notify everyone- something that shouldn’t be that difficult- posting an agenda 48 hours in advance of a public meeting.

From their own manual:

Emergency Meeting
Emergency meetings are called when a matter of urgent necessity must be decided and there is not enough time to allow for the 48-hour notice to members, or the 24-hour notice to the media. An example of a reason to hold an emergency meeting would be if a boiler were to suddenly break down in a school building and need replacing. The board could then call an emergency meeting to authorize payment.

Which brings us to their frequent use of the 48 hour rule- and the boards inability to actually review and know what they are voting for. The discussion about the buyout that wasn’t supposed to be discussed. The confusion about accepting a million dollar contract that they had obviously never seen.

These actions are clearly grounds for removal from office.

  • A board member is guilty of misconduct in office if he or she has willfully and flagrantly exercised authority or power not authorized by law, refused or willfully neglected to enforce the law or to perform any official duty imposed upon him or her by law, or is guilty of gross neglect of duty, gross immorality, drunkenness, misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance.
  • The petitioner must file a specific accusation of misconduct in office in Common Pleas Court.
  • The petition must contain valid signatures from people who live in the school district equal to 15 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the most recent election.
  • After the signatures are submitted to the court, a trial must be held within 30 days.
  • If the case isn’t dismissed by a judge, hearings proceed. A judge hears the case though the board member may ask for a jury trial.

Source: Can a school-board member be removed from office?

To take them to court, we’d need to collect signatures of 4,574 voters in the Dayton Public Schools district to move this forward. The only question is can one petition cover all 5 board members who willfully and flagrantly neglected their duty to comply with the contract terms they’d hashed out over months in executive session, or if this is just clear violation of the public trust and they can be prosecuted? Or, do we have to get circulate 5 individual petitions to do this? People who want to help get signatures should message me. Anyone planning to run in the fall, could start collecting the removal signatures while they collect their signatures to get on the ballot.

Both Superintendent Rhonda Corr and the staff lawyer, Jyllian Bradshaw, should be able to be terminated for cause by a competent board, for allowing the discussion to occur on the Lawrence buyout contract, and for voting for a million dollar marketing contract, without having it either presented or properly explained to the board. The board treasurer, Hiwot Abraha, was in charge of the marketing RFQ, and should also be held responsible for them voting a week early, without proper review.

Replace the five board members, Robert Walker, Ron Lee, Hazel Rountree, Joe Lacey and Adil Baguirov with competent members, who then remove Corr, Bradshaw and Abraha with cause, and replace them with competent people, and maybe, Dayton Public Schools will have a chance.

 

Fixing the jail doesn’t begin with the jail

The news today was that Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Sheriff Phil Plummer, County Commissioner Dan Foley and State Senator Peggy Lehner have a plan for an oversight committee to work on the Montgomery County Jail, where Plummer thinks it’s ok to pepper spray inmates while restrained. A ten person committee will solve all the problems. Not.

The first step to solving the problems at the jail is to work to keep people out of it, or to at least cycle them through as fast as possible when jail is not the answer.

To start off, we should look to Franklin County which has one county wide municipal court system. Judges are elected county wide, there is only one clerks office, and one website. Because they’ve avoided the duplication we have with courts in Oakwood, Kettering, Centerville, Vandalia, West Carrollton, Miamisburg, Moraine etc. they can do somethings we don’t- like run the clerks office 7 days a week from 8 am to midnight. This way, people can work and get to the clerks office to pay their fines instead of having warrants issued.

Another option is to have night court. No reason to wait till the next day for a TRO, or bail to be set, with a night court- cases can be disposed of quicker. Same goes for having a weekend magistrate. Jail is for people who pose a risk to the community, not those who have other issues- like no way to get in to pay their fines.

Alcohol and drug problems aren’t best dealt with in a jail. Realistically, these are mental health issues, and even Sheriff Plummer tells us he’s not capable of handling psychiatric cases. It’s time to properly assess and build a county wide drug and alcohol treatment center. Yes, the doors will be locked, but, the people dealing with people coming off highs won’t be cops, they’ll be health care professionals. Ask Virgil McDaniel from Project Cure how to best manage addicts, don’t ask Sheriff Phil.

Last but not least, when it comes to bail and bond issues, we need a better system. If you are in jail and can’t make bail, there has to be a better reason than you’re broke. We keep people with very low bail in jail because they just don’t have the money, yet, we spend more in 3 days than what the bail would be. It’s sort of doing time for being broke and it’s not solving anybodies problems. Bail reform has been a major discussion in New York and California, where they’ve realized that by holding people for a week who live on the edge of poverty, it’s pretty much a bankruptcy in the making. Car gets repossessed, rent is late and they get evicted, lost their job, don’t pay their phone bill. Never mind they haven’t been found guilty yet- they’ve just been locked up. We need to find different ways to make sure people show up in court, and that incarceration before your day in court isn’t more expensive than the eventual fine or jail time.

We also need a much faster way to process prisoners out. How about a one hour guarantee or the bail starts going down? I paid $114 to get a friend out of the jail a month ago, and had to wait almost 4 hours for their release. That cost me time and money, and it costs the taxpayers. If you can’t get someone out of jail in an hour after the bond has been paid, there needs to be an incentive in place to get people out of jail as fast as we can put them in.

Make these changes first, and the committee may not have much to fix.

Criminal incompetence at a Dayton Public Schools Board of Education meeting

For the last 6 months the new Superintendent, Rhonda Corr, has been trying to excommunicate David Lawrence from Dayton Public Schools. The former Chief of School Innovation, was demoted several times to try to get him to quit. She couldn’t use the Reduction In Force (RIF) ruse that she used to clean out some of downtown last fall, because she assigned his duties to no less than 3 other people.
She brought in Dr. Elisabeth Lolli and Dr. Markay Winston at similar or higher pay, and also assigned some of his work to Dr.  Bucheim. You can review some of this mess in the really long post: The calamity named Rhonda Corr.  Corr could have assigned David Lawrence to be the principal at the troubled Meadowdale too, but instead, hired in a guy from Texas. Lawrence was signed to a contract through June of 2018, and it was either work with him or buy him out. That’s how contracts work.
Lawrence started to use some of his accumulated 20 years worth of sick leave while his attorney and the board negotiated an agreement for his separation. Here is a copy of the very easy to read separation contract: DPS-LAWRENCE Agreement 2-17
Three short legalese paragraphs set the stage, and then the first clause:

1. Upon his execution of this Agreement, Employee shall cause to be delivered to the Superintendent his irrevocable letter of resignation from all employment positions held with the Dayton City School District. Said resignation shall take effect on February 21, 2017.
Employee’s letter of resignation shall be accepted by the Board, without public comment, at its next regular meeting following Employee’s execution of this Agreement.

But, when this item comes to the board, you don’t have to watch very long for Dr. Adil Baguirov to start commenting- thereby violating the contract, and voiding it.  First with his discussion of waiving the 48 hour rule to vote (as specified- “its next regular meeting”) thinking this isn’t an emergency. The reason they had to waive the 48 hour rule is because they can’t seem to prepare for meetings and actually post their agenda more than 48 hours in advance for issue C & G.

Baguirov is right, there has been plenty of time to discuss and post and not need the waiver. I pipe in “This is incompetence”- out of order.

Then Dr. Walker asks to move to executive session, and then Baguirov says we shouldn’t get rid of Lawrence on fiscal competency grounds, and then says to give a very qualified administrator over $200,000 to see him go as essentially unearned income.

Then he speaks on behalf of Board Member Taylor- who would agree with him, but she’s not here. Lacey says talking about what other members think is wrong.

Then Rountree jumps in that this has been discussed plenty in executive session, and no one knows why Taylor isn’t there. And calls for the up or down vote.

Ron Lee then has to agree with Rountree that this should be voted on. And that earlier decisions weren’t right (like hiring Corr over Lawrence?).

Then they are to vote to waive the 48 hour rule, Baguirov and Lacey vote no, the rest vote yes, 4 yes, 2 no.

Then there is confusion because Walker can’t tell what to do next. Where I pipe in “The buyout because of the personality conflict” again out of order. You hear a sigh from someone.

Then Corr asks to do D, E, F- skipping the actual vote on the issue that they just waived the 48 hour rule on. #FAIL. Of course, no one in the audience can follow the agenda, because the “Board Docs” application isn’t mobile friendly, it’s barely laptop friendly.

Then Lacey agrees for D, E, F and Hazel asks you have to vote on the first one, and Lacey says you don’t and we have an argument about order- because, well, confusion is always the best way.

Then McManus talks about transportation directors- he hasn’t said anything other than yes to waive the 48 hour rule on C&G.

Then Baguirov and Lacey want to withdraw their motions and confuse it more.

Now Lacey wants to separate the motion and gets in a fight with Rountree calling it a game, and he gets belligerent and wants to deal with something different. And then back to Mr. Lawrence and E & F.

Again mentioning Lawrence. Walker mentions Lawrence. We’re now 13 min and 31 seconds in- and voting on everything but Lawrence. Rountree abstains. 5-1.

Then Corr tries to come back to number D 1, and then G, a settlement agreement. Rountree moves, McManus seconds. Walker asks for further discussion- and Baguirov says he is staunchly opposed to this, due to the RIF on fiscal grounds. He can’t allow to pay over $200,000 to someone who isn’t going to be working here. There is work that Mr. Lawrence is qualified to do. He doesn’t understand why the board would allow this. He calls it a “massive payment.” And says he’s been against it in executive.

Rountree then says “treat people in the way you want to be treated” including buyouts and goes on about contracts. Lee continues about the issue and puts it back on Baguirov for this beginning under his watch.

It doesn’t matter what any of them think, the contract had to be voted on, simple yes/no and move on, without discussion. This discussion all violates the contract. Corr didn’t step in and stop discussion. Neither did board lawyer Jyllian Bradshaw.

In a corporate setting, these intentional missteps would be cause for termination. F&I insurance may cover the cost of the failings, but the board members would still be asked to step down. Unfortunately, school board members in Ohio can’t be removed by ballot initiative. Can they be removed for exposing the district to additional lawsuits?

At this point, the correct thing to do is to accept the resignation of all who discussed the issue violating the contract, Walker, Baguirov, Lacey, Rountree and Lee. Only McManus has abided by the terms. Taylor wasn’t present to get herself in trouble.

Corr and Bradshaw were responsible for managing this process. Both failed.

Let’s begin with 5 new school board members, a new attorney, and then let the new board decide if they should keep Corr, or terminate her for cause because of her inability to not only manage David Lawrence, but failure to control the process at the meeting bringing the district additional legal battles.

The obvious choice to replace Corr as superintendent? David Lawrence.

 

 

 

 

 

Lost gem of the DPS board meeting: free wi-fi for some students

After the smoke cleared from the shit-show that pretends to be a school board meeting last night, a week after they hired The Ohlmann group to manage their marketing starting last Wednesday, there was one really important new program launched by DPS, led by Dr. Markay Winston.

You didn’t see it in the Dayton Daily news, because the story was the controversy over buying out former Chief of School Innovation David Lawrence for “over $200,000” because Rhonda Corr is our own version of Donald Trump- if she doesn’t like you- you’re fired (except as much as they try to turn their board meetings into reality TV- this is a government organization that actually enters into legally binding contracts that have to be honored. Corr and the board will have to deal with this issue again when either this board or the new one, decides to dump Corr and she wants her contract bought out).

So what was this big news that didn’t make the news, or get a proper PR roll out? The program that isn’t on the DPS website, the one that can’t even get the meeting time published correctly?

Slide about Dayton Public Schools Virtual Academy

“Marketing” via Dayton Public Schools

DPS is starting a home school e-learning program where students can enroll in DPS and get a DPS diploma, and participate in DPS extra-curricular activities, get a DPS supplied computer, and even get free wi-fi.

Wow.

The rest of the students, who are using their new 1 to 1 computers in school, and may be able to bring them home next year (I’m on the technology steering committee and have been pushing for this from day 1), will not get free wi-fi. However, Dr. Baguirov who likes to take credit for rolling out the program in record time, under budget with amazing success says they are still looking at costs for providing mobile hot spots to students who don’t have wi-fi at home, but the costs are high.

Winston had a lame deck Dayton Innovation Virtual Academy Board Presentation Feb 21 2017 which was clearly not done by a professional marketing firm. Had the board known what an ad agency does, this would have been rolled out in a way to get free press, and make a big splash- instead of the headlines being about another Rhonda Corr failure. See the provided slide image- does that look like an exciting new program you’d want to enroll your kid in? Does it look like it’s run by professionals? None of the other slides in the deck could stand on their own as an explanation of what DPS is doing.

E-schools as they are run in Ohio are a scam. If they were compared to the worst public schools, and the worst charter schools, comparatively- they make the worst public schools look like Harvard. Virtual schools are virtually unregulated and the results are a mixed bag. The largest, ECOT- the “electronic classroom of tomorrow” is bigger than Dayton, but has graduation rates that make DPS look awesome:

With its most-recent graduation rate of 38 percent, few districts in the state rank lower. Only 35 of the roughly 700 traditional school districts and charter schools that serve high-school students have a worse outcome, and most of those are other statewide e-schools and charters that exclusively serve dropouts.By comparison, Columbus schools’ most-recent graduation rate was 77 percent. Cleveland’s was about 64 percent.

Phillis said it’s astonishing that ECOT continues to escape the scrutiny of lawmakers despite meeting only three of the 24 possible state testing and graduation standards, receiving F grades in all but one category. ECOT got a D in the performance index, which is an index of state testing performance.

Source: Popular ECOT poor performer

However, while DPS keeps bragging about their single non-F grade, an A in annual yearly progress, at least ecot has a D in state testing performance. We all know the saying “when you’ve hit bottom, the only other direction is up” is the true meaning of that A- not that they are successful.

Even though my firm didn’t win the marketing bid- I think I’ll still do the job that the people they hired didn’t do- properly promote this new program.

The information sessions for Parent Information Sessions DPS Virtual Academy will be as follows:

  • Northwest Library: 2410 Philadelphia Dr
    Feb. 27 from 10 am – 12 pm (West)
  • Board of Education Community Room
    Feb. 28 from 4-6 pm (Central)
  • Burkhardt Library: 4680 Burkhardt Ave
    March 7 from 10 am – 12 pm (East)
  • Madden Hills Library: 2542 Germantown St.
    March 9 from 4-6 pm (West)

Make sure you tell them where you heard about this new program if you chose to go.