DPS sleight of hand by doomed superintendent Ward

Changing the district’s school configurations is a distraction from the real issue at hand- leadership.

With the superintendent’s contract up for renewal, after 6 years of running the ship in circles, this “reconfiguration” as part of the solution, along with the rushed implementation of “1 to 1 computing” are just moves to distract the board from the fundamental problem- Dayton Public Schools are headed for a state takeover in 2 years, and the current superintendent is incapable of making any real improvement in test scores, retention of students or staff, or quality of education. Even the “Improved graduation rates” are still embarrassing. The third grade reading guarantee will result in half the students repeating the third grade.

Changing back to a middle school model for only some of the schools is just a magician’s sleight of hand trick to distract and give false hope that this “revelation” requires the keeping of the captain of this sinking ship.

Reshaping more than a dozen schools this fall is “a must,” according to Dayton Public Schools leaders, who say seventh- and eighth-graders have major academic and discipline problems in the current school configuration.

Joe Lacey and Adil Baguirov are the only school board members who had the sense to vote no- and abstain, from this sideshow. Other members of the board should be wondering how this became the solution of the day- and why they fell for it. Normally, program changes as drastic as this involve a careful communications strategy, a lengthy preparation plan, and building a cadre of leaders to explain the change.

However, DPS doesn’t have a communications team. This is because the current superintendent is incapable of firing grossly incompetent, or even marginally competent people from her team. The good ones leave for other districts- where they are paid more, respected and have real professional development programs. What’s left are the die-hard educators who refuse to let go of their ideals, and those who would never be hired by another district, or if they are- wouldn’t keep their jobs long.

Forty minutes later, the school board approved a resolution to reconfigure the grade makeup at 15 of the district’s 28 schools, meaning that more than 1,000 students and dozens of teachers and staff likely will make an unexpected move this summer. The plan removes grades 7 and 8 from most existing PreK-8 buildings, creates three middle schools at the existing Wright Brothers, Wogaman and E.J. Brown elementaries. It adds grades 7-8 to Meadowdale High School. No existing schools will close, and no new schools will be built.

Why change?

Superintendent Lori Ward said she knows the move will be disruptive to many, but said the district has to make changes that it thinks will help the most children succeed.“We find ourselves very, very challenged to make sure seventh- and eighth-graders are ready for high school,” Ward said. “I will tell everybody in this room, we’re not bringing it, as a district (on that front).”

Ward said seventh- and eighth-graders now have some of the highest suspension rates in the district and are roughly 30 percentage points behind state peers in most subjects.

There is no admission from Ward that the original change to K-8 schools was highly contested by the teaching staff that knew that mixing 8th graders with 3rd graders was a recipe for disaster. Top performing schools like Horace Mann, slipped- parents who knew better pulled their kids out.

Other districts have dedicated 9th grade buildings- for the very reason that this is the key failure point for teens, who are struggling with the move from K-8 grades that mostly don’t count, to the real world of High School.

Other districts that have attempted to fix poor performance- have moved to year-round schools- to fight the proven “summer slide” where kids lose about 20% of their skills each year. One of the reasons for all the new buildings was air conditioning- which would make year-round schools possible. Was this idea even discussed? No.

Wyetta Hayden, DPS chief of school improvement, said grouping all seventh- and eighth-graders into eight schools — rather than the current 17— will allow the district to cluster appropriate staff and offer better academic options. That means making algebra and career tech courses available to all of those students, with the hope of adding marching band and middle school sports.

She also said it ends the practice of having kindergartners in the same hallways as eighth-graders.

If it’s such a good idea, why is your top performing school (and the only one that’s worth 2 cents) Stivers 7-12?

And what’s this “hope of adding?” To quote master Yoda, “do or do not, there is no try.”

DPS Curriculum Director Bob Buchheim, a former middle school teacher and principal, called the switch a win for all elementary students, and “a must” for middle schoolers.

If this this is a win and a must, why are we keeping Stivers and Belmont 7-12? We won’t talk about Longfellow- because, well, no one talks about Longfellow. It’s sort of like Area 51 of the Dayton Public Schools. It’s where we keep the aliens.

Strong opposition

The school board vote on the change was not unanimous. Board President Adil Baguirov first suggested delaying the decision a week, then abstained from the vote.

Board member Joe Lacey was the lone vote against the move, arguing that the district just dropped the middle school system less than a decade ago, when the district’s overall performance index was the worst in the state. He also warned of possible fallout.

“We are in a competitive environment. We had a school called Patterson-Kennedy on Wyoming Street and we closed it because we had too many schools,” Lacey said. “Just a few years later, Emerson, a charter school, opened (blocks away) and became one of the highest-performing schools in the city.

“You can’t treat people like this and not expect… people to leave Dayton Public Schools.”

Joe Lacy understands. There are options, customer service is important. Giving the few remaining dedicated parents in the district the finger by springing this on them at the last minute is the action of desperation. Note, we’re still the holder of the worst performance index in the state- for a district that hasn’t been taken over…. yet.

Even some in favor of the plan had concerns. Teachers union President David Romick was upset that teachers had little notice and no involvement in planning. Ruskin Elementary teacher Karissa Jobman worried the plan would have to be thrown together too quickly and called for a task force to make sure it is done right.

The district posted a timeline on its website saying parent meetings would be at affected schools in the next two weeks. Burton said the district will begin to send notifications of 2016-17 school assignments to parents next week, giving them about three weeks to respond before open enrollment begins March 1.

Teachers’ deadline to file school transfer requests is Feb. 15. DPS Human Resources Director Judith Spurlock said she is beginning talks with the teachers’ union about staff needs.

“I want this to be successful. I think it could turn this district around,” said school board member Hazel Rountree. “It’s the move that we need. We can’t keep doing little baby steps and expect change.”

Source: Schools’ revamp stirs emotion

Ms. Rountree has been on the board for 2 years. Ron Lee, Reverend Walker, Sheila Taylor, have been on much longer. John McManus is the new guy- barely finding his way to his very expensive board seat (he spent around $30K to barely beat Nancy Nearny- (Full disclosure: I printed some of his materials at my business). To think that this idea of middle schools is a good idea as the ship is going under- and a lifeboat move at best- says that none of these people belong on the board.

These are issues that should have been brought up long ago, and discussed publicly, before making this move.

It’s time for new leadership. Effective leadership. Leadership that will clean house, communicate effectively with all stakeholders and get results. No more smoke and mirrors, no more parlor tricks.

Fire Lori Ward now. Reconsider the reconfiguration. Stop the distraction of 1-to-1 computing.

Hire someone from within the district who can clearly tell the board what their vision is, their assessment of current staffing and personnel, what their plan would be, and how they would engage stakeholders to join them with the execution of  the transformation of the district.

It’s time.

To renew, or not to renew, is that even a question? DPS Superintendent Ward’s Contract

The Board of Education seems to be putting their elbows in their ears and saying “Nah, nah, nah, nah” while ignoring the upcoming deadline to review, renew or take action on Superintendent Lori Ward‘s contract.

Coming due next month, Ward is paid almost $200,000 a year- and has been at the helm since taking over from Kurt Stanic in March of 2010.

The district is two years away from state takeover.

In today’s paper- we find out that:

The top Dayton Public School was Valerie PreK-6 School, at 44 percent, earning a D….

(in Graduation rates) Dayton Public’s high schools earned an A (Stivers), a B (Ponitz), and four F’s (Thurgood Marshall at 73.5, Dunbar at 66.7, Belmont at 59.1 and Meadowdale at 50.0).

Source: Charter schools fail in K-3 Literacy

The board met at a retreat on Saturday, and went into executive session- but no mention was made of the contract or plans to either retain or replace Ms. Ward.

With scores like these, the decision should be pretty clear.

Dayton Public Schools gets an “F” in reading but didn’t fail

The news for the tiny Jefferson Township district was good- they got an “A” on K-3 Literacy improvement. They are the only ones locally – at least that’s the way the Dayton Daily news reports it. But, let’s be real- the entire district is 450 students- split that up by 13 grades- and you get 19.5 students per grade- or 78 students you are rating. There shouldn’t even be a Jefferson Township school district.

When it comes to Dayton, the DDn reports:

Dayton Public Schools was the only local district to receive an “F,” and it trailed most of the state’s other large urban public districts.

Source: Jefferson Twp. leads way in reading

It’s real easy to say that Dayton Public Schools is failing. Point the blame at teachers, principals, superintendents and the school board- or on standardized testing, state funding, or poverty.

That’s pure horseshit.

Let’s blame exactly who is failing little J’onee, Otis,  La’quarius and LadonnaMae- the parents, or in most case, single parent. It’s the parents responsibility to teach their kid to read. Not Sesame Street, not “My little professor” or some other educational toy.

If your kid can’t read. shut off the TV. Cancel your cable. Get a library card- and get books for FREE, every week and read with your kids. Problem solved. Unless of course the problem is that the parents can’t read either- because, well, they went to Dayton Public schools as well.

Every single preacher in this city needs to have an after school literacy program at their church (if their flock can’t read the bible, they aren’t going to keep their job very long). Every neighborhood needs to organize reading circles. Instead of the Mayor being on TV at ribbon cuttings- start doing what Mayor La Guardia used to do- reading to kids on the radio. The NAACP needs to start worrying about illiterate kids just as much as they seem to be worrying about black on black crime.

The schools do need to take action as well. Every single student who is failing reading- there should be a home visit- and the first question should be, “where is the bookshelf in your house” and the second should be to get them a library card (most Dayton Public Schools don’t even let kids bring home their text books anymore btw). The home visit should include directions to the nearest library, the hours, and a lesson in how to check out books and return them on time. If the parents are unable to get to the library, it’s time for the schools to partner with the library system for home delivery of books. And, a reading buddy should be identified for every kid that’s failing- this can be a relative, neighbor, or even older kid in the schools- who can stop in and discuss the books the failing reader is working on.

There is no excuse for getting an F in reading that can be assigned to any one entity. If it takes a village to raise a child- the whole city flunks when a kid can’t read. That we don’t hold parents responsible and provide them with support mechanisms to fix this- is our fault.

This problem can be solved. But only when we all work together.

The cost of stupid

There used to be a time when facts presented without empirical evidence weren’t called facts. Now, we’re inundated with unsubstantiated statements that are shared and talked about – without paying any attention to the source, validity, or even common sense.

It’s a world gone mad.

Or it’s just entropy on steroids.

The arguments against gun control in this country make no sense. People actually believe you are safer if everyone had a gun. Seriously.

People believe that our health care system is the best in the world, yet every other industrialized country with universal health care has better medical outcomes and longer life expectancy.

The costs of a college education have skyrocketed in the last 25 years, while a motivated individual with a computer and an internet connection can self teach almost anything. Pay for college graduates has stagnated or dropped.

We believe our “Democracy” and “Democratic system” to be the model of government- yet, it’s become clearly evident that “pay to play” is the de facto standard- and legislation is bought and sold like a commodity. I remember being taught about the inefficiencies of doing business in countries like Russia when bribes were the norm- as if that never happened here (and I believed that).

America still proudly proclaims itself the “land of the free” when facts say we imprison more of our population than anywhere else. Sure, we don’t run Gulags or Concentration Camps, but, why is it that our prisons are filled with poor minorities. Also, we seem to have a serious problem with killing people without judge or jury in the name of justice. Isn’t that what happens in third world banana republics? Not at Walmart in Beavercreek?

There was a time in history when insanely bright people were respected and consulted. Leaders were chosen for their integrity, intelligence, and track record. Now, it’s more like a popularity contest where your Q-score counts almost as much as your bankroll. Climate change scientists are routinely called heretics by people with zero scientific training.

Speaking of scores, we’ve been going round and round with what testing tool is appropriate to judge student achievement on something we now call the “common core.” There is a different educational strategy coming out daily. Hell, I even have one or two of my own. Yet, when you look at the evidence, one factor determines educational outcomes in the United States more than any other- poverty. Yet, fixing that one would require a shift in wealth distribution- and that just isn’t “the American way.” We continue with the fallacy that poor kids have a chance to make it in the NBA, or become a rapper- when the odds are way better that they get shot, imprisoned or become just another poor family.

When we talk about selecting our next president, we don’t even realize that the system doesn’t provide for a way for a single office holder to really change anything in our system- he needs a whole network of elected helpers to make things happen. So even if we elect Trump or Sanders- neither, will have the votes to make the changes they promise. The system was designed that way. It hasn’t changed, even with all the corrupting influences.

And of course, this post is full of unsubstantiated statements presented as facts- because, well, you know, the academic rigor it would take to find, evaluate and cite would take too long, and I’m intellectually lazy.

But, you know I’m right. Right?

Our future rests in the hands of people who believe that if they saw it on Facebook- it must be true.

The costs of ignorance are high. It affects us in so many different ways. Fundamentally, our democracy relies on an educated and informed electorate, yet we now know that’s been tossed out the window. What else is left?

More and more, George Orwell had it right in both “Animal Farm” and “1984”- and we’ve done nothing to stop it. Both of these books were required reading for me in high school. I wonder if they are still being taught- or only to rich kids?

When we look at the cost of incarceration, of social systems to support our underclass, of the checks and balances like Title IX or Equal Opportunity lending, or quotas and all the systems put in place to shore up a house of cards built on trust in government and our economy and our social structures- there is only one real investment that fixes so much of it- smarter constituents.

Only when we have an enlightened electorate will we see the change that makes sense, that is definable, substantiated, and effective. Fixing our education system has to be our first priority if we ever hope to tackle the rest.

 

 

 

Dayton public schools suffer from incompetent PR

Yesterday, I had lunch with Dayton Board of Education member Adil Baguirov, Ph.D.. The first thing I preambled the conversation with is “Jill Moberly is incompetent.”
Full disclosure- this is damning to me and my business, although my firm hasn’t done work for Ms. Moberly for several years, we did at one time. She is their “Public Information Officer” and should have been fired or replaced long ago. She used to proudly state that she’s outlasted 11 superintendents. She needs to go either before or with our current superintendent, who has had 3 years to solve these easily solvable PR issues- that damn our school system to laughing stock and fodder for humiliation.

And, yes, I’m calling for the non-renewal of Superintendent Ward’s contract, despite liking her immensely. With less than 2 years to go before the district gets taken over by the state, change isn’t happening fast enough, or with the force needed. Frankly, she’s paid $200K which isn’t enough, but, when faced with losing her best high school principals to other districts over $10K a year- it’s time to take a pay cut and tie her future with her leadership team.

Poor concept for Dayton Public Schools billboard- "We don't teach" should never be on a school billboard

“We don’t teach” – ’nuff said

The first recent clue is the billboard campaign I just saw- “We don’t teach, we transform” – uh, no. Most people would stop after the first three words and say “yup.” This is just another failed campaign in a long line of failed PR. At least the building blocks aren’t in the logo on this ad. Those never should have been part of the logo.

But- the faux pas in today’s paper- with quotes from my friend David Lawrence, instead of the Superintendent or the PIO- were so badly positioned as to cause me to cringe. First the story in the paper- which focuses attention on the brawls- and the dangers of attending Dayton Public School high school basketball games:

Dayton schools could ban spectators at games

Dayton Public Schools issued what officials termed a pre-emptive measure Monday, announcing that any altercation on the court, in the stands or at the dismissal of a boys high school basketball game would result in the next City League boys contests to be played without spectators. Only players, coaches and officials would be present at affected games.

“Because community support is important to our teams, we are taking some bold steps to send a message to those who would attend our games for reasons other than supporting our players,” David Lawrence, chief of school innovation, said in a statement.

DPS said more school administrators and security personnel will be present at all games, and Dayton police officers will be assigned to oversee dismissal following all games.

The boys basketball season started Nov. 27. Toward the end of last season, boys City League games were rescheduled for Sunday afternoons, beginning Feb. 1, following several disturbances at the conclusion of Friday night boys games. Freshmen boys games that were scheduled for 5 p.m. on Fridays and all remaining girls games were not affected.

On Jan. 16, an officer told a dispatcher an estimated “100 kids” were involved in a fight at the Ponitz Career Technology Center on West Washington Street after a boys game against visiting Thurgood Marshall. No athletes or coaches were involved, and no one was arrested.

Ponitz defeated Thurgood 56-48 that night. Earlier in the season Ponitz defeated host Thurgood for the first time in program history.

City League boys games began this past Friday without incidents. There are two 8 p.m. (varsity) games scheduled for Friday: Belmont at Dunbar and Thurgood at Meadowdale. Stivers’ next City League boys game is Dec. 18 against visiting Thurgood and Ponitz’s next City League boys game is Jan. 5 against visiting Dunbar. All City League boys schedules include freshmen, reserve and varsity games.

DPS is in the process of informing parents, students and community members about the consequences should a disruption occur at any game.

Unlike previous years, there are no double- or tripleheader City League boys regular-season games scheduled for the University of Dayton or Fairmont’s Trent Arena. There were no reports of after-game incidents that involved City League football teams at Welcome Stadium this past football season.

“We appreciate our fans who come out to cheer for our student athletes and look forward to a great season of high school basketball,” said Lawrence.

Source: Dayton schools could ban spectators at games

I talked to David Lawrence earlier today- my opening comment to him was “We will rule with an iron first” said in a bad actors foreign accent.

He told me they had worked on this for six months – and I said that it’s too bad that they didn’t have competent PR advice.

How this should have been framed.

Lawrence played basketball and ran track at Dunbar- positioning him with a unique voice of authority in handling this matter. Using the words “preemptive measure” is the first mistake- since it implants the idea that these fights are a foregone conclusion. An opportunity for a teaching moment lost.

Here is the statement and plan a competently advised spokesperson would have given:

My name is David Lawrence, I’m the chief of innovation for the Dayton Public Schools, but before that, I was a Dayton Public Schools athlete and graduate. My track records are still are on the wall at Welcome Stadium, and I played basketball at Dunbar. I am proud to have played with other Dayton leaders like Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams, proving once again, that athletics are an essential part of building tomorrows leaders.

I take great pride in our young athletes, who are some of the best in the state. Their coaches are also some of the best in the State. And, we believe in athletics as a key component in character building, teaching sportsmanship, and representing the values of pride, respect and excellence that have been a mainstay of our programs since before I was a high school athlete.

Last year, some people came to our athletic events and seemed to think that fighting was a part of our program. It’s not. If you want to see fights, may I suggest you buy tickets to the Dayton Demolition Hockey games, or go to a boxing match or MMA event. There will be no fighting at, or after Dayton Public Schools athletic events this year. The following warning will be posted, and given at every sporting event. If any fights do break out, the protocol will be as follows: the game will be declared a forfeit for both teams. It is up to our athletes, the coaches and the school administration to make it clear that we don’t tolerate fighting in, after or surrounding any sporting event. The battle is in the arena- on the hardwood floor, between those who have earned the right to represent their schools.

If an event is besmirched by the conduct of those attending a game, fans of those schools, for the remainder of the season, all of their games, no one under 18 will be allowed to attend without an adult chaperon. To enter the event, ID’s will be scanned, and those adults will be held criminally liable for the actions of those under their care. There will be no second chances. If another fight breaks out surrounding a game with one of these teams, the remaining games of the season will only be open to players, coaches and the families of team members. I would hope this makes it crystal clear to all participants. If for any reason there is another fight- a single punch thrown, the season for that team is over.

We are also announcing a new pricing policy: all tickets are $10, but with a free ticket for adults when accompanying a student.  Revenue will go into a fund for the entire season, to be split evenly among schools at the end of the season. Any team that has an event forfeited, will not be eligible for collecting any ticket revenue for the season. This is a change in event pricing, to encourage more adults to chaperon their kids. We’re proud of our athletic programs and want to see our community take an interest in their kids. New season pass pricing is available to alumni and adult fans who don’t have kids to chaperon, with a one time $50 ticket available that gets you into all DPS ticket sporting events.

We look forward to increased attendance and the best basketball of the season. I hope to see you there.

Dayton Public Schools, and the people of the city of Dayton deserve better. It does make a difference on how you say things.

Only one upset in Dayton

You can pull up the results of the Nov. 3, 2015, Montgomery County elections here: http://www.mcohio.org/document_center/BoardElections/ElectionResults/11032015es.pdf

It wasn’t Darryl Fairchild’s turn after all. Despite falling on his sword to let Jeff Mims take Nan Whaley’s seat, Democratic party pick Chris Shaw beat the former party favorite by a measly 169 votes. Matt Joseph cruises in to collect a paycheck for four more years of doing nothing, and the reign of Queen Nan continues.

In the Dayton School Board race, newcomer John McManus squeezes past Nancy Nearny. At his watch party were almost all the other board members, including his opponent Sheila Taylor. The first issue on their agenda will be if they should renew Superintendent Lori Ward’s contract. My guess is the vote just got a lot closer.

The big success was local defense attorney Mia Wortham Spells beating the Dem party pick- Colette Moorman by 265 votes. Enough that it should be good through the final. Moorman was on the Dem party stupid voter card and should have ridden the coattails of Joseph and Shaw, but she didn’t. For Moorman, a magistrate, the only thing that changes is her new boss for the next 6 years- her opponent.

The Sinclair levy passed convincingly 54-44, with at least three quarters of a million behind it. As the treasurer of www.keepsinclairfair.org I can tell you that this is fine- people will see their tax bill go up, while the taxpayers in Warren, Greene and Preble County- where “no Montgomery County tax dollars are spent” get away with a small tuition increase and NO tax at all. When the big Sinclair levy comes up in a few years- we’ll be ready, and Dr. Steven Johnson can learn to live on a 1 mil levy when the big one fails. He can try charging $50 more a credit hour in Montgomery County- since that’s all this really costs… if you believe his bullshit.

At least Montgomery County voters voted Yes on issue 1, and No on 3 – unfortunately, the legislature pulled a fast one, and now have the ability to do anything they want to any statewide ballot initiative (as if they weren’t doing it already).

Results were held until 9pm because Butler and Hamilton Counties couldn’t get their polling places handled properly. That would be a #fail for Secretary of State Jon Husted who still hasn’t figured out how to overcome the stupidity of the BOE system in Ohio where friend and family get to run elections instead of professionals.

With all the confusion on Issue 2 and 3- I consider this more of a state IQ test than an election. I’ve not looked at the Statewide results yet to see how we Buckeyes did collectively, but I have faith that Issue 3 will rightfully go up in smoke. Too bad “investors.” When Ohioans pass a pot law, maybe we’ll still be able to buy some Acapulco Gold, or some Mile High Weed, but for now, we’re still a pot free state.

My own father was challenged at the polls for presenting his VA photo ID. He held his ground, and one of the supervisors figured it out ok.

That wasn’t true for a friend of mine. She and her husband went in to vote- same polling location as last year, same address, and somehow, her husband was allowed to vote, and she was made to vote provisionally. The difference? He’s white, she’s black and it was a South suburb. We’re still making Third World countries look good when it comes to ballot box access.

The biggest problem still hasn’t been solved: too many elections/candidates/jurisdictions/issues and no reliable source of information. This again turned out to be a low turnout election.

It’s not a true democracy unless everyone has a chance to be heard, and for every vote to count equally. Let’s get to work on that people.

Whaley’s candidates withdraw from Dayton School Board race

Late yesterday, Jerry Brunswick and John Lumpkin both withdrew from the Dayton School board race.

This is the day before the the Montgomery County Dems are to meet to endorse.

This brings the race to the 3 incumbents, Rev. Robert Walker, Nancy Nearny and Sheila Taylor, vs. one challenger, John McManus.

Word on the street was that Brunswick and Lumpkin were Mayor Nan Whaley’s hand-picked candidates and that Matt Joseph helped them get their signatures.

Once again, “democracy” is thwarted by the Monarchy of Montgomery County.

This just went from an interesting race to not much of one.

Dayton School Board race to look like Republican Presidential Primary

Just pulling petitions doesn’t mean you’ll get on the ballot- unless you are a party-endorsed candidate in Montgomery County (they get their petitions checked for free by BOE employees on their “lunch break”).

According to the BOE site- here is who has pulled petitions, that are due on Wed. Aug 5th. You’d need 300 good signatures of registered Dayton voters to get on the ballot.

Incumbents in bold.

  • Jerome (Jerry) Brunswick, 426 E. Sixth St., Dayton 45402
  • Louis D. Butler, 2374 Rustic Rd., Dayton 45406
  • Ann Marie Gallin (Mario), 40 Gebhart St., Dayton 45410 Petition Fail 12 Aug 2015
  • Hashim Ali Jabar, 40 S. Decker Ave., Apt. 7, Dayton 45417
  • John A. Lumpkin, Jr., 1258 Hook Estate Dr., Dayton
  • John S. McManus, 35 S. St. Clair St., Apt 502, Dayton
  • Nancy A. Nerny, 482 Shiloh Dr., Dayton 45415
  • Anthony Dion Roebuck, 1406 Steiner Ave., Dayton
  • Sheila Taylor, 2818 Kenview Ave., Dayton
  • Robert Charles Walker, 4516 College View Dr., Dayton 45417

UPDATE

5 Aug 2015 Butler, Jabar, Roebuck didn’t file, now we wait to find out who had enough valid signatures

Unlike the Dayton City Commission, there is no primary to thin the herd. One ballot, pick three, and the top three win. Obviously, with more candidates, the incumbents, get a better shot at being known quantities and have a better shot.

Only one person has turned in petitions so far- John McManus. (full disclosure- my firm printed his signs and stickers) and he has been out walking longer than anyone else.

Thursday night I was presented with a dual candidate petition- for Jerry Brunswick and John Lumpkin. I’m not sure how these work- since you are allowed to sign up to 3 petitions, and I’d signed 2. Guess it’s first in and first name on the petition that gets the credit in these cases. The circulator told me the petition format of more than one candidate was OK on Russ Joseph’s advice- which means these are the chosen party candidates. Word on the street was that Mayor Nan was trying to round up candidates for School Board because she wasn’t happy with the board as it sits- for once, we agree. Brunswick served on her “City of Learners committee” which issued yet another report with all the obvious issues stated and no real revelations.

Mario Gallin is a wild card, she’s been on the board before and is well liked. Brunswick is a former bank president who is also the part-time head of the milked-out port authority. Lumpkin is a Joey Williams contemporary who played football at Ohio State, worked as a bank branch manager at Chase for a long time before becoming a stockbroker/private wealth manager with Morgan Stanley. Both are good guys and very civic minded.

Last time Nearny was on the ballot, it was only because the BOE was nice enough to reverse itself on the 3 or 4 signatures she was short. That doesn’t happen very often, if at all.

I don’t know Butler or Roebuck off the top of my head. Of the other newcomers, there is only one that I’m not a fan of- and that’s Ali Jabar who likes to scream at people and try to incite racial issues as the cause of all ills. He’s married to the woman formerly known as Maria Holt now Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, and is tied in with Vernalia Randall, a former UD Law Professor , with “Racial Justice Now,” who rightly campaigns against the “school-to-prison pipeline” but does so in a manner I find insulting most of the time.

Of the existing school board members, all are caring and good people, who’ve been totally ineffective and visionless for the district. Not an original idea for transformation from any of them, and never a serious questioning of the Teflon-coated superintendent, Lori Ward.

While being the highest paid elected official in the county, Ward has muddled through one crisis after another, without making any real progress for years. Talented teachers, principals and administrators have jumped ship, tired of waiting for her to plug the many holes on the sinking ship. Some of her hires have been incredibly questionable, including former “Chief Operating Officer” James Harris who barely unpacked by DPS standards before they parted ways.

With the state just itching to throw the district under the bus, and a state “takeover” on the near horizon, anyone wanting to run for this board should get bonus points. This upcoming term, plus having to work with Hazel Rountree (she’s proof that degrees and positions don’t prove that you have any idea of what you are doing) should be enough to scare anyone off. The last election we only had four candidates on the ballot for four seats if that’s any kind of indication.

Looking online for candidates’ websites (so you can actually learn something about them and their positions) is like finding needles in a haystack. Of course it doesn’t matter, because the voters who are going to pick them are notoriously underinformed and make lousy choices (the current Dayton City Commission is a prime example).

A quick search-

If any of the candidates (and I know most of you will find out about this post) have a site they want to direct voters to, let me know via comments below.

Frankly, other than McManus, y’all look mighty unprepared (the drawl is because if you’ve met McManus, you know he sounds straight out of Tennessee, probably because that’s where he’s from). One pro, a bunch of amateurs- sounds just like the Republican Presidential Primary field, and I’ll leave it to you to guess who I think the pro is.

It will be a week from Tuesday to see how the BOE thins the herd.

A plan for the Dayton Public Schools

Saying that Dayton Public Schools are second worst in the state is similar to saying that all Muslims are terrorists. It’s great for headlines, it’s great for political speeches, and putting the district “under review” isn’t going to help. What will help is real change.

The first thing to realize is that Stivers doesn’t need help. It’s a Dayton Public School that’s working. Is it a model for the rest of the district- yes and no. Is there a single silver bullet like “mo money” or “better teachers” that will solve the problems- no. There is no Walmart of educational solutions where you can shop and buy 100 new reading specialists to improve your third grade reading scores- they just aren’t available.

And, a warning – this post is sure to piss off a lot of union teachers. Not because I don’t think you work hard, or aren’t paid enough, but that I think it’s time your profession owns up to the reality that your work schedule was designed around an agricultural economy that is so far back in the history books that if it had a copyright it would have been in the public domain before the Internet and project Gutenberg came along.

To briefly summarize why our schools aren’t competitive, we have to look at what began the great slide to the bottom. “Busing for integration” might have worked if it had a fixed ecosystem and the students didn’t have the option of opting out either by moving or going to private schools (now compounded by the option of just as mediocre publicly funded charter schools). Racial segregation was replaced by economic segregation- and in every study known to man, there is a direct, incontrovertible relationship between poverty and poor school performance. We’re not going to get more wealthy smart kids moving back into the district anytime soon- even if we stop letting outsiders buy their way into Stivers (which is a dirty little secret).

So the question becomes how to change the system to work better for poor kids than for better well off kids? How do you nurture children better on a part time basis? First step, you move to a full time basis. This is the heretical statement that is the key to making a real change. It’s the realization that you can’t half ass anything and expect different results.

Here are the three changes that must be made, and there isn’t anyone with the balls to say or do it, but anything less, will not change outcomes:

–End the 180-day school year.

For comparison: http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/educatio/barr2f.htm

Japan 243 New Zealand 190
West Germany 266-240 Nigeria 190
South Korea 220 British Columbia 185
Israel 216 France 185
Luxembourg 216 Ontario 185
Soviet Union 211 Ireland 184
Netherlands 200 New Brunswick 182
Scotland 200 Quebec 180
Thailand 200 Spain 180
Hong Kong 195 Sweden 180
England/Wales 192 United States 180
Hungary 192 French Belgium 175
Switzerland 191 Flemish Belgium 160
Finland 190

What have all these other countries done? Made school more like what a real job is like. Prepared kids for a world where you don’t get three months off in the summer. Note, most of these countries also afford their people more than the two weeks of paid vacation which is becoming a pipedream to many Americans.

More days in school isn’t the only part of the equation, it’s about what they do in school, how they approach the educational process. Common-core skills are more like real-life skills- being able to synthesize answers and solutions- through collaboration, research and analysis. These real-life skills often are best learned in what we’ve called extra-curricular or arts and sports programs. Unfortunately with transportation schedules currently ruling and limiting our time with students outside of the normal school day- many of these enrichment programs were cut. And let’s face it- teachers are the only ones who have a 6-hour designated work day with a 180-day year qualifying as a “full time job.”

It’s time to reexamine why our school day doesn’t equal the parents’ work day- not just for adding extra-curriculars- but for the fact that child care for impoverished homes isn’t a luxury- it’s a necessity. Along with the longer year- comes the longer day. It’s time for a 9-5 minimum school day.

The schedule is also critical- year-round schools show much less drop off, the dreaded summer slide goes away. Why a district in “academic emergency” isn’t on a full-year schedule as the first step is beyond comprehension. So, a longer school year (on a year-round schedule), with longer school days and and the reintroduction of the arts- sports, the extracurricular activities that made school worth going to, are key to making positive change happen.

All this costs money of course, but so do drop-outs who will be a burden to society for the rest of their lives by being unable to compete, to earn, to stay out of trouble. The costs of unprepared graduates also costs in the form of remedial courses at the college level, where costs are the responsibility of the student and their families- or, through more money in government grants and assistance.

We already know the effects of poverty on education, we pay for it by supplying meals to all Dayton Public School students “free of charge” (paid for by the taxpayers) because these are often the only meals these kids get. By extending the school day, and the school year- we may see better chances for poor parents to shift child care expenses to being able to cut food insecurity out even more.

We also have to look at how we’re educating kids. More and more, it’s become a matter of teaching to the tests requiring huge expenditures on new course materials driven by a mega business in educational materials that lobbies for “standards” that are ever changing. It’s time to get off this merry-go-round and realize that the world has changed, and that anything you want to learn about is available for free, on the internet. The text book is dead, and the fancy solutions that they are offering as rentals is another educational fad- driven by dollars that are there to be sucked out of government by the industiral-educational machine.

It’s absolutely critical that we learn to teach using the age-old Socratic method.

Socratic method (also known as method of elenchus, elenctic method, or Socratic debate), named after the classical Greek philosopher Socrates, is a form of inquiry and discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas.

This is what the “common core” is- a branded and packaged version of education.

Give the kids access to a digital reader- and there are tens of thousands of free books available via Project Gutenberg and others, that are perfectly capable of being used as reading texts. Books were written before 1923 that were worth reading. We read The Scarlet Letter in High School and it’s just as appropriate today as it was then- but we had to buy our copy. That’s no longer necessary if you have the technology in place.

Part of the common-core skill set should include researching and writing your own textbooks. The skills of adding to Wikipedia, building websites and online communities is critical for future knowledge workers- but we’ve not incorporated these skills into the curriculum- because we’re too busy working on jumping though hoops- instead of creating our own challenges. In the extended school day, school year- part of it should include writing your own books, creating your own math tests, devising your own chemistry experiments, writing your own music- because these are the real world skills you were supposed to gain under ANY educational framework- and have been sorely missed by all industrialized educational systems.

There is one other realization that must be made- and that is that all of our kids aren’t in homes that are fit for living in. Either because of extreme poverty, violence, addiction, special needs, Dayton has a population that is under incredible duress, where school is the only sane place in their young lives. It’s time to have a residential/boarding school as one of the options in the educational process. Either for short-term, or long-term students, to remove them from toxic influences. I’d recommend converting the former Marine Reserve Station on Gettysburg into a campus for kids who need more love and protection than most. An attempt was made to open one in Cincinnati- and failed. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea or impossible. It just means we’d be innovators like the Wright Brothers- because everyone knew they were crazy and man couldn’t fly.

Because we’re still stuck with a charter school system that requires Dayton Public to breast feed- one of the things that makes all these things difficult is that kids aren’t connected to neighborhoods anymore. One option that should be investigated is to bus kids back to the closest neighborhood school for the extended after-school programming- the arts, sports, coding and homework time after the “conventional” school day is done. This also allows parents and community to get involved in their children’s programming for tutoring and coaching. something the random distributed system we have now isn’t allowing for. Research has proven that parental involvement is a critical step in improving schools- but with current distribution of kids randomly throughout the district- it’s hard to form hard community and neighborhood bonds. Ideally, we’d move away from spending so much on diesel fuel attempting to “balance” an unequal system- but, for now, we’re sort of stuck with the system we have. Emerson Academy in South Park, a charter school, has a high percentage of neighborhood kids- and still doesn’t have the community as involved in the programs as possible. I’m hoping to bridge that gap in the coming months by beginning a literacy and reading program at the school on Saturdays for all ages.

There are no easy silver bullets to turning around school districts- no number of consultants, no new dollars, no supply of super teachers exist using our current structures. Throw those constraints out and try a different systemic solution and see what happens. Because from where I’m observing- there is only one way for the district to go from second from the bottom- and that is up.

Kasich appoints A.J. Wagner to State School Board

Just in:

A.J. Wagner of Dayton (Montgomery Co.) has been appointed to represent District 3 on the State Board of Education. He will assume the seat on August 4, 2014, and must run in November 2014 to retain the seat for the unexpired term ending December 31, 2017. Wagner is replacing Jeffery J. Mims, Jr., who resigned.

The State School Board is woefully short on people who have common sense and really care about our kids. A.J. will be a good addition.

As far as I know, there were no other candidates running in the November election.