Battle of the bad school boards

The Esrati.com PollWhen I first ran for City Commission, Abner Orick was the director of the Board of Elections. He asked me “why don’t you run for school board first to get your name out?” I didn’t have kids in school, I didn’t understand politics in Dayton yet, and I didn’t realize that school boards are one of the most dysfunctional positions in the state of Ohio. It’s almost written into law to make sure you end up with a keystone kops krew- with no easy, specified way to remove a board, and allowing them to pick their own members when someone leaves. The fiasco with Adil Baguirov’s residency last year proved that there are no checks and balances on even the most basic rule- residency.

The pay is minimal- capped at $5000 a year (the cap had to come because Dayton routinely ran up huge board compensation with their over abundance of meetings).  The actual role of the board is convoluted- they are supposed to set policy and direction for the Superintendent- who is supposed to run the district. Most of the time- it’s the other way around.

All that aside, we have two school district boards and one college board of trustees that can’t seem to do anything right in the Dayton area- so, let’s have a little poll, and decide who should get the crown of incompetence for the first quarter of 2018.

Trotwood Madison Board of Education

Last week, the Trotwood School Board voted 4-1 to fire a teacher, Khalilah Forté, for cause. Forté organized a student college tour, outside of school, with private dollars. This, along with her taking a student into her home, against her principals warning, were the stated reasons. There is more to this story, including that the one school board member who didn’t vote to fire her, Norman J. Scearce III, was the past president of the group that sponsored the tour. All the kids who went on the tour, did so with parental approval. The student in question, had her parents leave the area- and she needed some place to stay until she graduated. 

I remember examples of this happening when I was in HS. In my day, the teacher would be praised for going above and beyond in looking out for the welfare of her students. Her personnel record was spotless in her 3 years at TM.

The district is ranked worst in the state, and just hired a new Superintendent. Students are unhappy with this decision to fire a teacher that went above and beyond for them and are threatening a walkout during testing week.

Dayton Public Schools Board of Education

In just the first quarter of the year, this BOE has redefined FUBAR, starting even before the 4 new members took office, with their an attempt at convening of a school closing task force closed to the public. Already working with an interim superintendent with a whopping total of 1 year experience in the district, they then hired her at a premium amount, for three years, without even opening the position to internal candidates. The bench clearing brawl that broke out at the end of a Thurgood/Dunbar basketball game ended up getting Thurgood tossed out of the tournament and Thurgood being put back in. They decided to waste a ton of money- and piss off the Ohio High School Athletic Association (the sports Mafia of the state) by taking them to court- even though the district was already under sanctions for the Dunbar/Belmont thrown football game attempt the year before. They won the suit, but Dunbar only won one game before getting knocked out. They lost in an appeal on the improper termination notification of former Treasurer Craig Jones. They lost a first round in a Sunshine laws case brought by me, pro se, against them for their task forces private bus tour of buildings to close.

The bus drivers union came to within two days of a strike- pushing some testing back a week. The demoting of the Belmont Principal 6 weeks before the end of the school year did nothing to stop the systemic problems of a school that’s over-enrolled and understaffed. There have been multiple calls for police intervention at the school since the change over to management by committee. The district also subverted  their own purchasing rules by sliding a contract for a PR survey by a Cleveland firm to the Montgomery County Educational Services Center. The district PR machine seems totally broken, with the non-renewal of Dr. Venita Kelly who was hired to manage the PR a year ago, along with a contract to the most expensive bidder on an RFQ last year. When the assignments for principals was made public last week- it came via Esrati.com- with the Superintendent only releasing an email to staff after the changes were public. And lastly, despite enrollment drops being a primary concern, procedures for enrolling students are still a mess- with some parents spending an entire day in the “enrollment center.”

Wright State Board of Trustees

It’s been a while since esrati.com covered much of the ongoing fiasco at my alma mater. Therefore, I’m not limiting the screwups to just the last quarter.

This board is about to put the university into fiscal ruin, and just two weeks ago, declared that $10M needs to be cut in 10 weeks. This didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a long steady progression into the abyss. While Dr. David Hopkins got to retire with a pension and with his dignity and immediately move to South Carolina so that he can’t be hauled back into court to pay for his sins, the board continues to oversee what can only be described as a train wreck.

The malfunctions all began when board members used WSU’s ability to bring over students that amounted to unlimited H1-B visas, so they could have cheap labor for their IT firms. Trustee Nina Joshi president and CEO of UES Inc. resigned after getting her hands caught in the cookie jar. Trustee Michael Bridges of Peerless Technologies managed to vote for WSU to hire his son for a $125K a year IT job, without the job even being posted. Either of these infractions would normally result in prosecution, but both got barely a hand slap. Bridges stayed on the board, his kids job offer revoked. Current board chairman, Douglas Fecher, the CEO of Wright Patt Credit union should have some explaining to do about how WSU bought his former HQ while he sat on the board.

The failure of WSU to execute and bring the Presidential debate to campus should have been an early indication of managerial malfeasance and an organization run amok, however it was just the easy target. Harder is the operation of a bunch of shell companies which have been spending money like they can print it, with no legitimate oversight- since they aren’t quite WSU, or anything else. The Wright State Applied Research Corporation and Double Bowler Enterprises both fall into the netherworld of quasi-governmental slush funds. That a bunch of former politicians, lobbyists and “economic development” types are tied in should set off alarm bells. The hiring of Jim “Lefty” Leftwich, who tried to represent both WSU and the State of Ohio on the same deal was just one indication that no adults are captaining the ship.

Labor relations at the university are at an all time low, with staff being told that it’s up to them to control costs, mostly by not spending money required to actually do their jobs. When the Trustee’s brought in an interim President to do the dirty work of slashing and burning bloat- they chose to not listen to Dr. Curtis McCray- and instead cut Swimming- but boosted athletics budget by a million for basketball. Now, with ten weeks left they are wondering where the money went.

The hiring of the new president drew a limited field thanks to the dire straights of the school. The eventual pick is an introvert, who has yet to figure out that her salary alone is part of the problem. If there is one place where pay for performance is indicated, it’s for “turnaround” leaders- and so far, she’s barely been able to point out where the cuts need to be made. First hint: paying former congressman Steve Austria $150K a year probably doesn’t win you any favors with the state.

Your three choices

We’ll quickly see which organization should win the prize for incompetence in the first quarter with this poll. Feel free to also leave any other pertinent issues that I managed to overlook in this post as comments. This poll is in no means scientific (we’d need to hire a consultant from Cleveland to do one of those…). I just thought it was time for something new.

 

Which Board Should Be Fired First?

Trotwood Madison School Board
Dayton Public Schools Board of Education
Wright State University Board of Trustees

DPS shuffles principals like a Vegas blackjack dealer

Mr. Collins was my elementary school principal. Mr. Allison, my Jr. High Principal. Mr. Ferraro my High school Principal. All had been there before me- and were there after me. Management and team building works best when your leaders don’t change.

What we really have for Dayton Public Schools leadership

DPS leadership.

That’s not the way DPS will work under Superintendent Libbie Lolli. Continuity is her enemy. Relationships don’t matter. Corporate culture in her book is spelled F-E-A-R.

The one school Dayton has that is successful, Stivers, hasn’t had changes at the top- or the turnover that’s rampant everywhere else. You’d think that would be a lesson to learn from.

After pulling Melanie Walters from Belmont with 6 weeks left in the year- to be replaced with an ad hoc rotating principal du jour, she’s now making her new fantasy draft into reality- and we’re looking at a third of the buildings or more under new leadership.

This is a budding list- there are holes still not filled in. There has been no communication with the community. Competent PR would have properly positioned these moves and shared the rationale with the community.

Dr. Donetrus Hill from Meadowdale HS will be Belmont’s principal.
Nelson Stone who just went to Dayton Boys Prep at the beginning of this year- is now going to Meadowdale.
Carla Goins from Louise Troy will be at Charity Earley.
Shawna Welch is leaving Wright Brothers- Edison Principal Basharus Simmons is going to replace her at Wright Brothers Middle School.

Therman Sampson from Meadowdale PK-6 is going to Dayton Boys Preparatory – since Meadowdale PK-6 is now Valerie.

Do you need a scorecard… yet?

Ponitz is rumored to lose all Principal Ray Caruthers and both vice principals; Debra Corbin and Julie Nighswander. Former Belmont Principal Walters who is there as a Vice Principal now- was set to retire after this year.

Embattled Dunbar Principal Crystal Phillips is going to Wogaman.

Edison Principal Basharus Simmons is going to Wright Brothers Middle School.

No answers on Dunbar, Ruskin or Edison now. Ruskin still may lose their beloved Principal Jennifer Dearwester, even though the site either still has HR Chief Judy Spurlock listed as principal- or Spurlock is going back as principal- according to their website.

We’ll update this post as information comes through the back channels.

Another bone of contention- Summer School won’t be taught by DPS teachers under contract, but instead by temps hired for $3 hr less. This shows the kind of backstabbing disrespect Lolli has for the district staff and the impotence of DEA chief David Romick. Apparently, all Lolli had to do was hire Romick’s daughter to do social media for athletics and talk to Romick frequently to get him to side with the administration on this. I can’t even imagine hiring competent staff to teach on a temp 3 month contract, my own employees aren’t even ready for prime time until after 90 days most of the time.

And lastly, at the last meeting, the head of the bus drivers union mentioned that the district had so far failed to pay the retro-pay for other union contracts in a timely manner- and he was warning Lolli not to lollygag on paying his union. The retro pay was to make up for the negotiated raises to be paid retroactively to when the contract should have settled. We may still see a work stoppage or strike if Treasurer Hiwot Abraha doesn’t get her act together.

Chaos didn’t leave with the last board or last superintendent. The only hope for DPS parents is that enough of them sign up for Dayton Public Preparatory so they can take over the entire district and put students and staff first.

UPDATE

less than an hour after this post- Lolli sent the following email out:

We are happy to announce the following administrative changes for the 2018-19 school year. Congratulations to each of our leaders!!

Charity Adams Earley – Karla Goins
 
Dayton Boys Prep Academy – Therman Sampson
 
Edison – Jessica Reese
 
Wogaman – Crystal Phillips
 
Wright Brothers – Basharus Simmons
 
Belmont – Dr. Donetrus Hill
 
Dunbar – Dr. Sean Henry
 
Meadowdale High School – Nelson Stone
 
Have a wonderful weekend.
Elizabeth J. Lolli, Ph.D.
Superintendent
Dayton Public Schools
115 S. Ludlow Street
Dayton, Ohio 45402
(937) 542-3530
Which still doesn’t answer some questions- but, hell, who cares who is in charge, state takeover is coming.

And the survey asked…

Well, Dayton Public Schools didn’t hire Burges and Burges directly, they hired the Montgomery County Educational Service Center to do their public perception survey for them. Naughty naughty. This is how you skirt scrutiny and keep things underwraps- and avoid having to go to bid.

This is why Dayton residents should be able to sit on the MCESC Board- since DPS spends a lot of money with them.

Here are the survey questions. They ask for 20 minutes- but- the recording I listened to- the interviewer wasn’t typing- but- it dragged on for over an hour. Time is money- and I’m sure DPS via MCESC will pay a pretty penny.

As a professional in the marketing field- these questions are highly open ended- and a lot of personal bias can be introduced in the summation. This isn’t the normal statistical style.

The interviewer said they are surveying about 40 people- and they had talked to “leaders, clergy, and colleges”- but- no parents.

The questions:

MCESC- is doing a survey for DPS-

20 minutes- anonymous

Compiling results to give to MCESC

How do you rate DPS- right direction/wrong direction

If you could see 5 years into the future- what do you think DPS would look like?

What are the most significant issues facing the schools- and what can be done to move forward-

6 areas under this:

  • School safety
  • Educational quality
  • Declining Enrollment
  • Facility issues
  • Poverty
  • Charter schools

What about DPS teacher- how do you think they are doing?

What about others- Support staff- bus drivers, administrators, etc.

Do you think DPS students are working up to their potential?

How well do you think the schools communicate with their teachers, staff the community?

Does the fact that a majority of the school board are new members give you concern?

How can DPS communicate and market themselves better- and do you think this will turn around the enrollment decline?

Do you think the stakeholders, the mayor, local colleges, etc are doing enough to help Dayton Public Schools

Is there anything else you’d like to add or suggest to the Dayton Schools or Community Leaders.

They are wrapping up these surveys this week- and then scheduling in depth ones later. They are looking for “informed insight”- not just people who are reading things in the news.

Thank you to my sources for supplying me with transcripts of their interviews.

 

 

 

 

 

The dirty on the District: DPS still can’t get it right

Apparently, without board approval, the board or Superintendent has hired Burges and Burges out of Cleveland- to do a survey of the perception of the district. This expenditure was NEVER listed for approval on any board agenda.

The survey started today. They are asking for people to respond to a 15-20 minute phone survey.

As if that wasn’t enough hocus pocus for one week- after already screwing with Valerie Elementary School- one of the few schools with a really strong parental involvement- this came through NextDoor.com

Ruskin Families: Some of you may be unaware but the Superintendent and Board are trying to terminate Ms Dearwester as Ruskin’s Principal. We are asking everyone to show their support by attending the Tuesday April 17 DPS Board meeting at 5. If you would like to speak you have to sign up by 4:45. People are wearing orange and black to show support. Please come and show your support for Our Principal!! Thank You

Ruskin is another school that has strong parental involvement. The only two left to screw with are Rivers Edge and Horace Mann. I’m sure those are up next in the grand plan to destroy the district.

Note the comment about showing up early to register- they are now requiring people to sign up at least 5 minutes before the meeting- and stipulate if it’s an agenda item or not- and limiting the number of non-agenda item speakers.

I don’t see any mention of Dearwester on the agenda, but, they are going into executive session about someone.

Other items of note- they are increasing the amount of money they are allocating to SUBASHI & WILDERMUTH:

Increase $50,000 to provide legal services to the district for various legal matters on an as needed basis for the 2017-2018 school year. Originally approved on June 2017 board agenda Board Agenda: April 17, 2018 $ 175,000.00 PR028544
Brian Wildermuth is the attorney on my case and on the Dunbar Basketball case and the Craig Jones case.
Word is from OHSAA that if the board doesn’t agree to pay OHSAA legal bills for that exercise, and fire a few people, Dunbar and or DPS may not be playing in any high school sports sponsored by the state.
thumbnail of Settlement Agreement and Release — DNK Architects

Click to download PDF

The board is also getting $1.5M from a settlement with DNK architects for a quit claim on the failures of both Wogamen and Louise Troy buildings. This is based on a contract from 2002.

Maybe Rev Harris will actually get the first vote correct on the acceptance of a resignation tomorrow. He’s failed every single one since he’s taken his seat.

DPS Enrollment: FUBAR

The messages started coming in this morning.

Seriously DPS enrollment center is a hot mess! People have been here since noon and not helped yet. I have been here since 1 and I bet I have another 2 hours to go. They have 2, maybe 3 people working. First day of enrollment, which is way late this year and they still can’t get their crap together !

Another:

They need a lesson on efficiency because wasting 6.5 hours for a 5 minute process is ridiculous. That would be a major turn off for someone new to the district to sit thru that process.

And another:

DPS enrollment center a disaster. Been here since 9:35 and still have over 20 people ahead of me to enroll. Only 2 people have been called back to enroll in the past hour or so. This is ludicrous.

7 hours…. I got there at 9:35 and didn’t get called back until 4:25
Once I finally got called back the employee doing our enrollment was nice and apologized for the wait, but 7 hours is insane
Go to any charter school and you’ll be in and out in 10 minutes.
And they wonder why enrollment is dropping?
But this isn’t a new issue at DPS.
I was doing work for Lori Ward back in 2010 when I was sent in to talk to Dr. Sheila Burton, who had a tiny office. I took one look at the copy of the copy of the copy of the enrollment form and knew I could help. Good thing I keep stuff- here was what they were using:
thumbnail of registration form 062411

This is the form DPS was using for registration in 2011 (click to open PDF)

It was fugly as we say in the business. Much of the time was also spent having a parent fill it in, then having someone try to read their writing- and enter it into the computer.

I spent time trying to explain to Richard Melson, their chief of IT- that you could swipe a State ID and fill out a large part of the data- and that we could set up a PDF that would allow direct entry- or a website to handle much of it. Or- to send the hand written forms off – to a mechanical turk for data checking and entry. All of this went straight over his head.

Here was the form redesign that we offered:

thumbnail of DPS TNW Registration Form v4

The form The Next Wave designed- which would you prefer to fill out? Click to download PDF

We also suggested making every single school a registration station, instead of the centralized office model. Why should parents have to trek downtown to register their kids when there is a building closer to home?

If you want to download the registration forms at home, good luck. Instead of a bundle- or one complete package- the pre-school registration page has 4 separate downloads. Then, it routes you to the Home access center- where you have to complete an account.

Compare all that mess to the webpage for Emerson Elementary at the end of my block: https://www.nhaschools.com/schools/emerson-academy/en/apply

Wow- that’s easy- and note, their website is secure- and DPS- in 2018, still doesn’t have a secure certificate on their site. The edict from Google on secure websites was in the spring of 2014…

The Dayton Public Schools enrollment center

You should be embarrassed to enroll your kids in DPS- and bored too.

Here is a photo of the waiting room- with people bored out of their gourds, I anonymized the photo so as not to embarrass anyone for sending their kids to DPS- when they could be registering to join Dayton Public Prep– which will run DPS the way real professionals would.

Note- the DPP website is secure.