And one worthless meeting beget another

Dayton Board of Education held a 2 hour meeting last night and not a single child was served.

It was falsely billed as a “Strategic Planning Meeting” yet, there was no strategy, nor planning. However, there were bad sandwiches, fruit, cheese, crackers and punch, and a consultant who should refund her fees.

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Ambush handout passed out halfway through the meeting by Kathy Hollingsworth click to download PDF

The agenda wasn’t an agenda. And why we’re busy introducing the outgoing board members to members of the administration at all is a mystery. But, that’s what consultant Kathy Hollingsworth wasted our time with- then ambushed everyone with a document outlining what we should have been prepared to talk about- half way through:

1. When do we meet? For what purpose?
2. How is information disseminated? Officially? Informally?
3. How can I feel heard?
4. How can I request and receive information?
5. Who is my “go to” contact?
6. Is there a mentor I can meet with to learn and reflect?
7. How do Board Members interact with the Administration? With individual schools? Teachers?
8. Who speaks for the Board? To the press? Etc.?
9. How is feedback given & received?
10. What is the purpose and role of the President of the Board? Vice President?
11. What is the role of the Superintendent, Treasurer, other administrators with the Board?
12. What is the role of the Board as compared to the role of administration?
a. Example models: Sinclair Model, Mary Connors presentation, Center for Public Education Study 2011
13. How do you deal with being surprised when a parent, teacher or community leader says, “Did you know about X” and you’ve never heard about the incident?
a. Are there other scenarios that will make you feel uncomfortable?

Since it wasn’t on the agenda, it shouldn’t have even made it in the meeting.

And, frankly, this is the superintendents job, to define the vision and the operational modes of the board/superintendent/public.

This is why we pay the superintendent $200K a year and board members $5k a year.

Then there was a discussion about adding yet another meeting (on top of the two final meetings already set for the remainder of the year and Lacey/Rountree/Lee’s terms). This one to discuss who will be board president, vp and who gets assigned to various committees. Clue to superintendent who creates the agenda (for the board to review and act upon)- why weren’t these positions all listed on this agenda, with roles and responsibilities- and a briefing given? That’s how we do these things- not ambush new board members, ask them to meet AGAIN, before seated, to prepare for their terms?

It’s this kind of stupidity that gets us where we’ve been. It shows no signs of change, even though board member elect Karen Wick-Gagnet clearly stated that unless times are slotted on discussion, and items clearly identified on the agenda, she wasn’t going to have any part in it. Word to the staff- time to get your act together, or prepare to be embarrassed. Some people have real lives- and don’t want to be an actor in your three ring drama circus that’s been pretending to be a school board meeting.

After two hours of your favorite movie, book and Dr. Roberson and Rev. Harris finding out they share a birthday (Sept. 3, 1961) the board went into executive session with the board attorney Jyllian Bradshaw and hired gun Beverley Meyer to discuss a personnel matter (Rhonda Corr). They came out at 8:30 and adjourned. No new news.

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Board agenda- click to download PDF

The only thing Hollingsworth had on the agenda in advance were these two instructions:

Introduction to the iiChange Dialog Process

Rules of engagement for the evening

Who are we? What do we want?

  1. Tell us something about you, do you have family? What do you like to do for fun? What’s your favorite book or movie? Why? Use the question ball for additional questions.
  2. Why did you choose to be (become) a school board member? A member of the Administration?

Integrating the past and current with the future

  1. What is good that is happening in the District that we want to keep?
  2. How can we honor those who have gone before us and build on what exists?

All this could have been done in a survey- and presented in advance. As to “honor those who have gone before us”- For Dr. Adil Baguirov- time in prison. For the leaving board members- unpaid time in depositions to ascertain how Corr was hired, how she was given a contract raise and extension and how her evaluations were glowing, despite all the faults that were identified and used to put her on paid leave.

For the remaining three board members- resignations for failure to follow up on the Baguirov residency, and for the modifications of the draft Corr evaluation to their final glowing report.

Then we can get around to building a new dynamic of what and how a board and superintendent act and respond to the needs of the community. Less meeting, more action, less talk, more do, and a real plan with no more than three objectives. Go!

And, get your money back from the “consultant.” She failed.

The ripple effect of Corr failure

The upcoming firing of Superintendent Rhonda A Corr from Dayton Public Schools for cause will undoubtedly bring a whole host of other issues, lawsuits, and claims against the district.

The crisis management skills of Interim Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli will be tested daily. When Corr claimed she had no idea of why she was placed on leave, the district should have responded that day with “Rhonda Corr and her attorney’s were informed of the basis of her dismissal for cause, but have not been given the final document. For her to say that she has no idea is just one more indication of her unsuitability to lead our district and her denial of facts and the bending of truth. Our community deserves better.”

That didn’t happen. But, what can you expect from an interim Superintendent on her second day on the job?

What really needs to be examined is how did we get here?

And that starts with the school board who didn’t renew Superintendent Lori Ward’s contract, dismissed treasurer Craig Jones and passed over internal candidate David Lawrence who was later paid to go away.

This is what happens when you let a fox run the hen house.

The fox, was the carpetbagger board member Dr. Adil Baguirov, who ran un-opposed and uninvestigated supposedly at the prompting of existing board member Joe Lacey.

Baguirov’s background has him tied to international lobbyists who were under constant investigation for influence peddling and bending the rules. Much the same thing that he did while on the board. The other 6 board members allowed him to bully them constantly and most of the time, he had his way. This board was complicit in every mistake Rhonda Corr made, mostly because her main supporter, Baguirov was using her as a smokescreen for his own questionable behavior on deals like the sale of Patterson Co-op property to CareSource where he had a conflict of interest and the purchasing of the buses with a 10 year warranty (when the buses are projected to have a 7 year life span). Much of this has been covered previously, but the key questions remaining was why the board, the superintendent and others failed to act when his residency issue was brought up first on April 5, 2017 and then again on election day Nov. 7 2017.

It is clear that he was the key force behind the re-write of Ms. Corr’s annual performance review- where the board was goaded into changing the original responses to glowing because of the optics of a less than stellar review would fit with the awarding of her 3 year contract.

That Board President Reverend Doctor Robert Walker  (the title BS has to stop) agreed to sign both the re-written performance review and the complaint against Corr, says he is as criminally complicit in Corr’s failings as she is, and he should resign immediately.

Other questions that remain is how Corr convinced the board to buy out David Lawrence, in light of the investigation of racial bias brought forward by Dr. Markay Winston. While the investigation didn’t find anything substantially wrong with Corr’s behavior to Winston based on race- it did showcase complete and total insanity in operational functionality by the district leadership under Corr with the oversight of this board. If anything, the charges against Corr, which go entirely against what the boards final performance review said, should be grounds for their termination for cause.

There are still questions about the ousting of Charity Early Principal Peggy Burks, the hiring of Dr. Donetrus Hill at Meadowdale (another risky hire), the rushed contract for athletic director Mark Baker and a host of other questionable actions that were all done with board consent.

The only real option to move past this crisis is to have the remaining board members who are leaving, resign immediately, and the remaining three- submit their resignations to the newly elected board for them to choose whether to allow them to continue to serve.

An independent review panel should be put in place to evaluate every decision made by Corr and signed off on by the board over the course of her tenure, to evaluate processes and procedures that should have been in place or that weren’t followed so as to rebuild trust and integrity into a system that has lost all credibility after this debacle.

This could become a case study for rebuilding a district with best practices in HR, policy and procedure- or it could turn into a nasty web of lawsuits that never end.

The lynch pin in all of this is Baguirov. If Corr pursues a legal defense instead of going away quietly, there will be epic legal bills and a treasure trove of testimony via deposition that will peel back the cloak of confusion that has run amok in DPS for the last few decades.

Word is Rhonda Corr is planning a press conference this morning with her attorneys. Another bad move.

But what would one expect?

What will cause Rhonda Corr to be shown the door?

From her first presentation to the community I thought Rhonda Corr wasn’t ready for running a district with as many problems as Dayton has. The last year and a half has shown I was right.

Screen shot of board of ed agenda

Adil was still on the board this afternoon.

Tomorrow night, the Dayton Board of Education is set to meet in a hastily called extra meeting to discuss the issue of “preschool.” Note, there are no items to vote on, there is no posted set of options, or points of discussion. It’s the most uninformative agenda known to man. Until I pointed it out this afternoon- it also still had Adil Baguirov listed as a board member- but, that’s been fixed.

There is no mention of executive session, but, from what I’ve heard, there will be one.

I still don’t have a copy of the investigative report that was ordered by the board attorney after former Assistant Superintendent Dr. Markay Winston left the district and claimed discrimination. 

According to Board Member Joe Lacey, who spoke to the Dayton Daily News after the board meeting where Corr was put on admin leave, it wasn’t discrimination that was the cause, it was something else the investigators found.

This, of course, is what makes investigative reporting a challenge, and despite having lots of other stuff to do, I started digging.

First thing I found was that Dr. Winston hadn’t filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County, but Rhonda had filed for a divorce. Apparently, there was an issue with her filing locally, since her spouse lived in Cleveland still. There, I found the filing, and that there was a restraining order against both parties, however, the “rule 24” seems to be used on every divorce. The only surprise is that she’d been married to a woman.

She had filed to divorce a Cheryl A. Dzuro of Cleveland on 3 Oct of 2017. Dzuro currently works as an Athletic Director for Cleveland Public Schools.

On the 20 of Oct, another divorce filing in Cuyahoga county was made– with Cheryl as the Plaintiff- and in the docket there was this entry:

DEFT’S MOTION TO DISMISS COMPLAINT FOR DIVORCE #405864 FILED NOVEMBER 6, 2017,IS HEREY GRANTED. ALL RESTRAINING ORDERS HERETOFORE ISSUED ARE RELEASED AND DISSOLVED. COSTS TO DEFT. O.S.J. NOTICE ISSUED COURT COST ASSESSED TO THE DEFENDANT(S).

They were married July 7, 2007 in Provincetown Ma, and “incompatibility” was cited for the reason for divorce. Never mind that Corr had moved to Chicago in 2013 and then to Indianapolis in 2015  and then to Dayton in 2016 , while Dzuro staid put. Timing of job changes and marriage don’t point to any problems from Cleveland with an inappropriate relationship between co-workers.

Divorce isn’t grounds for being put on admin leave, so goose egg there.

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Rhonda A Corr Resume- pre-Dayton. PDF- click to download

Searching for info on Corr was made more difficult because she’s gone by so many different names. When she first came to town- it wasn’t Corr-Dzuro, or Rhonda Dzuro, it was Corr- Sergert. Apparently she’d married Bradley J. Saegert March 15, 1986 in Loraine Ohio, when she was 20- and I couldn’t find the divorce. Brad has moved on from what I could see.

One little surprise was when she was still Rhonda Saegert, and was arrested and charged with DUI in 2002 in Elyria/Norwalk.  That isn’t cause for dismissal either, at least not with the speed that this board operated with.

It had to be something bigger. I started to think either she lied about qualifications, or committed a heinous crime. Checking all her names, and Cleveland, Chicago, Indianapolis and Dayton, I kept coming up with goose-eggs, but did find a copy of her resume.

Maybe it will come in handy for review when we finally find out what the investigation turned up.

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PDF of first and second drafts of Rhonda Corr performance evaluations- click to download

The only other item I had to review was the draft and final copies of her performance review. The two documents are as different as night and day. The first draft, done by and signed off by the committee which included Joe Lacey and Dr. Hazel Rountree said Rhonda still needed work in more than a few areas. She needed work on taking responsibility instead of blaming others, mediating and working with people she disagrees with, her insight on big picture items was questioned, district management and educational programs weren’t her strong suite either.

By the second draft- which was abbreviated, she needed work in Leadership skills, Responsiveness, Cooperation and Insight.

The final draft- signed off on by Dr. Walker and Ms. Corr, didn’t have any deficiencies. She was Wonder Woman. Normally on documents like this, the committee chair would also sign off- but McManus’s signature is absent.

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PDF of final Rhonda Corr performance evaluation- click to download

Ruminations of an intervention on this by Dr. Baguirov in his waning days of being the bully of the boardroom, were given as the reason the final review was so good. Of course, when the board can’t admit is made a mistake, the last thing you do is say so be evaluating your mistake as an A+ performer.

What’s crazy is that before the Board went into executive session, they were considering voting to give Rhonda reimbursement for something from 2016. I’d protested this late addition to the agenda, and as usual, the amount and reason for this action were missing.

I’ve requested that info as well and received nothing.

What will happen in the next days or weeks in the pending action against Corr will be interesting.

The real problem is that this important action is taking place with three lame duck board members, Dr. Rountree, Ron Lee and Joe Lacey (Baguirov resigned after I pushed the day after I proved he no longer lived in the district). The board rightfully added Rev. William Harris, the highest vote recipient in the November election. This puts the incoming board on the outside of the process- and leaves them with little room for legal input on the decisions being made. If Lee, Lacey and Rountree are just feeling a sense of responsibility for fixing their mess- fine, but wouldn’t it be better to do the hand-off sooner than later? Remember, the DEA had voted no-confidence in both the Superintendent and the board. Moving to the new board would help mend fences- since the DEA endorsed all of the new board members.

There are plenty of posts about Corr and her turmoil, going back to the mid-school year RIF that was miffed, the sale of properties, the failure to award contracts on their own timeline, the buyout of David Lawrence who was passed over by this board, her contract, the Mark Baker contract, the strike- the list is long. I didn’t ingratiate myself by writing this really long post back on Nov 17 of 2016, The calamity named Rhonda Corr or the more recent post where I called her, well, the headline says it all: Rhonda Corr, the sociopath superintendent, those aren’t words that come easily to post, but when you post every single job as a move against your core employees- there weren’t any other words to use. Yet, even after that fiasco, the school board president was willing to sign off on a glowing performance review.

When we finally do find out what caused the board to place Rhonda on admin leave, one has to ask if Dr. Walker, who signed off on the glowing review that didn’t match the early drafts, has any business staying on the board. I’ve called for all three to tender their resignations to the new board once they take office, since the DEA has no faith in them. These issues will need revisiting.

When the board first started interviewing Corr, a scathing comment warned off her unsuitability to lead anything more than an Easter Egg hunt, but I took it down because it included many unsubstantiated claims. Maybe soon, we’ll find out if they were true.

 

 

The “Baguirov effect?” Or last minute CYA by current board as they exit?

A late addition to the new business of today’s Dayton Public Schools Board of Education meeting agenda- a first reading of change in policies of disclosure.

One can only wonder if this is because of Federal law- or because Dr. Baguirov was routinely not abstaining- but actively participating in contracts that could be potential conflicts of interest. Both the CareSource deal- which may pose a conflict since he’s an owner of a Home Health firm- and the bus deal, where he owns a trucking company and does business with the firms that the Board buys from- were very questionable.

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DPS board gets official all of a sudden- as they exit.

From the new policy- note there is an odd either or option for procurement, but the second clause states:

The District will follow the procurement standards outlined in previous OMB guidance during the grace periods established. Effective with July 1, 2018 fiscal year, the District will comply with the federal procurement standards established through the Uniform Guidance.
4. Conflict of Interest and Mandatory Disclosures
The District complies with the requirements of State law and the Uniform Guidance for conflicts of interest and mandatory disclosures for all procurements with federal funds.
Each employee, board member, or agent of the school system who is engaged in the selection, award, or administration of a contract supported by a federal grant or award and who has a potential conflict of interest must disclose that conflict in writing to the Treasurer. The Treasurer discloses in writing any potential conflict of interest to ODE or other applicable pass-through-entity.
A conflict of interest would arise when the covered individual, any member of his/her immediate family, his/her partner, or an organization, which employs or is about to employ any of those parties has a financial or other interest in or receives a tangible personal benefit from a firm considered for a contract. A covered individual who is required to disclose a conflict will not participate in the selection, award, or administration of a contract supported by a federal grant or award.
Covered individuals will not solicit or accept any gratuities, favors, or items from a contractor or a party to a subcontractor for a federal grant or award. Violations of this rule are subject to disciplinary action.
The Treasurer discloses in writing to ODE or other  applicable pass-through-entity in a timely manner all violations of federal criminal law involving fraud, bribery, or gratuities potentially effecting any federal award. The Treasurer fully addresses any such violations promptly and notifies the Board accordingly.

There may also be a Mark Baker clause- in the addition of policy on use of school buildings:

“2. No building is used for commercial or personal gain.”

There were reports that Mr. Baker was using building in the summer for private basketball tutoring, and when questioned, the district would not release relevant security footage proving the allegations, or show the building use request forms that Mr. Baker would have had to turn in.

Also included is policy on searches of students and interrogations by law enforcement. That this is coming up now, as old board members depart- for new board members to vote on, without proper community discussion is evidence of a bigger issue: why now?

The rules are particularly vague when pertaining to electronic devices – being cell phones or school issued computers:

The following rules apply to the search of school property assigned to a student (locker, desk, etc.) and the seizure of items in his/her possession.

There is also a section on strip searches:

Strip searches should be discouraged. A substantially higher degree of certainty (more than a reasonable belief) is required prior to conducting such a search. In cases in which school officials believe a strip search is necessary, law enforcement officials should be called to conduct the search.

Note- all of these rules, seem to be dancing around the fact that students, as minors, can not, and should not, be expected to know their rights, yet some of these searches could lead to criminal charges.

If I was a parent of a DPS student, I’d be incredibly cautious of allowing these rules to take effect without demanding that a legal advocate be present for the student before any of these searches take place.

What’s more concerting is that these are being proposed AFTER it was rumored that Dayton Police, acting on behalf of Children’s Services were in a high school to collect DNA samples from football players to determine if any of them are baby daddies to a staff member.

If there is a subject that should be discussed with the community in public open forum, this is it.

Instead, it seems to be trying to slide under the radar during regime change.

I highly advise you to read the whole document.

And one last thing. Although Board Docs has improved. without properly labeling this document with the actual issues contained in it- with a summary, adding a ADA compliant PDF isn’t enough to meet ADA requirements. Labeling it 1st Reading with the date- gives no insight to what it contains. This is why the entire public information system needs a revamp, if it is to be compliant for public records.

First steps to return DPS to stability

On Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017, the Dayton Board of Education will install Rev. William Harris on the board to the seat vacated by Dr. Adil Baguirov who finally had to resign because he didn’t live in the district.

Unfortunately, Joe Lacey, Ron Lee and Dr. Hazel Rountree didn’t tender their early resignations to allow Mohamed Al-Hamdani, Jocelyn Rhynard and Karen Wick-Gagnet to also take their seats early. Considering the board has a no confidence vote from the Dayton Education Association, the sooner the new board (which the DEA endorsed) takes office, the sooner the healing process can begin.

It’s also time to change some things about the way the meetings are run. First and foremost is to explain to the Superintendent that an agenda, in order to be effective, needs to be posted to the public site by Thursday at 5pm before a Tuesday meeting. Any changes, additions, “emergencies” better come with a damn good reason- as in, the person requesting the changes will stand in front of the board and explain why they couldn’t turn in their issue on time. They will have a disciplinary note added to their personnel file for each time this happens. The documentation must be complete- posted as a time stamped, ADA compliant single PDF. We can cancel Board Docs which isn’t ADA compliant. Isn’t mobile friendly, and isn’t searchable- at least the way it’s being used now.

If this isn’t acceptable, a different system can be put in place for posting of agendas.

Another issue is the number of meetings. There will never be a vote at anything but a business meeting, ever again. If there will be a vote, there has to be opportunity for public review- and comment.

All the “committee” meetings- will cease, until actual agendas are created, published- and reported back to a public business meeting. There will be no more hiding of business in committee, or discussion of public business without a video record. All committees must make reports with actual metrics- goals and progress reports. Committees that can’t do this- will cease to exist.

Each meeting will begin with an actual report by the Superintendent or designee, on progress on identified key performance indicators. Suggested initial metrics:

  • Student attendance, broken down by school, grade, race.
  • Staff attendance, broken down by union, building, classification.
  • Computer usage, performance metrics from academic improvement software applications.
  • Suspensions, Expulsions, Discipline, broken down by age, building, race.
  • Transportation ratings
  • Enrollment figures
  • Student performance/behind, on-track/advanced

Next will be follow up on outstanding issues as brought up during board meetings. Each issue must be designated open, on-hold, closed. Any time a board member speaks, it must either be asking for a clarification on presented items, or to open an issue for resolution on an agreed to time table. There will be no tolerance for speeches from the board. If it’s not on the agenda, it will either be added during “New business” or it will be attached to a current agenda item. Any board member who violates this rule more than 3 times in a meeting will be asked to leave the meeting.

When a board member brings an issue up for clarification, they must be able to get at least two other board members to agree that this requires further investigation. If they can’t get two other votes, the issue will be considered a violation.

The board will no longer refer to anyone else on the board with the title of Dr. unless they have a PhD- since this is an academic organization and not a church. Divinity degrees mislead the public as to qualifications. Also, it is unnecessary to address each other with “Board member” “Vice President” or “Board President” – this is a waste of time and an unnecessary formality. Mr. Ms. Mrs. or Dr. are fine and appropriate. The board may return to formal titles when they actually have a district operating above a “C” in all State Standards, if they feel it is a title worth bestowing. Below average school districts shouldn’t reward mediocrity with formal respect until they’ve earned it.

Other than actual, mandatory business required to keep the district operating, this current board should not be allowed to dispose of any property, enter into long term or large contracts or extend any contacts of staff until the new board takes their seats. At that point, a full review should be started on issues and actions of the board dating back to when they were made aware that Dr. Baguirov didn’t live in the district- and their actions or inaction on following their own policy. Any board members who remain who failed to act, should be held criminally liable for failure to comply with board policy. This also applies to legal counsel, and others who should have investigated this issue.

Head of security, Jamie Bullens retirement is a starting point for an investigation. He should be properly deposed by an independent investigator as to what actions he was asked to do, by whom, and what was done.

An external investigation should also be conducted into the sale of the Patterson Co-Op site to CareSource, the purchase of the buses with their 10 year warranty on 7 year life expectancy vehicles and Dr. Baguirov’s illegal involvement in the contracting process, a review of both Superintendent Rhonda Corr’s and Athletic Director Mark Baker’s contracts. If Dr. Baguirov was a key factor- and he didn’t live in the district, both these contracts should be nullified. An investigation into the award of the marketing contract to the highest bidder- and then the change of direction to hire internally- also needs review. This change of direction shows a lack of competency by either the Superintendent or Purchasing or both. Within a 6 month period, the district did a complete U-turn, after not meeting their stated goals with either solution.

Last but not least, considering the DEA no confidence vote in the board and superintendent, the current remaining board members should all tender their resignations to the new board for consideration. It should be obvious, that their performance created the turmoil that caused an 8 way race and the loss by the only incumbent who ran. It’s time to bring stability back to the district.

The days of packed 4 hour meetings has to stop now. RESIGN, and let this district heal from your trespasses of trust, respect and dignity and move forward.

The most important Key Performance indicator will be seeing turnover of staff drop below 8% from the current 20%. We can’t run schools and a teacher/staff training facility at the same time.

For that to happen, we need clear, focused leadership. It will be up to the new board to see if Ms. Corr can actually run a district instead of a circus. If she can’t, I have two words for you: David White.