Dayton neighborhood schools: Finally!

Twenty years after I ran for Mayor saying we needed a return to neighborhood schools, the school board has caught on. However, if anyone thinks this process is now going to go over easy- they are sadly mistaken.

After working so hard to “theme” and “brand” schools- and promote “choice” trying to go back is going to tick off all of the very parents whom the school was wooing so hard to believe in their new product. It’s as if after years of saying “buy American” all of a sudden GM was bought by a Chinese car company- and Chevrolet was still advertising “The heartbeat of America.”

Residents who’ve chosen their neighborhoods based on other factors- such as type of home- knowing they could pick their schools- all of a sudden may want to move (and it may not be within the city- esp. now that the residency rule is history), or, we may find principals who’ve ignored their local neighborhoods finally having to build relationships with people who are vested in their community. I know South Park has tried over the years to establish relationships with Patterson Kennedy- with limited results (often thanks to leadership shuffling by the Superintendent). Ruskin is a model of building a community relationship- but, it’s also a merged school between East End’s former Charter and a Dayton Public School. Not many other school principals in Dayton have played in this sandbox ever.

Here is an excerpt of what the Dayton Daily reported:

The Dayton Board of Education on Tuesday, May 18, voiced unanimous support for a proposed policy that would require most pre-K through eighth grade students to attend a school in their neighborhood rather than choosing where to go, as they do now.

Incoming Superintendent Lori Ward and Chief Academic Officer Jane McGee-Rafal outlined the proposed 17 “attendance areas” that would go into effect during the 2011-12 school year if approved by the school board. The board heard a first reading on the policy recommendation Tuesday night and a second could come in December after the public has had plenty of time to comment.

“We are creating a process to redesign the district and nothing will be done in an overnight manner,” McGee-Rafal said.

High school students would not be affected at this time, said Ward, the district’s deputy superintendent who will replace Superintendent Kurt Stanic on July 1.

Ward said the plan would include “an element of grandfathering” but added those details haven’t been worked out yet.

via Dayton kids may have to attend neighborhood schools.

The big question is if this will be a big boost to charters or not? Will DPS be able to draw the same attendance zones for the charters- and not have to bus those kids door-to-door? Will charters soon become the only option for “schools of choice” in Dayton? The DDN article mentioned the following schools as remaining choice schools:

“We would encourage parents to enroll their child in their designated attendance area unless they select what we classify as a districtwide school,” she said.

Those seven designated schools include Charity Adams Earley Girls Academy, Dayton Boys Prep Academy, the River’s Edge Montessori and the Preschool Academy at Jackson. They also include three others where students are assigned by other schools — Gardendale Academy and Gorman School for children with special needs, and Longfellow Learning Academy for students with behavioral issues.

As it stands now- Patterson Kennedy is an English as a Second Language (ESL) school- and looks like a veritable United Nations in the morning. Would that stop as well?

The amazing thing is- she’s not even Superintendent yet (officially she takes the job July 1)  Ward is the first Superintendent to state what’s been obvious since busing was first implemented- “Running kids all over the city isn’t producing the academic results.”  Which is a real gutsy move.

The reality is probably sadder- the cost of gas, buses and drivers- as well as the damage that’s been done to our community fabric over the last 40 years by this failed social experiment- is only finally meeting it’s death thanks to the end of cheap oil and a failing economy- not because it’s really been the right thing to do since day one.

The school choice system will be missed by some (including the smart principals who worked the system to cherry pick student populations to improve their building scores for “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB)- which was more evident at the High School level). However, the added layer of bureaucracy and complexity made choosing Dayton Public Schools even more difficult for exactly the kind of families DPS needed. My former neighbors had 3 kids they wanted to enroll at Horace Mann- but, since they weren’t able to be given any assurances of all three kids going to the same school- they chose to send them to Holy Angels- before they ended up moving to Seattle. I remember the year after this happened- Horace Mann was something like 1 kid short of getting out of academic emergency- so there were ramifications.

I’d planned to write a post about the crazy draconian rules that DPS follows that have hurt them- since I’m experiencing them first hand right now: my girlfriend is planning on moving in with me July 1- Summer is when most people with kids move after all. Yet DPS won’t allow her to register the kids until she has a bill in her name. Which led me to investigate if this holds true for the “audition” school, St. Ivers, I mean Stivers- only to find out that the principal there will “hold spots” for students moving in from out of town, once they’ve aced the audition. These are the dirty little secrets of the “school choice” program- and why going back to making choices based on where you purchase a home make sense.

The real question is how this will affect neighborhoods with the least expensive housing stock- especially on the West Side- where the foreclosure debacle has played out in grand fashion? Will the area around the new rec center become more popular- thanks to this policy (although the school will still be one of the “district wide” schools)? How will test scores change- and will the turnarounds as required by NCLB be more frequent in the poorer neighborhoods?

A lot will depend on the size of the 17 new “districts”- will parents still have some choice in schools- i.e. South Park parents being able to choose between Ruskin, Patterson Kennedy, or will the boundaries be really rigid.

What other carrots can the Superintendent throw in with this new plan? After school care? Neighborhood sports programs? It will be a PR effort of major proportion to properly frame this and implement it without seeing yet another exodus from the Dayton Public School system that cannot take yet another hit.

Your thoughts?

How does nepotism happen in City Hall?

Either we have rules and policies, or we don’t. It seems there are two types of people who work for our city- honest, hard-working qualified types- and those on the “friends and family” plan.

I’ve written about the cronyism before. I’ve written about the patronage jobs. I’ve questioned how some families seem to be entirely on the city payroll, and nothing changes. No outcry, no investigations, no examination of qualifications. I get anonymous calls about hiring of people without testing or even posting of the jobs. I know of “contract” workers who get a nice check without having any real accountability, and I’ve known about this for a while- the lawsuit by former IT head for the City, Bill Hill- for wrongful termination, after he was forced to hire Rashad Young’s grandfather who turns out to be into kiddie porn:

before he left to take a job in Cincinnati in 2002, Young was named acting assistant city manager. Hill claims Young urged him to hire his step-grandfather, Charles Evans, as deputy director of ITS, according to the lawsuit. Hill acted on Young’s suggestion….

Problems escalated when Hill issued a reprimand to Evans for violation of the city’s sick leave policy.

“Evans exploded in response, accused Hill of being a racist, indicated he would take the matter to his grandson, and threatened that Hill’s employment would be terminated …,” according to the lawsuit….

Federal investigators entered the fray in 2006 seizing computers, disc drives, VCR tapes, compact discs and DVDs from Evans’ office and home. He pleaded guilty in United States District Court in 2008 to one count of possession of child pornography.

via City pays $145,000 in bias case.

Because of the hiring of someone on the “friends and family plan” we have a lawsuit, a bunch of legal fees (which were probably 3x the cost of the settlement) a department in turmoil, a perception of incompetence, and to top it off, the taxpayers now get to pay the settlement costs- which would have kept 2 police officers on the streets next year.

It’s time for a full-out examination of every hire on the city payroll. It’s time to not only terminate people who were hired for whom they know, but to terminate the people who hired them. It’s time for a professional management team to step up and start acting like professionals, because frankly, we can’t afford any more of these lawsuits or settlement payouts.

It’s also time for the city to stop sandbagging with legal maneuvers on the illegal firing of city traffic signal electrician Victor Pate who was wrongfully terminated for moving to Jefferson Township when the residency rules were overturned. The cost of the outsourced lawyers by far exceeds the cost of paying Mr. Pate back his lost salary and benefits.

Real professionals own up to their mistakes and do the right thing. Apparently we don’t have them running city hall. Rashad Young, you are not missed. The citizens of Dayton should be suing Young to recover the settlement costs of this case. An investigation should take place on how Evans was hired, and if it is determined that Young broke hiring rules, his pension should be at risk. It’s time to start setting examples, and this might be a good place to start.

Let’s all use Husted logic in the next election

I’ve heard it a million times, I work in the city, I pay city taxes, yet I have no say in what goes on because I don’t live in the city.

Well, for those of you who own property within the city, with paid utilities, there is great news, you can now use the “Husted defense” and change your registration to vote in Dayton in the upcoming election. Just hurry, because registration ends this week.

I have to thank Jon Husted for this amazing gift he’s given me, just before the election:

State law requires that voters live where they are registered and that state legislators live in their districts. Brunner’s ruling only covers Husted’s voter registration. The issue of his 6th District senate seat is up to the Ohio Senate to decide, and Senate President Bill Harris, R-Ashland, has said he believes Husted is a Kettering resident.

Husted contends Brunner overstepped her authority by subpoenaing utility records and other documents she used as evidence in her ruling.

via Court has no jurisdiction over Husted’s residency dispute, says Brunner.

And, don’t worry, you don’t have to worry about the Secretary of State coming after you, because, well- the office has no power to investigate in Jon’s self-centered world.

Too bad Jon doesn’t own property in the City of Dayton too- he’d definitely want to vote here so he could  try to vote down the  2.25% income tax next time it comes up. You see he also has a ghost job at the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce that allows him to collect a big check without having to show up for work. The only person who turns the lights on in that office is the cleaning person- and they don’t have much to clean since Jon doesn’t really work there anymore than he really lives in Kettering.

So, remember, if you own real estate in Dayton- you now have permission to change your registration and vote here, courtesy of Jon Husted. Just do it quick.

With dead people donating to McLin, smear sites run by the Montgomery County Democratic Party, huge donations to incumbents from people they’ve only “met once”  and now “Husted logic” we’re getting close to having a complete mockery of the election process.

What makes us live in Dayton?

This is the magic post number 1000. It’s been a lot of words, a lot of thought, and a lot of time. Thanks to all who continue to read- and the smaller subset who participate.

Why do we live where we do?

If you are a City of Dayton employee, you lived in the city because you had to. That accounts for 2,100 or so of the 160,000 who are left in a city that once had around 250,000 residents. The rest of us live here by choice.

It’s not just a choice between living in Dayton or Oakwood, it’s Dayton or Memphis or Boston or Osh Kosh. That’s the beauty of America, you can live in any of fifty states and still be an American.

However, around here- it’s not all Dayton, until you leave town. Around here it’s Centerville, Springboro, Trotwood. All of them statistically insignificant on the global scale. Even within Dayton, we have people who live in Five Oaks and ones who live in South Park. Even more insignificant- or, if you really think about it- the most important, because your block is what directly affects your quality of life. Not any of those other entities defined by lines on a map.

If you have good neighbors, and good schools, good parks, good services and a nice home that you can afford and its future is good, you are a happy citizen. Take away any of those factors, let doubt set in, and you start thinking about a better investment, somewhere else. Face it, the number one reason young people move out of Dayton is when their kids hit school age. The other, is because they’ve lost faith in their neighborhood.

Residency rules are for wussies. It’s a desperate move to sell your product- a quality of life by law. The result- areas of Dayton that aren’t in the Dayton Public School district were full of City employees- just one more clear indication that legally forced solutions to socio-economic problems don’t work.

Busing killed this city. We replaced racial segregation with economic segregation and fueled the growth of the suburbs (which some how got overlooked by the Federal Judge- Oakwood still has practically no African American students, yet there is no forced busing there).

The discrimination of tearing apart Dayton’s neighborhoods with forced busing while the suburbs went untouched is one of the greatest crimes against a people since slavery was legal. It has cost us all.

Bringing back neighborhood schools is almost impossible as well. The damage has been done. The only real solution to rejuvenating our neighborhoods will be to empower them to build the community they want and deserve. It’s time to focus on helping each of the Dayton neighborhoods create after school programs, summer programs and neighborhood rivalry’s and relationships to get back to the basic building block of happiness- good communities. It’s time to dismantle the forced system of “Priority Boards” and enhance the Neighborhood groups. It’s time to connect with those who’ve chosen to live together in as many ways as possible, under a single simplified government. Think of it as the United Neighborhoods of Dayton- and start looking at the natural boundaries of a neighborhood instead of those drawn by planners, politicians and developers. We are living in the age of Social Capital connecting with Social Media and creating Virtual Communities- it’s time to put aside all these old walls, and build new bridges to the City we all want, for our mutual gain. Dayton will only rise again if we all agree to say no to the gloom and doom media, and find new leadership, new ways to communicate and new ways to live, work and play together.

To top it all off, for the first time in a long time, not only was I quoted intelligently in the Dayton Daily News, but, I was given the last words:

City Commission candidate David Esrati called the residency rule a major stumbling block toward moving Dayton to a regional government that would have to be abolished before talks of UniGov could move forward.

“The real issue is that people should want to live in Dayton because of the things we do right, not because we want to limit the rights of our employees,” Esrati said.

via Survey: City workers likely to move out of Dayton.

It’s time to do right by Dayton, we all live here together.

If you like the ideas in this post, and others on this site, please consider a donation to my campaign to join the Dayton City Commission so we can work together to have the City we want.

Ohio Supreme Court kills residency requirements

Although we’re sure to see an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court within days, the Ohio Supreme Court just dealt another blow to Dayton finances:

The Ohio Supreme Court this morning upheld a 2006 state law that bars cities from enforcing residency rules.

Writing for the 5-2 majority, Justice Paul Pfeifer dismissed arguments from Akron and Lima attorneys who said the General Assembly violated cities’ home rule authority.

via Ohio Supreme Court rules against city residency requirements – Inside Cleveland City Hall – cleveland.com.

Don’t expect a mass exodus from Dayton right now- city workers will have a hard time in today’s economy finding buyers for their homes.

Look to those who have school-age kids- or soon-to-be-school age, and renters- to be the first to go. Of the 2,500 employees of the city, this will probably lose us less than 10% right now.

It will be interesting to see how much it costs the city for the firing of Victor Pate who moved to Jefferson when the lower court made its ruling.