The mysteries of school board meeting mojo

After I swore off attending Dayton Public School board meetings, I went to both the Wright State Board of Trustees committee day meetings, and to the Trotwood Madison Board of Ed retreat. The more I know about these political bodies, the more I scratch my head.

Apparently, my legal video recording of the WSU board of trustees has them scheming new ways to put me in my place. I got a call from WSU PR manager Seth Baugess on Tuesday to let me know about new language that would appear in releases announcing board meetings. They will now have specified spaces for cameras. They will not provide a feed to their microphones, because they are afraid of loose talk on an open mic, and that they acknowledge my right to be there and video, however, they’d like prior warning of me being there (which they can’t require).

UPDATE

2 Oct 2018: “All members of the public are welcome and encouraged to attend public meetings of the Wright State University Board of Trustees.

In an effort to maintain unobstructed ingress and egress for meeting participants and guests, prevent disruptions to meetings or barriers to public views, and preserve the ability of university personnel to staff the meetings, Wright State reserves the right to designate workspaces for members of the media and their equipment as well as seating areas for other guests.

Guests who intend to record public meetings of the Wright State University Board of Trustees are advised to check with public relations contacts or their designees on site to locate designated workspaces.

It’s fascinating, because the Aug 18, 2018 video of a 3 hour WSU board retreat, which is unlisted, already has over 475 views. I’ve only shared the link with one WSU faculty person.

When I asked Baugess why they didn’t record and post all the meetings, he said because they didn’t want to. They do one meeting a year- the budget meeting and that’s it. Hint, you might have more support via transparency.

If there is one good thing that came out of my video recording of DPS, they expanded their broadcasts to include their “review sessions” which previously weren’t recorded. Not that anything important is achieved at these meetings, that would actually require board members who had a clue.

Which brings me to the 4 hour and 38 minute meeting of the Trotwood board last Thursday night. Yes, over four and a half hours.  What I found fascinating about this meeting is that the Superintendent wasn’t there, nor were any of his staff in his place. It was the board and the treasurer. I have NEVER seen DPS leave the superintendent seat open. When I asked, the board president said he didn’t have to be there, “this is our meeting.”

Which leads me to what exactly are the job divisions between a Superintendent, the educational professional who is highly paid and qualified to run a school district, and an elected board of lay persons who serve as the superintendents board of directors. From the OSBA:

Board members make decisions on a wide range of issues, such as hiring and evaluating a superintendent and treasurer; setting district policy; planning student services; goal-setting and long-range planning; adopting curriculum; establishing budgets; engaging parents; being good fiscal stewards; acting in the best interest of the school district and within the scope of their legal authority; and creating community relations programs. A board member should be a skilled decision-maker; however, decisions are only made by the board as a whole at a public meeting.

Another important part of the board’s work is its public relations role. School board members help build public support and understanding of public education, and lead the public in demanding quality education. The school board serves as a link between schools and the public.

What a school board member doesn’t do
The role and function of board members often are misinterpreted by the public, and in some cases, by board members themselves. The board is a policymaking body and members are the chief advisers to the superintendent on community attitudes. Board members do not manage the day-to-day operations of a school district; they see to it that the system is managed well by professionals.

Board members are not education professionals. They do not evaluate staff, other than the superintendent and treasurer, nor do they become involved in employment interviews, other than those of the superintendent, business manager and treasurer. Board members may be consulted during the hiring process for other positions, such as assistant superintendent.

Source: Understanding Your School Board | Ohio School Boards Association

The first hour of the Trotwood meeting was a presentation by the treasurer. And while I understand that this information doens’t require the superintendent, I would think that it is relevant to his job performance. At one point, the game changing discussion of Open Enrollment comes up. He wasn’t there to discuss the implications- although I can tell you that for DPS sports- you’d see a giant sucking sound as our star athletes enroll in Trotwood in record numbers after the coaching debacles under the current administration. Stated capacity right now is 300, but, I could see enough students wanting to leave DPS after next years report cards show Trotwood with marked improvement and DPS with State Takeover. Enough that Trotwood could actually expand it’s district and take over parts of Dayton- like Thurgood Marshall, WOW, Meadowdale/Valerie and grow.

The next part of the meeting was the main reason I was there. My firm, The Next Wave, was one of 8 bidders who had submitted RFP responses to TMS- and were invited to present. The agenda had each firm presenting for 15 minutes. I was to be last. The only other agency principal that was there at the start of the meeting was Theresa Steele of the Hathaway Group. She stayed up until just before my presentation before leaving. B-63 also stayed for a few other presentations, all the rest came and went.

The agenda: btw I added links to all the firms sites:

BOARD RETREAT
Trotwood-Madison Board of Education Offices 3594 North Snyder Road Trotwood, Ohio 45426 4:00 p.m.
1. OPENING
A. Call to Order and Pledge of Allegiance
B. Roll Call – Board of Education Members
C. Adopt the Agenda
2. TREASURER’S UPDATE
A. Treasurer Update – J. Allen
3. PRESENTATION – MARKETING
A. C-3 Group
B. B63 Line/AFA Associates
C. Catapult Creative
D. The Marketing Formula
E. Wilderness Agency
F. The Hathaway Group
G. Approach Marketing
H. The Next Wave
4. DISCUSSION ITEMS
A. Consent Agenda
B. Executive Session Options
C. October Retreat Information
5. ADJOURNMENT
A. Adjourn

This is where things get odd. The board was somehow directly involved in a contracting process, without any of the staff that would actually work with the agency. If they are just reviewing what the recommendations of staff were, to grant approval, where they already knew the rankings of an evaluation team, this makes sense. However, the questions didn’t seem connected to a rubric to me. If the board is weighing in on preferences, you have to look at two parts of the OSBA instructions:

They do not evaluate staff, other than the superintendent and treasurer, nor do they become involved in employment interviews, other than those of the superintendent, business manager and treasurer.

But on the other hand:

Another important part of the board’s work is its public relations role. School board members help build public support and understanding of public education, and lead the public in demanding quality education. The school board serves as a link between schools and the public.

And this is where I really wonder about this whole system of electing people to manage professional organizations. I’m used to presenting to firms with marketing professionals with deep understanding of what an ad agency does, who know why and how they plan on working with us. That is not the case here.

The people who we would be working with weren’t even in the room. Hadn’t met with us. And, forwarded all 8 proposals to them for consideration. This is HIGHLY irregular. Usually, after the proposals, only a few are selected for interview. And, this is the clincher, I’ve never, EVER, had the opportunity to watch my competition present- or film. Typically, these presentations are considered “proprietary” information and strategy, and are managed in executive session, or via a sub-committee. It was enlightening to me. I’ll withhold commentary, but, as someone who has judged for the American Advertising Federation National Student Advertising Competition, I can say that most of the pitches weren’t even remotely structured like pitches.

And what was shocking to me, was that only B-63 and Hathaway stayed to watch any others. Of course, when I made the video public yesterday, there were exactly 8 views by today- which means my 7 competitors and one of my subscribers… (total assumption).

Yet, the need for marketing and PR pros is insanely obvious if you watch the remainder of the meeting after my presentation. The free form discussion wandered in some very dangerous areas. While discussing a failed effort to get staff to answer a professionally run independent survey they revealed that only 38 of 440 employees had responded, and then discussed the culture of fear that might be preventing completion. That kind of public sharing isn’t ideal. Neither is the admission by one board member that there used to be a “Hit List” of teachers to be gotten rid of. This opens all kinds of legal liability for the district.

Other discussion of how a consent agenda works, showed a lack of competence by staff or the board, at being properly briefed about it. DPS just moved to consent agendas recently, and while they still allow for a removal of any item, it’s basically a way to avoid so many role call votes for various items. You can read more here: OSBA on Parliamentary Procedure and Voting Makes a Difference.

I applaud Board President Denise Moore for championing that the board need to work on continuous education and improvement. However, as she is a 12 year board member one has to wonder what she was doing for the 11 years before she figured this out, and hired Tyrone Olverson to straighten out a district that had made its way to the basement.

The district didn’t say when they’d notify the agencies of a decision.

A few of the agencies had made an effort to attend a board meeting or retreat before. For at least three of them, their big “reveal” at the end of the pitch was that they had a red “608 to Great” rubber wrist band on.

Yet, my firm, had the forethought to buy the URLS www.thetrotwoodturnaround.com and www.608togreat.com and point them to a holding page that some staff person liked so much that they used it for the background screen for the whole district convocation at the beginning of the school year.

If you watch my presentation, actions speak louder than words. Best of luck to Trotwood in picking a partner. If you want to watch the sample video I included in my presentation directly, it’s here:

And of course, no other ad agency has a platform to reach the community the way Esrati.com does, for better or worse. Over a thousand unique readers a day can’t be totally wrong.

 

 

 

Fire Dr. Lolli yesterday

Dayton Public Schools were 607 when Dr. Elizabeth Lolli was handed the reins by a school board that had just fired their last trainwreck (Rhonda Corr). She looked like the best one available to them. Hint, you were 607 because the people you had in charge were all trainwrecks. Lolli was hired by the one you fired- Hello?

When you are 607, the first thing you think you’d do is immediately lay out a plan for change. Need to see how it’s done? Look at the posts on this blog about the new Trotwood superintendent, Tyrone Olverson. He had applied to be DPS superintendent when they hired Corr, but didn’t even get an interview. When Corr was fired, no consideration was given to bringing David Lawrence in for an interview- even though he was still on the payroll and was passed over for Corr.

Of the three finalists in the Corr pick, Roberson has left the district to be replaced by a white woman who sent out requests to all principals to fill out a blank spreadsheet on all their students on IEP. In Dayton, that’s well over 25%- and, a database already exists. Currently, the district doesn’t even have software to manage IEPs nor do they have a solution in place. Nobody seems to be in charge of IT since they RIF’d their last IT director back in November 2017 when the district lied and said they were broke.

Dan Schroer, went on to be the new Superintendent in Springboro. A district that had been in turmoil thanks to a dysfunctional board. Less than 2 years later, the district passes a levy on its first try (a first) and they get an A from the state. One of only 28 districts to do it.

Back to no plan Lolli. Since she’s been in charge, she’s spent money like a house on fire, giving teachers retroactive raises, hiring high-priced administrators, and spending money on consultants without explaining the value proposition. The board, sits there mute. No demands for projections on how this will payback- or bring students back. Just like Wright State, Dayton Public Schools is suffering enrollment declines the likes of which we’ve never seen. To further screw with things, Lolli runs an illegal school closing task force which only decides to close 1 building (Valerie) and move HQ across the street (waiting to hand the old HQ over to Sinclair for some sweetheart deal that’s been not-so-secretly pre-arranged).

Lolli has never completed a single contract as a Superintendent in her life. This has meant, she never had to renew a contract, or face public scrutiny. She won’t complete this 3 year sweetheart deal either- since she’s capable of retiring at any time, and incapable of passing a levy (which this district will need in 1 year or 2 thanks to her wild spending).

When the District got the F on September 13th, her immediate response was to blame a software company, which she plans on suing, even though it won’t change the score. She has proclaimed in public:

“The first thing that I will assure you here, as a City of Learners in Dayton, Ohio, is that Dayton Public Schools is only an F on paper,” she said. “We are not an F school district.”

Source: DPS seeking plan to avoid state takeover – Dayton Daily News

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck- it’s a duck. You don’t need a PhD to tell that Dayton Public School is an F district, it’s in black and white. Read the scores. You fail.

Dayton Public Schools State Report Card 2018Denial is not a turnaround strategy. Maybe, Lolli needs to stop thinking she’s another Republican who found themselves in a position of power accidentally, her Republican hero- Donald Trump. He’d call this “fake news” and get away with it. Lolli isn’t Trump- even though she behaves like him, without the help of Twitter.

Having a plan is something the board should have been working on since day 1. You were 607, you were facing “State Takeover” or on the cusp for the last 5 years, this is no surprise, yet:

School board members have long talked about a need for an updated, official plan laying out a direction for the district.

“Our hope is that we have a strategic plan that is measurable, that is attainable for the district focusing on what is most important – and that is academic achievement, graduation and preparing our kids for life after Dayton Public Schools,” said Board President William Harris…

In an interview, Lolli laid out specific areas that will likely be discussed: academics and instruction, finance, culture, safety and security, and technology.

“We will set some short-term and long-term ideas out there,” she said.

Source: DPS seeking plan to avoid state takeover – Dayton Daily News

Lolli has been superintendent for 9 months- and is just now putting out “some short term and long-term ideas out there”- excuse me, what have you been doing since you were put in charge?

Dr. Harris, Div., not PhD, or Ed, Or Md. Let's use truth in advertising.

Dr. Harris, Div., not PhD, or Ed, Or Md. Let’s use truth in advertising.

Harris is total fail. He still likes to call himself “Dr.” in a professional setting, even though he’s a Reverend, not a PhD or MD. And of course, he was put in charge by this board because he’s black. A move made by a dumb racist on the school board, Sheila Taylor, and followed by the rest of the idiots- including Mohamed Al-Hamdani, Jocelyn Rhynard, Karen Wick-Gagnet and Rev Walker. McManus, who should have been president, always being one to be a peacemaker went along with it hoping to bring some semblance of leadership from the VP chair. He’s failed.

Since Lolli has taken over, she’s had no problems spending money on consultants, including $1800 to local PR Firm Fahlgren Mortine. One has to wonder why, since the district already has a three year million dollar plus purchase order sitting open with The Ohlmann Group. Never mind that the board has publicly lambasted Ohlmann and wondered what they bought.

I brought the Ohlmann group contract up in my last speech to the DPS board on Tuesday.

Reportedly, Harris asked if it was really true I’d not be back, gleefully. You’re on your own dude. Enjoy the highway to hell.

Because, here is a perfect Libbie Lolli move, the reason she was hated in every other district where she served, after getting an hour-long dissertation on the why the district is now worst in the state, 608, her response, as if this was all new to her, was to announce that she was going to cut an instructional day for every DPS student and hold inservice training for staff. Because, well, you know, they don’t know what they are doing:

Each Dayton Public School will close for one previously unannounced day in October or November for mandatory staff training, as the district attempts to improve the quality of teaching in its schools.

A message Friday morning from Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli to school staff mentioned the threat of state takeover next fall if the district’s report card doesn’t improve.

“Great teaching, every day, is the only way we will be able to change the results. It is within our power and control to do that!” Lolli wrote. “Beginning in October, schools will be closed for one day in groups of 2 or 3, to focus on teaching strategies and expectations for DPS classrooms.”….

Lolli said she was not surprised by the state’s critical evaluation of DPS teaching. She said the district has been working to improve “instructional design,” but it’s not a simple or quick process, saying DPS is in the second year of a three-year rollout.

“We didn’t have an instructional framework when I arrived,” said Lolli, who is starting her third year in DPS. “We’re trying to get caught up. We don’t want to have our staff lack the quality instructional practices they need and want. They don’t want to be behind their peers in other schools. But you have to have high-quality professional development and time to implement it if you’re really going to make a difference.”…

Her letter to teachers called them “the hope of the district and the students,” calling for everyone to pull together and change DPS’ report card grade from an “F” to a “C.”

“I think we can make some impact with this,” Lolli said later Friday. “Will it solve the problems tomorrow? No. But we’re on our way.”

Source: Teachers face mandatory training – Dayton Daily News

Insulting your employees, with the support of the School Board is not a good way to go from F to C.

Any school board with an IQ of over 10, would ask where has a day of training ever lifted performance? And, if this was the case, why didn’t your training before school even start cover this material? You already knew the preliminary district data was going to bring bad news.

When I got to the point in my speech where I said I just couldn’t bring myself to go to the board review session because I couldn’t take being around idiots- there is a very faint noise from the audience on the video. It was board member Karen Wick-Gagnet’s husband exclaiming “What the fuck” as he sat behind a group of DPS ESL teachers who were there trying to get guidance for doing their jobs.

Yes, what the fuck.

Taking kids out of school so you can school your staff, because you have no plan, after three years on the job. It’s time Libbie Lolli be shown the door, along with the entire top level staff. Clean house. Oh, wait! That’s what the State takeover will do in exactly 1 year.

The question is, why do Dayton School Students have to suffer this clown show another day?

If you need to see what a school board that actually cares about student achievement looks like, watch one of my videos from Trotwood. As different as night and day.

and for comparison:

 

 

 

The Trotwood Turnaround

Trotwood Madison School mission statement

Trotwood’s mission statement. Not that I love mission statements on the walls.

I left a school board meeting last night and didn’t feel dirty.

That’s the total opposite of every visit I make to the cesspool that doubles as the Dayton Board of Education.

Trotwood schools are currently 608 out of 608 districts in the state. Dead last. Bottom of the barrel, but going to a school board meeting run by competent, intelligent, caring, well adjusted folks is a joy.

Yesterday was a work session. The board president opened the meeting and immediately spelled out what kind of meeting it was, how many meetings they have, the purpose of the meeting and thanked the audience for being there. There was a constant flow of information, with the goal of transparency and purpose. They are committed to “608 to great” but I’m pretty sure that by mid-September they will be well above 608 which will now be owned exclusively by the folks on Ludlow- who deserve it.

The primary purpose of the meeting was to onboard new staff. Much like the supposed purpose of DPS’s Monday Maelstrom meeting where the board engaged in additional board business that could only be viewed as an end-run around public scrutiny.

New acting Superintendent Tyrone Olverson had a 16 page booklet printed with brief bios of every new hire. They were invited on stage to be welcomed by him and the board. Their academic backgrounds were highlighted. It was a celebration of hiring. Sort of like when your sports team gets first pick in the draft and gets LeBron James. Compared to Dayton, where hiring seems more like a revolving door function.

I’ve been in Trotwood’s High School before, but never in the auditorium. It’s not yet the ideal place to have a board meeting, but there is hope with a few adjustments to lighting, seating arrangement and better tech. But, I’ve been in every DPS high school, and the only one that compares is Stivers- a building that wasn’t built or the reconstruction managed by DPS folks.  Trotwood felt like a school. DPS buildings, for the most part, feel like they were designed as baby prisons, which makes total sense as they are a first stop on the school to prison pipeline.

At the end of the meeting, the board made some announcements. The first one was from Rev  Scearce– addressing the new staff, it was a clear indication that this district is on a mission, when he announced that “in Trotwood, you’ll never have to reach into your own pocket to buy anything for our kids, if you need something, ask, and it will be secured.”

It’s easy to see why so many quality former DPS staff are now happily working in Trotwood.

The board president came over to talk to me, thanking me (and my video camera) for being there. She was ebullient and epitome of professionalism. We discussed the meeting and she shared that all board members have to read 12 books a year. I asked her if she was familiar with the Dolly Parton Imagination Learning Library program and she immediately understood the value proposition and the problem it addressed, and wanted me to send a link and handed me her professional district card.

The board acknowledged the public officials in the audience- including County Commissioner Dan Foley, County Auditor Karl Keith and the vice Mayor of Trotwood. I can’t remember seeing that many public officials at a DPS shitshow unless they were invited.

The other intriguing issue was the discussion of the upcoming board retreat. Without getting into issues of the Open Meetings Act, they were overjoyed at the assistance being rendered to them by the chief of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center former Centerville Superintendent Frank DiPalma. He’s made many visits to work with them, and has secured a national caliber facilitator, Dr. Ventura Rodriguez, to help them work through issues for next to nothing. They’ve also had several visits from the head of the State board of education to help guide and mentor them through their planning to move Trotwood from 608 to Great as we will bear witness to the “Trotwood Turnaround.”

I can’t remember when the Dayton Board of Education has listened to anyone, other than paid consultants who take the money and run as just another run through the chaos generator that is DPS. Speaking of which, there has been an outpouring of frustration with yet another one of Dr. Lolli’s overpriced hires- who apparently has decided to ignore the work of her competent predecessor and has told everyone that she’s starting her operation from scratch. More will be coming as I gather the rest of the stories.

If you saw the Dayton Day-old news article yesterday, where Lolli apparently learned to count to three, realizing that DPS is in year 2 of the watch and that at the end of next year the district will be primed for takeover, you’ll realize that the State takeover can’t come soon enough. This quote was classic DPS PR #FAIL:

“We need to focus on anything that we can change immediately that will affect the results…. We were going to start doing analysis when the (official) scores were released, but now we’ve actually started that (Wednesday).”

Source: Dayton schools could face state takeover in year – Dayton Daily News

What have you been focusing on Dr. Lolli?

If you want some pointers, I’d get on the bus to Trotwood, and take the whole board and all your high priced central office people, up the road to see how a functioning school system addresses the exact same issues of poverty, funding and failures of previous administrations to create a professional learning community, because, well, Trotwood gets it- and you, well, you got started 2 days ago…