Workflow One reorganizes in Chapter 11

Workflow One, the former Relizon, the spin-off of Reynolds and Reynolds and the recipient of some very nice “economic development” incentive packages to be in their Port Authority-financed building on the corner of Monument and Patterson announced to employees yesterday that they are going to restructure using Chapter 11:

Wednesday Sept 29 at 10:01 PM

Dear WorkflowOne Employees,

Today we took an important step forward in the ongoing transformation of our company.  We have begun finalizing the terms of a debt restructuring with our lender group.  This restructuring will enable us to significantly improve our balance sheet and provide us with more financial flexibility to grow our business.

In order to complete the restructuring, WorkflowOne, our parent company and its U.S. subsidiaries have filed voluntary petitions to reorganize under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.   We decided to make use of a court supervised restructuring process because we believe it is the most efficient way to implement our financial restructuring on an accelerated basis while continuing to operate our business and serve our customers without disruption. During the Chapter 11 process, we intend to continue improving and transforming our company.

We want to assure you that WorkflowOne is NOT going out of business.  We simply need to address the timing and payment terms of current debt.

Chapter 11 is a well-established process that has been used successfully by many companies in the U.S., including some in our industry such as Norwood, Quebecor, American Color and Vertis, as well as major airlines, automobile companies and retailers.  We believe that WorkflowOne will emerge from Chapter 11 far better positioned to maintain and expand our leadership in the industry.

We fully expect that as we continue through this process, there will be no changes to pay or health and welfare benefits for our employees as a result of the filing.  Customers and suppliers should also see little change.  Our plants and business service centers will remain open on normal schedules, and we will continue providing uninterrupted customer service and industry-leading solutions and services to our customers around the country.  We also intend to continue paying all of our suppliers for goods and services they provide after the filing.

Please remember that delivering for our customers remains our top priority.

Our restructuring efforts will likely raise questions among our customers and suppliers as well as from people within our company and industry.  You will be receiving answers to frequently asked questions, and other communications materials to assist you in responding to general inquiries.

If you receive questions about our debt restructuring actions from customers, suppliers, or former employees, please do not try and address their concerns beyond the materials we will provide you.  Instead, refer them to our new, toll-free Restructuring Information Line at (866) 419-7365, which will be operational during regular business hours.

If you have questions, we encourage you to talk with your supervisor, Human Resources representative, or site leader if you need additional clarification.  You should also feel free to submit any questions to your HRdirect team toll free at (866) 375-2222 (Dayton ext. 59301) or [email protected]. We will monitor these mailboxes and post replies to the most commonly asked questions in the new restructuring section of Neo, our internal website.

Our goal is to emerge from the Chapter 11 process in as few months as possible.   During this time, a small group of senior leaders will be involved in the legal and financial requirements of the restructuring.  They will be working to complete the financial restructuring process as quickly and efficiently as possible.   The majority of our people and resources should continue focusing on serving our customers, strengthening our relationships with them and driving profitable growth.  In short, it will be business-as-usual for us.

When this process is complete, we expect to have a new, stronger capital structure that will free up our resources and allow us to invest in building our business and give our customers and other business partners even more confidence in our strength as a solid partner for them.

Taking the necessary steps to accomplish a new capital structure with an improved balance sheet coupled with our ongoing operational enhancements will help us transform WorkflowOne into an even better company.

Let’s continue to stay focused on those areas that will drive our success – delivering for our customers, partnering with our suppliers, and continuing to meet our sales targets and performance goals.  We will make every effort to keep you updated throughout this process.

Thanks for your continued commitment.

Dave Davis                                                                               Dean Truitt

Chief Executive Officer                                                           President and COO

Workflow Management, Inc.                                                 Workflow Management, Inc.

Is “Economic development” bad for the economy?

In our free-wheeling, “democratic” nation with our belief that capitalism solves all problems, we seem to have let Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” deal us a whopper of a punch. All of a sudden, property values are dropping like a rock, causing tax revenues to drop, causing local and state governments who are mandated to have balanced budgets to go into crisis mode. The federal government has jumped in to “bail out” the major players throughout this crisis- by extending super-low-interest-rate loans, grants, and a lot of “stimulus investment” in construction and infrastructure projects.

Yet, what if they have it all wrong? That the real disaster was too much “economic development” and not enough investment in “social capital.” Had we invested more in education than the war on drugs, national health care instead of the military-industrial complex and public transit instead of more off ramps and cul de sacs where would we be today? Did oversupply of new housing, new office space and new developments lead to the disaster? And was it mostly fueled by politicians who love to have their picture taken with a shovel in hand at a groundbreaking?

A real estate lawyer in Florida, Ms. Lesley Blackner seemed to think so- and is taking on the culture of construction with an amendment to Florida’s constitution to put the brakes on builders gone wild:

the real estate crisis is not just the fault of Wall Street, Washington or misguided borrowers; it is also the back-scratching bond between elected officials and builders — a common source of frustration in weak real estate markets around the country wherever developers are still fighting to add more housing.

In Florida, at least, Ms. Blackner hopes to put an end to the chronic oversupply with a ballot initiative she has labeled “Hometown Democracy.”

Amendment 4, as it is officially called, would give Floridians a vote on changes to state-mandated plans for growth in every county and municipality. Much of the potential impact of the measure is up for debate, with important details most likely to be decided by the courts.

But if it is added to the state’s Constitution — which would require 60 percent approval on Election Day — critics and supporters envision revolutionary change.

Leaders of the Yes on 4 campaign, including Ms. Blackner, say it would end a culture of freewheeling development

via In Florida, Battle Over Growth Goes to the Voters – NYTimes.com.

When I first entered politics I had no idea who the power brokers were, or what their agendas were. One that I kept running into, which seemed odd, was the HBA- the Homebuilders Association. They were one of the primary backers of Mike Turner in his first run for office as Dayton mayor, and the money was substantial. Considering Dayton had shrunk by about a third, it would seem that the city had an oversupply of housing already, and “home building” wouldn’t be high on the list of priorities- how wrong I was.

Bankers like home builders too- because construction loans, and then the mortgages that go with them are a constant source of revenue. Heavy construction people like home builders, because we then need new roads to carry the sprawling suburbanites to and from their cul de sacs. Automakers love new homes too- because they are generally built further and further out- on pristine farmland- instead of in core cities. And because the density of new construction has been lower over the last thirty years- shopping malls and “town centers” like them as the ideas of walkable communities falls apart in our mad rush to build, build, build.

In Florida, a ridiculous  glut of new homes is now causing the real estate market to fall apart. There is such an oversupply that when the rose-colored glasses come off, the landscape is pretty grim. The state had decided that “growth” was a goal – instead of sustainability and the results have been a disaster. Whether a constitutional amendment is the right solution or not, judging by the amount of money the Homebuilders are throwing up against it (considering many of them had to ask for a bailout from the feds) one should be able to infer it’s a shot in the right direction.

While Montgomery County’s population hasn’t grown substantially in the last 40 years, our footprint has spread out at a ridiculous pace. The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission has the numbers and show that we’re overbuilt between 20 and 45% depending on type of development- from housing to office space to retail, yet the politicians keep banging the drum for builders to build.

What would happen if government got out of the “economic development” business altogether? What if there were zero incentives for new construction, instead, only offering incentives on projects that either reuse and adapt, or increase population density? What if there was a premium impact tax on expansion? Isn’t this what Portland, Oregon, did with its development limits? But, let’s also realize that we’ve let our state and local governments’ preoccupation with “economic development” take center stage instead of focusing on delivering top-notch, low-cost public services. The Ohio taxpayer is supporting a whole legion of people who do nothing except spend our tax dollars on diluting the value of our housing stock, our existing infrastructure and add overhead that makes doing business even more expensive.

Is it time for a referendum in Ohio, or perhaps nationwide? Florida may be leading the way if Amendment 4 passes this November.

Early voting vs honest voting

So far, other than the newspaper- no one has told me how to vote yet. The party machinery, so used to working a last-minute push, with “slate cards” and endorsements in hand hasn’t adjusted to this newfangled expanded voting period. And while the party faithful have no problem checking off all the D’s or R’s on the ballot- the general public would probably rather see a “C” or an “I” next to the candidate’s name.

“C” for challenger that appeals to the growing movement of “throw the bums out” and “I” for incompetent- I mean incumbent, because in most cases, candidates, once elected do a horrible job of communicating how they represent you once they have obtained the nod.

It’s funny- in sports we have all kinds of stats to measure our players’ performance, and although there are some sites that perform indexing on candidates based on voting records, this only goes on at the national level- not so much at the state and nothing on the local level. In addition, when you look at the sheer number of candidates a voter must choose from- it can be mind numbing. Yet, we’re supposed to go in like sheep and vote in a few minutes on a vast number of candidate and issues. Each one, spending huge amounts of money on telling us in rapid-fire sound bites why we should vote for his or her cause/person. The ticker in the right sidebar is showing 3.331 billion right now and counting…

Spending billions on propaganda, is that really a free and equal-opportunity election process? In no other country does this kind of auction for offices take place. What’s even more bothersome is that there are no true “Truth in Advertising” laws that apply to political campaign rhetoric, with a shoot first, pay the consequences after the election oversight system. In a country that’s preoccupied with warning labels, disclosure and fine print- you get more information on a cereal box than you do on campaign literature and almost zero information on the actual ballot.

Even with early voting, sitting at home, trying to research every candidate and issue on the ballot, with an internet connection, there is no single point to find the links to every issue pro and con or every candidate- with at least a set of basic questions with answers. The League of Women Voters sends out a “guide” that adds a paragraph or so- but it’s not even out until a few weeks before the election- and although widely distributed, it’s not reaching all voters.

Campaign season is the one time we could all do without- from the mudslinging crapfest of TV ads- to the roadside garbage signs that spring up like weeds. Imagine if instead, a nicely printed magazine came to every household, complete with mail-in ballots, giving each voter at least a page on each candidate and issue. There would be standard questions plus room for a candidate’s main message- along with links to each candidate’s website for those with internet access (note, you’d be amazed at how many people are on the wrong side of the digital divide when it comes to voters).

Oregon moved to vote by mail years ago- and the fact that we allow it for “early voting” and “absentee” says the process works. We’d save all the money of having poll workers, renting voting spaces, the actual machines and the risk we take of having bad weather on election day. It would truly democratize the process- and, it might serve us much better at engaging voters in a more honest process than what we have now.

Until we have some kind of true campaign finance reform, we’ll be doomed to having the best politicians money can buy. Changing the voting process would be a good first start.

Is Dayton a land of opportunity for Veterans?

We’ve heard the Richard Florida argument for a culture centered around the “Creative Class” as a driver of economic prosperity. Yet, the “creative class” is somewhat a matter of opinion- and it’s something that any community could have a shot at.

The Dayton Development Coalition talks about their four key focuses as drivers of economic development.

Advanced Materials and Manufacturing
The unique and compelling nature of our industry allows us to quickly transform innovations into processes and products.

Aerospace R&D
The advances achieved by our Aerospace R&D community gives ample evidence that the Air Force Research Laboratory and their hundreds of industry and university partners in our region have formed the preeminent aeronautical research and development center in the world.

Healthcare and Human Sciences
Aeromedical research, training, and acquisition elements are being consolidated into a Center of Excellence for Human Performance at Wright-Patt, accompanied by 21 existing regional hospitals, medical schools, training facilities and human science-focused businesses.

IT / Data Management
The Dayton Region is a global leader in understanding how the innovative use of information can transform people’s lives.

via GetMidwest.com – Dayton Region.

These are all business focuses- and leave out the most critical part: social capital. How do we really get these things done if the people who do these things have a really good reason to operate here instead of elsewhere. Sure, there is the base- with its huge R&D budget, but in a virtual world, that money could be spent here or in San Jose without much difference to the contracting officer.

Having a major military installation nearby is a good economic engine to rely on, but with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq winding down, and our economy in shambles, it would be foolhardy not to expect cutbacks in the military budget.

However, there is one thing the wars have created a bountiful supply of: veterans, and more specifically, service disabled veterans. Besides being a logistics center, WPAFB has a medical center that is serving a multi-state area for transitioning seriously injured vets. We also have the Dayton VA Medical Center- another large treatment facility- toss in the Wright State University with one of the nation’s most accessible campuses with extensive experience in handling students with disabilities and all of a sudden, you start to realize that we may have a strong positioning potential to become a community of choice for disabled veterans to put down roots.

When I was in the Army and traveling from post to post- I could tell which communities embraced their soldiers and which didn’t. Fayettville NC, Augusta GA both seemed to loathe the kids in uniform- while the people of Columbus GA welcomed us and treated us with respect. Dayton has always seemed to be somewhat apathetic- but leaning toward respect. Of course, I also often marveled at the star power on base- when first arriving here I saw more stars on shoulders in one trip to the BX than I’d seen in 2+ years of active duty on an Army post.

With this idea of starting to market Dayton as a great place for disabled veterans to retire and reside- will require additional support of local businesses in their commitment to hire these brave young men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country- but also a strong support network to assist them in starting and running their own businesses. The Federal Government passed a law in 2003 requiring all Federal contracts to have 3% Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) participation- a goal that’s not even remotely close to being met. Quite a few States have also given SDVOB and even Veteran Owned Businesses (VOB) preference in bidding. Ohio has not shown an interest- although they did vote to make military retirement pay not eligible for State income taxes.

For the last four plus years, a small group of which I’m a founding member has worked to support and grow VOBs in the region. We’re the representatives of NaVOBA here in SW Ohio and just received our 501C6 designation as a non-profit.

Vet Biz Now! Flyer for event

Click on image for Printable PDF

This Oct 14th, from 11 to 2 we’ll be hosting our first event, Vet Biz Now, bringing in a nationally recognized expert in the field:

Scott Denniston, former Director of Small Business Programs and the Center for Veterans Enterprise at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will present a status update on Vet Biz opportunities.

Seating is limited for this lunch event at the Hope Hotel at WPAFB in Dayton. Please make reservations at www.vob108.org/vetbiznow $20 includes lunch.

via Vet Biz Now! Oct. 14 2010, Dayton Ohio — VOB108.

Besides Scott discussing the state of Veteran Business opportunities and a status update, VOB108 will be making some presentations of success stories- and highlighting some area VOB that are making a difference.

We welcome you to attend, and ask that if you know any Veterans who own their own business to inform them of this event.

Small business has been one of the saving graces through this economic crisis, with all the programs available and becoming made available to help assist these wounded warriors transition back to civilian life- this could be an effort that is both good for our country and our community and our souls.

Got Elephant?

Straight from the Neon Movies press release:

Here’s more great news. On Oct. 1, we will begin a one-week run of THE ELEPHANT IN THE LIVING ROOM. “The Elephant in the Living Room is an award-winning documentary about the controversial world of raising the deadliest and most exotic animals on earth as common household pets. The story follows the journey of two men at the heart of the issue. One, Tim Harrison, an Ohio police officer whose mission is to protect exotic animals and the public, and the other, Terry Brumfield, a big-hearted man who struggles to keep two pet African lions that he loves like his own family.
Since its premiere in Dayton earlier this year, the movie has been playing to sold-out crowds all over the country. It has been selected by no less than fifteen film festivals from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles and winning three BEST DOCUMENTARY awards, including one from Academy Award winning director Michael Moore who called the film ‘One of the scariest, most entertaining and technically perfect documentaries.’ ” (taken from press notes)
http://www.theelephantinthelivingroom.com/

You think it’s bad when the neighbor has a rooster? How about a bear or a lion (or two)?

My friend Mike Webber- who is an incredible film-maker right here in Dayton, made this documentary about Oakwood Police Officer Tim Harrison- who specializes in dealing with exotic house pets.
I wrote about it when Mike hosted the free showing at the Schuster. If you didn’t catch it then- go see it. If you saw it- go see it again or send your friends. Besides supporting a local film maker and our only independent movie house- it’s a great film.

We eat gas for lunch.

The Dayton Daily (I can’t bear the idea anymore of including the word “News” with their name) tells us Chick-fil-A Express is closing downtown:

The Chick-fil-A Lunch Express restaurant at 10 W. Second St. in downtown Dayton will close at the end of business Friday, Sept. 24,

via Chick-fil-A’s downtown Dayton restaurant to close | Taste: Dayton food and restaurants.

Calling it a restaurant was kinda a misnomer- as they didn’t prepare food there- it was delivered from other outlets. It was more like a food vending cart with a roof and walls. It wasn’t that long ago that Roly-Poly slipped out of Downtown as well. So the question becomes where do all these people who supposedly still work downtown eat? And, if we filled those office buildings back up- where would they eat?

You can go to Google to find restaurants downtown as easily as I can- and there are quite a few independent, unique places left. There are also a few chains- but, nowhere near what there was in the 50s – 70s. Places like Suttmiller’s on Main which could seat hundreds, the Grub Steak just a few blocks north. Dominic’s on S. Main was another large dining room. All gone, and replaced with smaller places that seat at most 100.

What’s changed? Some companies like the Dayton Daily have their own cafeteria- which also enforces a “No delivery” policy. CareSource has a cafe which I hear is quite good (I’m no longer friends with my friend who works there). Delivery has become more common- with places like Pizza Factory running catering downtown- but, the entire business of “lunch” has changed.

Two factors seem to explain it:

We’re so car centric the idea of driving to Brown Street, or Coco’s, or points elsewhere has normalized. Note, this results in much lower productivity (even with cell phones in cars) – in that what was an hour lunch is now almost always closer to two hours by the time you figure in travel and parking. Yes folks, the end of the walkable business district has cost us in productivity.

The second factor is the “Mad Men” factor- the death of the three-martini lunch. By the mid-80s when I started my business career, the last of the cocktails at lunch crowd was still hanging on, but by 1990, you were hard pressed to even see a beer served with lunch, even if it’s a burger. Alcohol made the lunch trade desirable- and profitable. The change in the “acceptable behavior” of the “power lunch” hurt the restaurant industry and downtown as a power center.

While we’re flailing about trying to determine a way to bring back downtown of yore- maybe we should also look at bringing back the “day rate” for hotel rooms- as the mid-afternoon tryst, without worry of cars being seen together at a motel (note the last of these motels along S. Dixie and Keowee either have gone to X-rated movies in room- or closed)?

And while office spaces are being built at Austin Pike despite our huge inventory of available space, I fear that they too will find themselves hurting in the long run. When gas goes back up to $4 a gallon, and the traffic becomes even more congested as they try to head up to the Dayton Mall to eat- they’ll find that the “gas for lunch” deal isn’t all that great.

The only developers who’ve gotten the formula right are Steiner and Associates with their faux downtown at The Greene. Here is the last place where lunch and parking and shopping come together. It’s that model, and only that model that will make downtown come back. Free parking in large garages, wide sidewalks, highly visible security people on Segways and, a few places where a Martini at lunch might not be frowned upon.

And while a circulating light rail, a readily available bike share system and a unified parking rate and signage system downtown could help somewhat- unfortunately the modern lunch experience will most likely to continue with “Gentlemen (and ladies), Start your engines.”

Dayton Public Schools untold stories: Thurgood Marshall HS

I think what bothers me most about the no-bid contract that Dayton Public Schools awarded to an out-of-town “PR Firm” is the stories that aren’t being told. It’s not just the PR firm that’s failed- it’s the leadership of the system that has allowed the public to hear all the bad things and practically none of the good.

Believe it or not- there are good things happening in Dayton Public Schools. Not that it’s been that way all the time, but starting with Superintendent Kurt Stanic with his buck-stops-here demeanor, DPS stopped being a citywide babysitting service and started focusing on discipline and learning in every building.

New principals were installed across the district, and although scores remained lower than we’d like- they’ve started to slowly move up. Considering the number of special needs students, the poverty rate and the mobility rate (many DPS students change schools every few years) the transformation has been pretty dramatic to those who know more than what they read in the Dayton Daily News, or just rely on the State Report Card.

I’ve written about Principal David Lawrence a few times on this site, today, I gave up on the idea of getting him to come in to my office to tape- and went to visit him at 12:30 in the afternoon (it’s Sunday) at TM- he’d been there since 6:30 am. In the video you’ll notice a future TM student- but, please ignore her fidgeting, she’s 7.

We talk about what’s changed at Thurgood Marshall, what they are proud of, the makeup of the student body, test scores and what makes a difference in the student success.

I’ve been out to TM several times during the school day- and have also spoken to students there. I’ve been to their football and basketball games- I’ve seen the transformation taking place. There is a story unfolding there- and this short video does little to tell it, but at least it’s a start.

David Lawrence isn’t the only principal working with a team of talented educators in the district, there are many others. David White at Belmont is transforming what was a zoo, into a disciplined school, Devon Berry at Ruskin is implementing a community based school based on the work of Geoffry Canada and the Harlem Children’s zone, Erin Dooley has turned Stivers into a nationally recognized school of performing arts- and that’s just a start.

Unfortunately, it’s easy for the haters to ignore these transformations because the district does a horrible job of tooting its own horn and the Dayton Daily News is the best grave digger on the planet.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some more of these stories over the next few months.

Why Dayton doesn’t need a “strong Mayor”

The latest “silver bullet” solution to be floated by the Republican party and a few others who think they already run this town is to switch to a strong-mayor form of government. Abracadabra- and all our troubles will be gone.

I say horse-hockey and here is why.

We don’t change horses anyway- preferring to ride the same names until we can’t stand them anymore. Case in point- there have only been two incumbents beaten in a general election (who didn’t win the seat in a special) in the last 20+ years. The exception were both when unknowns ran against an incompetent. Turner beat Dixon by 400 votes, and Leitzell beat McLin by 800. Both incumbents had been tarnished by election time- and had alienated the union power base that swings votes.

[I STAND CORRECTED] – Turner was beat by McLin in 2001- by a little over 1000 votes- as Turner was getting ready to run for Congress for a seat that was made for him.

If we can’t hold the people we now elect accountable for incompetence, why would changing the structure change things?

It’s funny- when Dean Lovelace couldn’t get elected the first three general elections he ran in- he wanted to change the Commission to a vote by district. Once he won- in a special election, you never heard another peep out of him about districts. He’s also been re-elected over and over, despite having cost the taxpayers dearly with his intervention in the hiring processes- and wasted time passing ordinances that got stomped by the state as soon as they were passed as law.

But- the real reason we don’t need a strong mayor comes down to the same reason John Patterson didn’t want one back in 1913- he was trying to take the influence peddling and politics out of a professional organization. As it is- the mayor and the commission are all careful of the unions- leaving the city manager to do the dirty work of negotiations. Put an elected mayor back in – and the unions will have an even stronger arm in deciding who they will bargain with. Right now- they have to have at least three commissioners in their pocket- which they’ve been able to do, make it just the mayor- and look out.

It’s not like we’ve had stellar candidates to run this city either by election or selection anyway. The city manager job pays $150K a year, the mayor gets $45K – even combining these two positions barely breaks $200K which isn’t even 2/3rds of what the Dayton Development Coalition pays their slick talking CEO. You want to make the Dayton mayor the most powerful person in the region- you are going to have to both pay the position- and give them a regional bully pulpit.

The real solution is to regionalize government, and then have a strong Mayor- paying one person to be Mayor- instead of having the current 28 or so Minor Mayors with their little fiefdoms. Do that- and you have a program worth considering.

Making the Mayor of Dayton more powerful is just one more attempt at diverting attention away from what’s really killing our city (greater) and not solving a single problem.

If the City is desperate for strong leadership- here is a better solution- stop electing Mayors- and let the four commissioners hire a City Manager/Mayor who has a vote on the Commission. And, when you decide to fire the Mayor/City Manager- the people who hire him have to go back up on the ballot. Now that would be interesting.

Free Shakespeare tonight thru Sunday in South Park

South Park is my neighborhood- and for the last three years this neighborhood has shown its community spirit and hipness by presenting the Bard, for free- in the ‘hood. A good number of the actors and support people live in the neighborhood.

Consider yourself invited to this year’s production of Romeo and Juliet- updated to take place in America around the time of Dayton’s birth:

FAST FACTS ON SHAKESPEARE IN SOUTH PARK ROMEO AND JULIET

Dates: Fri-Sun, Sept 17-19, 2010

Time: 8 PM-11PM

Place: South Park Green, Hickory & James

Bring: A lawn chair or blanket

Admission: Free, donations accepted

or call (937) 603-4893 for information.

Parking: Hope Lutheran or Emerson Academy

Rain Location: Hope Lutheran Church

via Romance & Tragedy take over South Park Green.

And, as a note- while the performance is free to attend, it isn’t free to produce. I’ll be there hawking for donations at the end of each show (it’s a talent I seem to have down well). Don’t feel obliged, but- if you enjoy Shakespeare under the stars- done by locals, and want it to continue, your support will be appreciated.

Dayton Public Schools and the state report card

If I ran a dating site and described each member by height, weight, and eye color and nothing else, how many people do you think would be happy about their dates?
The state report card has become the metric for measuring schools of late- leaving out all the nuances that make up a school or a district.
That the Dayton Public Schools have been continuously improving isn’t what makes the local paper- or any big jumps in performance at schools like Thurgood Marshall High School. No, what makes the paper is that:

Eight of the 10 best performing schools in the city of Dayton are now charter schools, according to 2009-10 state Report Card data.

via Eight of city’s top 10 schools are charters.

It’s headlines like these that hurt Dayton Public Schools- but, aren’t brutal because most Dayton Public Schools parents don’t read the paper. What’s brutal is how these stories will get manipulated and spun and then “telephoned” to other parents. The difference being- charter schools are businesses that depend on recruiting students to stay open and get funding (right out of the DPS budget) and Dayton Public Schools, well, they just sit there and take it.

Emerson Academy down the street has had a sign up for months saying “Be a part of a top ten school”- they have a nice big four-color brochure (8 pages, not a little trifold) that sells the school and is mailed to households without kids- just because they know they need to toot their horn to everyone, and they need to recruit the students with parents who care and get involved- because parental involvement is probably the second highest indicator for success in school- right after income level.

Dayton Public Schools on the other hand- takes all comers, including those with special needs. Twenty percent of DPS students fall into that category- making it incredibly hard to pull average report card numbers up- and keep budgets under control. Special needs by the way- besides including those with learning handicaps, also includes students who don’t speak English as a primary language. DPS has a school, Patterson Kennedy, that would give the UN a run for its money on number of languages spoken. And, DPS also includes programs that the state report card doesn’t measure- like music, arts, and athletics (there isn’t a charter school with a basketball team- yet, I keep waiting for a charter prep boys basketball school, that can recruit regionally and screw the OSHSAA)

Because it’s the biggest school district (even after losing so many students to charter schools) it becomes the focal point of the region. Dayton Public Schools aren’t very good is a message that gets broadcast across the state- instead of a message like “Stivers School of the Arts” is one of the top in the country- or, we have four Gates scholars almost every year. This hurts in not only recruiting better students, with higher parental involvement- and higher income- but the whole region as we get lumped in as a loser community. Sure, Dunbar won the state hoops title, but, the scores for the school are low (forget about those special needs students or poverty levels).

These shallow one-sided looks at the district performance hurt our property values, hurt our communities’ ability to recruit new people, and sustain an image problem- that’s been in place since the deseg order of the seventies (which built the suburbs- as those who could afford to move did- causing the economic segregation gap to grow phenomenally).

Charter School Enrollment

Charter school Enrollment

How much is at stake? Because each charter school gets about $5k from DPS for each student, plus DPS has to pay for transportation and other services, it gets expensive. With 27% of the students choosing charters- that’s about 5,200 students, times $5 k each – you are seeing $26 million get drained from DPS coffers. Not exactly chump change- but when you start seeing these students help the charters become 8 of the top 10 schools- you can either draw one of two conclusions:

  1. Dayton Public Schools can’t educate and Charters can.
  2. Charters are siphoning off the best students and filtering out the poorest and special needs students.

Somehow I just don’t buy the first answer. I’m sure there are many who will disagree, but considering how many charters also end up on the bottom of the scale – I think we’re seeing the results of some good marketing and cherry-picking of students.

With Dayton Public Schools finally working their way back to “neighborhood schools” they should be able to boost parental involvement and create true learning communities. This has been the method of the charter that became a conversion school up the street in Twin Towers. Ruskin Elementary, in partnership with East End Community Services is working toward a complete learning community modeled after the work done by Geoffery Canada in Harlem.

Also, the Dayton Public Schools has managed to mismanage their PR for something like the last 11 superintendents. Somehow, the good parts of Dayton Public Schools haven’t come to the forefront of public perception. A lot of this can be blamed on the Dayton Daily News, the newspaper that loathes its host community. Nevermind that DPS has also been more likely to hire PR consultants for their political connections- instead of the quality of their work: Avakian Consulting, Penny Ohlman Neiman and now Burges & Burges of Cleveland on a no-bid contract. If there has been anything done to change the DPS brand- it’s been with the aide of the incompetent. (If you’d like examples- I have them- just not the time to post them all).

There is $26 million at stake in lost revenue. There are perception issues that can continue to make it harder for DPS to recruit and retain students who can perform well on standardized testing. It’s time to see a plan to counter these trends and work to solving this problem that will continue to fester and eventually kill the district if not dealt with properly.