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?

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