- Esrati - https://esrati.com -

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 [1].

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?

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed [2]! If you wish to support this blog and independent journalism in Dayton, consider donating [3]. All of the effort that goes into writing posts and creating videos comes directly out of my pocket, so any amount helps!
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I’ve long been tired and angry at the notion that every parent “knows what’s best” for students and that taxpayers must provide a custom-designed education for each one.  The broad majority of students–those who don’t need special education nor honors programs–will benefit from one consistent curriculum, taught using proven methods like KIPP and direct instruction–in the early years of school.
Special programs and magnet schools belong in the upper grades (and more so in higher ed.) as students begin to mature and differentiate.
So I applaud a return to neighborhood schools and a uniform K-8 system (except for the inconsistent, failed charter schools, a problem that John Husted ought to correct before he tries for higher office).  Now let’s use some of the savings to bus the high school students to their magnet schools.

Valerie Robinette

I’m especially interested in the grandfathering clause. I have two at Ruskin and a special needs child at Cleveland (as well as one at MVS) and we live in Five Oaks. We are satisfied with our current set-up and being forced to transfer our kids would be a deal breaker for our relationship with DPS.


I don’t think I am particularly pleased with this, either. Almost another nail in the coffin of why I should move my family back out of Dayton — The parent’s choice program for schools was actually one of the things we thought was good about Dayton, what set it apart from other cities (in a good way). Certainly I don’t think that everything about this system works – and the problem your girlfriend is having trying to enroll her kids into the DPS is absolutely ridiculous, but all too common – but I have to disagree with you that this ‘social experiment’ has torn apart the fabric of this city. At the same time, I have to say thank you, David, for stepping forward and talking about these issues. Without you, I wouldn’t even hear about these things while I’m out on the road! Keep it up!!


“forced to transfer”

You mean your kids going to the schools in their neighborhood is now “forced?” I think it was the other way around for a long time.

Neighborhood schools are the only way to go. And that includes high school. Over thinking situatuions like this is why they have so much trouble. You neighborhood can be “built” and “united” through the schools. Sending a kid across town has never made sense.

People, businesses, cities get in trouble when they make things too complicated. This is simple. Go to the nearest school. Period.

Joe Lacey

@Valerie, I’m not really sure why the Deputy Superintendent was vague on the grandfathering but it was my understanding that the board had intended to grandfather in students in their current buildings.  However in the future, I think it’s understood that if financial pressure on the district continues all bets are off and busing is one thing that could be axed without directly affecting the classroom.  If it were to come to that, I believe parents would still be able to choose to send their children outside of their attendance area but those parents would be on their own with regard to transportation.

Joe Lacey

@Thomas.  The “parent’s choice program” costs the district a lot.  Forty five minute bus rides across town have taken their toll on this districts finances.  Rather than hiring bus drivers and buying gas, I’d rather be hiring the best people to teach in our classrooms.



“Go to the nearest school; period.”

That is what we all do right?  Just pick the closest Dr’s office or Dentist or Hospital or dinning establishment or grocery store or whatever else and we just go there.  When you want pizza, you go to the closest pizzeria.  It doesn’t matter if they are a CiCi’s and the food is terrible.  We just go to the closest.
Oh wait…none of us do that.  We choose the best option for us while using location and proximity as a few of the factors in helping us decide.  The problem is that failing schools that nobody wants to attend do not go out of business quickly enough.  We continue to pump money into schools that fail to educate our children.


Jesse, these are apples to oranges comparisions. That is the free market. Schools in one city, in this case the City of Dayton, should not “compete” in the classroom (well they should, but not for students to be shipped all around town.) All schools should be somewhat similiar. Sure there will be some small differences here and there. If you want to go to School “A” then move to that part of town. Just the gas alone should tell us this is a frickin dumb idea.

If you move to Kettering you move into a certain “district” for grades k-6 grades. If you don’t like it, move. This is part of the consideration of when moving to an area. That is the problem with our society today, we want “this” but don’t want to do what is neccessary to get “this.”
Failing schools is another topic, it really is. But neighborhood schools make sense. This does not happen everywhere. You don’t move on Kramer Road and go to Smith School. You don’t move to Wonderly Ave and go to Harman School. Your option (bc this is a BIG BOY world, not a “I did not know” world) is to move to a certain area. We pump way too much money into failing schools, but I will bet a buck, even a hundred bucks, that neiborhood schools would do better. People would feel like they have a “chip” in the game. But the fact is we are dealing with parents who live in Dayton, so not much will ever change. Still would bet a buckl though…

So why not make it cheaper for the tax payer? Less gas, less bus service….

Valerie Robinette

@ Gene- Of course the students that currently attend neighborhood schools aren’t “forced”, they have school choice like everyone else. If they prefer their neighborhood school, good on them. Being a Five Oaks resident, a neighborhood DPS isn’t a reality and even if it was I wouldn’t be interested. Our children are established in their current schools and we don’t wish to change it based on the location of our home. We do not utilize the school’s transportation and have no plans to do so in the future.
If we did move to another city, we would consider the location of our home in relation to the school we wished our children to attend. That wasn’t part of the deal with DPS so it’s not as if this is a no-brainer. Most cities around Dayton don’t offer as much diversity in their public schools (Montessori, arts magnet, etc) so a lack of choice isn’t as big a deal. One school is, in many ways, very much like the other.
As for having a “chip in the game”, I don’t know that could ever be a reality with DPS. They are incredibly parent-unfriendly.

deleted author

Here’s something you’re forgetting: Stivers has NEVER been a school of choice in the DPS. A student is not admitted without audition, and only 1 out of 8 applicants are accepted. 
I agree that excellent customer service should be the rule rather than the exception. Lori Ward would do well to do a little housecleaning in that department.  

David Lauri

The “audition” process of Stivers- is why they call it St. Ivers. It’s just as biased as testing- it’s just a euphemism for “natural selection.”
Wow, David E, this is really just bullshit. Stivers is a School for the Arts. How do you expect a magnet school focusing on music, theatre, dance and visual arts to admit students?  Random lottery?  Just how long do you think an arts magnet school admitting students by chance would maintain a national reputation for excellence.
A reputation for excellence that, according to this Dayton Business Journal article, is maintained despite “more than 99.8 percent” of Stivers’ students being “economically disadvantaged” and “sixty percent of Stivers’ students [being] classified as minorities.”
Or am I missing something, David E, and it’s not auditions which you oppose on some principle but rather that you feel the audition process at Stivers in particular is unfair?  If this is the case, have you some evidence you’d care to share to support such an allegation?

The girlfriend

It was the Cincinnati Bell bill, and we were able to get it transferred to my name :)
Registering them prior to the school year ending is still an issue though. I’m not moving till July, and obviously not going to move them out of Kettering before the end of the school year with just a few weeks left.  This would be a problem for any school district, not just Dayton.
The problem that is unique to Dayton is that while waiting this additional time, I take a risk of not getting them in the school I would prefer them to attend. This could result in facing yet ANOTHER school move in the near future.
For someone in a transition stage, the grandfathering clause could be a problem as well. If my kids are required to attend a neighborhood school, but all of the kids in our neighborhood are grandfathered into other schools, then my kids are the ones that get the short end of the stick.
I’d rather see the district work on getting ALL the schools up to par so that one isn’t preferred over the other (for grades K-8). I also like the program diversity we are seeing at schools like Stivers, Ponitz, and Thurgood for high school choices.


That isn’t logic.  That is just talking.
Why should all schools be somewhat similar?  Why aren’t all pizza places similar?  Why aren’t all colleges similar?  Why do people differentiate their products?  Because customers prefer different things.
They may be similar enough that I choose to go to the nearer school because gas prices and the time it takes to get my kid to the school across town is just too high.
The answer seems to be…eliminate all bus service for children and allow parents to decide the schools their children attend.  If they are willing to drive 40 minutes away from their homes to take a child to a better school then so be it.  The parents are already paying for the school (not full market price, but something) they should be able to decide that the nearest school is not good enough without having to move.
Can you imagine if your local McDonalds didn’t have the cleanest store and the burgers were always burnt but you weren’t allowed to drive an extra 4 miles away to get to a different McDonalds?  It is crazy.
The chip parents have in the game is their kids.  If that isn’t enough for them to care and get involved then nothing will be.   On second thought; want parents to care more about ROI…make them pay the full “I” and stop subsidizing it via taxation.


“The answer seems to be…eliminate all bus service for children and allow parents to decide the schools their children attend.  If they are willing to drive 40 minutes away from their homes to take a child to a better school then so be it.”
I don’t agree with this. What will happen is that only a certain amount of children will then have choice, and the less advantaged children won’t. Public schools should be mostly the same no matter where in the city you go so that everyone has equal access to a quality education.



The choice in where to go to school is where you choose to live. Simple. Grade schools are not pizza places, they are not businesses. A kid is required by law to attend school. All your examples are of choice. You do have a choice, MOVE into the desired area of the school you want to attend.

You must be from Dayton, and you must live in Dayton. In the real world this is called sacrifice. Something Dayton parents don’t get. The school you choose is choosen for you once you decide where to live. I know, you can’t sacrifice a GD thing. But adults do, all the time. But for some reason Dayton parents are speicial they need a choice in the matter. Well they have one. MOVE. Again, Big Boys sacrifice for their kids, they get it. Heck, Larkin moved 14 states over to send her kid to a certain school. This is call sacrifice. Should I hold your hand Jesse?

Smith VS Harman, the two grade schools ( 1-6 ) in the City of Oakwood. Are they different? A little. But the teach basically the same thing. You want to go to Smith? Move into the district. Harman? Move into that district. Simple.

Dayton should have the same set up, they just have more schools. You should not move 3 blocks away from Dunbar High School and then go to Belmont High School. You see, dear Jesse, parents are responsible for their actions, and where they live is one of these actions. This is not rocket science. Big Boys understand this kind of stuff.  

Making life more complicated does not make it better.


DSEV, The problem with the other logic is that it is even harder for poor parents to get their children into good schools.  Which is easier, figuring out how to drive a kid a few more miles to school or moving into a district where average home values are $40, $50 or $60 thousand dollars higher? You can’t make schools the same because you can’t get the same teachers in each of the schools.  You can make them increasingly similar.  That process has proven difficult and time consuming and in the mean time our children are graduating without being able to understand the simplest concepts.  As a parent I don’t want to have to wait.  I don’t want to wait on my neighborhood school to improve over 5 years.  I want my kindergärtner to be educated by the best school possible for the next 5 years.     Gene, The fact that you could be legally required to eat hamburgers doesn’t change the fact that you should be allowed to decide which hamburger joint you want to eat from without having to change addresses. If I want my kid to go to Harman why should I have to move?  Why shouldn’t I be able to drive my kid the extra 1 Mile without having to move?  What if no houses are available in Harman’s neighborhood?  My kid should just sit in a terrible school and become less able to compete?  I can see the school that I want him to attend.  I drive by it every day on my way to work.  I just can’t take him there because of an imaginary line that some government people drew on a map? You shouldn’t not move three blocks from a McDonald’s and eat at a Burger King!  I can say it too.  I can even insult you.  Idiot.  It doesn’t make my statements correct. Making life more complicated is drawing lines on maps and deciding that people must stay within the newly created imaginary lines.  Making life less complicated is stop making all of these rules and allow people to take their children… Read more »

David Lauri

A kid is required by law to attend school.
Reading that, I wondered if libertarians would argue the government has no business telling parents they must educate their children.  And it took but few seconds of googling to find that indeed libertarians are against compulsory education.


Jesse, everyone else gets this. DPS should be so close in what they teach (so long as they are not an Arts school) that you should attend the closest. My example of Smith and Harman is right on. They are different, but in the same city and therefore teach the same types of things. They don’t vary that much. Neither should DPS.

Now the fact is the schools are different, well, that needs to change. And the fact that you have kids in the DPS kind of tells me you are not the best decision makers in this world.

Stop comparing this to pizza and hamburgers. This is so easy. You like a school, you move to said district. You don’t have enough money to move there, well tough luck. Get a second job. Get a life an accept the fact that maybe YOU failed and your kids are paying the price. This is a big boy world, not a hand holding world. It is called sacrifice. It ain’t perfect, but grown ups get this Body.

Joe Lacey

If I want my kid to go to Harman why should I have to move?

This doesn’t have anything to do with the DPS board’s dicision to return to neighborhood schools.  Harman is in Oakwood City School District, a district not open to enrollment of children from outside their district.  If you want this to change you’ll need to go to the state legislature.

Making life more complicated is drawing lines on maps and deciding that people must stay within the newly created imaginary lines.

Not all choice is gone.  Parents can choose between their neighborhood school and one of three magnet schools.  By law (No Child Left Behind) if your neighborhood school is a failing school, you may choose another school that’s not failing.  High schools are not part of the attendance plan.

The problem is that people are choosing to be bused across town for reasons that too often have nothing to do with the quality of classroom instruction.  Some people choose a school because it’s far enough away that they qualify for transportation.  People are bused across town on whim, rumor, a particular teacher or administrator disciplined their child, there are too many poor kids in a school, the building is newer.  For all these reasons, the community must pay millions to transport these kids across town every day.  We’re trying to put some reasonable limits on this and one big reason is that we’re getting less money and we’re trying to make cuts that don’t impact upon the classroom so much.

Shortwest Rick

I’m with Gene all the way on this one. Neighborhood schools should be rubber stamps and should be the norm, there shouldn’t be a ‘better school’ across town when they are funded by the same taxpayers and administered by the same board of education. I don’t object to a few special interest schools that cultivate certain talents in the community but they should be the exception. A kid sitting in one Neighborhood school classroom shouldn’t be provided less opportunity than a kid in a classroom across town on the same dime.
The difference between schools in Dayton is how much of the classroom day is dedicated to disruptive kids, this is in fact what determines if your kid will get more education time in another school. Ms Ward would be well advised to establish and implement blanket discipline rules across the system and remove donuts, sunny-d and all other sugar extensive stuff from the menu offered to kids who eat breakfast and lunch at the school.


Gene is right on here.
Community schools are the way to go.  Students, parents, and neighborhoods take a sense of pride and ownership in cities that have neighborhood schools.  This ownership leads to many more positives than negatives.  If kids spent the time they are in transit every day instead of pissing it away, you would see some positive gain from this.
The problem that isn’t being addressed, is that the schools should be close to the same across the board.  If you look at the respected and highly rated districts in Montgomery County, you see an influx of new residents every year, higher property values, and the desire to become a resident due to the education that a kid can expect to receive.  Any other district has fairly similar ratings and scores across the board.  This is because of accountability, leadership, and the taxpayers holding their schools responsible.
Face it.  There is a higher percentage of parents, than other surrounding areas,  in Dayton that couldn’t give a shit on if their kid was even at school.   They only get them on the bus because they are legally required to.  The districts that have a higher percentage of discipline problems and distractions need to get a handle on it.  They need to tell the parents to piss off when they cry foul that the school is picking on their baby.  Tighten shit up and that certain school may be a little more desirable.
You can shift kids from one side of town to the other and it won’t matter.  It isn’t cost effective.  The bottom line is you can’t polish a turd.  Get your schools all along the same standards, which hopefully are above par, and make all schools desirable.

Shortwest Rick

@truth: I’ll only differ with you on one point, that a higher percentage of parents don’t give a shit. In my heart I’d like to believe most parents care about their kids and want better for them but we are now looking at the third generation of DPS students (38 years) who spent a portion of their school day being transported across town and they are dumbed down. Busing I believe alienated parents from their childrens’ schools and created this lack of participation.


I don’t have kids in the DPS system.  I am a product of 6 years public education and 12 years private education.  I wouldn’t imagine letting my children into a public school.  I also don’t have any kids.  I do, however, pay for a few to attend a private school.
I am glad everyone agrees that schools should be the same…  Anybody with an idea as to how to make that work?  Seems to me that we have done a miserable job at educating our children and we spend 2nd most in the world per capita.  Letting parents make a choice to send their kid to a better school isn’t the problem here.  You are all being distracted by side issues.  The fundamental problem is that the school system is failing.  A symptom of that problem is that people feel the need to ship their kids all over the place.  Fix the schools and people will not ship their kids all over.