Dayton Public Schools has changed

As he’s getting ready to slip out of town, Dr. Kurt Stanic is owed some accolades. If you’ve met him- you’d probably realize he’s the epitome of public servant: he does his job with passion, and doesn’t like to take the credit. While he’ll probably be remembered by most for wanting to tear down Julienne, his real legacy is the progress made at the high school level.

All of the Dayton Public School high schools are now engaging students and running tight ships. No more wild kids running the buildings- no more questions of who is in charge. Learning is taking place and the scores are bumping up.

It all starts with the principal- and Erin Dooley at Stivers was the first to set things straight. It was also going on at DECA- with Tim Nealon, but as a funky joint venture- they were sort of off the radar. Next came Dooley protegee David Lawrence at Thurgood Marshall- and Marlayna Randolph at Dunbar. I predicted Lawrence’s transformational skills on this site- only to be laughed at. With Gates scholars, higher test scores, better attendance and even championship basketball teams, Thurgood Marshall is becoming a school of choice- not last resort.

Today the DDN reports on Dunbar:

The state report card released last August showed the Wolverines moving up to continuous improvement, the equivalent of a C. That’s after a decade of mostly Fs. The 600-pupil school also improved in every subject area on the Ohio Graduation Test from the previous year.

So what’s different at Dunbar these days?

“We’re really trying to focus on student engagement, doing a lot of activities centered around making (lessons) relevant to real-life situations for them,” said Principal Marlayna Randolph, who’s in her second year in the job.

via Dunbar’s classroom standing on the rise.

The progress is happening with the same student population, the same teachers for the most part, and some would say the new buildings are helping too. While new paint and walls do send a message, I’m betting that new buildings are only a small part of the answer (although the security systems and monitoring are much better than in old buildings).

The real change has been leadership- from Stanic on down. Even the school board has a new found belief in goal setting and management by objective. While the board still can’t figure out the advantages of open government and properly holding meetings and doing bids properly, they do understand that you have to let the Superintendent exercise his power.

The last remaining problem is image. Busing was finally totally over last week- after 40 years of failure. The damage was done- and its effects will probably stay with us the same as a limb amputation (it caused economic segregation to replace racial segregation within the district). The only thing that can undo it is for all the schools to have Stivers like performance, and to restore the perception of safety in Dayton proper.

A tall order.

Dr. Stanic has named Lori Ward as his replacement. The true mark of any leader in my book is how well they’ve prepared their successors. If Ward accomplishes half of what Stanic did in his short reign, Dayton Public Schools will be taken seriously as a system of choice.

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