Dayton Public Schools- Now what?

Reality: the big levy got whupped, programs were cut, more students will leave because of program cuts, funding drops as students leave, and now- because the skip to “Continuous improvement” was because of an incentive portion of the scoring system, not an actual huge gain, you’re one year away from State intervention- with no real plan in place to turn the schools around.

Place a bet this where Dr. Mack cuts and runs (retires or takes a job elsewhere)- throwing the system into even more turmoil. Here is part of what the DDN reported today:

Dayton schools slip in report
Dayton was rated in academic watch based on test scores, attendance and graduation rate — the fourth of five state rating categories. Last year, the district leaped to the middle category, continuous improvement, after years in academic emergency.

The district was second worst in Ohio for both the number of state standards met — two of 30 — and for performance index score, the state’s measure of test performance across all grades.

Even though DPS has some shining examples of success, like Stivers- one of the others, DECA- got tossed aside when the levy failed. You can’t attract quality students when you cut your options on quality programs.

Surprisingly, today, Oakwood announced that they are placing a levy on the November ballot. Why can Oakwood place a levy on the ballot at the same time as the precious Human Services Levy- and Dayton can’t? Because Oakwood voters know and understand the value of their schools- and there aren’t enough Oakwood voters who would be choosing between groceries and property taxes. However, it’s sad that DPS has been banned from the ballot box for at least a year because the people who believe they are in charge of this city- said don’t do it.

Here is the thing: No amount of new taxes are going to save the Dayton Public Schools as long as they keep doing what they are doing. Second worst scores in the State says the “reforms” aren’t really working.

Here is a shortened version of a turnaround plan:

  • New brand name: Dayton Public. It doesn’t sound like much- but it can bring a new attitude to a school district that has no business calling itself a “School” until it’s not the second worst district in the State. New logo too- Tough- not the childlike blocks and scrawl they have now. Maybe LA Raiders Black and Silver. We’re not some pansy’s here with baby blue and gold.
  • New Technology: All students will be issued an Apple MacBook. All textbooks, educational materials will be delivered digitally. All tests will be taken via a computer. Total elimination of paper. Why Apple- because it’s the computer of the “creative class”- and it’s easier to support and it can run Windows if need be. The iLife application suite that comes with a standard Mac outperforms anything on Windows. Yes, they cost more- but you get more.
  • WiFi for Everyone: The city will implement an ultra-hi speed wireless Internet for all citizens in the DPS. Students will have free access on their computers. City services will have access- Police and Fire etc. The rest of us will have the option of buying access for $10 a month. This system will be faster than DSL or Roadrunner. The system will be run by students as a profit center to support the school system. It will be an educational resource and a community resource- and it will help make the need for levys less severe- and offering the taxpayers something in return. The system will have logins for everyone else who doesn’t pay the fee- but they will be subjected to local advertising that is sold by the students to help raise revenue for the schools. Note: UD has Flyer Enterprises, where students run the mini-mart and coffee shops on campus. Similar model. Also- along with selling ads for the Wi-Fi network- students will be able to sell ads on School buses- and be the agents for selling ads on RTA buses with all revenue going to DPS. (The RTA director already was willing to write off the bus ad revenue- so why not give it to support his biggest customer?)
  • Sports: Dayton is the largest district. Dayton has the largest pool of top athletic talent. So, instead of fielding 5 high school football teams- with the talent divided- let’s have ONE TEAM. Yes, I know you’ll immediately cry about less participation- but, that’s not true. We would have multiple “reserve” or “JV” or club teams. We would also participate in more High School Sports. Right now- no Dayton High School would be able to support a gymnastics team- and barely a swim team- but with the One Team- we could have more opportunities for more sports. Besides starting to win every sport in the state- and gaining pride in our Schools- we’d also start seeing parents who want their kids to go off on sports scholarships transferring to the DPS.
  • Sports Facilities: Although it is too late to stop building gyms in new schools- all efforts would be centralized on the Parkside homes location- The Dayton Sportsplex. This facility, in combination with the existing Kettering fields, the coming Kroc Center, would be a place where the entire region would come together for sports. Coupled with 5/3rd Field, the UD sports complex surrounding UD Arena and Welcome Stadium- anyone driving through Dayton on I-75 would think they’d just passed an Olympic Village. Sports tourism would take off- and Dayton would be a leader in Youth sports. The facility would include a true Olympic pool, a velodrome, ice rink, speed skating rink, gymnastics facilities, indoor football practice field, indoor and outdoor soccer facilities, indoor and outdoor weight training facilities (think Venice beach)- etc.
  • Centralized tutoring, enrichment, A/P building: Directly connected to Sportsplex would be a central after school education facility for the whole district. Community volunteers would be able to reach kids across the city- in one place. In order to use the sportsplex, kids in academic trouble would first have to complete extra credit in the EdPlex. This building would also house the new Dayton Public Main Library. Arts activities would be conducted at the Dayton Playhouse/Riverbend Arts center, Science could be conducted as an extension of the Boonshoft Museum. All could be linked with a futuristic tram or monorail. This would be the afterschool destination for kids- instead of Third and Main.
  • Rewards for Academic achievement: All students would be tracked with a “Health Index” much like a video game- a concept kids fully understand. Missed classes, missed assignments, poor grades will lower their health score, achieving – will increase it. This score would be held on a student swipe card- that would grant access to the sportsplex- or to other benefits, like special access to online communities on their laptop. No Show- no myspace or facebook. Whoa. If a student graduates- and has maintained at least X on his “Health Index” s/he would be eligible to keep the laptop- and continue to Sinclair on a full ride- as long as the “Health Index” remains healthy. Note, points would be deducted for negative behaviors such as getting pregnant, arrested, failing drug tests etc- throughout this program. Kids understand how rules work in video games- they understand how they work in real life too if they are clear.

This was the brief brain dump.

If Dayton Public presented this plan as part of a levy campaign- with giving all residents tangible benefits- not just a school system that educates, the levy would pass- and our kids would have a fighting chance.

If you’ve got a better plan- or a better idea- feel free to enter it below. You can snipe, sneer, whine all you want, but, so far- no one has come up with anything that doesn’t sound any different than what has been done before. And, that, as we know- defines insanity.

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D. Greene

Technology is not a panacea, and neither is internet access. Those details need to be seriously fleshed out to prove that there would be a Return on Investment worth the cost. I think the notion of digital delivery for textbooks is brilliant if done properly and in a cost effective manner. The textbook industry is scamming the taxpayers because we let them. Apathy is poison. Hell, kids could just access Wikipedia for articles as long as teachers are willing to do some rudimentary fact checking. Creating a digital textbook for children on any given subject would be a worthy open-source project that could dovetail nicely with Wikipedia’s current mission. But furthermore, the corporate culture at DPS needs to change, and badly. Dr. Mack referred to failure to pass the 30 million dollar levy as a budget cut. This is simply wrong. By referring to it as a ‘budget cut’ it means he and the planners budgeted to spend 30 million more dollars than they had in revenue, and then creating this emergency, and hat in hand, coming to the city for more money. This happened in Beavercreek and the first levy failed utterly, the superintendent got run out of town, and after some reforms a second levy attempt for a smaller amount passed. The culture needs to change. Then, the first thing they did to meet the new ‘restricted’ budget was to lay off young and new teachers, those that get paid the least. By keeping on the senior teachers instead, DPS automatically raised the per unit price of educating these kids. Wages and incentives should be based on merit and accomplishment, not seniority. The whole point of civil service reform in the late 19th century promoted by Henry Adams and Woodrow Wilson was for a ‘scientific’ civil service based primarily upon merit. The teachers unions need to accept merit as the primary way to judge pay raises, firings, and hirings. The culture needs to change. The school’s spending and contracting processes need to be scrutinized. We don’t need to hire any goddamn consultants from Florida, we just need to… Read more »

Phillip Ranly

This right here is why I come here—big ideas. A good amount of your suggestions sound really good. Would there ever be enough money to do half of it though?

David Esrati
David Esrati

To address issues: If enrollment increases, we get more money per child from the State. One of the main reasons DPS has been hemorrhaging revenue has been from kids choosing Charter schools- we have to give them a reason to choose DPS – instead of Charters- or moving out of the district.
So- laptops, wireless, massive sports plex- dominating sports teams- all incentives to enroll.
Yes- the unions need to work with DPS- but they have- look at what happened at DECA- where union rules were set aside. Yes- there needs to be better accounting- but- that’s in the future- we can’t do anything about the past. Visionary plans- visionary thought leadership- will more than makeup for the budgetary screw-ups, or at least buy some time.
The most important thing- tangible benefits for the taxpayer- cheaper hi-speed access, a sportsplex that defies compare, a new library/learning center, solution to Third and Main, personal accountability for test scores, winning sports teams- bring a community together… it is all connected.
Look at the big picture- not the details.

J.R. Locke

Mr. Esrati the big stuff is fine in dandy for making the schools more appealing on a marketing brochure but the issue isn’t about anything structural. This is about neighborhoods, families, parents and the children taking the onus on themselves to stay in school, study and learn for the sake of improvement, not just for these test scores.

All these ideas thrown out seem look like the typical liberal handbook for improvement. Infrastructure has little to do with success, ones own ambition and core values guides most of that. Instead of new complexes and laptops why don’t we pay some concerned citizens some dough to educate and lead individual children….

Now I wholeheartedly agree with your centralized downtown sportsplex/tutoring center. As a soon to be teacher I love the idea of student feedback related in creative ways. But just like everything in this city, until the people in the hole start to climb out there is no sense in throwing laptops or new gadgets down there with them. A culture of improvement will need to start in the bedrooms and on the streets before we need to start talking about luring people to Dayton Public.

David Esrati
David Esrati

The laptops aren’t about throwing technology at them- it’s about giving them cost effective tools to distribute educational materials and work collaboratively. It spins both ways.
By having a plan- any plan- a rallying cry- a benefit for your levy dollars- that isn’t just about the kids- DPS may have a chance to get a levy passed. Without it- no way.
Paying teachers- no problem- but that requires 2 things- a passing levy- and more students- not less- and that IS a marketing problem.

D. Greene

David, marketing isn’t just about big ideas – details are the glue that keep your ideas from falling apart.

David Esrati
David Esrati

D. Greene, Apathy and lost hope are a poison. Marketing is the beginning of the solution- coupled with new ideas- if I’d spelled out all the details- you wouldn’t read it all- and I would be broke.
When someone is serious about our kids future- they’ll figure this as a starting point.

Lisa H

I must agree with JR the main problem with DPS is the fact that so many inner city families within the Dayton School district are falling apart. Stivers does well because the parents that care the most push to get their kids there and stay involved to keep them there. Too many lessons taught tended to be listening sessions to student’s problems at home, i often wished i had the skills as a counselor to actually help… unfortunately a lot of parents treat school like free day care and a lot of parents need life/family skills education/counseling themselves and motivation to make a better life.


With JR and Lisa, here. I think the issues lay deeper than a better marketed school system. A depressed culture and society can make poor family values. A better student starts from a better home life. Most of these kids come in from broken families with misguided priorities—generation after generation—with poor diets, getting their guidance from the idiot box or whoever mom’s sleeping with. It really is cliche of modern poverty. Start solving this issue first, not designing a better logo.

Teri Lussier


The paragraph starting with “Centralized tutoring” is part of the answer to the issues these kids deal with at home. That program would offer a resource, and an alternative to a less-than-optimal home life. This is not about marketing, it’s about implementing both a creative and practical way to deal with real problems.

Families look at schools above anything else when deciding where to live. Improving DPS is key to bringing families and dollars to the city.


It starts at home, and telling the truth may hurt, but that is the deal if we want real improvement. Everyone understands that families look at schools when deciding where to live, but first things first. Solving this problem includes our city doing a better job of attracting business, making safe neighborhoods, and maybe a little FAMILY teaching – which used to be done among elders, peers and through the churches ( among other social avenues ) but most of you are too scared to admit that religion might actually help some of these people, and too scared they might turn pro-life. Your agenda before theirs, before the greater good of, well, everyone. At the end of the day it starts and ends with responsible parenting, and we have way too many people unqualified to have sex let alone to be a parent. Our social ills are created by a lack of guidance and God as well as people not willing to demand better things from everyone, rich or poor. Just grow the government so it is soooooooo huge nothing gets done – like what is taking place right now.


So what happens with state intervention? Has that occured anywhere in Ohio?

Also, I notice only four school districts in Montg. County are OK without qualification…Oakwood, Centerville, Nortmont, and was it Vandalia?

David Esrati
David Esrati

AGAIN: If you’ve got a better plan- or a better idea- feel free to enter it below. You can snipe, sneer, whine all you want, but, so far- no one has come up with anything that doesn’t sound any different than what has been done before.

Kevin- it was about more than a logo- please read the whole thing.
JR, et. al- Government can’t fix families. However, we can lure families to attend DPS with innovative programming- a world class sports organization- and some good old fashioned pride. Dunbar may have failed some tests- but last year- it kicked ass in hoops- and for a while, there was real pride.
I don’t really care how you pick this apart- I want to hear SOLUTIONS- or at least IDEAS.

Jeff- as to State intervention- no one knows what happens. The State has been in contempt of court on the funding issue for over 10 years now if that is any indication.

D. Greene

Ok David, I mentioned ideas. They might not sound sexy or flashy, but they are ideas nonetheless. Let me re-iterate:

– Change the corporate culture in DPS and Dayton – waste averse, results oriented. People have to give a shit about their kids’ futures and their kids’ grades. Dr. Mack touting ‘Continuous Improvement’ is not good enough. That is a C-, and now DPS is getting a D grade from the State – WHICH CANNOT BE BLAMED ON THE LEVY. How much money does DPS spend per student btw? Anyone know this?
– Which sortof brings me to my next point – pay based on PERFORMANCE, NOT SENIORITY. Why did they lay off primarily new and young teachers, raising the per unit cost of education?
– Scrutiny and transparency regarding the school’s funding – why is it that they are calling the failure of the LEVY a 30 million dollar budget cut? Will anyone even attempt to answer this question?

Drexel Dave

gene obviously hasn’t been around the city recently. The poorer the neighborhood, the higher the concentration of churches. How does that jive with his religion making society better thinking?

J.R. Locke

Mr. Esrati the only solution is for those individuals to step to the plate and take control. As Lisa mentioned with Stivers, those who have the desire will find a way. I don’t think any concentration of school districts or services will be what changes this issue. What will change is individuals giving their time to these children in the undesirable neighborhoods. No program or big civic initiative needed just the folks better off lending a hand to instill in these children that someone believes in them. So my solution is maybe all the folks reading on here pledge some time to help, get their family and friends to help too and maybe we will have a true Dayton pride built upon actual human interaction. From there we can talk about structural achievement, with the help of these children and young adults who would have input on this issue themselves. Some ways to organize this 1) Nearby professors from Wright St. UD and Sinclair provide sessions for high school students interested in particular subjects 2) Daily groups of individuals to provide after school tutoring for elementary kids upward 3) Neighborhood acknowledgment of children’s accomplishments 4) Involve the elderly population in individual neighborhoods to tell stories, rely history etc… Now I love the idea of an organized centralized tutoring center and the sportsplex but these are subsidiary to the DDN article about the step backwards at Montgomery County Schools. Working from the ground up I think we would be better off finding what it is these kids want from a structural standpoint not what a middle aged man with no offspring thinks is good for them (not a shot at anyone personally, just a statement to make clear that I think those living outside of what is really going on often fail to understand the root causes and consequences of their solutions. For instance what happens to the pride of individual schools when we centralize? Would it minimize leaders to fewer? Marginalize even more folk in Dayton? etc). To D. Greene: I personally have a big problem with the idea of… Read more »


DD – participation at churches is a real indication of family and personal commitment to life and values (not the only indication, but a good start.) The number of churches make little difference unless people actually attend, especially families. Again, it is just a part of the whole system of trying to improve one’s mind and life. People who have a sense of purpose and pride, which can be facilitated through church or other positive social organizations, usually do better in school and commit less crime.

Solutions – hold parents accountable, as well as teachers. We have too many older teachers who simply collect pay checks, the passion they once had is gone. The younger people are still naive enough :) to believe they can change the world, and I still have hope they will. The solutions are rarely about money, just investigate rural schools – the kids are generally well behaved, brought up with a sense of purpose (sometimes this includes one’s faith) and generally their parents are on their ass. If you break it down, and you talk to any real true blue conservative (which by the way I am not) they would concede a lot to liberals if people would just raise their families properly – and NO, this does not mean 1 man, 1 woman necessarily. Rather, this means that a man will step up to the plate and act like a man if the get a woman pregnant, offering financial and emotional support. Most of the problems we talk about start here – fix these problems and many of the other problems shrink, leaving us in a position to actually help the people that need real help, not bullshit handouts.

Lisa H

here’s an opportunity, K12 gallery has after-school programs and needs volunteers. I know there are members who are teaching/volunteering there in an effort to continue to provide a source for art education/exposure after the levy failed…


There’s a pretty good set of remarks over at the DDN blogs, Scott Elliott’s “Get on the Bus” blog.

I liked Joe Lacey’s questions as a way to find out whats up and get into the weeds a bit on whats going on and how to fix it…..

” I only felt that those test scores raised some serious questions. Our 7th and 8th grade scores are the worst in the state. Is the switch from middle schools to Pre-K-8 schools not going well? Why is our graduation rate so much higher than the rate of proficiency on graduation tests? What are the schools that have improved doing right? What problems are the schools that have fallen facing?”


Interesting post. I think it is more important to ensure the basic necessities of life to the students of DPS before anything else. Wholesome and healthy foods coupled with safe and loving home lives would make a significant difference in the outcome of DPS students.

David Esrati
David Esrati

And Michael, we already feed all the kids in DPS.
The safe and loving home lives? How can we, the taxpayers fix that- we can’t-
but- we can give them hope- and something to cheer about- and something that makes them feel superior to suburban districts- that’s a first step.

Teri Lussier

I think in the end, parents need to take this up with Columbus. The bulk of solving these problems should not be on the backs of the citizens of each district.

Or, leave Columbus out of the equation altogether and allow each district complete freedom in how schools are funded and what gets taught, and how it’s taught.


All this looks good, but a very important issue in Dayton City Fools (schools) is the lack of “true” security. Many children, usually the “better” behaved students, leave for charters or outside district schools for the reason of not feeling SAFE in school. Many schools say they have and say they enforce the Rules, but all too often a student gets a verbal “warning” and then returned to the school. Many parents do not want their child in that kind of settings. If change is going to be effective in Dayton Schools it needs to have a complete re-making. And for those of you that think teachers’ pay is too high look at the starting pay for a DPS (or any public school) teacher after completing four years of college to that of a TWO year Jr. College Firefighter in Dayton. The public asks a lot of the teachers, you blame much of the “troubles” of society on the teachers but you pay them one of the lowest salaries in a Professional career. Is it no wonder that more and more Universities have been cutting back their Teaching Programs? Are you aware that a garbage truck driver in the City of Chicago makes far more than the highest paid Dayton City School teacher? It is public record. The saying you get what you pay for has some meaning that many public tax “criers” seem to miss. It is so sad that here in Ohio tax payers are willing and ready to pay $40,000.00 per person to be housed in the Prison System but under $2,000.00 per student to educate our young people. What happen to the old saying: “You get what you pay for!” Is our community worth less to educate and expand than it is to house in prisons?? It sure looks that way. Why does Canada have so LOW unemployment?? Well part in due to the offer of Free college for all students. If you are in school in Dayton and you can pass, what do you have to look for, college is there but few High School… Read more »

D. Greene

urbanteacher: one of the problems is people like you who are clearly incompetent when it comes to using proper spelling and grammar. I hope you teach gym class, if anything at all. Oh, and by the way, we spend upwards of $10,000 per student, not $2,000. Maybe $2,000 per student is the real figure after all the administrators and bureaucrats take a little bit off the top, eh?


How about the point about “security” in the schools? Doesn’t that trouble anyone?


At the end of the day, all public schools need to attract better teachers. The only way this will work is if WE decide to pay teachers more money. We can cheer-lead, promote, lie, pat-on-the-back, smile, hope, wish, etc…….. but people want cash – smart people want cash, and the smarter people will tend to go into this profession if, and only if, we pay them better. This will eliminate poor teachers, or at least some of them. We need to hold teachers accountable, and limit bureaucracy. Getting better teachers, coupled with better and more responsible parents, shall make a BIG difference. Giving them free lap tops and promoting the schools is important, but after we get better teachers and hold parents accountable.


I really like your ideas! It’s much better than the “oh, well, it’s the families’ faults and there’s nothing we can do. Boo hoo schadenfreude schadenfreude schadenfreude.” Thank you for adding hope! One slight idea from me, on your SportsPlex / Centralized Tutoring idea: Build the courts (basketball, etc) with a second-floor walkway around the top, just like I’d seen at an older YMCA. Basketball courts have to be two-floors high anyway, of which the second floor is mostly wasted space, so have a circular walkway for seniors to get their walking in, like they’re doing in YMCAs now. Have pools open to the public, etc; make it a community space rather than just for students after school. Anyway, hopefully that will inspire the seniors away from the YMCAs and to the SportsPlex(es?), where after taking their walks and socializing a bit, hopefully some will stay and do some of the mentoring/tutoring for the youngsters. This then further builds the community by linking the older generation and the younger generation (oftentimes grandparents were caregivers for children while the parents worked, way back when), thus both raising test scores for students as the seniors share their wisdom, knowledge and (most importantly) patience, and also giving the seniors an ability to feel useful and wanted by helping out in their communities and again having a function that society wishes them to contribute. Not to mention, it’s well-documented that keeping an active mind helps ward off Alzheimers, Parkinsons, etc and that those seniors who have no plans for what to do post-retirement tend to die much earlier, so this will also help our seniors live longer and stay more vibrant. Also, just generally: while I don’t mind the city spending money on sports-facilities for the schools, why can’t they also be opened to the public? If the school isn’t playing a game there, why can’t a local business have their intermural baseball division play a game or two there, at a modest fee? Why not make us all appreciate our schools more by having us all do things there??? Oh, one more idea:… Read more »

Jennifer Alexander
Jennifer Alexander  Dalton Sherman…Dallas City school student…back to school speech for district teachers….this is a must see & forward video clip  First off, I’m impressed with how this blog post topic has really taken on such interest & spurred such open & productive conversations. Thank you David for trying to inspire all to THINK BIG & OUTSIDE THE BOX.  I love the idea of a centralized tutoring/mentor/enrichment center for the DPS students. This could be staffed with volunteers from many walks of life….corporations like Lexis Nexis that give their employees time to work in the community could adopt & sponsor certain days or programs.  The area suburbs should also get involved & adopt a regular night of the week to not only have adults come & volunteer…but our high school students as well to buddy up, tutor & encourage these students (many of the spoiled kids in my neck of the woods need a reality check & some diversity in their lives….so in turn, your kids would be greatly enriching the lives of our kids)   Seniors….what an asset that we so rarely take advantage of. I  wish I could get a senior female buddy…so many arts&crafts&homemaking skills that are being lost these days…most families could benefit from having a senior teach them how to properly slow cook a roast or properly mend clothes, preserve & can fruits & veggies.  Possibly these schools that are empty at night, right now…could be opened up to start programs for the entire family in the evening….the kids could get help with school work, while the parent/parents meet positive role models.  I’m also interested in the idea of looking at sports complexes to bring in tournaments & so forth.  Maybe MVH should have sponsored a community health center gym in the Dayton area, instead of giving so much $ to the south suburb schools like mine, to build fancy football stadiums???  I don’t like the idea of the free laptops for the students. As the mother of a 17 yr old daughter, I have seen first hand the advantages of technology & disadvantages. These kids that all have laptops… Read more »