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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