Dayton Public Schools. Unsafe leadership, unsafe buses

Last night the Dayton Board of Education had a “review session.” Yes, it was a Thursday night meeting, instead of a Tuesday. Yes, it forced Board Member John McManus to have to call off work. Dr. Robert Walker and Ron Lee weren’t there. They held it in the room outside the board room- at the big square table. It was at least ten minutes in before Board Member Sheila Taylor who has repeatedly told them she is hearing impaired, had to ask for microphones. The board wasn’t taping the session, but I was.

Good thing I did, because yet again, we had a train wreck.

Or, more accurately a bus wreck.

And, yet again, no one in the DPS purchasing department under Treasurer Hiwot Abraha was fired.
The last time DPS purchased full sized buses was 2010. That means our newest buses are 7 years old. According to the expert from the Ohio Board of Education, Robert Harmon, buses in Ohio last 12.5 years- and our average fleet age is 13.5. Buses usually are retired at 150,000 miles- and Dayton has 40 over 200,000 miles. Every time the state comes to inspect, DPS loses  7-10 buses at a moments notice because the buses are deemed unsafe.

Dayton has a fleet of approximately 180 buses, and should have been replacing about 30 buses each year for the last 7 years to keep the inventory in rotation. But they didn’t.

You can blame the last school board, you can blame the last administration, you can blame anyone you want, but the reality is, without operable buses, kids don’t get to school. If they don’t get to school, well, that’s how the district gets straight F’s.

Parents are frustrated. Kids are losing. The district under Rookie Superintendent is a rudderless ship. This is the leader that gave me a first marketing assignment of how to improve attendance back in July. First clue: get the kids to and from school.

If you need evidence of failure- read this email I received today from the grandmother of a student who worked in my office under YouthWorks about 4 years ago:

No Bus, No Solution!
Hi, I am (youth works student’s) grandmother an I have sent emails, called both the Superintendent of DPS and to the head of transportation about not having a bus for my grandson to come home on because at times I do not have the money for bus fare or we have no ride to pick him up! 3 times this week no afternoon bus and went through this in Oct.2016 for 2wks. I have to keep him home due to this at times since no one can let me know that yes there will be a bus this afternoon! Since (grandson) is mildly Autistic this stresses him out and I don’t like that because of DPST they are not doing their job and say the same thing over and over! I have got to the point of thinking of pulling him out of school and do homeschooling because of the busing problem. Also there was no morning bus twice the week before and we have to be outside at 5:45am for the morning bus and had stood out side for 45minutes waiting in 6 degree temperature or even colder! Even email John McManus too  last night when I saw him on the news. I don’t want to hear about what may be done in the future they need to do something now! Is there anyone who can get in touch with? I just don’t know what to do! Thank you,

Coincidence? There are no such things.

The proposal on the table was to out right buy 30 buses for 2.5 million or so. The transportation experts both said you need at least 60 this year and the same amount each of the following year. They also pointed out that buses are currently around $85K each and next year they are projected to cost $100K. So every bus you buy now, saves you $15k- or to put in a marketers terms, buy 6 and the seventh this year is free. Put another way, the costs of maintaining current buses is also getting cost prohibitive as well, never mind you are failing the kids.

But, here is where it got weird: while the transportation guys knew we needed 60 instead of thirty, no one from purchasing had a justification for the 30 number- or why we were buying the buses outright for cash. There was no decision matrix, no chosen vendor, no information about warranty, vendor, or long term strategy.

Purchasing was deaf, dumb, mute and uniformed.

Then came Dr. Adil Baguirov to the rescue. We should finance 100 buses this year, it will cost us the same this year as buying 30 outright.

Wait? Where did he get these numbers? How did he know?

And why didn’t anyone else know?

Deja vu all over again, this sounds like the CareSource deal, which only the guy who has a private business in the health care sector seemed to know all the details. And the Patterson Kennedy land offer, where again, he was the only board member who knew there had been a $900K offer on the land- that had been rejected without being presented to the Superintendent and the full board.

No, not Dr. Baguirov, the guy who claims his main business is trucking and logistics? Yup. That guy.

The only board member who buys commercial vehicles for his business knows the whole set of options better than the people we pay to manage our district transportation system and guide purchasing.

By the end of the meeting, while Treasurer Abraha can’t figure out if we are leasing or financing the 100 bus fleet- she caves to say “acquiring” – the board wants a proposal on Board docs asap so we don’t have to waive the 48 hour rule to commit to spending 8.5M on buses next Tuesday.

That’s right- we only needed 30 buses at 5:30 but by 8, it was 100 and we’re going to have yet another meeting on Monday afternoon of the finance committee to knock this deal down in a hurry.

5:05 pm today from Cherise Kidd via email:

Special Meeting – Finance Committee March 20
In accordance with Section 3313.16 of the Ohio Revised Code and File: BD of the Handbook of Policies, Rules & Regulations of the Board, I hereby call for a special meeting of the Finance Committee of the Board of Education of the Dayton City School District, Montgomery County, Ohio, to be held on Monday, March 20, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. in the 5th Floor Conference Room located at the Administration Building, 115 S. Ludlow St., Dayton, OH 45402.
The purpose of this meeting is to discuss potential financing options for the purchase of buses.
The media is being advised of this meeting in compliance with the Ohio Sunshine Law.

Respectfully,
Robert Walker, D.Min.
President
Dayton Board of Education

Not that the board can whip up the money and just run down to Joe’s School Bus lot and pick out 100 bright shiny buses anyway- the wait time according to the experts is 6-8 months from order to delivery, but we have to do this deal in a hurry. Sort of like the contract with the Ohlmann Group that the board wasn’t allowed to see, voted a week early on, and then wondered why nothing had been done three weeks later, and oh yeah, btw, the deal wasn’t for $112,500 a year like on Board Docs, but for $345 a year, with a one year contract and 2 one year extensions (more on this to come).

This is just one more example of the incompetence of a criminally negligent school district at managing the health, welfare and safety of our schools. ?Buying buses is just part of the solution, we’re still failing at routing, staffing, and demonstrating competent leadership.

A real superintendent would have fired someone for even suggesting that a 30 bus purchase was a viable option, here, we didn’t.

It’s time to remove this school board, superintendent, treasurer and legal counsel for gross incompetence. The only way to do this is to collect over 4500 signatures and present the failings of this board to make reasonable and competent decisions.

This one, has put children in danger.

That’s not what schools are supposed to do.

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4 Comments on "Dayton Public Schools. Unsafe leadership, unsafe buses"

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truddick

Two obersvations to offer.

Back when I drove a school bus (1982-83) my vehicale, as I recall, was a 1967 Ford. A properly maintained bus is safe, even from ‘way back then when they were less durable. Yes, there were occasional issues (a snapped accelerator cable on River Road, Cincinnati morning rush hour, all my little charges on board–mushy brakes one time) but the bus inspectors did not remove any busses due to age.

Meanwhile, we continue to bus the wrong students. Elementary students do not need unique programs–they need a consistent curriculum with alternatives for special needs and for very advanced students. If we return to neighborhood elementary schools and get all the kids to walk (if necessary, assign an adult as the “walking bus” leader) then we remove dozens of busses from the fleet, saving costs on not only the bus but also fuel, maintenance, and driver . (We also excuse the school from being required to transport students to their charter schools–a huge headache for the district). Meanwhile, students who do benefit from curricular options–that is, high school (think Stivers, STEM academy, etc)–do not have school bus transportation and must take RTA (also unreliable) or use the soccer-mom service.

So many opportunities, so little vision.

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[…] Baguirov is a pretty convincing salesman (as we’re seeing with the RIF, and the bus purchases, and of course the 1-to-1 computers which he takes full credit for), as the board passed Lawrence […]

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