Dr. Elizabeth Lolli was never meant to be an urban superintendent. It’s questionable if she should have even been a superintendent anywhere. The fact that she was hired by someone who was fired should have been the first clue to a clueless board made up of 2 ego-maniacs with higher political aspirations, a clueless preacher and a blue collar mom who abhors both confrontation and her class status. That the vote to lay off 10% of the staff of a struggling school district split along board election cycles- with the 4 old school political party insiders all voting to flush staff when the chips were down says almost everything you need to know. These people have zero respect for social capital or the organization. To them, as it is to Lolli, it’s just money- which is the only reason Lolli is still working. She’s already retired- is drawing a pension, and collecting a jaw dropping $200K a year for failing the district. There isn’t a single performance indicator that she’s raised in her first three years- and the most important one- faith in the district, is at an all time low- from staff, to students, to parents- who have been voting with their feet.
I stopped pretending to care about what was happening at DPS, where I used to go to meetings, film, and report back on what insanity was taking place. It almost makes for an amazing documentary about dysfunction in urban American Schools- except, no one wants to watch that movie- because it’s playing out in real life everywhere. We’ve screwed our kids with standardized tests, the “common core” and thinking technology or new buildings or masters degrees or any of hundreds of other “solutions” will fix the only real problem in American urban education- which is poverty – tied to a ridiculous agrarian school year calendar that isn’t anywhere near what is needed now. I invested my time and money to provide an outline of what it would take to fix our district with the short film “There Ain’t No “F” in Dayton.” It’s been ignored. If you need a refresher:
The final straw for me, was when the school board sat through the most incompetent presentation ever- for a program from the University of Virginia that Dr. Lolli wanted to implement, and didn’t say a word when the presenter clearly wasn’t prepared- the slides still had “greek text” on them- and “your perfect title slide.” See this post: Why there is no hope for Dayton Public Schools. Turns out the program didn’t even meet Lolli’s expectations, she canned it after 2 of the 3 years had been bought and paid for.
So when it comes to remote learning and Covid, why would we expect any kind of competent response? We shouldn’t. Lolli is a technological dolt. I had served on the technology steering committee long ago- and advocated for 1 to 1 computers for every kid- that they could take ownership of and take home. When I ran for city commission, it was part of my platform, as was a citywide high speed wifi system. But, no, the district didn’t listen, the city didn’t listen and the voters didn’t either. So heading into the pandemic- we had to buy more chromebooks, because we spent stupid money on “carts” for them, to keep them in classrooms and “accounted for.” For every cart we bought- and we bought hundreds of them, we could have bought at least 7 more laptops. Dumb.
The reality is, for many DPS families, the problems are twofold- one is no high speed access. There are parts of Dayton that still remain digital deserts. But, the other problem is that the parents are working at low wage jobs that were deemed essential. They aren’t working from home- to be able to supervise their kids while the remote learning takes place. Parents need schools as supervised day care if nothing else, but, we’re pretending that’s not an issue.
We’re laying off staff instead. Best idea I’ve heard was from Norman Scearce, who is a pastor and a Trotwood Board of Education member. He suggested using all these churches we have in Dayton- that have classrooms and Internet, that sit vacant during the weekdays- and turn them into remote classrooms – where 10 or less kids can come to do school work under the watchful eye of a teacher (or a bus driver or a school nurse, or a PE teacher). Instead of having 30 buildings packed with hundreds of kids spreading disease, we could have hundreds of buildings with small pods of kids doing supervised school work. That’s creative thinking. It also makes it easier to set up hotspots- than a mobile bus “solution” which is the best Lolli and her incompetents came up with.
This interruption in our educational ecosystem has dire consequences, even without the increased risk of spreading the virus. Read what NY Times editorial writerwrote:
affluent children will mostly be fine even without in-person classes. But one study found that almost 17 million American children live in homes without high-speed internet, and more than seven million don’t have a computer at home. For disadvantaged kids, “online learning” is an oxymoron.
Prolonged school closures will worsen dropout rates across the nation, for missing just 10 percent of class days is associated with a sevenfold increased risk of dropping out. Even in normal times, only 53 percent of children attending Bureau of Indian Education schools finish high school. Closures after Hurricane Katrina led many students to leave school for good.
It’s a whole new world out there with Covid, remote learning and social distancing. We need new thinkers and innovative solutions. It’s time to re-examine everything, starting out with finding new roles for people we’ll definitely need back as soon as a vaccine is available.