From a consultant: DPS doesn’t need no stinkin outside consultant

Today, the Dayton Daily put their stamp of approval on the Dayton Public Schools’ funeral. We must not dare risk the precious human services levy for the whole county over the bastard children of the Dayton Public Schools. No, we must put those kids on the back burner, while some lame consultant does a “performance audit” before we start fixing what is wrong with the Dayton Public Schools and why they can’t pass a levy.

To the editorial board: move your lame asses into Dayton and enroll your children in the Dayton Public Schools- and then make that decision. Better yet, make your entire staff move to Dayton with a residency rule. Quite frankly, you’ve totally lost touch with reality. I’m going to try to dissect their editorial position piece-by-piece as follows:

Our view: Dayton schools’ big problems need big thinkers
The Dayton school board’s decision not to come back with another levy request this year was a painful call. But it was the only option in the wake of the overwhelming defeat in May.

There is never only one option. The overwhelming defeat can be analyzed- and a new plan of attack could be established. All good salesmen know there are different ways to approach different customers- and a one size fits all approach is a bad idea. It’s obvious that the purchase of the palace on Ludlow didn’t sit well with the public- how about going back after Reynolds for a rebate- since they obviously were looking sweet for a takeover after dumping their antiquated HQ and Washington Street relics on DPS for a small fortune. Maybe put the HQ up for sale, and move to either Roosevelt or Patterson Career Center? Or cutting staff- or distributing admin people at each school- putting the administrators back in the schools. The bloat downtown is questioned by many citizens I’ve spoken to. Granted running all these government programs requires more bureaucratic overhead- but there has to be a different way to spin it.

Because of how levies work, now the earliest the district can get any new money from local taxpayers is January 2009. That means that there will be two full school years of no relief from the $30 million in cuts that the district is making. That number represents 16 percent of this year’s $182 million budget — it’s a major hit.

When a business needs capital, it focuses on the fastest route to get it. Time doesn’t wait for a competitive business- and like it or not- DPS is in a fight for survival against the charters- and the suburban districts.

Besides the size of the defeat, another thing the board had to consider is that a Montgomery County human services levy will be on the ballot this fall. It’s hard to picture strapped Dayton voters approving two levies. And if people were going to choose one, the human services levy would win. It would cost less, and voters feel better about local human service agencies than they do about the schools.

Lots of civic energy is being spent on drumming up support for the human services levy. The contrast between the muscle that’s going into that campaign and the support that the schools got is stark. Their cheerleaders would barely fill a school bus.

Because Montgomery County’s human services agencies have a good reputation, business and political leaders never have had to be begged to support that levy. A cadre of executives and university leaders have vetted the county commission’s request for more human services money, and now that group is fixated on telling every homeowner what the levy does for them.

Passing levies is never easy, but passing a human services tax hike is nothing like selling a Dayton school levy.

Here is the real reason for the delay. And the sad fact that the DDN doesn’t think our kids’ education is critical to keeping them from needing human services later. We should be ashamed that Ohio currently has more people incarcerated than in in college. As to the “business and political leaders”- I’m really wondering who those people are? I haven’t seen any real leadership or vision out of anyone of late. I have seen excuses and self-serving initiatives.

If no one would disagree with that, how is it that the community has its best and brightest people focused on the easier job? That’s the case even though a troubled school system is a drag on the wider community and the myriad efforts going on to make this a better place to work and live.

Again- name the “best and brightest”- maybe we need to send them back to school- this problem can be solved.

Tough questions need to be asked

Figuring out how to improve Dayton’s schools is not for sissies. It requires asking:

  • What can we do to compensate for the fact that Dayton has to educate the poorest children, and the largest concentration of needy children, in the region?
  • How can we reward teachers who are succeeding in spite of daunting odds and in spite of labor contracts that basically only recognize longevity?
  • What can be done to improve the relationship between Dayton’s traditional public schools and the underfunded charter schools? Or are we going to pay for parallel school systems until one or the other simply collapses?
  • If running and overseeing Dayton’s schools is the hardest work in the community, what are we going to do to keep good people in those jobs?

Quite simply- we have to innovate and learn to teach differently. Dayton Public Schools has been doing that- DECA, Stivers are huge success stories. The Dunbar Basketball program, Horace Mann elementary. We have winners in the DPS- we just don’t have a leader who is able to step forward and communicate that well because he’s so busy doing his job. It’s not all PR, but community pride is the first step to supporting a new levy.

Hiring consultant smart, first step

This week the debate at the school board was whether to bring in a consultant to review the district’s operations and what the scope of an audit should be. That’s an important move because so many leaders and voters are “rightly or wrongly” convinced that Dayton schools don’t need all the money that they have now.

The school board wants the business community to pay for the study, but the business community is skittish.

Maybe it’s because the Dayton Public Schools already have a consultant or two- and they led them down this path. Refunds should be demanded from Steve Avakian and Walter Ohlman for the pathetic job they did on the last levy- and on the image of the Dayton Public Schools. How about an investigative report on how much DPS has spent on these charlatans?

Truthfully, many executives have given up on Dayton’s schools, and, for political reasons, others don’t want to “own” the results. The theory goes that if the district doesn’t pay, it won’t be invested in the recommendations.

This is nuts. The review ought to be funded jointly; it should be expansive, and the consultant needs to be challenged by an “A Team” of people who are ready to dig in. What if some loaned executives went to work at the district’s central office? What if some retired executives were asked — or better yet, offered — to lend their business acumen?

I recommend hiring Pete Forester for the lead position- he knows how to best bilk the public out of their money. The fact that the paper hasn’t done an in-depth investigation on how the entire system looked the other way while DP&L was raped and pillaged at our expense is more pressing than bringing the same old cast of retired “executives” in to do consulting. I’ve seen enough of their handiwork- look at the state Dayton is in now? This wouldn’t have happened if local execs really cared about anything other than their own tax breaks.

For the next two years, every dime Dayton has counts, even more than it used to. If class sizes keep getting bigger, and if test results don’t get better, the exodus of students is not going to stop.

This is exactly why DPS must regroup and come back in November with a new, more modest proposal, and a strategy on how to give Dayton back some bang for its buck.

A study wouldn’t fix everything. But it could help the school board, the administration, the unions and committed community leaders confront what we’re not doing well. And it’s a method for putting bold ideas on the table.

Name the last bold idea that came forward that worked? Bold thinkers are run out of town in our closed door, back room political morass we’ve created and endorsed for years. You want a plan? It involves action now, not later. You want solutions- plan your offense and run the plays- you don’t win on defense, or running out the clock, you win with leadership. If Dr. Percy Mack can’t do it, if the present School Board can’t do it- hire someone who can.

A major event happened when the levy was defeated. We can confront that and figure out how to recover — or we can pretend that ensuring a quality education for 16,000 poor children isn’t important.

And, we can’t listen to the DDN editorial board if we believe that those kids don’t deserve a levy in November.

Give me 4 hours with the board and the Superintendent. I’ll show you the way. $500.

It can be done.

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