A note to Rhonda Corr Saegert, future superintendent of Dayton Public Schools

Dear Ms. Corr-Saegert,

I’m the one who asked you about school grade alignment changes in the middle of the ship sinking, and yes, I’m also from Cleveland (Cleveland Heights) and will be glued to the game tonight.

In your first meeting with DPS staff, you mentioned that a blogger had criticized you for leading with your adoption story and poor powerpoint skills. That would be me.

You weren’t the only candidate who read my blog, doing your homework on DPS, Daniel Schorer not only read it, he accosted me in the hallway to the bathroom that night with an outstretched hand- and introduced himself. I didn’t want to introduce myself to him because of my bias to Mr. Lawrence being IMHO the best candidate to solve our problems, but as I heard my name slipping out of my mouth- he said “I read your blog, and I want to sit down with you if I’m selected.”

I would suggest you do the same. You are about to undertake a monumental challenge, with very little actual institutional knowledge about our city and how it works. There are 2,494 published posts on this blog, and literally 10x that in comments, over the last 10 years. This is the blog that covers Dayton politics, it is well read, by friend and foe. I will give you the unvarnished realities of Dayton and the challenges that you are facing. Many of them will depend on competent communications practices- something DPS has struggled with.

Even in researching the candidates it became really obvious that DPS doesn’t fare well compared to Beavercreek, where the boards first choice worked. Searching for Susan Hayward brought up a competent page on the Beavercreek Schools site– searching for David Lawrence or Greg Roberson and you get a cabinet page, with a link to their email, instead of their credentials (Most people end up on my blog for Lawrence which ranks higher than anything else he’s been published in locally).

As to your presentation, while you may believe your adoption was the defining moment of your life, I don’t think you had anything to do with it. If you think that makes an iota of difference in your ability to turn our district around, I’d like to hear your rationale. You had limited time to sell yourself, and that was time wasted. I’ve had discussions with David Lawrence about how to sell your vision of the changes needed for DPS and I’ve advocated for a Pecha Kucha style presentation- 20 slides, 20 seconds each, that clearly and forcefully layout a plan. This presentation format leaves no room for excess, for ancillary ideas, it’s a globally accepted format to challenge people to change their thinking- and it brings a rigor to presentations. Not only should you have a PK to presentation, you should integrate it into the curriculum, setting a challenge to students with their new Chromebooks – have a district wide competition, to present their ideas with confidence.

You will need to turn to outside sources to work with your rebranding efforts. You will need to find a company that has the tools and smarts to re-position this district as anything other than the worst school district in Ohio. I own one such ad agency. I believe my firm has the tools and skill set to help you do it, but, by no means just take my word for it, do a search of “Dayton Advertising Agencies” and see if The Next Wave comes up in the top of your organic search. Look for the post Agencies That Aren’t The Next Wave — The Next Wave and start reviewing sites. Look for content that teaches and informs, look for discussions of how to do effective marketing, branding, building a brand voice. Narrow it down- interview the creative leaders of the four or five that you think fit your vision of communication strategies. Ask them how much they think it will cost a year for their services, and how much it will cost to effectively change the culture and brand perception of Dayton Public Schools? Ask what their first steps would be? Ask what they’d do if they were you and had no budget? Find out who would be their point person on the account, and what kind of access you’d have? Ask for before and after case studies of changed perceptions for their clients. Then hire someone. Push it past the board as a non-negotiable. Stanic did.

You took a contract for one year, for $140K. We both know that’s a low number for a huge challenge. The one year contract on a two year problem doesn’t exactly show they had the full confidence in you. Hopefully, there is a big performance bonus in it, or at least a healthy renewal built in after the one year training wheels come off.

Stanic rented an apartment downtown. Not that you will get to see the inside of your abode much this first year, but, if you really want to make a statement, buy a house. In the district. I’m going to say in Historic South Park, but that’s personal bias. The number one problem we’ve faced for the last 30 years I’ve been in this neighborhood is that young people buy here, but leave as their kids turn 5. You need to meet them, hang out with them, come to our Porch Patio and Deck parties (you missed the one last night), and figure out how to stop that trend.

I’ll also throw in this idea- hire Dan Schorer right now. Put him in charge of hiring 100 new to the district teachers. Have him go out and talk to the community and sell your vision while you sell it internally. Bring his political glad handing skills to the district. He’s already liked by the board, and you’ll need help. Base his compensation partially on minimizing the amount of money the district pays to outsource teachers. Have him work on making sure the teachers we have, come to school.

You have one year to prove yourself. You see yourself as a Michelle Rhee and must be prepared for the same kind of love/hate she’s engendered over her career. Look to your staff carefully and figure out who are the doers and who have ridden in on the “friends and family plan” that has allowed the Peter principle to flourish within the district. Ask hard questions. Those who can, will have answers, those who can’t answer, find their replacements quick. Having rot within the organization just spreads rot.

Last but not least, if we are going to roll out 1-to-1 computers, that cost $200 each, stop treating them and like some kind of Tiffany ring. Give them to the kids, teach responsibility, accountability and pride in ownership. Don’t spend $1500 on locking carts- spend it on proper carrying cases. Don’t give them the keys to the universe- only in school, let them take them home. Set up programs where kids can work to earn money to pay for damage they did, don’t sit and make excuses like “parents won’t pay.” It’s bad enough we stopped letting kids take textbooks home as if they were also works of art- don’t make the same mistake again. The internet, the computer, is the key to personal pursuits of knowledge, give our kids an equal chance. This is the one issue on the Technology Review Committee that has me livid. You can fix it.

And if you want the rest of my ideas on how to help you succeed, you should be able to figure out how to contact me, my LinkedIn is up to date (is yours?).

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Saint David Lawrence

The headline is in jest. There are few subjects that I’ve written about that have generated so many comments full of vitriol and hate.

Saint David Lawrence, Chief of Innovation, Dayton Public Schools

David Lawrence, Chief of Innovation, Dayton Public Schools

Polarized audiences are nothing new to me. But some of the comments made on the most recent posts about my friend David Lawrence who also happens to be the “Chief of Innovation” for the Dayton Public Schools- who was passed over as a finalist by a divided Board of Education- have him as the singular reason for the failings of the Dayton Public Schools.

It wasn’t as if I haven’t heard it before. A fragile teacher, who has tea party leanings, told me a few years ago that he blamed Lawrence for causing his mental breakdown when Lawrence was the chief academic officer and principal of the Dayton Regional STEM school. If someone can cause you to have a mental breakdown, trust me, you’ve got other issues or lack coping skills.

Reading the comments, you’d think Lawrence is solely responsible for the entire breakdown of Dayton Public Schools.
The vitriol is there for you to review on the following posts:

And, note, there are a few positive comments there as well. Most of it comes from just a few people, but they have plenty of “Brilliant” thumbs up. Personally, I discount all comments from people afraid to post under their real name. If you can’t face someone and say they are incompetent, a fraud, dangerous- to their face, then you are as much a part of the problem.

From math teacher at Meadowdale, to assistant principal at Stivers under superstar principal Erin Dooley, to taking over Thurgood, recruited to the STEM school and then recruited back to DPS the resume doesn’t sound like a failure. If there is one thing that’s beyond believable it’s that Erin Dooley would recommend her assistant principal for a promotion if he wasn’t competent. That’s not how she works. Before the STEM school opened, I suggested Lawrence as the principal to Dr. Hopkins over lunch- and after the first principal decided to return to academia, Hopkins told me he should have listened to me the first time- and was quite happy with his hire of Lawrence. This was back when I still thought Dr. Hopkins was making good decisions, before he drank from the Dayton Development Coalition kool-aid.

Let’s talk about the one success attributed to Lori Ward- improved graduation rates of DPS students. What you don’t know can be summed up in this letter from Sarah Darden of the Dayton Urban League:

“Mr. Lawrence was the first teacher, class advisor, and curriculum advisor to invite me to provide spring and summer OGT support while a teacher at Meadowdale High School during the 2005-06 school year.

When he became principal of Thurgood Marshall High School in 2008-09, he was the first principal to pay his own teachers to provide OGT summer support and at the same time he sent all juniors and sophomores to my OGT summer boot camp at the Urban League Center.”

Back in 2005, he realized that once seniors had failed the last OGT of the year, having to wait the summer to go back in the fall and test again, was suffering from the summer slide that causes all students to regress. Lawrence found funds to set up 4 teachers at the Urban League to do intensive test prep and administer the test in the summer. Voila- more graduates.

Upon arrival at Thurgood Marshall- the reconstituted Col White- there were serious discipline problems and low test scores. From 2009 until 2011 police calls went from over 45 to under 10 per year, the performance index rose from 64 to 82 and the graduation rate from 64 to 79 percent.

Need to see the actual scores:

  • 2007-08 under Mr. Davis  PI 64.9
  • 2008-09  Mr. Lawrence PI 79
  • 2009-10 Mr. Lawrence PI 78.
  • 2010-11 Mr. Lawrence PI 82.1

No other Dayton Public School has had that kind of elevation in scores over a short period.

Throw in three students winning Gates scholarships, adding a STEM lab, the basketball team went to State finals twice, the football team was undefeated in his final year, it was 2-8 when he arrived. I remember him fretting over a decision to remove the winning basketball coach- he thought that there was a better way to build character and respect and brought in Darnell Hoskins, who took the team to an even higher level. (Ironically, Hoskins was recruited by Middletown to replace Mark Baker who had been offered the DPS Athletic Director position by Lawrence only to have the Board overrule Lawrence).

Lawrence built relationships on WPAFB to bring in AFIT scientists to work at the school. I recently received an email from the engineering instructor who isn’t leaving for Springfield as I had erroneously reported:

“I invite you to stop by and visit our state-of-the-art engineering lab which is equipped with a range of prototyping capabilities: 3d modeling software–Autodesk Inventor, 3d printers, CNC routers and milling machines and a laser engraver.  Our students are currently earning Sinclair college credit for three courses (two mechanical engineering and one for architectural modeling with Autodesk Revit) and a fourth credit opportunity is in the works.  Last year our students in grades 9-11 earned 109 semester hours of college engineering credit which is transferable to any college.  We also compete every year in the Tech Prep Showcase.  A recent project was a microcontroller-based programmable Smart Cane for visually impaired people.”

None of that would be there had not Lawrence been principal.

While he was at Thurgood Marshal he also started a teachers academy.

As Chief Of School Innovation a few numbers to look at- suspensions have gone from 6,800 in 2012 to 3,500 in 2015, while scholarship money has gone from under $12 million to $22 million. He lead multiple initiatives including a principals institute, restorative justice practices, and bought into the latest trend, college credits for high school students (which I still believe to be a financial shell game- putting more money into Sinclair’s pockets and lessening the value of the HS diploma).

But according to “Angry DPS employee” who now tells us he’s leaving the district- Lawrence is a disaster- even alluding to rumors that Lawrence “couldn’t pass his Praxis test” – something you have to pass to get a teaching license, or a principals license in the State of Ohio. Lawrence has both, plus a superintendents license. There is also insinuation of Lawrence filing some kind of “wrongful termination suit” against DPS- yet, he was never fired.
One wild claim is that Lawrence had 30 teachers at Thurgood put in for transfer- he laughs because he wished he had 30 teachers there.

The David Lawrence I know has always been someone who wants to discuss how to transform schools through innovation. He’s a workaholic. He’s driven to excellence, and has been since long before I met him. Need proof- go look on the wall in Welcome Stadium of the records for the facility- his name is still up there for his 1984 track accomplishments. Funny thing is, I know another name up there- Dick Mann, from Cleveland Heights High School is on the wall for a lifetime achievement award- he was my gym teacher back in 1979, we used to snicker about his name.

Lawrence also served in the US Army. I think that’s what got our original discussions going at the Y downtown. Mid-college, he joined the Army reserve, going to Ft. Benning GA to become an 11 Charlie (an infantry man who fires a mortar). He did 10 years in the reserves. Just one other thing that sets him apart from the other candidates- something our school board wouldn’t give any extra credit for- but, I would. The military changes most people- and in a good way. Considering it’s one option for many of our graduates, having someone who can say, “been there, done that” is a good thing.

And that leads me to the main reason I think David Lawrence was the right candidate- besides his institutional knowledge, his achievements to date, his ties to our community, his knowledge of the players, and the incredibly short 2 year window for the magic to happen.

I’ve actually met with most past superintendents, been hired to do work for DPS on a few occasions, sat through numerous meetings with high level employees, and been in the schools. I’ve served on the “Technology Review Committee” for the last 3 or 4 years. I’ve had to listen to candidates for school board “campaign” for years, and I’ve knocked on doors, talked to kids, parents, teachers.

We haven’t had a real leader in the Superintendents office for a long time. Dr. Stanic was the closest we came to a professional, and even he was a stopgap measure. He had the board so wrapped around his fingers that he was able to grant a no-bid consulting contract to his buddy who got him the job– without any performance measurements in place- and they rolled over for him.

If you are counting on a school board to make the right decision in this case, one has to wonder how we got to where we are today? The fact that they once again passed over an internal candidate who was an obvious transition, just goes to show how out of touch they are- and if they feel strong enough to pass him over, my advice to anyone looking for an outstanding superintendent candidate, you should know that Lawrence is the real deal.

It comes back to “A” people hire “A” people, “B” people hire “C” people, and our board of education has been failing for a long time.

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The three ring circus for Dayton Public Schools Superintendent

A full house at Rivers Edge PK-8 for DPS superintendents presentationsCitizen participation is something we love to do in Dayton. Groupthink is rarely the way you solve difficult problems. A quote from Ross Perot has stuck with me for a long time, “Whenever anything is being accomplished, I have learned, it is being done by a monomaniac with a mission.”

Leadership isn’t about appeasing the masses, it’s about invigorating them, selling them a rally cry, focusing their efforts on what needs to happen first, second and third in order to reach the ring. And, you better make the ring something they want.

So when the Dayton Board of Education trotted out their three candidates for our next superintendent, you’d expect a real sales pitch- not about them, where they were born, not about what they’ve done, but about what their vision is for the Dayton Public Schools and how they are going to do it.

What we got was three, mediocre, uninspiring presentations- that frankly could have been about any school system USA. There was no rigor, there was no delving into the real issues we’re facing. The candidates went in alphabetical order, a resume was handed out, a 6 question survey- which didn’t have a space for notes, and a comment card. They were color coded for each candidate- and collected and tallied before the Board went into Executive session to discuss who knows what.

This wasn’t a room full of professionals evaluating real plans, this was more like a high school class president election, with a lot more at stake and slightly more time allotted to each speaker.

Rhonda Corr began with how she was adopted. What that has to do with running our district I’ll never know. Does Dayton have a higher percentage of students who are adopted than other urban school districts? She talked about growing up in Cleveland, her work there, including her bi-lingual skills. When she talked about her successes- instead of having clear graphs, showing actual test data- she had the horrible Microsoft powerpoint clip art. The deck looked like PowerPoint 101 – first assignment. She glossed over her experience in Chicago- again- no real, hard facts, and described her termination there as being one of those things where bad things happen to good people- guilt by association, declaring her innocence. Was I inspired? Hardly. She was locked down behind the podium, almost like a lecturer.

Dr. Greg Roberson had a much better looking deck. It had to look good, because what he was selling was Dr. Seuss concepts to a NASA convention of astrophysicists. In the room, were most of the DPS principals- who had come out to support the candidate that didn’t make the cut- who was observing from the back wall. These are the instructional leaders of Dayton Public Schools. These are the people who manage the buildings where education takes place. As the only internal candidate, he should have been selling these folks his plan- grown out of his 10 months on the job at a cabinet level position. Instead of wowing them insight into the specific problems facing DPS, he comes up with his big idea, supported by his ridiculous data analysis- “if you look at our failing test scores- and just remove the kids who miss more than 10 days of school a year, you go from failing to passing.” He comes up with his little mnemonic for everyone to chant together- and there you go. We just need to have more truancy officers, interventions and a feedback loop to make sure kids come to school and we win! Yeah.

Really?

I had the gall to ask him to name the principals and their schools- or acknowledge them individually for coming out tonight- and got booed. Apparently asking someone to know 28 of the leaders of your organization of which you preside over is too much of a test. I’m sorry- if you want to lead our schools, and you already work there, I think it’s fair to ask that you know who reports to you. Also, I used to see former Ruskin Principal, Devon Berry on my street often, looking in to get one of the Crouch boys to school. Just showing up on the doorstep isn’t enough. Maybe, if we had schools that offered stuff that kids thought was worthwhile- like extra-curricular activities, or arts, or computer programming- they might be more interested, oh, yeah, and they weren’t hungry, or dealing with other more basic problems.

I’m pro-military, and generally think there is a lot that a veteran brings to the table. However, of all the candidates, on paper, Roberson is the least experienced by far. Bringing that up apparently isn’t fair either.

While I was at the mic- the battery on my camera’s hard drive died- and I didn’t pick it up until part way into Dan Schroer’s presentation. Maybe the battery was protesting my treatment. Maybe, there should be some other video of all this, done by someone from DPS.

Dan Schroer was very different than the other two. Before we even got started, he was glad handing like a politician. I tried to make it past him to go to the bathroom before the whole thing got started and he almost blocked me in the hall, demanding to shake my hand and know who I was. When I said my name, he responded that he has read my blog. I tried to dismiss him with I was in favor of the candidate who didn’t advance, and he came back with that if selected, he looks forward to meeting with me. If that doesn’t rule him out, I don’t know what would.

His presentation was also generic. No specifics. But, I gotta say the guy is likable, friendly, took the time to shake every questioners hand, asked their name. He’s the kind of salesman the district, hell, the city, the region needs. Give him good material to go out and sell a turnaround- and he’s your guy. He could charm the business community into engaging the district, he could help sell a levy, he’s Mr. Personality. He has practically no urban experience and when asked what he’d do about fights at athletic events, it was more police- even after I said the community was looking for alternatives to criminalizing behavior.

The candidates all came back with a 2 minute wrap up. What was really needed was a discussion with the board about the real issues we were worried about. The principals know what the problems are and so did some of the people in the audience. None of these candidate had a plan.

Here’s what a competent plan would have addressed at a minimum:

We have a “Catch 22” with Human Resources in DPS. We are short about 100 qualified teachers going into next year, our pay is low, our moral is horrible and because of the distinction of being the worst in the State- it’s incredibly difficult to recruit teachers. We’re also losing teachers at a ridiculous rate. Its a huge cost penalty we face in turnover, and it’s a major distraction when almost every day we’re short staffed by 20%. Forget kids in school, if the teachers aren’t there, we’re going straight into the States hands.

The communications part of DPS sucks. We’re going to be into July, before we have the new Superintendent on board. Corr said she’d spend the first 90 days listening. Damn, she won’t even start working on the problem until schools been in session for a month. None of the three presented the way they were going to transform perception, improve moral, right past wrongs, figure out how to sell the turnaround. Corr did mention PR in her presentation. Roberson had a bad type logo of DPS Proud in his. Only Schroer had the skills to sell a plan in my estimation, but, he didn’t have one to sell.

Transportation has been a constant nightmare at DPS. If you can’t get the kids to school, home visits and truancy officers don’t even become an issue. This is a constant complaint of almost all parents. There are solutions to this. Not one of the three even knows it’s a problem.

Connecting schools to the community is also a problem. With our desegregated/resegregated, magnetized/demagnetized, neighborhood/zone schools there is not a real working infrastructure to building relationships with parents and the community. Throw in the impending hail mary of converting three schools into middle schools into the middle of this mess and you’ve just added more complexity to an already dysfunctional school system. When I asked Corr her feelings on restructuring- she said it’s already the boards decision, but when pressed, she said she prefers PK-8 as an organizational model.

I didn’t see much to address any of these issues in these presentations. What I saw was a three ring circus without lions, ringmasters, elephants, clowns, or any of the regular parts of a real show. As mentioned in comments on another post- I did see Clayton Luckie parading around- and heard him say he was going to make a comeback, just like Marion Barry I thought.  He said he’d beat me if I ran against him- and that David Lawrence will never be DPS Superintendent, apparently in retaliation for the district allowing Jonas Smith (Clayton’s uncle) to retire as Athletic Director.

City Commissioners Jeff Mims and Joey Williams were in the audience. Mayor “City of Learners” Whaley wasn’t. Her pal Tom Lasley, Dr. Education himself, was there- in support of Lawrence.

We now wait for the Board of Election to make up their minds on which one of these candidates will lead the district into the State takeover and eventual switch to an all charter system- like what they did in post-Katrina New Orleans, where Ms. Ward will be ready to roll with her charter management company (some have observed that Ms. Ward is probably more of a charter person than a public school person).

Others are talking about running a slate of candidates to replace some people on the board. The last time a slate was advanced it was the infamous “Kids First” group of 4 woman, who were backed by Reynolds and Reynolds with a $200K campaign. They helped pass a levy that made the construction companies a lot of money building new schools- and they bought the Taj Mahal downtown from Reynolds for a ridiculous price making their election one of the best political investment of all time.

My bet is the Board will want to hire Corr, and either choke on her price, which will probably be in the $200K or more price range of Ward- or they’ll end up with Schroer, who will come for considerably less and doesn’t scare any of them. Corr could also end up going somewhere else if they don’t lock her in quick. With just two weeks before the outgoing superintendent departs, they are cutting things awful close.

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More shenanigans circling DPS board

At the three ring circus on Friday night, where the three “finalists” gave their dog and pony shows, a few other things were in process.

Image supporting Mark Baker for DPS athletic directorThe search to replace the athletic director had completed, and Dunbar grad, OSU standout and NBA player Mark Baker had been offered the job. He had resigned as the head coach of Middletown High School. And while Mark Baker would seem a perfect fit, after spending many years running tutoring programs and being involved in coaching young people, the board decided to meddle, rescind the contrat and offer it to a guy out of D.C.

Once again, apparently having a diploma from DPS discounts your value.

In the audience at the event, disgraced former School Board Member and State Rep, Clayton Luckie was strutting like a peacock. I’ve known Clayton since he was a junior banker at National City Bank. He used to claim that all he needed to win an election was his huge family to get out to vote.

He made a point of telling me David Lawrence will never be superintendent, and that he would run for office again, just like Marion Barry, and he’d “beat me.” And I’m sure he would, Dayton has no problem electing the selections of the Dem Party, or people of limited moral and ethical character. Former DPS AD Jonas Smith- is one of Luckies relatives. Missing money seems to be a family trait, there is a reason I call it the “Monarchy of Montgomery County.”

There is a group planning to protest the new hire at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. It won’t be pretty, if Dr. Baguirov is left to run the citizen participation part.

 

 

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My lemonade stand

Muhammad Ali died last week. The entire world grieved. But, there are some who still call him a “draft dodger” and the “Louisville Lipp” and even worse, Cassius Clay.

It’s the last one that shows an utter lack of respect.

Ali was a polarizing person, and for some, he never won anyone over.

I am not comparing myself with Ali in any way, but in many ways, of any public person, I can relate. You can struggle with public perception, or ignore it at great risk. Most people wouldn’t do some of the things I’ve done- choose to run for political office, not just once, but many times, even after repeatedly losing, being rejected. Wear a mask in a city commission meeting to protest a planned blackout of the media when the public came to speak, yell “fuck you” at a pompous minister holding a political rally in a church when he shuts your microphone off, go back to the next political rally and get herded off the property by three police officers (yet to be written about- it happened Monday).

And few people would step into a boxing ring, and onto a global stage, to be recognized for pummeling your opponent within inches of their life. With what we now know about CTE- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy we should all wonder why boxing is still a “sport.”

Ali reached beyond boxing. He made people think. He was unique, one of a kind, and charismatic.

We like our heroes that way. But, there is a limit on how many heroes there can be. And even our imaginary “super heroes” have struggles. It’s what makes them interesting. Peter Parker and his personal struggle to fit in, Superman attempting to be Clark Kent, Batman with his secrets. Ali had his flaws, took “wrong positions” on occasion, but still, by all measure, it will be a long time before the world forgets him.

There are those of you who read this blog religiously, a few, that comment a lot, some that hate it, hate me, and would have no problem hanging me like I hang basketball nets, to shut me up. There are few people in this community who can walk up to a microphone and be hissed at, booed, or chided before they even open their mouths. For the most part, we will allow fools to be elected who do insanely stupid things- and still give them respect. For me, maybe instead of Ali, many of you think I model Rodney Dangerfield – of “I can’t get no respect” fame. Last night at the orchestrated three ring circus for public display of Dayton Public Schools superintendents (post and video to follow) I was heckled for asking an DPS administrator who has been with the district for a year, to name all 28 principals and their schools for the audience and to acknowledge their presence. Later, someone told me they disagreed with me, thinking it was an unfair “test.” I wonder how someone can be paid close to six figures, sit on the administrative cabinet in an organization that he thinks he’s fit to lead from the brink of destruction back to glory, to show that he’s made the effort to learn and know the people that he’s leading now. Others thought the question was right on the mark- but as always, only say it quietly in passing, not with a public declaration- like applause for asking the tough questions.

It’s easy to be a quiet cheerleader. It’s hard to be the only one who is willing to point out that the guy has the least experience in the field by far, and that there are internal candidates who not only have a four times more experience, but could name all of the people, and who would be the best person to promote in each building if all 28 left tomorrow.

But I’m the bad guy. Going up to ask the last candidate a question, the rabble roused and it almost wasn’t worth asking the question that I believed those very same people needed to hear- to evaluate the third candidate, Mr. Lilly White cheerleader- “We’ve had problems with violence and fights at athletic events, our community has argued about police presence at these events, what alternatives, or out of the box thinking are you going to bring to this district?” His answers were almost tone deaf, a too drunk girl with an Oakwood swimmer deaf to use a horrible timely analogy, “more or different police.” The same people who were heckling, now knew that this candidate was probably not the one they wanted, but, lord, they wouldn’t have asked that question- only I would have, for them. But I still suck.

Sucking is what life hands you. There is the old expression, when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. Right now, for those of you who are friends on Facebook, you know I’ve been dealt a truckload of lemons. I’m an only child. My parents were old when they had me. Dad is 89, mom 88. Since January, my mother has been slipping into dementia. My father, from who this acorn hasn’t fallen far from the tree, has more medical conditions than Dayton has vacant houses. If you ever wonder why I’m so adamantly against smoking– it’s because I watched my father kill himself with Player’s unfiltered cigs,  three packs a day up until his first heart attack at 47- where he was given 5 years to live. He’s outlived the doctor who told him that by at least 30 years, despite him being a younger, healthy doc. And the “Carlton low tar” smokes that he switched to for the next 10 years before he finally quit. That we used to rate a cigarette as “best” for you back in the day, shows how stupid the masses can be- that we still sell them, despite being proven to have monumental health costs that are spread among all of us- is inconceivable to me, or anyone rational.

If there is one thing I’ve learned, we live in an irrational world.

I’m sure someone else famous has said that, but I’m not going to look it up. If I am to be remembered, that might be one of the statements I’d like to own.

Dad's recipe for lemonade, bad foods for a diabetic with COPDThat was a sidetrack, back to my parents. Mom has almost always managed dad’s food well, to deal with his diabetes, his COPD, and other ailments, carefully avoiding too much sodium, and managing sugar and carbs. However, with her diminished mental acuity, she started slipping- instead of sugar free chocolate pudding- Hershy’s full sugar pudding slipped onto the shelf of her pantry, instead of her low sodium stew- Dinty Moore, with half the daily sodium count was being served. His legs from the knees down became ulcerated, he started retaining water, returning the hydrocele from hell that we had “cured” last year with the potentially life ending risky hernia repair. A trip to the VA to stabilize came first- 5 days. On his return, Mom, although she’d been out to visit him daily in the hospital, and talking to him frequently on the phone, stood there and said “where have you been” as he got out of the borrowed car that I picked him up in.

Lemons hitting me like the firebombs of Dresden.

He was home for less than a week. Sunday night, she called while I was struggling with my weed wacker that was misbehaving, asking me to take him back to the hospital. I cleaned up and went across the street (knowing these days would come, long ago, I made sure my home, office and their future home were all on the same block).

He didn’t want to go to the hospital, even though he thinks the Dayton VA is better than the Cleveland Clinic. Instead, he was off to bed.

Hillary Clinton once had an ad about that call at 3am. It came at 4 am Monday, Dad had fallen, Mom called, and I rushed over. They both have the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” buttons, thanks to the Area Agency on Aging, but it’s been a struggle to get Mom to wear it- and even then, I’m not sure she’d know what it does- other than it’s a watch, that doesn’t tell time.

He was on his side, not moving, she was getting wet paper towels to put on his head, which was bleeding from what I determined was a very superficial cut. The walker was near him, this time. He’d fallen 3 times already this week, and once, the walker was at the other end of the house.

I thought about calling 911. The paramedics, the flashing lights and assessed both patients in this case. I still have vivid memories of myself at 9 years old, watching the gurney go down the stairs with my mother strapped in, unconscious from a sleeping pill overdose. She doesn’t remember if it was intentional, but, generally, when you take the whole bottle, conclusions are drawn. I didn’t want my mothers final memory of my once proud strong father being of him carried out on a stretcher. Pop got up, and slowly walkered out to the new to me car, a minivan, for the trip to the VA ER.

I never in the world thought I’d drive a minivan, but they are the ultimate old people movers.

At the VA, a nurse came out and chastised me for bringing a “trauma patient” to their ER, right in front of the said patient. He was seen immediately, CT within 20 minutes. He was their only patient that night. I later, upon returning from picking up his hearing aids (and forgetting his teeth- because, for me, those things aren’t something you think of – ears and teeth still come as part of your original equipment) I pulled her aside and asked if she’d been in nursing long? And then telling her that despite her 25+ years experience, she seems to have forgotten to not run up to a patient and say, “holy shit, your arms blown off” which was lesson one in my limited military medical training.

Dad will be in the hospital, or assisted living for at least a month, while he learns how to walk again on legs that don’t give him very good feedback on his body position. But, he too, is slipping into dementia, calling me on my cell to “come over to help him to the bathroom” or talking about watching Jeopardy, on the TiVo that’s in his imagination in the hospital hallway.

More lemons.

My parents have left the building. They are shells of their selves, one dimensional paintings of what used to be vibrant, engaging and bright souls. Much like Ali as he struggled with Parkinsons.

On top of this, I’m still managing the life of a 44 year old veteran, trying to align his care and his life into something manageable. There’s a story, with a video, about my visit to the Montgomery County Veterans Service Commission waiting to be written, but on the back burner, because of my lemonade business. I haven’t hung a basketball net in 2 weeks either, which makes me sad.

This post, weighing in at 1831 words so far, is too long, and too much. “I would have written something shorter, but I didn’t have time” comes to mind.

If you read this far, thank you, would you like to buy some of my lemonade?

It’s all I seem to have right now. Thank you for your patience and support.

 

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DPS superintendent search takes wrong turn

Last week, out of the pool of what Dr. Baguirov keeps calling a “highly qualified candidate pool” – the board had it narrowed to 3 candidates from six.

They were current Dayton Public Schools Chief of School Innovation, David Lawrence, relatively new hire- Gregory Roberson, Ed.D. Chief of Office for Exceptional Children and a curriculum chief from Beavercreek, who was picked to be superintendent elsewhere after applying for every job she could.

I chastised DPS BoE president Baguirov for fiddling while Rome burns. After the only outsider left, left, there was a quick scramble to enlarge the pool- and more candidates were considered, including some retreads like Debra Brathwaite who was the number two that was previously passed over when Dr. Mack left.

In fact, if you read the post about Brathwaite, you could be saying history is about to repeat.

Greg Roberson, candidate for Superintendent of Dayton Public Schools

Greg Roberson

For the three finalists tonight at the public forum- we have internal candidate Greg Roberson with less than a year in the district, and a very short career in education, starting in 2003 after a long career as an enlisted man in the Air Force.

Roberson is the newly hired head of the department of exceptional children. A job he got after the Trotwood public schools did a talent raid last year- hiring away 9 of our more talented people- including Tracy Mallory, who was at Horace Mann as principal before being promoted into this position. That’s also when we lost David White, who had turned Belmont around and was currently assigned to Ponitz. He was the highest paid principal in the district- making $15K a year more that Erin Dooley at Stivers- who hasn’t received a raise in years- despite having guided the districts only success story for years.

If you wonder why we’re constantly short of teachers, maybe the board can look back at their previous decisions, and come to a conclusion?

Rhonda Corr- finalist for Dayton Public Schools

Rhonda Corr

Rhonda Corr– coming out of Indianapolis, who hired her after there was a meltdown in Chicago, where Ms. Corr worked with former Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. An article on Cleveland.com talks about how Parma (a large suburb of Cleveland) rescinded their offer to Corr- referred to as “Corr-Saegert” – but couldn’t find out if the issues in Chicago had bearing- they define her leaving Chicago:

Corr-Saegert was laid off her job as the chief of 36 Chicago public schools in June, the day after Byrd-Bennett resigned. Byrd-Bennett, who headed Cleveland schools from 1998 to 2006, had been on leave since April amid a federal investigation into a controversial, no-bid $20.5 million contract with a principal training academy, where she once consulted.

Corr has been busy applying for superintendents jobs elsewhere- Salt Lake City, and the Washington Local superintendent position, where a great pool included 19 candidates according to the Toledo Blade. Maybe there is a reason she keeps getting passed over?

Dan Schroer candidate Dayton Public Schools

Dan Schroer

Last person added to the final three is Dan Schroer, who has also been busy applying for Superintendents positions, including Beavercreek. His background is mostly agrigultural and voc-ed, but has been the Superintendent of the Margaretta Local Schools, Erie County, Ohio up around Sandusky. He seems to have job hopped his way around the state for years.

The Board Of Education, seems to think that there is no reason to hire a Dayton Public Schools graduate, who is in one of their top leadership positions- whose job function is “Innovation”- who has dedicated his life to working in the Dayton Public Schools- and has letters of support from 28 principals. Leaving David Lawrence out of this public “audition” is clearly a strategy to show the city who the new sheriff is in town.

The votes last night were all close- but, the two women on the board seem threatened by a strong, no-nonsense leader that knows the district inside out- and Dr. Baguirov, who thinks he should be in charge, is flexing his muscles. Note- Baguirov and Rountree are both serving their first term of unchallenged election. Sheila Taylor, apparently thinks that no internal candidate would be a good choice- because, well- despite her slightly longer tenure on the board, she still is mostly a labor puppet, and Lawrences strong belief in using pay for performance doesn’t sit well with her.

How any superintendent from out of town is going to figure out how to turn around a district in 2 years, is a mystery to me. This is a large organization, one of the biggest in the county, with many moving parts, different regulations, funky constituencies and big challenges.

Unfortunately, we can’t recall the Board of Education. What we can do is show up in force and demand that the board reconsider their picks, after we hear from these three Dayton rookies- and ask that the board reconsider Lawrence as an option.

Just remember- “A” people hire “A” people, “B” people hire “C” people.

 

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Smile for your mugshot, and be white and rich

When I was arrested, I knew I didn’t want to look like the mugshots I’d seen before- Mick Jagger was firmly in my minds eye, I tried to smile and was told “no teeth” so I put on a shit eating grin and kept my lips together. My crime was of wearing a black balaclava in a Dayton City Commission meeting- sitting perfectly still, in protest of illegal secret meetings- including one discussing how to keep citizens from speaking at the meetings- or at least, shutting off the tv cameras when citizens come to speak up. It took 2.5 years to clear up. It cost a lot of money to lawyers. It cost the taxpayers. I had long ago agreed to not sue, if the city dropped charges- they didn’t.

Mine wasn’t criminal justice- mine was civil liberties at stake.

Yet, everyday, in the United States, our beloved “democratic” self-righteous county, screws up justice, just as it screws up democracy, with money, power and race as factors.

I present to you two Dayton boys gone bad.

Brock Turner left, Eric Baum right. Two criminals, two different outcomes. Mugshots

Brock Turner left, Eric Baum right. Two criminals, two different outcomes.

The one on the left is Brock Turner, white, wealthy, division 1 swimmer at Stanford. I can’t find his booking photo- just this picture, over and over. He was found by 2 Swedes riding bicycles, physically assaulting (the description by the victim makes this a lot more clear) an unconscious girl, while he was intoxicated. Had they not interrupted his actions, rape would have been the charge. A crime against a person.

The one on the right is the guy who I’ve served as a “big brother” to since he was 10. He’s now 39, and in custody of the local Sheriff. His charges- breaking and entering, carrying a concealed weapon, etc. are crimes against property.

The one on the left, didn’t have to sit in jail waiting for his court date, he was out on bond. The one on the right, arrested March 9th, 2016, is in jail. No one will bail him out. His family has given up on him, I’ve disowned him and divorced myself from his troubles. The house he was renting from friends, foreclosed. He’d stopped paying rent. He had a painting business- but, due to his untreated mental illness and experiments with Meth- he had lost his truck, his tools, his phone. His baby momma and three children (a fourth child with his first baby momma is also struggling to stay out of trouble at 17) had moved out in November. The house was being broken into- even after the bank boarded it up. There was evidence that he was probably still cooking meth inside- after the utilities had been cut off.  Any chance of him picking up the pieces of his life are over.

He’s heading back to prison. Third time. But, here is the difference between the privileged white boy and the poor black one, one has spent more time in jail, not prison (there is a difference) than the other one- and never for actually harming anyone physically.

I don’t know Brock Turner. I do know people who do. One female college professor I know whose kids are friends with him, almost excused him for his actions due to his own intoxication on Facebook. I wanted to throw up. Go read the victims’ statement linked to above.

I searched all over for his booking photo- and then realized why I didn’t see one, he was probably never booked into jail.

Eric has been booked into jail more times than I can count. But, I’ll just share one with you.

He’d gotten out of Nobel Correctional after serving a full three year sentence, and was living with me, and had a 3.95 GPA from the first year of an associate’s degree that he earned while there. His first day at Sinclair, he went to the campus police to report something he saw (he suffers from undiagnosed paranoia) and when the campus police looked him up, they saw a Dayton warrant from before he served his three years- and arrested him. He spent the night in jail on his first day trying to better himself back in the world.

But, let’s talk about why he went to jail for 3 years, other than being black in Greene County (it’s not on the books- but it seems to be a crime). He was involved in a minor fender bender while intoxicated. While waiting for the police, he thought it would be a good idea to go into the nearby bar and call me- asking me to come out and help him. When the cruiser arrived and he was mouthy with the cop- he was put in the back seat of the cruiser, in shackles- where he ran his mouth and said to the cop that he “wouldn’t live to see his next birthday” while the cruiser video cam recorded.

The judge said it was open and shut- threatening an officer of the court is a felony- punishable by a minimum of 3 years. Had Eric slugged the officer instead- it would have been a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months.

Brock Turner was violently molesting an unconscious girl. He’s sentenced to 6 months with the possibility of getting out in 3 months. He hasn’t spent a night in jail. When he gets out, he may have the stigma of being labeled a sex offender for life, but his life will go on. He’s still not admitted that what he did was wrong. Even in Eric’s most manic state, he still realizes what mistakes he’s made, even if he believes that there are people (including me) who are actively collaborating to screw his life up for something he did almost 20 years ago.

The sad thing is that prison won’t solve either of these problems.

Eric has needed professional mental health care since he lost his mother to cancer at 13 (probably a preventable death, but since she had outstanding bills to Greene Hall for her detox, she didn’t go to the gynecologist when the first clues of something wrong appeared).

Brock has obviously needed both lessons in what consent means, and what is acceptable sexual behavior- as well as treatment for alcohol abuse.

Three months or three years in prison won’t undo the damage he did to his victim. While the thought of Mr. lily white Oakwood getting raped in prison might make some people remotely satisfied that justice was somehow served, it isn’t a solution either. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

The money Brock Turners family spent bailing him out of hot water was probably exorbitant. My own legal bills ran over $75K for my case of 4 fourth degree misdemeanors.

Brock will grow a beard, change his hair style, start using his middle name, find some place to “hide out” and continue his life. Sure, he’ll have to register as a sex offender, but, some will overlook it, hire him, marry him, have his kids- just like Eric managed, but the difference is- no one will do the same for Eric.

This country is still racially and economically segregated and unjust.

We’re not about to address the issues of a proper health care system to help people who need it.

We’re not about to reform our justice system to make it equitable or to focus on rehabilitation.

Brock Turner should have to tithe for the rest of his life to either the victim or to rape prevention or alcohol education issues. He should be put in prison until he fully accepts responsibility for his violent actions. He should be banned from drinking or purchasing alcohol for life.

Eric Baum should be put in a highly supervised half way house, tested for drugs and alcohol for life, and allowed work privileges with his income being directed to pay child support. Putting him in prison won’t protect anyone, won’t solve the problem. He isn’t capable of managing a life that isn’t highly structured and monitored- but, that said, it doesn’t mean prison is the only solution.

In fact, I’ve yet to see prison actually do much to solve society’s problems except for the most dangerous psychopaths, serial killers and arsonists. It hasn’t done a thing to reel in the criminals of Wall Street, nor has it stopped the drug trade or the killing that goes along with it.

Need proof? Eric has been to prison twice, jail a bunch- and he’s still not able to operate on his own in society.

Need more proof- Brock Turner, despite being incredibly violent, is only going to go for 3 months.

It helps to be rich, white and to smile for your mugshot.

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Dr. Wishy Washy Baguirov, fiddling while the ship sinks

Dr. Adil Baguirov slowing down the process of hiring a new school superintendent

Dr. Baguirov dallies along while the Schools fail.

The Dayton Board of Education is lead by Dr. Adil Baguirov, who seems to think that the world waits for his decisions. Apparently, the 2 year deadline for State takeover hasn’t lit a fire under his butt, but it seems to be under others.

Today 3 Dayton Public School teachers quit, including an Engineering lead at Thurgood Marshall who is going to Springfield schools (update as of Friday, Jun 9- he’s remaining). Between the leadership vacuum, the impending takeover, and lower pay scales, everyone who has to depend on Dayton Public Schools for their paycheck is running scared and away from an already demoralized district.

Dr. Adil Baguirov, well, he’s out of town, so no new round of interviews till next week. One of their finalists already is probably going elsewhere. Time doesn’t wait, but Adil does. And note, the candidate from Beavercreek- with a much smaller responsibility than what the two DPS candidates have- was being paid at least $113K a year. That’s probably more than Gregory Roberson or David Lawrence make for dealing with a district twice that size- but, no- Dr. Baguirov doesn’t worry that maybe one of them might go apply for that newly open position and say “we’re done waiting” for his extended, leisurely timeline for selecting a superintendent. Remember- Beavercreek isn’t failing. It’s not at risk of a state takeover. It has money, computers, facilities, and, no one gets stabbed on the playground in broad daylight.

Why the board kow tows to the bullying of Dr. Baguirov is a mystery. There are six other people there, who have to realize that the market for superintendents willing to risk taking over a failed district for a 2 year turnaroud is kind of slim. But, wait, did I hear he wants to bring in even more candidates, and start over?

That a plan wasn’t firmly in place when they didn’t renew Lori Ward’s contract is the first sign of a clueless operation. That they’ve stalled so long that their candidate pool is shrinking is the second. That they don’t understand the cost of turnover, of firing, of learning curves- including the all important local socio/political landscape is beyond comprehension.

At this point there is only one candidate that they should hand the reins over to, and everyday they wait, is a few more empty positions to fill, and a day closer to the takeover. Make the decision next Tuesday or resign Dr. Baguirov.

Dayton can’t afford to lose any more assets on your education in hiring leaders.

 

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Measuring the wrong damn thing. Valuing the wrong measurements.

heisenberg-mesureI never got paid more for doing better on a standardized test- I got paid more for bringing unique solutions to the table.

When we hear people talking about running government like a business, most of the time, they are really trying to say “put some measurable, quantifiable metrics on government, so we can keep things under control.” Unfortunately, because most people are of average intelligence- when a Republican says “I’m for smaller government” that translates to “smaller means less to control” so it must be “better.”

Reform, be it school reform, government reform, health care, welfare reform, judicial reform all require an assessment of what the real objectives are, and how do we set meaningful measurements to work toward. In fact, to have a conversation about anything with large ramifications- the first question should always be “what is the right goal- and how do we quantify it.”

A long time ago, I read a business book with profound impact on my approach to solving business problems- “The Great Game of Business” by Jack Stack. It tells the story of a young MBA sent to a failing re-manufacturing plant that International was looking to close up. When Mr. Stack got there- he realized that no one knew the goal, or how score was kept. Kind of like trying to play football without understanding what a first down was, or how you scored. He decided that if the employees knew how the score was kept- profitability, they could all work to make sure the parts they rebuilt, were in fact valuable- i.e. the cost to make them, was less than the cost to sell them. This was “revolutionary” thinking. He taught everyone how to read a balance sheet, how to track costs, how to apply costs, and how to value their contribution. The story continues on how he and a group of managers, hocked their homes, bought the plant, and turned the business into an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan).

Guess what, our government was supposed to be an ESOP. We pay taxes, our investment, and we hire our managers, the politicians, and we’re supposed to get a return on our investment, but we all know this hasn’t been working out well- especially since we’ve seen the value of our votes diluted by our overly expensive system of picking our managers.

Bringing this down to the local level. I’ve spent a ton of time the last few months, working as an advocate to get services delivered to a veteran. I’ve tangled with the VA and their SSVF program, the Montgomery County Veterans Services Commission and a few people in between.

The measurements that we’re supposedly focused on in this country is slowing the rate of veterans committing suicide and making sure they aren’t homeless.

First question is that really what we should be measuring?

There’s a philosophy called expectancy theory- which says if you believe something to be the expected outcome, that’s what you get. I expect Dayton Public Schools to have a 35% drop out rate- so I’m going to focus on “Dropout prevention.” That’s what we’ve done. Maybe if we focused on making the diploma the goal for all, and looking in every available nook and cranny on how to make that diploma the most valuable and attainable goal, we’d do better?

How about working the system on veterans homelessness a different way? Maybe it’s cheaper to create a way for businesses to hire and support veterans with incentives- like having the government pick up the first $20,000 of tax liabilities on at risk veterans? Or working with veteran owned businesses to have a competitive advantage in hiring and protecting low functioning veterans? One thing about hiring a veteran- there is no health care costs, since they have coverage through the VA. We already know small businesses struggle with health care costs (because our system is broken) – so maybe offering to pay for a civilians health care costs for every at risk veteran you hire- giving them a two for one deal?

I’m not saying these are vetted solutions- but, they are a different approach to the problem.

With our local system, it took the MCVSC almost 10 days to issue a check for “emergency food assistance” – thanks to some help from Commissioner Debbie Lieberman, that’s not going to be the case anymore. It took longer for a food stamp card- and we still don’t have the “Obama Phone.” All these things that are mission critical to a successful transition from homeless to homed, are falling through the cracks of a system that is measuring the wrong things. Delivering food stamps to the veteran is the current measurement- but how fast isn’t. See the problem?

How does Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen measure the success of the economy to make decisions about interest rate hikes? She’s got a ton of complex data that she relies on. How do I? Look at gas prices. We do well when gas prices are low, since so many of us are car dependent to get to work. One veteran I work with is currently living on $238 a week take home. He lives in an apartment in Trotwood costing $485 a month, he drives to his job paying $14.02 in Lebanon (he pays $600 a month in child support). He’s facing eviction because he was cut off from SSVF for “making too much money” – and when you figure in food, utilities and gas money, you can see where a 50 cent swing per gallon of gas makes or breaks him each month. Janet Yellen doesn’t understand that. Nor do the government income guidelines.

The first objective in any problem solving is making sure you are using the right measurements and valuing the correct data.

This is what the point of “Moneyball” was in picking winners in pro sports. Measuring the wrong things doesn’t get you the right results.

I can think of lots of things we’re not tracking correctly, but I’d like to hear yours in the comments.

Feel free to talk about abandoned houses in Dayton, unemployment figures, heroin overdoses, or graduation rates. I’d like your 2 cents.

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Montgomery County Veterans Services need a lesson in service

On May 12th- my office manager took our homeless veteran down to Montgomery County Veterans Services to ask for financial assistance. This was after we had to supply yet another 90-day transaction history of bank account, which had been closed and written off for a $71 overdraft.

He was literally penniless, homeless (sleeping on my couch), without a phone, a car (and he’s a pizza delivery driver), and working 3-4 hours a day doing prep at a pizza shop for the last week after coming out of an extended hospitalization.

The letter promising assistance at a later date from the Montgomery County veterans Service Center

The letter promising assistance at a later date from the Montgomery County Veterans Service Center

They were very helpful, paying off his old utility bills so we could get utilities turned on in his new apartment that I was going to have to front the rent and deposit and co-sign on, since St. Vincent DePaul had erroneously claimed he was ineligible for SSVF (Supportive Services for Veteran Families). They were generous- they decided to give him $485 in food assistance, which happens to be equivalent to the first month’s rent.

That was due on May 13th, the day I had to sign the lease.

On May 17th, they cut a letter and on May 19th I received it. Thinking I’d find a check for $485 in the envelope, I was overjoyed to find instead- a letter telling me there would be a check in “7 to 10 working days from the date of this correspondence.”

Really?

Let’s see, we pay 5 commissioners almost $10K a year to oversee an organization of 9 people supposedly there to assist vets, all making more than the amount of cash assistance a week- and we can’t cut a check immediately for $485 and hand it to him? And note, when they were writing the check, I was setting up a new bank account at Wright Patt Credit Union for him with his first big 2 week paycheck- $135, of which we were able to deposit a whopping $80 because he had to pay some co-workers back money he had borrowed while in the hospital.

The saddest thing- after this whopping grant, he’s only eligible to come back one more time this year to ask for help. They have a limit of 2 requests per year. They turned down requests for rent, deposit, cell phone allowance, car. They turned down paying the water bill he stuck his former landlord with because the landlord had it in his name (I’m not feeling so bad about that one).

But- the question is- for this investment in manpower and management, why can’t we have a veterans’ assistance program that can have the authority to cut a check for at least $2,500 on the spot? Why did we have to keep supplying additional records (our packet was literally an inch thick), to even get in the door? Why did no one from MCVS reach out to us to help out with processing him for other benefits after my scathing blog post on Sunday? The VA Chief, Glenn Costie was in touch with me Sunday afternoon- and by Wednesday, my arguments for the Veteran’s status had been escalated to Atlanta and DC and validated- he is qualified for SSVF.

I was just interrupted from writing this by a call from Herb Davis, director of MCVS. We, Jen and I, just had a 30-minute discussion about our experience. We’ve been invited to speak to the entire board. We questioned how you can call a check as much as 20 days out “emergency food assistance.” We asked why when paying off the old utility bills, was no offer made for future bills, nor was he offered help in applying for PIP (a program for paying utilities for extremely low-income residents). No one offered to begin his application for Veterans’ Benefits either.

Mr. Davis admitted and accepted his office’s failings. He still relies on “processes and procedures” as reasons for their lackluster performance. Sending our Veteran out to get PIP on his own, without a phone- is kind of like sending someone out to fish, without a pole, hook or bait.

Jen’s final question/statement was “Are you there to give a man a fish, or to teach a man to fish.”

I think right now- the answer is, we’re here to give you a piece of paper for the rights to a fish, at a later date.

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