Mohamed Al-Hamdani; the prince of pious

Before this school board was elected, I warned the citizens of Dayton that William Harris was a mistake:

Harris has said “I won’t be anyone’s puppet” as part of the slate- yet, that’s comically what he is. I don’t think he brings any of the critical thinking skills we need to this board, nor do I think he has the intellectual horsepower to move the district forward at a critical time. He’s Ron Lee 2. Pass, please.

Source: Evaluation and endorsements of the Dayton School Board candidates – Esrati

I also said it was time for Joe Lacey to go. Luckily, the voters agreed, and Joe wasn’t re-elected. Unbelievably, Harris makes me forlorn for Lacey.

On my non-recommended list, was the political climber Mohamed Al-Hamdani:

This guy has political aspiration signs coming out of every side of him- in neon, with strobe lights. This board run is his first step to his long future political career. And, he’s arrogant, by the truckload. Early on, I asked a question about the hiring of Burges and Burges and how much it cost- and why they didn’t buy local talent- and he tried to sidestep it and said they hadn’t paid them a dime. I don’t need to be lied to ever, and especially before you have been elected.

Mohamed thinks he knows it all. He has a smugness that rubs people the wrong way. He thinks he has all the answers. He probably reminds people of me in some ways- but, with the establishment nod. His campaign rhetoric has been full of bullshit about all the teachers that taught him- and his story of coming to America- all nice and fine, but missing any substance. He may indeed have all the answers, but, I’ve not heard them, and his testiness will bring back some of the rancor to the board that we can’t afford. He has a law degree- which would and might be handy, but, so does McManus- and it hasn’t kept us out of trouble. One of the biggest mistakes Americans make at the polls is thinking that being a lawyer makes you a good lawmaker- and that’s actually the opposite. Good lawmakers and only the best lawyers, understand that their profession is actually the art of compromise. Too many think it’s to win at all costs. Mohamed is a total wildcard. He may be smart, he may have a good story, he may even understand the issues, but I’d put Mario and Jocelyn ahead of him for my slate. He’s also been the one to say that if “The slate” is elected, they won’t disagree with each other as much in public- lending me to believe he’s planning on operating behind a curtain.

Source: Evaluation and endorsements of the Dayton School Board candidates – Esrati

So far, my predictions have been totally proven correct. Al-Hamdani, started with trying to have secret illegal meetings of the School Closing Task force before he was even sworn in- leading to my lawsuit against the district over the Open Meetings Act.

But, last month, when I decided to push my speech over the 3 minute limit- after Harris had let a whole bunch of people speak for well over 5 and as long as 10 minutes in the June Meeting- I mentioned that maybe, Harris practiced discrimination- since he doesn’t interrupt African American speakers- and referenced Sheila Taylor’s  nomination of him for board president as a rookie- because he was “African American.” You can watch my video: A racist on the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education 2017.

Al-Hamdani, Wick-Gagnet, Jocelyn Rhynard, John McManus, Robert Walker and William Harris were all sitting there- and didn’t say a thing then- but, when I bring it up, Al-Hamdani, the pious one, wants to make me out as a racist for reminding them how Harris got to the center seat.

“So I want to apologize to you on behalf of this community, to insinuate that your only qualification was your color, um was interesting to hear, um there’s people, as a community, we’re better than that sir, so I’m sorry that we had to hear that today, but that’s the world we live in today” ~ Mohamed Al-Hamdani

When I tried to go up with my camera to question Al-Hamdani after the meeting- the security forces played bouncer. You can watch the entire meeting here.

Word has gotten back to me, that someone is telling people that I said the “N” word. Nothing farther from the truth.
What you need to watch is how smug Al-Hamdani is as he plays this out. Note also- if you watch the DPS video feed of this meeting- you’ll never hear my outburst.
It’s sad that this is the best we can do for a school board. They all need to be removed. All of them, suffer from amnesia apparently, totally forgetting how they followed Sheila Taylor’s racist rationale for picking Harris as board president.

Nothing Trumps the Learning" sign at Belmont High School in Dayton Ohio, where a large proportion of the students are immigrants

Apparently, we’re now evoking the Trump brand at Belmont HS in Dayton.

And, while we’re at it. As part of his campaign trail story, Al-Hamdani liked to talk of his path to success as a poor immigrant child coming to America, not speaking English- and how he owes all his success to his DPS teachers and their acceptance of him.

A source has sent me a photo of new signs in Belmont High School “Nothing trumps the learning”- the DPS school where most of the immigrants are, a sign that has many of the international parents terrified. This is, after all, the country where children are now separated from their parents in deportation camps, thanks to President Trump.

A final note: Al-Hamdani, right after getting elected to the school board, was handed a high-paying patronage job in the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts office by his Democratic Party buddy Russ Joseph, who was just appointed to be the clerk when Greg Brush left town.

Beloved principal removed. Turmoil continues in DPS

Today, newly minted Superintendent Libby Lolli descended on Belmont High School and removed Principal Melanie Walters from her job, 6 weeks before the end of the school year. Walters had already tendered her resignation at the end of the school year.

Despite the building being stretched beyond capacity- Walters hadn’t been given additional teachers or administrators to handle the influx.

She was moved to Ponitz to be an assistant principal there- in the midst of an investigation into missing Career Tech Education funding. Same pay, less responsibility.

The two previous assistant principals at Ponitz had been removed after the teacher dragging incident.

It is unclear at this point who will be in charge of Belmont.  Walters was loved by her students, and respected by staff.

There have been rumors of Wright Brothers Principal Shauna Welch being moved to manage Belmont- although that will damage Wright Brothers, which is still reeling from being changed from an elementary school to a middle school 2 years ago.

Why now? In the last two days, an image has been circulating on Facebook as “news” that Walters and former superintendent Rhonda Corr had been married on March 22, 2018. Is this retaliation?

I wish the newly weds well. Love is a hard thing to find. Especially in Dayton.

Dayton Public Schools reconfiguration challenges

When I grew up in Cleveland Heights, we had elementary schools from k-6, junior high for 7-9 and high school from 10-12. To me, that was the way it was. It was a little odd that 9th grade counted as high school but you weren’t at the high school, but that’s the way it was. As I was finishing elementary school in a building from the twenties, they were building a new elementary school in the parking lot next door and were closing off the street the school was named for to have enough room to build the new modern “open” building. From the day it was built, teachers have struggled with noise from the open plan, where classrooms didn’t have walls to the ceilings or a door. Progress.

Luckily, Dayton Public Schools didn’t fall for the open floor plan in their 28 new buildings, but they did structure the buildings originally for PK-8 and 9-12. Of course, it wasn’t totally consistent, with Stivers being a 7-12 building, but close enough (note it’s the only school that we kept the old building and just added new wings).

Since the de-seg order, almost all DPS kids were bused, so “load balancing” of kids to the school was relatively simple- just drive the kids to the right building, no need for placing schools where the school age population is. As we’ve learned in the attempt to switch back to “neighborhood schools” shifting populations makes for difficult allocation of kids to schools- add in a steadily fluctuating enrollment in charter schools and things get very complex.

To make matters worse, thanks to annexations and strange map-drawing skills, Dayton looks more like an octopus than what most cities look like. Throw in bold geographical and man made dividers like rivers and interstates, it makes getting kids to schools a major undertaking- never mind what you have to do with kids once you get them into the buildings.

Wright Brothers Elementary School with construction sign

A few old parts were saved, like Wright Brothers Auditorium

When the state offered the 2/3 financing of new buildings and voters passed the levy for the new buildings (a bonanza for the construction industry) money was allocated based on enrollments at the very beginning of the charter movement when virtually anybody could open up a school and start getting $5k per kid, per year, while teaching in a building that didn’t have to meet any of the same standards required for the public schools. When many of these failed, their students bounced back to DPS causing a new crunch on space. Unfortunately, to keep the demolition companies happy (also major donors to politicians) we agreed to demolish all of our old buildings. I’ve been watching the very slow progress as Patterson-Kennedy is destroyed- a building built better than any of the new buildings. These could have served as over-flow and load balancers in some cases, but it’s too late for that.

Despite the fact that Harvard is able to teach in 250 –old buildings and Cambridge in 600 year-old buildings, taxpayers were told that public school education couldn’t be done in our existing old buildings- while charters managed to do just fine in the same old buildings (Emerson Academy is at the end of my street and seems to be performing above DPS averages in a building from the 1920s and Richard Allen Academies are also doing well in the old United Way building on Salem). Even UD has managed to sell a high-dollar educational experience in old buildings, imaging that.

It now seems that educators in Dayton are having second thoughts about not having middle schools. Unfortunately, we don’t have buildings to spare or necessarily in the right places, so we’re considering expanding the high achools to 7-12 with Belmont coming online now, others may follow. There is no chance of building anything new- and of course, we were in a huge rush to tear down the former Julienne which might have served well as a central junior high, albeit a large one.

None of this is easy logistically. Unfortunately, the best solution might be to work collaboratively with some of the charters that have extra space in their buildings, however that’s almost like asking for a Hatfield/McCoy marriage.

As a neighborhood-focused community activist, what I find most disconcerting about the whole gerrymandering of kids and schools by market forces is that our neighborhood children have an incredibly hard time getting to know each other well- with most neighborhoods having kids in 5-10 different schools. East End Community Services has worked incredibly hard at connecting their neighborhood with Ruskin School (a rare instance of a charter coming back into the DPS system) and creating a true “community school.” To me, this is the major downfall of deseg. busing and our public/charter school configuration: kids don’t know their neighbors.

Cleveland Heights had true neighborhood schools. Of my friends from high school (with a graduating class of about 850) the people I’m still most connected to as I turn 50 are the ones who went to elementary school with me. We had between 80 and 100 kids in my grade and so I’m extrapolating that there were 8 elementary schools in the district (they’d actually closed a few due to declining population when I was in grade school). Kids in Dayton aren’t getting that shared experience that I had- and that’s a shame. Somehow, we need to figure out how to reconfigure our neighborhoods so that despite kids going to so many different schools, we can at least give them a stable connected community to build their long-term relationships that have meant so much to me.

As I drove past the former Boys and Girls Club at Keowee and the U.S.-35 off ramp (the strangest place to put a kids’ facility I think I’ve ever seen) I noticed that the building was for sale and it looked like the charter school had left. I then drove down Hickory Street past the old YWCA which was given to the neighborhood by Virginia Kettering in 1971 and stopped being a Y or a neighborhood facility sometime before 1986 when I moved into South Park. The city also just closed and sold off the Bomberger Teen Center and has cut the number of neighborhood Recreation centers down. How are we supposed to give our kids what we took for granted? How can we compete with the seemingly stable districts in our suburbs like Kettering, Oakwood or Beavercreek?

I have a vision for bringing  our neighborhoods back to being neighborhoods, the problem is I’m finding mostly deaf ears. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Full disclosure: My company, The Next Wave has done some work for DPS, this post doesn’t contain any proprietary knowledge or information and wasn’t written on behalf of the district or with its permission or oversight.

Dayton Public Schools untold stories: Thurgood Marshall HS

I think what bothers me most about the no-bid contract that Dayton Public Schools awarded to an out-of-town “PR Firm” is the stories that aren’t being told. It’s not just the PR firm that’s failed- it’s the leadership of the system that has allowed the public to hear all the bad things and practically none of the good.

Believe it or not- there are good things happening in Dayton Public Schools. Not that it’s been that way all the time, but starting with Superintendent Kurt Stanic with his buck-stops-here demeanor, DPS stopped being a citywide babysitting service and started focusing on discipline and learning in every building.

New principals were installed across the district, and although scores remained lower than we’d like- they’ve started to slowly move up. Considering the number of special needs students, the poverty rate and the mobility rate (many DPS students change schools every few years) the transformation has been pretty dramatic to those who know more than what they read in the Dayton Daily News, or just rely on the State Report Card.

I’ve written about Principal David Lawrence a few times on this site, today, I gave up on the idea of getting him to come in to my office to tape- and went to visit him at 12:30 in the afternoon (it’s Sunday) at TM- he’d been there since 6:30 am. In the video you’ll notice a future TM student- but, please ignore her fidgeting, she’s 7.

We talk about what’s changed at Thurgood Marshall, what they are proud of, the makeup of the student body, test scores and what makes a difference in the student success.

I’ve been out to TM several times during the school day- and have also spoken to students there. I’ve been to their football and basketball games- I’ve seen the transformation taking place. There is a story unfolding there- and this short video does little to tell it, but at least it’s a start.

David Lawrence isn’t the only principal working with a team of talented educators in the district, there are many others. David White at Belmont is transforming what was a zoo, into a disciplined school, Devon Berry at Ruskin is implementing a community based school based on the work of Geoffry Canada and the Harlem Children’s zone, Erin Dooley has turned Stivers into a nationally recognized school of performing arts- and that’s just a start.

Unfortunately, it’s easy for the haters to ignore these transformations because the district does a horrible job of tooting its own horn and the Dayton Daily News is the best grave digger on the planet.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some more of these stories over the next few months.

Dayton wins!

For all the bad news and naysayers- this one’s for you.

I’ve even done my share of pointing out the flaws in our fair city- but with the goal of moving us forward.

Today, I decided to interview a neighbor, the lovely and talented Melissa Aldridge. She graduated from Belmont High School, attended Wright State and Miami – and graduated from Wright State with a degree in business with a concentration in Econ. Then, she got a job in Downtown Dayton and bought an amazing house in Historic South Park.

We talk about why she chose to live in South Park and why we love it here. Something new for the Dayton Grassroots Daily Show- a real pretty face for once.

Now if we could only get another thousand like her every year to do the same- all our problems would be solved.