Second rule of public relations: be proactive. Be in front of the storm, not in the middle of it, or after it passes.
Third rule of public relations: be trustworthy, which is an extension of the first two rules.
Despite hiring 2 PR professionals for $180K a year, in addition to an “ad agency” for $345K a year, Dayton Public Schools continue to soil themselves through inept public relations. It may have absolutely nothing to do with any of the people who are hired to do PR, because this school board and superintendent are totally tone deaf and sabotage their own positions of authority at will and often.
Here is some backstory of how the move from the 2.0 to 1.0 gpa for athletics began, long before the Dunbar vs Belmont eligibility fiasco last year. (btw- I went to the rematch on Thursday and watched Belmont annihilate Dunbar 42-0). The story comes from “the man who would be superintendent” if it wasn’t for a board that doesn’t like strong black males with better community ties than they have. David Lawrence, the former Chief of Innovation for Dayton Public Schools, before he was bought out for big money to go away by this incompetent school board, told me he proposed this lowering of standards plan to former superintendent Lori Ward over 3 years ago. Note, he was a DPS athlete who went on to play D-1 sports. He still holds track records at Welcome Stadium.
His reasoning made sense. First, there are other districts, albeit ones that aren’t failing in all academic categories, that use this standard. Not that Oakwood or Centerville has to apply it to as many students, but they will allow kids to participate. But here is the kicker, he put the blame squarely on the teachers in this district, who sometimes would only give a midterm and a final, with no quizzes, tests, or other evaluation items like class participation, attendance, homework, etc. This meant some kids were being discriminated against- because some teachers don’t really try to work with the dumb jocks and take great pleasure in ambushing them.
Didn’t see that one coming at all. But when you have a district with a horrible graduation rate, failing at all levels of academic success, this story seems more legit than the one coming out of the PR machine days after a seemingly secret meeting pops this change on us like a magician pulling an elephant out of a hat. We expect a rabbit, not an elephant.
First issue is why was this done, without proper public knowledge in advance, at an unscheduled meeting? That’s a guaranteed sign of “we’re being sneaky” instead of “we’re being strategic.” Proper PR handling would have made sure this issue was out in public long before and well explained and discussed before hand- as well as having proper answers for the board members who voted against or abstained. That way, it doesn’t feed the fires of the public who sees this as yet another lowering of standards.
I still posit that part of this policy is driven by fall out from sanctions imposed on the district after the Dunbar fiasco. The board had to lower standards in a hurry because most high schools wouldn’t have had enough players to play this year after athletes from DECA and other charter schools could no longer play for the program of their choice. In other words, the district was reacting instead of being proactive. Yet, none of that is in the explanation being circulated on Facebook by new media relations head Marsha Bonhart:
Lots of discussion about Dayton Public Schools and the sports policy – and a lot of confusion. As director of public relations and media at DPS, please allow me to help everyone understand the bar is NOT being lowered – it’s being raised. Student athletes who carry a GPA between 1.0 and 1.99 will have to raise their grades each quarter AND pass five classes to remain eligible to play any sport. They must be involved in an hourly, Monday – Thursday academic improvement program that includes tutoring. They have to remain in the program for a year until their GPA raises at least to 2.0. If they do not show quarterly improvement and do not pass the classes, they will not participate in any sports. If their grades slip the next year, they are back in the program for the entire year, again.
The deal is, improve your grades, pass five classes or you don’t play. This is for grades 7-12, girls and boys. Questions? 542-3023 (937)
Note, this is on her personal account, not on an official district channel. The post on the site, which most people can’t navigate, is here, posted Aug 26th (the decision was made and announced Aug 22):
FAQ for New Athletic Eligibility Policy
DPS to encourage athletes to perform better in the classroom
To Our Parents and Community,
There has been lots of discussion about Dayton Public Schools and the new sports policy – and a lot of confusion.
As director of public relations and media at DPS, please allow me to help everyone understand the bar is NOT being lowered – it’s being raised. Student athletes who carry a GPA between 1.0 and 1.99 will have to raise their grades each quarter AND pass five classes to remain eligible to play any sport. They must be involved in an hourly, Monday – Thursday academic improvement program that includes tutoring. They have to remain in the program for a year until their GPA raises at least to 2.0.
If they do not show quarterly improvement and do not pass the classes, they will not participate in any sports. If their grades slip the next year, they are back in the program for the entire year, again.
The deal is, improve your grades, pass five classes or you don’t play. This is for grades 7-12, girls and boys. Questions? (937) 542-3023
Marsha Bonhart Neilson
Director of Public Relations & Media, Dayton Public Schools
Maybe the big news is that Marsha has a new last name?
Or that she tries to legitimize the lowering of standards as “he bar is NOT being lowered – it’s being raised”- which is straight out of a 1980’s style PR textbook, where you try to reframe the truth. This is a complete and utter #FAIL, days after the fact. If this is the best spin DPS can put on this dead on arrival PR nightmare, Marsha and her new boss should be next on the chopping block. See the three rules at the beginning of this post.
My main questions still remain: why is this study table policy limited to athletes? The district is in academic emergency, shouldn’t all students getting less than “C’s” be getting mandatory help? And, besides the discriminatory nature of this plan, last I heard, we didn’t have money to pay teachers more, so who is paying for these professionals to help guide our dumb jocks up to a 2.0? The district is claiming volunteers? Is that really the answer?
As with most cases DPS, we have to look at the root problems: poverty and low expectations. If you believe in expectancy theory, this lowering of GPA requirements reinforces a problem that the district is already fighting to overcome. The timing of this announcement should have been made before school started as well- which means, once again, we’ve started a school year out with controversy- much like last years RIF. This kind of leadership is only reinforcing perceptions of a district in turmoil. Competent leadership would know better- but we don’t have competent leadership.
No PR machine on the face of the earth can fix stupid. At this point, only voters can. Yet, even though he was the lone vote against this change, Joe Lacey still shouldn’t be on this board, he’s part of the problem that made this fiasco happen when he hired Rhonda Corr, which is the real reason this district has been mired in controversy for the last year.
Every minute that Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) reign supreme under Rhonda Corr, the talent makes plans to leave. The board, unwilling to admit their massive failure of hiring Corr, of keeping Baker (while turning Darren Powell into the only fall guy), of the insane Reduction in Force mid-year, the questionable real estate deals negotiated by Adil Baguirov (and maybe Corr?), the botched buyout of David Lawrence (probably their only option for a superintendent), then the failure to investigate allegations that Baguirov didn’t even live in the district, then allowing him to somehow negotiate a bus deal, without action by purchasing (an insane violation of board policy) followed by the resignation and pending investigation into the short lived tenure of Rhonda’s hand picked Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Markay Winston….
and now- the envelope please…. Leaving the Dayton Public Schools
Dwon Bush is leaving the district to be an Elementary School Principal in Huber Heights- if her name sounds familiar, it’s because they tried to RIF her, and had a student make a compelling plea to keep her.
Vanisa Turney-Crews, an assistant principal at Kiser is leaving to be the Director of Curriculum and Instruction in Huber Heights.
Taylor Porter, who was Corr’s initial pick to be the principal at Meadowdale when the fan hit the shan, is going to Westerville to be an assistant principal.
Monica Utley, the principal of Fairview- gone.
Valerie Herdman, a future principal- gone.
Sam Eckhardt a superstar high school math teacher at Thurgood- leaving for Xenia. Math teachers are hard to come by.
Ralph Davis – is leaving, one of the key players in the Males of Color program.
And, because they haven’t had their new contracts boarded in their new assignments- there are at least 2 more principals leaving Dayton and 1 more administrator.
The resignation deadline is July 10. There will be plenty more. And while next week there are going to be 2 meetings to negotiate a contract, Corr is the reason that talks got shelved until August.
As long as she’s on top, people are gonna go.
Best case scenario: The board investigates Baguirov, he resigns, Lee and Rountree step down early as they both clearly are tiring of the fight, 3 people who’ve successfully turned in petitions get picked randomly for filling in until the election.
The new board invalidates the Baker contract- fires Corr for cause, fires Hiwot Abraha who can’t get her work done on time, or run purchasing legally, brings back Darran Powell as Head Football Coach (we don’t have time for this sideshow) and gets down on their knees to ask Lawrence to step in as interim.
If they ask nice enough, he may even come in and count part of his buyout as pay until next June.
If they don’t stop the resignations, and get a tentative contract in place before July 7, 2017- or at least have a man with a plan, their may not be enough people to put on a show next year. My guess, is instead, we’ll see that Baguirov has successfully completed his mission- to turn the district into such a clusterduck that the State can come in and turn the whole district into a charter and hand it over to the alternate “school board” Learn to Earn Dayton, and make sure the right people get paid off.
The longer lists of resignations are coming. If you are planning to resign, feel free to contact me to be added to the list. Tell me where you’re going and why if you’d like the public to know what the Reign of Corr hath brought. [email protected]
Update: 1 hour after publishing- have unconfirmed reports of another star principal leaving, and one who is considered a grand dame- may be fed up and turning in her resignation as well if Corr isn’t removed ASAP.
You knew the school board was ready, all of them dressed in their Sunday best- Joe Lacey even left his hoodie at home and combed his hair.
The teachers were ready too. When I say 400, it’s not an exact count, but it was the most I’d seen. They were wearing red, and they weren’t happy.
Negotiations on a contract have been going south, and for too long. The disrespect of the October surprise putsch, the buy out of David Lawrence, the buying of a $400,000 time clock system, the hiring of the highest bidder to do bad “marketing and advertising” for the district, the massive bus purchase- all while claiming broke- and paying the superintendent that’s turned this district upside down more than the board was paying the stable and confident former Superintendent, Lori Ward, are all sticking points. Oh, that and Dayton teachers are expected to do more for less than any other district in the County- with a few exceptions- like Jefferson Township- which shouldn’t even have it’s own district.
After the teachers leader David Romick got done with his address, they all marched out to have a street corner rally, complete with podium. The news media followed.
The only people who left before Mr. Romick was done talking was the three representatives from the Ohlmann Group after they made an apologetic and pathetic presentation of what they’d done so far for at least $40K of wasted money (more on this in a future post). They don’t sit through school board meetings- or provide PR advice to the district, hell- they don’t even bother to shoot their own photos for their ads, they use stock photography. Gee, maybe that’s why my firm lost, we had a 2x Pulitzer prize winner for photojournalism on our team to shoot for our proposed work.
When it came to the speakers, a young, 2nd year teacher who appears to be hitting it out of the ballpark for the district went up and made a plea for her job security. She’s teaching at Westwoood- you know, the neighborhood the Dayton Daily nominated as the most dangerous ‘hood in the city. Every year, she has had to fight to keep her position. You have to listen- this is who you want teaching your kids. Her name is Joshita Reza, and one day, if we’re lucky, she’ll be superintendent of DPS.
Dr. Hazel Rountree, the Board VP is going to look into why Ms. Reza is having problems worthy of a visit to the podium. But, later, circles back, and appears to not have understood anything that Ms. Reza said. It all comes back down to respect, and this board and superintendent don’t respect anyone.
And, if you have the lowest pay, the worst academic performance in the region- people go where the work is easier and the pay is better. It’s not rocket surgery.
I spoke, once again asking for their resignations, and why no one has done anything to investigate Dr. Baguirov’s questionable residency eligibility to even be on the board. It’s a moot point really now, as he already got them to buy the buses for $10M and help his friends in the trucking business. That was voted on after the very long executive session (where those who stuck around were treated to hearing yelling coming from the secret lair).
Before the speakers were invited to the podium, Dr. Walker asked John McManus to read the rules. This isn’t the norm. One of the rules is that you aren’t supposed to single out a single board member, but speak to them as a whole. Well, although I singled out Dr. B- I asked them all to resign, since they haven’t done anything to verify his eligibility. At least nothing close to what they’ve done to check on the eligibility of a high school football player.
I’m go glad to hear that “Great things are happening at Dayton Public Schools”
That you put that up on billboards should be grounds to have you removed- for breaking truth in advertising laws.
Because, unless you are deaf, dumb and blind, you are missing the point of why 300 teachers keep coming down here and questioning your leadership.
But- I can tell you there is a way to make that true. Resign. All seven of you.
You see, allowing an ineligible board member to do deals with your proxy is grounds for removal from office. From the real estate deals that smelled fishy- to the hiring of the most expensive bidder to do the “Great things are happening” campaign- to the bus deal- you’ve been asleep at the wheel. Following prompts from a board member who doesn’t even live in the district- and hasn’t since 2015.
I’d like to see the rent receipts for his half million dollar house in the Vandalia Butler school district- tell us who does live in the mansion.
Because sure as bees make honey- Dr., if he really is a Dr., Adil Baguirov is in a bit of a pinch. He’s registered to vote in a Ten Thousand dollar house on Maryland Ave- where he supposedly lives with his business partner- Islom Shakhbandarov.
He failed to disclose many of his business dealings on his ethics statements. He failed to disclose his maze of shell companies.
What we have here is our own version of Henry Hill- here to sell you 76 trombones. A carpet bagger- who is possibly lining his own pockets with inside deals with CareSource- Miami Valley Hospital, the University of Dayton, and even Learn To Earn.
Never mind the bus deal.
Since you won’t do anything about any of this- I’ve taken the next steps to have Dr. Baguirov removed by a judge. The next step is to remove the rest of you by collecting 4500 signatures. I think the people in this room will gladly help me get them in record time.
It’s time to stop embarrassing the city of Dayton. It’s time we had a superintendent and treasurer that actually lead our organization forward. It’s time to end the insider deals- and stop the loss of staff attrition – which has approached 20% annually.
Please, do us a favor- abdicate now- and save yourself the embarrassment- we’ve already got 13 people running for office to replace 4 of you. Do you need further evidence that the community doesn’t approve of your choice in superintendent or how you are running the district?
Because once we remove all of you- then we can legitimately claim “Great things are happening at Dayton Public Schools.”
Of course no response. Dr. Baguirov’s business partner and housemate for voting, Islom Shakhbandarov was sitting right next to the podium and filmed me as I spoke. As soon as the board broke for their executive session, Shakhbandarov ran to McManus asking why he didn’t cut me off for talking about his partner- McManus said “I just read the rules, it’s up to the board president to enforce them.”
I say fire the coaches, the athletic directors, the principals, the superintendent and move forward. Nobody was there to make sure this young man was eligible, or that his eligibility was being managed properly. The video speaks for itself- the kids didn’t want to “throw the game” and showed their disgust for this cockamamie scheme. Only thing I’m sure of is, this wouldn’t have happened if Superintendent Chaos Corr hadn’t run David Lawrence out of the district. Lawrence was previously over Baker- and, attended most of the sporting events- and knows how to calculate eligibility.
When the board came out of executive session, Dr. Hazel Rountree was missing. She’d walked off the job. Should be grounds for termination. When the going gets rough, or Hazel doesn’t get her way- she just gets going. This proves that she’s not worthy of her seat.
Joe Lacey was the only one who voted not to retain Baker. He’s a little late to the whole discussion at this point and doing nothing more than grandstanding. Of course, he dosn’t bother to hold himself responsible for putting Corr in charge of this circus. Watch the video of Corr and Lacey while he has his rant around the three minute mark.
Baker got his contract- with a 5-1 vote, with Hazel absent without leave. On his way out, Coach Powell said to me “We’re done” – knowing that they were going to be the only ones to take a hit for this gross failure to do the right thing.
Speaking of doing the right thing, the board still won’t address the eligibility of Dr. Baguirov at all. Thus, all failing their legal responsibility to follow their own rules.
The head of security who was tasked to spend all the time in the world interviewing everyone involved in the Dunbar/Belmont fiasco, hasn’t had any time to investigate Dr. B. Imagine that.
I’ve requested all the interview transcripts through a public records request for publication later.
When black people in Dayton screw up, leave no stone unturned. When it’s a slick talking, nattily dressed, carpetbagger who can’t make up his mind if we’re broke or flush- no investigation warranted.
As they always say the best defense in America is being rich.
It’s been three business days since I published the post that clearly identifies a serious problem with the residency requirement for school board member Dr. Adil Baguirov. You’d think the local news would pick the story up, or that the prosecutors office or the board of elections would have a statement? Nope. You’d think other school board members would be calling for an investigation- nada.
However, when the Dunbar coaches played an ineligible player against Belmont, knowing that he had played the week before at Taft as ineligible, there has been no stone left uncovered. Fingers pointed everywhere- and now the Ohio High School Athletic Association has weighed in as well- with probation and a fine. Wow.
I requested both the report from the Director Safety & Security, Jamie Bullens, a former Dayton cop with plenty of experience, and the OHSAA report and read them.
DPS internal report
Reading them, all I can say is add another ring to the three ring circus, with the coaches, athletic directors, principals all looking like clowns on parade.
How do you have a star quarterback failing to maintain his C average in the first place? There are no excuses for this- once again, Dayton Public Schools fails a student- all the rest really doesn’t matter.
Not a single one of these people did what was right for the students, and this goes all the way to the Superintendent.
The reason I bring her in, is because previously, David Lawrence was the guy who was over the rookie athletic director- and was known for his attention to the details of eligibility. Once Corr had demoted him, she forgot to appoint someone else to keep tabs on athletics- mostly, because she’s too busy at the same time with the self-created budget crisis and RIF that turned the entire district upside down for the entire month of November.
Here is the DPS Organizational chart- having LaMark Baker reporting directly to Rhonda Corr- the chart was supplied to me on Feb 3, 2017.
Dayton Public Schools Org Chart 3 Feb 2017
For the people who worry about the $10K fine- really? Considering Corr and the board had no problem spending 20+x that to buy out Lawrence’s contract- as well as to pay off Lori Ward, as well as for unnecessary time clocks ($400K) or to hire the most expensive ad agency to do sub-par work, or buy buses from people who do business with Dr. Baguirov….
If Dayton really cared about the students, we’d end this circus by having a judge recall the entire board, fire the superintendent and treasurer for gross incompetence, and ask the state to install a professional team to supervise the schools and pick a new superintendent.
The best choice to run the district is Dr. Elisabeth Lolli, who seems both competent and has integrity.
In the meantime, we’ll wait to see if anyone has the gumption or brains to ask Baguirov to step down.
Summer of 2016, Dayton Public Schools thought they needed a tax levy.
Then came Mayor Whaley- who needed a tax levy even more. For some reason, the board rolled over and played dead.
They’d changed Superintendents, bringing in the rookie Rhonda Corr to replace Superintendent Lori Ward- who they had to spend big bucks to get her to go away. September 14, 2016, they find out, Ward had pulled a rabbit out of a hat- getting the district an A in Annual Yearly Progress- the first A they’d had on a State report card in decades. This averted state takeover. It also gave Corr and crew breathing room.
But, since Corr didn’t like some of Ward’s people- she had a housecleaning- ostensibly a Reduction in Force, to get rid of opposition, and so she could justify bringing in her own team of highly paid assistants. The board, under leadership of Dr. Adil Baguirov, claimed the district was short about $4.5 million- although no one could provide real numbers. On the chopping block along with the opposition, were about 30 para-professionals (teachers aides) who were widely credited with helping get the A in AYP.
Along came Nan’s issue 9. A quarter percent increase in the city income tax. The board actually BACKED it- despite it creating a whole other quasi-public school board for pre-school only. These “Learn to Earn” folks even got to pay themselves big money- instead of the $5k a year the board members make. And, btw- get $4.5 million a year- without any stipulations on where it goes- charters, private schools, churches, as long as they are doing pre-school. There is a bit of a conflict of interest here, but, we’ll save that for another post that’s coming.
That levy, btw- was financed with big money- although we still don’t know the full extent, since the “Neigborhoods for Dayton’s Future” PAC that solicited the $1873 average donation still hasn’t filed their post campaign finance report.
Then the board has to finish doing Rhonda’s dirty work, buying out David Lawrence, who was Chief of School Innovation- and partially responsible for the A in AYP. They blew that buyout, but had the money to throw around.
And all of a sudden, after not buying any new full size buses since 2010, they are about to buy 30 and take 10 more on a grant. It’s an overdue $2.1 million buy. But, Dr. Adil Baguirov, who happens to be the only one who also buys trucks from the same dealers for his trucking company- all of a sudden jumps in with all the facts and figures and the district is ready to commit to long term financing of 110 buses.
The teachers union isn’t too happy. The paraprofessionals know they are toast. The deal Adil is talking about seems to have a 10 year service and maintenance contract attached- meaning the districts mechanics are probably going to lose their jobs too.
And, all of you voters are just along for the ride.
For the last 6 months the new Superintendent, Rhonda Corr, has been trying to excommunicate David Lawrence from Dayton Public Schools. The former Chief of School Innovation, was demoted several times to try to get him to quit. She couldn’t use the Reduction In Force (RIF) ruse that she used to clean out some of downtown last fall, because she assigned his duties to no less than 3 other people.
She brought in Dr. Elisabeth Lolli and Dr. Markay Winston at similar or higher pay, and also assigned some of his work to Dr. Bucheim. You can review some of this mess in the really long post: The calamity named Rhonda Corr. Corr could have assigned David Lawrence to be the principal at the troubled Meadowdale too, but instead, hired in a guy from Texas. Lawrence was signed to a contract through June of 2018, and it was either work with him or buy him out. That’s how contracts work.
Lawrence started to use some of his accumulated 20 years worth of sick leave while his attorney and the board negotiated an agreement for his separation. Here is a copy of the very easy to read separation contract: DPS-LAWRENCE Agreement 2-17
Three short legalese paragraphs set the stage, and then the first clause:
1. Upon his execution of this Agreement, Employee shall cause to be delivered to the Superintendent his irrevocable letter of resignation from all employment positions held with the Dayton City School District. Said resignation shall take effect on February 21, 2017.
Employee’s letter of resignation shall be accepted by the Board, without public comment, at its next regular meeting following Employee’s execution of this Agreement.
But, when this item comes to the board, you don’t have to watch very long for Dr. Adil Baguirov to start commenting- thereby violating the contract, and voiding it. First with his discussion of waiving the 48 hour rule to vote (as specified- “its next regular meeting”) thinking this isn’t an emergency. The reason they had to waive the 48 hour rule is because they can’t seem to prepare for meetings and actually post their agenda more than 48 hours in advance for issue C & G.
Baguirov is right, there has been plenty of time to discuss and post and not need the waiver. I pipe in “This is incompetence”- out of order.
Then Dr. Walker asks to move to executive session, and then Baguirov says we shouldn’t get rid of Lawrence on fiscal competency grounds, and then says to give a very qualified administrator over $200,000 to see him go as essentially unearned income.
Then he speaks on behalf of Board Member Taylor- who would agree with him, but she’s not here. Lacey says talking about what other members think is wrong.
Then Rountree jumps in that this has been discussed plenty in executive session, and no one knows why Taylor isn’t there. And calls for the up or down vote.
Ron Lee then has to agree with Rountree that this should be voted on. And that earlier decisions weren’t right (like hiring Corr over Lawrence?).
Then they are to vote to waive the 48 hour rule, Baguirov and Lacey vote no, the rest vote yes, 4 yes, 2 no.
Then there is confusion because Walker can’t tell what to do next. Where I pipe in “The buyout because of the personality conflict” again out of order. You hear a sigh from someone.
Then Corr asks to do D, E, F- skipping the actual vote on the issue that they just waived the 48 hour rule on. #FAIL. Of course, no one in the audience can follow the agenda, because the “Board Docs” application isn’t mobile friendly, it’s barely laptop friendly.
Then Lacey agrees for D, E, F and Hazel asks you have to vote on the first one, and Lacey says you don’t and we have an argument about order- because, well, confusion is always the best way.
Then McManus talks about transportation directors- he hasn’t said anything other than yes to waive the 48 hour rule on C&G.
Then Baguirov and Lacey want to withdraw their motions and confuse it more.
Now Lacey wants to separate the motion and gets in a fight with Rountree calling it a game, and he gets belligerent and wants to deal with something different. And then back to Mr. Lawrence and E & F.
Again mentioning Lawrence. Walker mentions Lawrence. We’re now 13 min and 31 seconds in- and voting on everything but Lawrence. Rountree abstains. 5-1.
Then Corr tries to come back to number D 1, and then G, a settlement agreement. Rountree moves, McManus seconds. Walker asks for further discussion- and Baguirov says he is staunchly opposed to this, due to the RIF on fiscal grounds. He can’t allow to pay over $200,000 to someone who isn’t going to be working here. There is work that Mr. Lawrence is qualified to do. He doesn’t understand why the board would allow this. He calls it a “massive payment.” And says he’s been against it in executive.
Rountree then says “treat people in the way you want to be treated” including buyouts and goes on about contracts. Lee continues about the issue and puts it back on Baguirov for this beginning under his watch.
It doesn’t matter what any of them think, the contract had to be voted on, simple yes/no and move on, without discussion. This discussion all violates the contract. Corr didn’t step in and stop discussion. Neither did board lawyer Jyllian Bradshaw.
In a corporate setting, these intentional missteps would be cause for termination. F&I insurance may cover the cost of the failings, but the board members would still be asked to step down. Unfortunately, school board members in Ohio can’t be removed by ballot initiative. Can they be removed for exposing the district to additional lawsuits?
At this point, the correct thing to do is to accept the resignation of all who discussed the issue violating the contract, Walker, Baguirov, Lacey, Rountree and Lee. Only McManus has abided by the terms. Taylor wasn’t present to get herself in trouble.
Corr and Bradshaw were responsible for managing this process. Both failed.
Let’s begin with 5 new school board members, a new attorney, and then let the new board decide if they should keep Corr, or terminate her for cause because of her inability to not only manage David Lawrence, but failure to control the process at the meeting bringing the district additional legal battles.
The obvious choice to replace Corr as superintendent? David Lawrence.
After the smoke cleared from the shit-show that pretends to be a school board meeting last night, a week after they hired The Ohlmann group to manage their marketing starting last Wednesday, there was one really important new program launched by DPS, led by Dr. Markay Winston.
You didn’t see it in the Dayton Daily news, because the story was the controversy over buying out former Chief of School Innovation David Lawrence for “over $200,000” because Rhonda Corr is our own version of Donald Trump- if she doesn’t like you- you’re fired (except as much as they try to turn their board meetings into reality TV- this is a government organization that actually enters into legally binding contracts that have to be honored. Corr and the board will have to deal with this issue again when either this board or the new one, decides to dump Corr and she wants her contract bought out).
So what was this big news that didn’t make the news, or get a proper PR roll out? The program that isn’t on the DPS website, the one that can’t even get the meeting time published correctly?
“Marketing” via Dayton Public Schools
DPS is starting a home school e-learning program where students can enroll in DPS and get a DPS diploma, and participate in DPS extra-curricular activities, get a DPS supplied computer, and even get free wi-fi.
The rest of the students, who are using their new 1 to 1 computers in school, and may be able to bring them home next year (I’m on the technology steering committee and have been pushing for this from day 1), will not get free wi-fi. However, Dr. Baguirov who likes to take credit for rolling out the program in record time, under budget with amazing success says they are still looking at costs for providing mobile hot spots to students who don’t have wi-fi at home, but the costs are high.
Winston had a lame deck Dayton Innovation Virtual Academy Board Presentation Feb 21 2017 which was clearly not done by a professional marketing firm. Had the board known what an ad agency does, this would have been rolled out in a way to get free press, and make a big splash- instead of the headlines being about another Rhonda Corr failure. See the provided slide image- does that look like an exciting new program you’d want to enroll your kid in? Does it look like it’s run by professionals? None of the other slides in the deck could stand on their own as an explanation of what DPS is doing.
E-schools as they are run in Ohio are a scam. If they were compared to the worst public schools, and the worst charter schools, comparatively- they make the worst public schools look like Harvard. Virtual schools are virtually unregulated and the results are a mixed bag. The largest, ECOT- the “electronic classroom of tomorrow” is bigger than Dayton, but has graduation rates that make DPS look awesome:
With its most-recent graduation rate of 38 percent, few districts in the state rank lower. Only 35 of the roughly 700 traditional school districts and charter schools that serve high-school students have a worse outcome, and most of those are other statewide e-schools and charters that exclusively serve dropouts.By comparison, Columbus schools’ most-recent graduation rate was 77 percent. Cleveland’s was about 64 percent.
Phillis said it’s astonishing that ECOT continues to escape the scrutiny of lawmakers despite meeting only three of the 24 possible state testing and graduation standards, receiving F grades in all but one category. ECOT got a D in the performance index, which is an index of state testing performance.
However, while DPS keeps bragging about their single non-F grade, an A in annual yearly progress, at least ecot has a D in state testing performance. We all know the saying “when you’ve hit bottom, the only other direction is up” is the true meaning of that A- not that they are successful.
Even though my firm didn’t win the marketing bid- I think I’ll still do the job that the people they hired didn’t do- properly promote this new program.
The information sessions for Parent Information Sessions DPS Virtual Academy will be as follows:
Northwest Library: 2410 Philadelphia Dr
Feb. 27 from 10 am – 12 pm (West)
Board of Education Community Room
Feb. 28 from 4-6 pm (Central)
Burkhardt Library: 4680 Burkhardt Ave
March 7 from 10 am – 12 pm (East)
Madden Hills Library: 2542 Germantown St.
March 9 from 4-6 pm (West)
Make sure you tell them where you heard about this new program if you chose to go.
“Did we ask to do this?” was a question asked last week during a protracted Dayton Board of Education meeting? This was during an hour long discussion about awarding a contract for marketing the Dayton Public Schools for the next four years.
During that discussion, board members suggested they use students to create the materials (one would wonder if that’s been the case over the last 20 years). Others didn’t know why they needed marketing at all. Joe Lacey didn’t like the use of the word “slick graphics” by the remaining person in the “public information office”- the one that couldn’t show them what they were purchasing. You know- a presentation on who they chose and why. The purchasing department that had run the process couldn’t do much better. And, when asked why they didn’t have an actual contract to look at before they voted, the board attorney tried to tell them that if they saw the qualifications- it could lend to bias, and wasn’t legal.
Wed. morning the 22nd, Forgot to mention, that the “Learn to Earn” board was mentioned in the Dayton Daily the morning of the 20st- for putting out an RFP to hire an ad agency to connect with the community and let them know all about their programs. Of course, they only have to reach about 1,500 parents each year, but at least they know what and why they need competent advertising. My firm will not bid the contract because we don’t believe in quasi-public organizations spending tax dollars without voter oversight.
The Preschool Promise board approved a large marketing plan this week, including plans to hire a vendor to run a “field campaign” for grassroots outreach in Dayton. Board member and former Dayton Mayor Clay Dixon said the marketing approach “is of the utmost importance.”
“That is actually how we’ll go out in the community, shoulder to shoulder, eyeball to eyeball,with the parents to make sure they are aware of the program, aware of what we do to get those kids into one of our quality programs,” Dixon said.
The board’s request for proposals for field campaign vendors is going out this week. Lightcap said the vendor will hire people who know Dayton’s neighborhoods and can build relationships with community partners, all in an effort to connect with the families who would participate in expanded preschool.
That’s when I interrupted and called her a liar. And was supported by another staff person- with an Request for Qualifications, which was what they used to select a “winner”- the point wasn’t to compare actual proposals- but, the skill sets.
That the purchasing department misrepresented the amount of the contract on the agenda as $112,500 instead of the actual $300,000, was another problem, that they didn’t care to call the staff on.
Tonight, the school board published their “board docs” saying the meeting started at 6pm. Only when we got there, they were a half hour into it. Competent PIO’s and board secretaries wouldn’t make that mistake. Especially since this was the actual business meeting- the one where they were supposed to vote on business.
And vote on some sticky business they did. After, Dr. Walker mis-ran the public speaking section giving some speakers up to a half hour at the podium (and no- it wasn’t me). We’ll have that story after we edit some of our video. There is supposed to be a 3 minute limit. It should also apply to board members. The meeting ran from 5:30 to 9:05 before they went into executive session.
They couldn’t make up it clear what they were doing about an intervention specialist that they hired at Dunbar who used to be a sub. She’s working on her PhD, but is 9 credits short of a teaching certificate. They hired her knowing that- and so she bought a house, a car, and now has no job- and two kids at home to feed. Apparently, this district isn’t smart enough to know how to get her enrolled in Teach for America- where no teaching license is required.
Then came the issue of paying off David Lawrence to go away because Superintendent Rhonda Corr doesn’t like him. This has been subject of executive sessions for months. The buyout had been agreed to- and yet, here they were, waiving the 48 hour rule to vote because their staff can’t publish an agenda with the right start time, or in adequate time to not have to invoke the rule.
Dr. Baguirov objected, saying the waiving is for emergencies- something he didn’t protest last week when they did it to hire The Ohlmann Group to do their marketing. Then he and Joe Lacey objected to spending $200,000 to buy Lawrence out- when he could have been used in the district (had it not been for Corr being intimidated by a competent black male). The vote was 4-2 to send Lawrence away with what was contractually due him. A huge loss to the district- as board member Lee stated. In fact, the last thing I said to them as I walked away from the podium when I spoke was “you should have hired David Lawrence.”
Here is the text of my speech as written from tonight:
There is a 48 hour rule for a reason.
There is also reason we have an elected school board.
It’s your job to hire a superintendent, and a treasurer, and to run checks and balances on them.
Tonight you are waiving the 48 hour rule again.
It’s fitting that you are doing it to pay the home-grown competent internal candidate for superintendent you passed over, to go away. Because the current superintendent didn’t like him.
But I guess you were ahead of your time- picking a leader for our district much like the one our country ended up with. You know the one that brings huge protests out over their actions.
Remember her Reduction in force- based on numbers that no one was able to verify- including your treasurer, who you are re-hiring tonight.
The treasurer who was over the purchasing department that ran the process that extended 6 months- and you waived the 48 hour rule last week to execute.
If you were doing your job, and your due diligence before you voted to approve a contract for a year, with multi-year options, on something as important as marketing services for your failing school district and it was run competently, I wouldn’t have watched and recorded video for an hour of discussion about a contract that you eventually voted 5-1 to approve, with John McManus being the only no vote, and Mr. Lee being absent.
The contract, which was supposed to be awarded on Sept. 20th. When you actually came around to vote on it, on November, 1, you chose to not award because the process of the request for proposal was flawed. You had 5 bidders, and were about to award it to the most expensive bidder.
This time you used a Request for Qualifications, a different contracting vehicle, although it still asked for many of the exact same details, just in a more convoluted manner.
This time, you only had 3 bidders, and once again, the recommendation of your superintendent, was to award to the same, most expensive bidder.
When you had questions about what you were buying, why you were buying, and why it was necessary, your superintendent sat there- and at one point, even asked you for guidance to what you want. You still bought it.
The purchasing department couldn’t legitimately explain what you were buying. Ten days before you voted, at 10pm on a Saturday night, there was an email issued saying that “Responses have been evaluated and results provided for review and determination of a recommendation to the DPS Board of Education. It is expected that the recommendation will appear on the Feb 21, 2017 business meeting agenda.”
So, what I learned last week is that you had homework due in 17 days, but, your staff decided to change it to 10 days. They either never provided you with anything, or they did and you all decided not to do your homework, based on your confusion last week.
The waiving of the 48 hour rule on a million dollar contract, the fact that the agenda outright lied about the amount of the contract- listing it at $112,500 instead of $300,000 – “because it was pro-rated” as an excuse to mis-represent it to the public.
The public records request I filed the next day, still hasn’t been fulfilled as I speak, a week later. So I can’t tell you what you bought or didn’t buy last week either.
What’s even more important, is that you did it at a meeting that didn’t allow for public comment. So, yes, I was out of order when I interrupted and called your staff lawyer a liar. One of your staff confirmed I was right. That you voted on it- after learning your attorney was misguidingly stopping you from evaluating qualifications for a qualitative contract, is negligence.
You had every right to review all submissions of an RFQ, and to see the contract you bought.
She still has her job.
Your purchasing person, still has her job, and now, I am going to question if any of you are fit to carry out your duties other than Mr. McManus and Mr. Lee. There needs to be an investigation into the ethics filings of Dr. Baguirov and if his private business does work with CareSource, and why the board was never presented with offers for the Patterson Kennedy site as well.
This School System needs you performing your due diligence it’s what the kids deserve- because, as your superintendent loves to say- it’s all about the kids-
which should prove she has no business in her position-
it’s also about our professionals, our city, our future.? And by blindly awarding a very large contract, you shouldn’t be a part of that future.
End of prepared speech.
After tonight’s meeting, Baguirov called me a liar to my face over questioning his business relationships and non-disclosure of all his businesses in the video about the real estate deals. He still thinks I’m a lobbyist for some real estate developer- yet won’t say why the vacant land isn’t being auctioned. Corr shot daggers at me for much of the meeting- and was particularly pissed when she saw Dayton Daily reporter Jeremy Kelley talking to me. She really doesn’t like it that she’s the one to blame for the buyout of Lawrence’s contract.
This board, under Walker is a model of incompetence. The meeting management was totally lacking. They couldn’t even figure out what they were voting on, nor could the audience follow. Compare their use of “Board Docs” with the simple agenda’s used by the Dayton City Commission and you can quickly see the why this district is dysfunctional- and the public being left out of the process or misled by the incompetence of their leadership and staff.
There are people pulling petitions like sharecroppers pick cotton. Hopefully, come next January, we’ll have four new, competent board members and this kind of chicanery will end.
Warning, this post will be long. There will be a lot of pieces and parts of stories of incompetence, coming from many sources. It’s easy to say To Long/Didn’t Read. But this is for the people who care about our schools, our city, and our kids. It’s a compilation of antics that I’ve observed and heard and been asked to deal with over the last 6 months, but, because I wanted to step up and be a part of the solution, I stayed quiet. That’s not my style. It’s also not fair to the people of the city who’ve come to depend on me to speak the truth. I apologize.
This post will probably preclude me from ever doing what needs done for the district. It’s not the first time bringing the truth to light has cost me and my business work. I’m not known as the ninja for nothing.
If you want the short answer: The Dayton Board of Education made a mistake of epic proportions when passing over a qualified internal candidate with known flaws to bring in an untested rookie superintendent with a mottled past to be a “turnaround specialist.” There are questions of racial discrimination, a propensity to hire women (the entire “cabinet” of DPS is now female) and there have been so many public relations disasters that morale within the district, confidence in the administration and the community is at an all time low. There are multiple lawsuits either pending or coming.
full disclosure: I’ve done work for the district over the last half-dozen years. I’ve talked to Superintendents since Percy Mack about restructuring marketing, schools and the message to the community. I’ve served on the Technology Steering Committee off and on since 2012. I was an early advocate of 1 to 1 computing. I was asked by the new superintendent, Rhonda Corr to tackle two projects, weeks after her arrival. There was no P.O. or RFP or even an arranged price. What I turned in included a proposed payment of $1000 for the work to date, an estimate of approximately $12K for the work as specified and about $50K to produce it, or, hire my firm for a complete outsourcing of all PR for the year for $250K.
The district issued an RFP with a short time line. I offered my assistance in how to frame the RFP to the treasurer- I was rebuffed. I worked through my fathers death to turn in what was a comprehensive plan to a poorly constructed open ended RFP with no budget, goals, or the normal briefing that comes with an agency selection. They published the request for bid, but the only agencies that submitted were The Ohlmann Group, Hafenbrack/Upward, Nova Creative, Noir Marketing and my firm, The Next Wave. I know this because they mistakenly sent an email with everyone CC’d- plus this community is pretty small. The contract was to be awarded Sept. 20 with work to commence Sept. 21. The purchasing department missed all deadlines they set. When I asked why it wasn’t on the Sept. agenda- I got an answer from Corr that they weren’t done with evaluations- and that she was one of the guilty parties. I kept pushing for the award, and asking why there were zero communications from purchasing. I spoke at a board meeting. I’ve heard board members blame the drop in enrollment on everything from stabbing at schools to bad marketing. When the purchasing department did finally do their interviews, it was the most unprofessional selection committee I’ve ever seen. They handed us a two page form as we headed up the elevator on what they wanted. There were to be no questions specific to our proposal. Finally, the board pushed and on Nov 1, the superintendent presented the recommendation that they hire Ohlmann- the highest and largest bidder. The board refused the recommendation. The superintendent’s suggestion was to ask other school systems how to run a selection process for a creative services firm. This is like asking me to do advanced calculus. School systems aren’t marketing driven organizations, nor do they have people that understand marketing and have experience working with these types of firms. Out of frustration, I wrote a guide to government agencies on how to run an agency selection process and forwarded it to the board. They still haven’t acted, even tough their Public Information Officer retires at the end of the year and their Telecommunications director leaves for UD after 31 years at the district at the same time.
end of disclosure.
Out with the old…
The reason Lori Ward and the board parted ways will never fully be known, I even called for her to go. Both my reasoning and the boards reasoning are probably in alignment on her inability to cut deadwood from the bloated organization. If you wanted to see the Peter Principle in action, you could swing a dead cat around the administrative palace on Ludlow and hit several people who had far out climbed their bandwidth.
Sitting on the Tech Steering committee I was facing at least two of them, maybe three. It was hard to say, because the committee often had 20 people in attendance, but very few actually participate. Being silent is an acceptable job role in DPS.
I also believed that their PIO, although a very nice lady, didn’t know good marketing from bad. Several examples of failure have made it to this blog– but “enroll, commit, succeed” is still one of the worst taglines I’ve ever seen.
Lori Ward didn’t fire people. She is also black, a well respected member of the community and knows the district inside and out. It wasn’t long before she left with a large buyout of contract, sick time, vacation pay and headed to Cleveland Public Schools to head HR. Kind of an odd position for a person that doesn’t fire people.
The board also parted ways with Craig Jones, the Treasurer. Craig was a very conservative guy. He was also, as one board member put it, “insubordinate.” This might be because he was vehemently against giving tax abatement to companies like GE, Emerson, CareSource, and whatever other private pied piper that had become part of Nan Whaley’s plan to raise more money than god to stay in power and to subvert the schools.
The board picked Hiwot Abraha to take over. She was the person who under the pre-Craig treasurer Stan Lucas, ran the show while he was out ill. Hiwot stepped into Craig’s shoes with a solid balance sheet- and a $30 million dollar reserve. All the computers had been paid for and software money allocated before the school year started. The schools had even refinanced bonds under Craig to put us in a stronger position.
The board screwed up the process and procedure for firing Craig. He’s now suing them. He is the first of what will be many.
Normally, a district the size of Dayton would have 20+ applicants for Superintendent. With Dayton facing takeover by the state of Ohio for failing performance grades, the applicant pool was less than half that. Indecision by the board let their first round first choice candidate slip away. She was an assistant superintendent in Beavercreek with a penchant for finding grant funding. Passed over in this round was internal candidate David Lawrence, so when round 2 came, and he was excluded, a lot of people, including most of the building principals who were under him were confused. Board members said the reason was they wanted an outside perspective- someone who wasn’t part of the problem they thought they had. Another barrier to attracting talent was that they were only offering a one-year contract. That’s not really a vote of confidence, but since the job might disappear in a State takeover in 2 years- why have to pay more to buy them out.
Round 2 was covered on this blog. Even though they didn’t want an insider, this time Dr. Roberson who hadn’t been with the district long enough to learn the names of the principals was a finalist. Lawrence sat in the back of the room. Next to Dr. Tom Lasley of “Learn to Earn.”
With time to hire already at a premium, the passed on their token internal black male candidate, ruled our Dan Schroer (who was quickly hired by Springboro) because of his pro-police in schools answer which had the Racial Justice Now people ready to lynch him, and left them with Rhonda Corr.
I met with Corr early on, at the Third Perk coffee house, catty corner from HQ. She brought Colleen Wells as her scribe. I showed previous work my firm had done for the district, talked about ideas that were rejected including a “day in the life” type project, curated by 2x Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Larry Price– who even offered to shoot for 2 days in the District for free- and was rejected.
The meeting went an hour and a half in late afternoon on July 7. She seemed receptive and we got along fine. A few weeks later, on Tuesday the 26th at the Tech Steering committee she asked me to take on two challenges: graphics for the windows around the board meeting room because there is no district branding on that end of the building, and a way to increase attendance because “we know for a fact that if kids don’t miss more than 10 days of school our scores go up.” I responded, so you watched Dr. Roberson’s presentation on my blog? She denied it. His simplistic solution as presented at the 3 ring circus came down to a catch phrase that he had the audience chanting: “success begins with less than 10” as in absences.
To me, this assignment was like the captain of the Titanic handing an ice pick to a deck hand and saying- go take care of that iceberg for me. The district has serious communications deficits and window dressing and a marketing solution to attendance issues are the first challenge. Typically, we start with a comprehensive strategy for repositioning and then work tactically to get there.
There was no request for proposal, no PO, just go ahead and do the work. A week later I met with her to give her a plan. It solved the window dressing problem with a much bigger idea- complete with a strategy to begin to reposition the district honestly, and a strategy for incentivizing/gamification of attendance along with a playbook. We threw in reference to other critically needed components and addressed the payment for services as outlined in the above disclaimer.
Other things were happening in the district around the same time. The annual week long principals institute, a program that had been run by Chief of School Innovation David Lawrence was scheduled to meet at Charity Early. Part of the reason, was as a celebration of the principal’s 50th year in education. Charity Early is almost like a retreat- because it was built in collaboration with the Girl Scouts who have their facility there. None of this was known by our new Superintendent who cancelled it- and instead decided to spend money to rent the Crowne Plaza for a day – to make it feel more like a conference. So much for paying for a facility- the A/C was out the entire day. This was the beginning of the undermining of Lawrence by Corr.
In fact, their first meeting, was a fraction of my first meeting a week before. She had district lawyer Jyllian Guerriero with her, as she met with him for 15 minutes at which time there was no listening- just orders. You are to have no further contact with principals in the district. You are going to be over special projects: Athletics, Males of Color, Dayton Biz Tech and Longfellow Alternative School. There was also a fracas around this time over the hiring of the new district Athletic Director. Mark Baker, a Dunbar grad, had been offered the job by David Lawrence, and in a power play- someone wanted to rescind it and give it to another candidate out of D.C. This may have been Corr’s first wake up call that there people in this town with more juice that she’ll ever have. After a few days of confusion, the Baker appointment went through.
I had a conversation with Corr about demoting Lawrence. She said it wasn’t a demotion, it was putting him in charge of the things that needed the most help. She wanted to make sure the Males of Color initiative was a success, and she didn’t want him overloaded with other things.
Several people seem to be in the good graces of the new superintendent. Bob Bucheim, a recent hire to the district, who gets promoted to Executive Director Curriculum and takes over a number of schools that had previously reported to David Lawrence. I’d worked with Bucheim on the Technology Steering Committee and found him to be enthusiastic, positive and a lot like my golden retriever when she was a puppy. When asking a former supervisor of his about him, the response was “I had 12 principals under me, if asked to rank them 1-12, Bob would be 15.” His claim to fame was as a scheduling wizard. Scheduling is a critical part of high school enrollment- so critical that when Lawrence was over Thurgood, they used to have a schedule preview day about a week before school started to give them a chance to dry-run the classes to iron out any mistakes.
When school started, Meadowdale High School still didn’t have a master schedule. The process had begun with Lawrence before his demotion, but when he was told not to talk to anyone- he obeyed. It’s a complex process, including input from the DEA reps in the building, the principals, the guidance counselors. Eleven days in, Corr asked Lawrence to step in to intervene and clean up the mess left by Bucheim and Dr. Sheila Burton who didn’t put a master schedule in place. He outlined clearly what he had done to start the process, when he was told to stop and wanted to make sure this wasn’t another attempt to find fault with him. Soon after he wasn’t in charge of Athletics anymore. And then Males of Color was stripped as well.
Speaking of the Males of Color Initiative, David Lawrence had taken my Websitetology course over the summer. He thought it was incredibly insightful and useful- so much in fact, that he wanted the team from Males of Color to take it. Five sharp young men showed up on the morning of Aug 24 to take the class. I get a call, the PO for $495 wasn’t approved and I may not get paid by the district. At 8:47 am I send a text to Corr:
David Esrati:I hear the po for my training of the men of color wasn’t approved yet. I made a command decision- to allow them to stay at my risk. Teaching the rest of the day.
Rhonda Corr:What training?
David Esrati:Websitetology seminar. How to use the web effectively. You are welcome to stop by
Lawrence is dumbfounded. He’d never had to get a PO for less than 10K approved before, and, esp, by this one being held up by the Superintendent, who is playing dumb. Internal secretaries, the ones who run most organizations confirm with me as I’m trying to get paid a month later that Corr was the only hang up.
The Males of Color all told me they thought the training was outstanding. It tool the district until 9/29/16 to pay the bill.
Meanwhile, at the Tech Steering Committee, it’s come out that one of the pieces of software the district bought, Imagination Learning, requires headsets to work. No one bought headsets. Bucheim does his best puppy imitation- and no solid answers are given. I’ve been asking for a report of what we bought- basic computer/configuration/software packages and what the cost per seat per year is for software. I’m still waiting for that report, and it’s been promised for the November meeting. I’d been asking since May. The Imagination Learning software was $330K for a year, as days are dwindling and it can’t be used. I’m wondering who gets fired for this? Or do we negotiate with the vendor for a discount- since obviously, their sales team didn’t bother to stress what equipment is necessary. No one seems to care.
The problems at Meadowdale continue. Taylor Porter was a young black male scholar who was in the Bright Fellow program– sponsored by Ohio State and the Ohio Business Roundtable. On Friday, September 16th, word is he was handed a pink slip by Ms. Corr. Monday, veteran principal Jacquelyn Pope PhD resigns abruptly, sending out a robocall to parents. It makes the news. She blames Corr and lack of support. Corr all of a sudden wants to promote young Mr. Porter to Principal, but, unfortunately, his principals license won’t be ready till January. She’s forgotten that she fired him- and now makes him “dean of students.” The firing on a Friday, rehire on Tuesday seems to be a patented Corr move.
The funny thing is, in the last three years, Meadowdale has had two other principals quit mid-year. Both times Lawrence stepped in, took care of things and there was no brew-ha-ha. In the Army, they call Special Forces, the elite military unit I had the honor of serving with, “the silent professionals”- that’s what Mr. Lawrence provided to the district. Elite intervention in sticky situations.
The Meadowdale saga is still continuing. I was at the board meeting where the audience set up their kumbaya circle to try to bring peace back to the district in the wake of Ms. Slash and Burn Corr’s actions. I looked carefully at Board Docs and the list of employment moves. Sometime after the meeting a new sheet went up- and all of a sudden, we’re hiring a new principal for Meadowdale, at $95k a year. That makes him the second highest paid principal in the district. When David White, the well respected principal who turned around Belmont, left Ponitz for Trotwood, as did Tracy Mallory, Lisa Minor, and a host of other former DPS “superstars” we couldn’t find money to pay any of them more. And, of course, with Corr comes controversy. The hire, Donetrus Hill PhD. had resigned from his last position in Dallas in May of 2015 after it was exposed that he was offering students academic make up credit for floor mopping. By the time you throw in relocation expenses, this is a very expensive solution to the problems at Meadowdale. In the meantime, she’s stripped Lawrence of responsibility over anything and has him in a closet in the far corner of the first floor next to some IT equipment with a schedule saying that he has to be at his desk from 8:30 to 4:30 with no more than a half hour for lunch. He’s still making $102.5 K a year. He’s a proven principal.
There isn’t a single DPS employee that won’t vouch for Mr. Lawrences pre-Corr work ethic. Not only was he known to be in the office earlier and later than most, he’d work weekends as well. And, if there was a sporting event, he was there too. In fact, when you used to drive by the district parking lot at 8:30 at night most nights pre-Rhonda Corr, and you knew who drove what, you’d usually have seen Ward’s Volvo SUV and Lawrences’ car in the lot. Now, it’s empty.
Resetting the doomsday clock
It’s September 14th, my birthday. At 3:25 in the afternoon I get a call from Rhonda asking me to look over the press release that the district is preparing to send about the single “A” they received for the 2016 report card. It’s in Annual Yearly Progress- and it’s the only A that mattered. It meant the 2 year countdown to state takeover was now reset. Jill Moberley had written her version- and Corr didn’t feel comfortable with it. Could I take a crack at it.
I don’t have any of the actual data to work with- just what Jill included. Her headline: “Dayton Public Schools receives an A for student growth” and then a meandering mess of stats that no one cares about and fake quotes. I get to work. In 30 minutes, I’ve rewritten it, added some Cleveland flavor to it to make it sound like Corr actually has a heart, and send it back. My headline: “Dayton Public Schools resets takeover countdown”- what appears in the Dayton Business Journal is my release. People compliment Jill on her release, she says “I decided to try something a little different this time.”
No payment arrangements made, no bills issued.
This news barely hits the streets and next thing in the news, a new DPS teacher with an incredible vitae- gets arrested in Edwin Joel Brown school- for allegedly raping a child. DPS can’t buy a break, but, they think the best thing to do is keep stressing it wasn’t one of our students, we barely know the guy. The problem is, this isn’t the first sex offender news of the year, a Ponitz employee, who didn’t have a valid teaching certificate had been caught up in a prostitution case. Help is offered, but not accepted on this one.
One last thought: the A that saved the district had nothing to do with the new administration or leadership. The academic plan that got the district an A was written mostly by Lisa Minor who is now in Trotwood, and David Lawrence who is in purgatory.
The Marketing Bid Status
At this point, we’re a week from the award for the “comprehensive marketing services” contract which was supposed to be awarded on September 20th with work to start on the 21st.
I’m feeling pretty confident. Here I am, being asked to do emergency PR help. But, I’d also seen the email of who my competition was. Corr had told me that there were 5 bidders when I’d asked. But, here’s the part I’m struggling with, before the bid was turned in, after my father had died, I was taking my mom to Ben & Jerry’s on Brown Street to help fatten her up. I ran into Rhonda coming out of the Pine Club with friends of hers. I’d introduced my mother to her- and she’d asked how I was doing. I’d responded, I’m stressed out, working on this RFP from hell- her response to me, was “don’t worry, I want to work with you- this process is just a formality.”
I had come into the office the next day and told my staff. I wasn’t happy about it- because I don’t think things should work that way. I believed in the strength of our proposal. Others who have looked at it who work in the district, in the field, all thought it was outstanding. But, after years of trying to get federal contracts, it had become clear- RFP’s are usually issued AFTER the buyer has the vendor picked. For once, I was going to shut up and let it ride. Dad had died, I’m struggling with taking care of mom who is slipping into dementia, it’s about time something came my way. And, I know I’d do a good job.
Come the weekend before the award, I spend Saturday night writing the press release for the district to issue when they post the contract to Board Docs on Sunday- 48 hours before the board meeting Tuesday. I send it off- it mentions Jill’s retirement. It talks about why they picked The Next Wave and the expectations. I send it to Corr. When Board Docs comes out on Sunday- with no mention of the contract- I immediately write Corr asking WTF? You can’t slide this on at the last minute- it looks shady, and if there is one thing I don’t want to start out with is some sort of idea that this was snuck in. She has no answers to why. I research and find the State doesn’t have any requirements about 48 hours notice on contracts, but apparently DPS does. Doesn’t matter, it’s not happening now. In fact, Corr admits she hasn’t finished her review and rating of the 5 submissions.
The problem with an RFP, especially one with timelines and implementation schedules- is that the dates matter. Your request, my offer, make up a contract. If the dates aren’t right- it just doesn’t free flow into the next quarter. Especially with schools that run on a half a year schedule.
November comes. School has already been going along for two months. Teachers and students have formed bonds, expectations set. Rhonda tells me that she’s got a plan to fire everyone downtown and make them all re-apply for their jobs. She doesn’t know what half of them do. This is in central office- well away from the classroom. I’m pretty sure I can name a few people that need to go.
After me pushing at the October business meeting for them to award the contract to someone, and that it was disrespectful to small business and to the community and to the leadership including the board that tasked purchasing with hiring someone, they finally act on Nov 1. I’m at the meeting. The board is asked to waive the 48 hour rule to award the contract to the Ohlmann group. Ron Lee makes the motion, Dr. Baguirov complains about how the numbers don’t add up, how does a firm (mine) with a 2x Pulitzer Prize winner and is Veteran Owned not score higher. Why are we always giving contracts to the big company and in this case with the highest bid. The motion doesn’t get a second. Ohlmann had the contract in it’s grasp for a few hours- and gone. I get the notification from purchasing about this epic fail 20 hours later. The first communication at all from them.
But, now, the district has to make cuts. It seems they’ve lost 500 some students, which means somewhere between 3.5 and 5 million dollars won’t be there. We hear reasons that just help the district dig a deeper hole- “the stabbing at World of Wonder” caused it was the worst- straight out of Dr. Baguirov’s mouth. And while that story made headlines because it was on the school security cameras and in broad daylight, there was also a gun brought to Wright Brothers within a week and fights and other stuff that goes on all the time. You don’t need to bring any of that up.
Corr says if every principal just went out and recruited 15 students we’d be fine…. in November…. with what materials? With what story- “we got a single A and a bunch of F’s.” The community half buys this line of malarkey. Corr promises once again, cuts will be kept as far away from the classroom as possible.
Until the list comes out and a ton of para-professionals are all getting pink slips.
Para pro- what? You mean they went to jump school and are Airborne qualified? No- paraprofessionals are teachers aides, they come in many varieties, from bus aides, to handicapped student aides, to one-on-one coaches in the classroom. We have some that have been doing that hand holding for as long as 30 years. They don’t do it for the money- the most they could make is about $25k a year. Most of them have at least 2 year degrees and have passed their PRAXIS exams. The best part- is they aren’t paid out of general fund money- they get their money from the feds- Title 1- money for urban disadvantaged kid interventions. And, if you ask the instructional leaders of the district, the principals, the para-professionals are the ones who helped the district get the A in annual yearly progress. Without the chrome books.
Board Member Joe Lacey was at Kiser PK-6 the day the cuts came out- and he said “well where do you think the money came from to pay for the computers?” Never mind it takes a para in the room working with a teacher in order for those computers to be up and running- and in Kindergarten- where kids have never used a mouse- it can take as many as 5 para professionals to get the whole class online and working.
But it doesn’t stop there. The same day the para’s get cut, Karen Lombard gets her pink slip. She’s in tears. She’s been working in the district for 26 years, she’s known as an expert in her field, not just locally but nationally. She’s the one who made DPS preschools, all 14 of them, top notch and worthy of the vaunted 5 Star rating. In 2016 the Dayton Association for Young Children named her the “Administrator of the Year.” Principals who count on her to manage all the compliance issues and keep the pre-k thing on track are devastated. Tuesday comes, and Corr has been told she’s made a mistake. Someone calls and tells Ms. Lombard “we had a change of heart, would you come back?” She agrees. She’s not supposed to speak about the Friday firing- but, just like the internet, once something happens in a Dayton Public School the grapevine doesn’t forget or just stop.
Joe Lacey has no problem with firing MariJane Recob, director of the Challenger center at Kiser. He calls her a “museum curator” and says that he thinks that certified teachers are what make a difference. Even though he’s the longest serving member of the board, he seems clueless that not only was MariJane teaching before he put on his first speedo, she was doing STEM before anyone knew what STEM was. Board Members McManus and Taylor try to save her from the axe that week. Of course, they had very little time to prepare, because as usual, Corr can’t get her act together- the list was posted about an hour before the meeting. Also gone were Toni Perry Gillespie and Richard Melson- two people I never thought were good fits for the district. Melson likes to be called Dr. Melson, a salutation that leads people to believe he’s a PhD or EdD- but, no- it’s a divinity degree. He was a director of IT who never heard of open source software, and was responsible for directing the district into a very expensive proprietary piece of software called SunGard which is an expensive enterprise solution for running a district. Gillespie is part of the Monarchy of Montgomery County- and was hired as a coordinator of Community and Family Engagement, yet didn’t do much of either.
It was her office that set up the “Coffee with the Superintendent” last Saturday at Ruskin Elementary School. I attended for a part of it. If they had competent PR it would have been considerably different. I’m not going to spell out how to do one of these events, but ideally you have a presentation that knocks peoples socks off with your vision of the future to begin, and everyone leaves with a happy handout recapping the plan and gives them something to share with their friends and neighbors. None of that happened. Jill Moberley and Ken Kreitzer were both there. No, they weren’t filming, no they weren’t taking notes- just standing on the sidelines, playing with their phones.
The Superintendent is asked for an actual attendance figure. This is something Lori Ward could recite in her sleep. Corr’s answer was “thirteen thousand something.”
When asked about classroom size limits, she had to refer it to the principals in the room for the answer.
Learning to count
Remember, all these cuts and disruptions a few months into the school year are being driven by a “drop in dollars due to decreased enrollment.” There is one problem, every student that leaves the district has to be accounted for. It’s an exit interview. You have to track it to the state. We’re saying we lost about 450 or so, but no one has the report. A report that says “this many 7th and 8th graders went to the STEM school from Horace Mann and Wright brothers” when the school reconfiguration for middle schools happened. Or, we had lost a bunch to the middle school that DECA just opened downtown. Nope- no reports. No facts, no figures- but, remember, Corr said cuts would be far away from the classroom and if we just recruited students, and if we had better marketing…
This drop in enrollment and dollars is driving a RIF- reduction in force. It is the excuse you have to use to cut people who’ve signed contracts or are covered by union contracts. You also have to eliminate the position as part of a RIF- for instance you can’t RIF David Lawrence who has a contract through 2018 if you gave his job to three different people- two of which you hired in (Dr. Libby Lolli and Dr. Markay Winston).
And if it isn’t already bad, Dr. Baguirov is proud of himself for hiring an internal auditor to cut out waste. As the sole Republican on the Board- it’s his job to always go on about cutting government waste. The board lets the auditor go up on November 1, and present a whole list of things he identified as waste- just handing negative publicity and generating the easiest “DPS is incompetent” story Dayton Daily news reporter Jeremy Kelley ever had to write. So, not only can’t we hire enough bus drivers or get your kids to school, we also can’t stop them from taking lunches or using the bus for personal trips.
Then, this morning, the whole thing turns into a joke. Now, we’re still going to fire 30 paraprofessionals, but we’re going to hire 30 certified teachers with Title 1 money. We’re not really broke after all.
On Tuesday, DPS school board president Adil Baguirov added a new wrinkle to the process, saying the district plans to hire more teachers that will make up for the cuts of classroom aides, also called paraprofessionals.
“Instead of paraprofessionals, who are not certified and often don’t have college degrees in education or related fields, DPS now plans to have 28 new teachers, one for each building, to augment data-driven, modern, research-based education,” Baguirov said.
It was not immediately clear how the staff moves — layoffs of 20 administrators last week, an estimated 40 total cuts to be voted on Thursday, and the 28 hires that Baguirov mentioned for the first time Tuesday — fit together financially.
District officials have said millions of dollars in cuts per year are necessary because of an unexpected drop in enrollment that will lead to less state funding.
Classroom aides generally max out around $25,000 per year, while certified teachers in Dayton make between $38,000 and $71,000. Baguirov said those new teachers would be paid with the same Title 1 funding stream for low-income students that paid the 32 or 33 laid-off aides.
DPS Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the Title 1 money from the laid-off aides would also be used for professional development on blended learning, literacy and teacher leadership.While state money is expected to decrease midyear for DPS because of a drop in enrollment, federal Title 1 funding is basically constant until next school year, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
Newsflash- somehow, the count of missing students is off. Not a little, but hundreds. Somewhere we went from having solid numbers and accounting, to flying by the seat of our pants. Here DDn confirms the numbers weren’t legit.
The people directly responsible for these numbers: Treasurer Hiwot Abraha and Dr. Sheila Burton. Two of Corr’s trusted confidants. One other person to look as part of the inner cabal is the district attorney, Jyllian Bradshaw (nee. Guerriero) who worked with the hired firing hands.
Superintendent Rhonda Corr said last month that she brought in two outside consultants to do a review of district staffing levels and efficiency, helping shape the job cuts and realignment. Corr said the consultants were Deborah Heater, who spent years leading human resources efforts for Cincinnati Public Schools, and attorney David Lampe of Bricker & Eckler.
Heater’s company was paid $19,800 for its work on the “rightsizing” initiative. The contract was technically with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, with Lolli as a signatory.
The funny thing is outside of school or government jobs Heater can’t stay put anywhere much over a year and she has her own consulting firm and apparently works at another consultant as well. Reading her Linkedin Profile is a laugh a minute with “I” being the focus of everything.
Was there an RFP for the henchman? Nope. And why the sneak around through the MCESC? Maybe because the new Sheriff in town needs someone to blame when it all goes seriously south? Deniability is always the fallback for weak leaders.
The Dunbar fiasco
While much of the focus of the sixth floor is on educational achievement, one thing Dayton Public is known for is strong football and basketball teams. This year was no different with Dunbar’s football team going to State. Only one thing went wrong, the last two games the coach played an ineligible player. At the November 1 board meeting, this was a topic of discussion. The head of the district security, former Dayton cop, Jamie Bullens was there after conducting an extensive investigation. The discussion turned interesting when Board VP Sheila Taylor wanted to know how we prevent things like this. When study tables were mentioned, a staple of college programs, this was news to Taylor and she was asking why it wasn’t standard practice? This brought venom from Lacey who called her and the rest of the board out for even suggesting athletes deserve any kind of special treatment or extra help.
Corr got on her pedestal talking about how this “hurt children” and she was demanding resignations from two people. She had one in hand and was waiting on the other.
We’re not sure what she was asking for- the football coach or the athletic director, who is also the head basketball coach and a Dayton Legend, Pete Pullen who has now resigned as AD for Dunbar, but she was asking for his complete resignation on the first day of basketball practice. Had she pushed it, she would have been hanging from a rim, and not because she just dunked the ball.
Let’s see, play an ineligible player and you have to resign. Don’t follow board direction to hire a marketing firm- keep your job. Buy $330K of software that your students can’t use- keep your job? Don’t properly get the master schedule done at a high school and the principal quits- and keep your promotion. The list goes on.
The big money questions?
The district took a strange stance on Issue 9. The end of the happy loving relationship between the board and the Dayton City Commission happened in early August when both the city and the school board were headed to the ballot to float a levy. DPS backed down, even though the city was now going to encroach on education by funding the quasi-public organization “Learn To Earn” with unfettered money for 8 years to go to pre-school. The pre-school promise will get about $4.5 million every year- of which they get to keep 20% or $900K for their salaries and overhead. Not a bad deal. Poor school board members are capped at $5K a year. DPS board, which meets more, longer and seems less effective than any other board in the county according to Dayton Daily News reporter is effectively working for free.
Not fully understanding why the district wasn’t making a peep against Issue 9, on my own I dug into it and found where the money was coming from, and decided to make a few videos to try to steer people away from voting for it. It didn’t make sense to be throwing so much money at a private org with no legitimate oversight that can dole out money to private schools, charters, and even home schoolers. No income restriction. Flat out discretionary money. I thought with that kind of cash we could do something to really make a difference, roll out city wide wi-fi so that the kids could go home with their chromebooks and continue their learning. The short video had 15,000 views on Facebook in 4 days. Some board members appreciated the work – and saw what real marketing looked like.
One board member thought that by working with the City we’d have a seat at the table. Little did they realize, the table isn’t in the same room as the big boys. Another board member, may have financial connections to a pre-school, and could benefit from Issue 9 money floating their way. None of this made sense- and most importantly, this was an ideal time to be talking about the districts own 5 star free preschools that aren’t at capacity- not a peep. Was their a written guarantee of support from the people backing Issue 9 to throw money toward the DPS levy next spring? Or was it more like the kind of deal Dayton did with Kroger for the new Wayne Avenue store that never materialized?
Remember one of the big donors to the Issue 9 campaign was CareSource? $25K, in the pre-election report. They bought the old Patterson Co-Op land for a cool million from the board recently and immediately turned it over to the Port Authority so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes. Had this board had any competent legal help, or just a modicum of common sense, they would have put a deed restriction on the real estate that it couldn’t ever have it’s property tax abated. But, we only tax the poor people in Dayton anymore- and the ones who can’t vote.
Morale and the moral of the story
In my business, long ago, an agency defined advertising as “Truth Well Told” – a slogan that is probably even more important today than it was back in 1912 when McCann Erikson trademarked it as their credo. We seem to be missing a whole lot of truth in Dayton Public Schools since the arrival of Rhonda Corr. And while there are always two sides to a story, I put my faith in my long standing connections in the community. There are people all over this city who in front of the powerful- say, “that Esrati is crazy”- because in Dayton, you need a herd to be heard (a quote I heard early on from former Dayton Planning Director Paul Woodie) but in private, they call me, tell me the dirt, and ask me to do their dirty work.
It’s a thankless job. The strangest thing happened tonight as I was writing this. At 8:31 pm, Rhonda Corr called me. She can’t figure me out. She wasn’t happy that she saw me comment on Facebook that she had been fired in Chicago in the wake of the BBB debacle. She calls it laid off. We had a long talk, where she reiterated that she wants to work with me and my firm. That she sees something special there, but, I seem to turn on people. She said she had been warned, extend me an olive branch and you’ll get hit with it. I told her it was odd timing- I was 6,700 words in on an post about her and the district. Trying to set the record straight. As to her being fired or laid off, I wonder if it makes a difference what she calls it when she does the same thing to people here- proven people? Long time employees?
She talks about the building principals as CEO’s of their buildings. They are the true instructional leaders in the district, the master teachers. The ones who are held responsible for what learning goes on in school. When you have a 17 year district veteran saying this in the paper, you know something is seriously wrong with the changes:
Kiser Principal James Fowler understands the need. “We’re going to rethink how we deliver services based on them not being here,” Fowler said. “They make our 1-to-1 technology work. … It’ll be a big loss. They’re just so valued.”
That is from a former Air Force Major, a guy who toes the company line. The board may think they are brilliant, but if they opened up an anonymous chat room and asked the 30 building principals to give honest feedback about the Superintendent and where the district was going, they’d leave enlightened, and would reconsider keeping her here.
That the district’s doomsday clock isn’t ticking down the final two years of their rule has given them a false sense of security. Without major changes in the way the district delivers education, without absolute community buy in, without the full support of the unions who are all ready to stage a walk out or sit across the table and say “really? are you dreaming?” this district will be right back in the same situation in another year.
And Corr still thinks I’m the problem. I’m too abrasive or something. People said the same thing about someone people think I look like- Steve Jobs. I didn’t make this mess. I’m just the observer. The real test will come in approximately 17 hours when the board has its business meeting and parents, paras and teachers and community activists and political types converge on 4th and Ludlow.
I can see the signs now- “I’m not Fond’a Rhonda” “Show Corr the Door” “RESIGN” or “Rotten to the Corr” and they’ll want answers.
How did you go from controlled mediocrity for so many years to this tornado of turmoil? There are only 9 people who can be held accountable, the 7 board members, the treasurer and the Superintendent. In Ohio, you can’t recall a school board. The board hires and fires both the Treasurer and the Superintendent. Both have failed to give us honest answers causing the district to turn into a circus.
As I was leaving the Coffee with the Superintendent om Saturday, I heard one girl say to her friend “no wonder this district can’t keep teachers.” And here we are mid-school year, firing 30 classroom aides, based on bad data, saying we are going to hire 30 new reading intervention specialists mid-year, and put them in place. Even in spring, finding 30 qualified reading specialists is incredibly difficult.
You know what’s even more difficult? For this board to put their big boy pants on and realize they made a huge mistake. They could cut Corr, reduce the number of pending lawsuits immediately, start re-assessing the layoffs under a competent superintendent who knows the district, the players and who would have the support of a large majority of the current principals: David Lawrence.
But, that would never happen, right? They said that about Brexit and Trump. 3 for 3 anyone?
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.
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.
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.
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).
“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.