Criminal incompetence at a Dayton Public Schools Board of Education meeting

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Lost gem of the DPS board meeting: free wi-fi for some students

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?

Slide about Dayton Public Schools Virtual Academy

“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.

Wow.

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.

Source: Popular ECOT poor performer

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.

 

How bad decisions are made by the Dayton Public School board

“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.

UPDATE

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.

Source: Preschool board plans marketing blitz

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.

 

The calamity named Rhonda Corr

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.

The Interviews…

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.

Corr had been in the running for Salt Lake City, and had a bite from Parma, who offered her the job and then rescinded. Her letter of application has a recommendation written by Barbara Byrd Bennett. Barbara Byrd Bennett is sometimes referred to as BBB, in this case, it doesn’t stand for the Better Business Bureau- it stands for Better Behind Bars- as she was quickly deposed from Chicago and is now heading to 7.5 years in prison for corruption – accepting kickbacks on contracts.There were warning signs all over- but the board pressed on.

Dayton offered Corr a paltry $140K for a year. She took it.

Corr hits the floor…

Rhonda Corr FUDD- fear, uncertainty, doubt, distruptionCorr had told the board that originally she was going to spend 90 days listening before being hired. By the time the ink dried, it was down to 30.

The funny thing is, it didn’t take much searching to find out that despite Corr’s boasts of great performance boosts in schools she managed- when I tried to look up Ohio rankings- as I had done for David Lawrence who demonstrated sizeable gains when taking over Thurgood Marshall, in Cleveland I could only find one valid state performance report card for Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy, in 2010-2011, where she had a performance index of 40. The 2011-12 was incomplete. 2012-13- didn’t exist. Lawrence was hitting 82.1. This isn’t a state report card, but it lists all the Cleveland schools- and Corr only pulled a C+ in a 2013 principal report card. She claims that’s a union generated score sheet and it doesn’t mean much. She also claims to have been a rock star at her previous school- and in Chicago. Why do I have to go look there, when we have talent here? Why does Dayton think less of it’s own graduates that have put the time in?

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.

Crisis

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.

At the Board meeting last week, parents, paras, teachers come out and the board goes into executive session. They have to do it early, even making their guests wait. The people engage in the most amazing spontaneous group therapy session I’ve ever witnessedI run the camera. The board scolds a parent. I’m sure she’ll be at the meeting tomorrow, Nov 17, 2016 at 5pm with a few hundred friends to battle back. It was uncomfortable to watch.

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.

Jill Moberley and Ken Kreitzer hard at work at Coffee with the SuperintendentIt 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.

Source: DPS may lay off 3 teachers, 30 aides

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.”

Source: DPS may lay off 3 teachers, 30 aides

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?

 

 

 

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Saint David Lawrence

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

Saint David Lawrence, Chief of Innovation, Dayton Public Schools

David Lawrence, Chief of Innovation, Dayton Public Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Need to see the actual scores:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The three ring circus for Dayton Public Schools Superintendent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DPS superintendent search takes wrong turn

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

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

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

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

Greg Roberson, candidate for Superintendent of Dayton Public Schools

Greg Roberson

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

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

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

Rhonda Corr- finalist for Dayton Public Schools

Rhonda Corr

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

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

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

Dan Schroer candidate Dayton Public Schools

Dan Schroer

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dayton Public Schools is never at fault

There is something very wrong with this front page article in the Dayton Daily news today:

The gate receipts from five Dayton Public Schools home football games over the past two years are missing, according to an audit the school district completed this year. DPS internal auditor Randall Harper says $9,209 in cash ticket sales from four games last fall “has been misplaced,” with no documentation that the deposits were ever picked up. That led Harper to review the 2014 season as well, where he found a fifth missing deposit, bringing the total to $14,312. Asked if there could be even more money missing, because some documentation was improper or missing, Harper said the audit didn’t test all athletic department receipts, so “that may be a possibility.”The district is investigating to determine how the money went missing and who was involved, but there were mixed signals from district officials Friday. Harper said he has “no clue” where the cash went, saying that’s part of the probe led by Jamie Bullens, DPS director of safety and security. Bullens was not in the office Friday, and Harper said police are not involved at this stage.

But school board President Adil Baguirov said two employees have been identified as being “primarily responsible” for the missing money. He did not identify them by name. “No one has been fired so far. It takes a certain time to complete the full investigation and have all the details,” Baguirov said. “I think the primary responsibility is with the (athletic) department. That would be the first line of defense. Secondary would be the treasurer’s department. And after that, all the way to the school board, because that’s where the buck stops.”

…Dayton Public Schools Director of Athletics Jonas Smith on March 4 announced his resignation, effective this summer, citing a desire “to serve as a district athletic director at the building level,” rather than running a six-high school district. Both Smith and Baguirov said the resignation was not tied to Harper’s audit. Baguirov said Smith was not pressured to leave, and Harper said the athletic department was “very cooperative” during the audit.

“This is really unfortunate and I wish it wouldn’t have happened. We’re putting procedures and systems in place so it won’t happen again,” said Smith, who last year served as president of the OHSAA’s board of directors. “As district AD, I don’t handle athletic funds, but I have many employees who do. The procedures and systems that I inherited 11 years ago seemed fine. Nothing ever looked suspicious to me.

”Asked Friday whether the missing money was the fault of the athletics department, treasurer, school board or others, Harper said, “There’s a wide variety of people who could have noticed the missing deposits.”

David Lawrence, DPS chief of school innovation and Smith’s direct supervisor, said no one has been fired, demoted or reprimanded in the case. Lawrence called Harper’s report professional and unbiased, and said it presents an opportunity for DPS to get better, as it considers dozens of applications received for Smith’s AD post.

“There is significant interest in this job,” Lawrence said. “We are looking forward to taking the next chapter in Dayton Public Schools athletics and moving on in a positive direction.

”‘New sheriff in town’

Baguirov said the audit is a validation of the school board’s decision to hire an independent auditor, at a salary of $98,000 per year, reporting directly to the school board.

“We anticipated that we’ll be able to find cases like this, and by intervening early we’ll be able to recover the money, and also send a very strong message that business as usual is not going to happen any more,” Baguirov said. “Anybody who is a potential fraudster is put on notice that you can’t do this. You have a new sheriff in town in the form of the internal auditor.”

Baguirov acknowledged that DPS’ reputation will take a hit among some with this news, but he hoped that more would see internal audits as a positive step. “Now we’ll be able to prevent it almost completely. We’ll be able to give a 99.9 percent assurance that(fraud) is not happening,” Baguirov said. “We do want to be the best district we can possibly be. That’s not BS. It’s not just something we’re saying.”

Source: Dayton Public Schools looks for missing money

First, the fact that fraud was possible, says a lot. Where are the controls? Where were they?

Secondly, even if we don’t know who did it, we do know the chain of command, and apparently several were asleep at the wheel.

But, ultimately, while Baguirov says the buck stops with the school board- their combined pay doesn’t equal that of the superintendent, who is the person in charge.

That person, Lori Ward, isn’t really in charge right now anyway, with a contract in flux. This too is the board’s fault. Their indecision has the entire district in limboland.

In the grand scheme of things, $14,312 is rounding error for the district. And spending $98,000 to hire an auditor to find this theft sounds ludicrous, but, the real question is: Can the people who allow things like this to happen, be trusted to spend at least $20 million on the one-to-one computing initiative?

In the meetings I’ve attended as a member of the Technology Steering Committee, I’ve yet to see a cogent basic description of the products they are purchasing, the sources sought, the rationale for their choices or the projections of continuing costs. All things that would be the norm in the business world. And, we’ve not even begun to discuss the training needs for teachers in the classrooms or disposal strategies at end-of-life, or expectations for students’ achievement with these new tools.

This city, this school board, this region, abhors strong leadership. For whatever reason, we rebel against anyone who steps up with a vision without a herd of followers. The sign at the city limits should read “Welcome to the Dayton Region” (because we can’t associate ourselves entirely with the central entity despite it being the only thing on the map that counts) “Iconoclasts not welcome.”

The Dayton Public Schools are horribly broken. There is no clear-cut vision to take us anywhere but into state receivership. There is no one willing to call anyone out for their failing at anything from poor test scores to lost funds. It’s almost a joke that Baguirov claims there is a new sheriff in town, because the auditor is really only a deputy, and like Barney Fife, is only trusted with one bullet. Let’s hope this wasn’t the best he could do.

Decision time for Dayton Public Schools

Contract renewal time for the Superintendent, Lori Ward and the Treasurer, Craig Jones. There may be others, but these are two key contracts. Last contracts were three years.

Considering we’re probably two years away from a state takeover of the district, it doesn’t make sense to offer anything more than a two-year contract.

There is no time for an outside search at this point- the Board of Education waited too long. Even if an outsider were brought in, it would be too little time to assess, manage and implement strategy as well as earn the trust of the community, the staff and the students.

Before any contract is offered to Ms. Ward, who has little to show for her last 6 years at the helm, the board should consider the existing staff with superintendent’s licenses and ask them each to come in and give a 20-minute presentation on what their vision would be, what changes they would make, and what they think they could achieve in the next two years.

The possible candidates (if I missed anyone- let me know)

  • Robert Buchheim- the newest guy on the list, he’s the “Executive Director Curriculum.” Probably doesn’t know the district well enough.
  • Sheila Burton- the current “Associate Superintendent”
  • Erin Dooley- Principal of Stivers- the only school in the district with an A grade.
  • David Lawrence- “Chief Of School Innovation” I’ve written about him before.
  • David White- left the district for Trotwood after being offered a raise, he was the turnaround guy at Belmont and then Ponitz. Knows the district.

The board is scared of the “optics” of a white lead board firing a very well liked African American superintendent. Burton and Lawrence qualify for minority status. Lawrence is a Dunbar grad. Sadly, it’s 2016 and we’re still talking about the color of people’s skin.

Either way, the board could use the ideas that are presented to sharpen their direction of the district, which still seems to struggle with getting focused on what is really important.

It’s not police in schools, it’s not suspension rates, it’s not computers, it’s about providing an excellent education and learning environment in every building.

 

Dayton public schools suffer from incompetent PR

Yesterday, I had lunch with Dayton Board of Education member Adil Baguirov, Ph.D.. The first thing I preambled the conversation with is “Jill Moberly is incompetent.”
Full disclosure- this is damning to me and my business, although my firm hasn’t done work for Ms. Moberly for several years, we did at one time. She is their “Public Information Officer” and should have been fired or replaced long ago. She used to proudly state that she’s outlasted 11 superintendents. She needs to go either before or with our current superintendent, who has had 3 years to solve these easily solvable PR issues- that damn our school system to laughing stock and fodder for humiliation.

And, yes, I’m calling for the non-renewal of Superintendent Ward’s contract, despite liking her immensely. With less than 2 years to go before the district gets taken over by the state, change isn’t happening fast enough, or with the force needed. Frankly, she’s paid $200K which isn’t enough, but, when faced with losing her best high school principals to other districts over $10K a year- it’s time to take a pay cut and tie her future with her leadership team.

Poor concept for Dayton Public Schools billboard- "We don't teach" should never be on a school billboard

“We don’t teach” – ’nuff said

The first recent clue is the billboard campaign I just saw- “We don’t teach, we transform” – uh, no. Most people would stop after the first three words and say “yup.” This is just another failed campaign in a long line of failed PR. At least the building blocks aren’t in the logo on this ad. Those never should have been part of the logo.

But- the faux pas in today’s paper- with quotes from my friend David Lawrence, instead of the Superintendent or the PIO- were so badly positioned as to cause me to cringe. First the story in the paper- which focuses attention on the brawls- and the dangers of attending Dayton Public School high school basketball games:

Dayton schools could ban spectators at games

Dayton Public Schools issued what officials termed a pre-emptive measure Monday, announcing that any altercation on the court, in the stands or at the dismissal of a boys high school basketball game would result in the next City League boys contests to be played without spectators. Only players, coaches and officials would be present at affected games.

“Because community support is important to our teams, we are taking some bold steps to send a message to those who would attend our games for reasons other than supporting our players,” David Lawrence, chief of school innovation, said in a statement.

DPS said more school administrators and security personnel will be present at all games, and Dayton police officers will be assigned to oversee dismissal following all games.

The boys basketball season started Nov. 27. Toward the end of last season, boys City League games were rescheduled for Sunday afternoons, beginning Feb. 1, following several disturbances at the conclusion of Friday night boys games. Freshmen boys games that were scheduled for 5 p.m. on Fridays and all remaining girls games were not affected.

On Jan. 16, an officer told a dispatcher an estimated “100 kids” were involved in a fight at the Ponitz Career Technology Center on West Washington Street after a boys game against visiting Thurgood Marshall. No athletes or coaches were involved, and no one was arrested.

Ponitz defeated Thurgood 56-48 that night. Earlier in the season Ponitz defeated host Thurgood for the first time in program history.

City League boys games began this past Friday without incidents. There are two 8 p.m. (varsity) games scheduled for Friday: Belmont at Dunbar and Thurgood at Meadowdale. Stivers’ next City League boys game is Dec. 18 against visiting Thurgood and Ponitz’s next City League boys game is Jan. 5 against visiting Dunbar. All City League boys schedules include freshmen, reserve and varsity games.

DPS is in the process of informing parents, students and community members about the consequences should a disruption occur at any game.

Unlike previous years, there are no double- or tripleheader City League boys regular-season games scheduled for the University of Dayton or Fairmont’s Trent Arena. There were no reports of after-game incidents that involved City League football teams at Welcome Stadium this past football season.

“We appreciate our fans who come out to cheer for our student athletes and look forward to a great season of high school basketball,” said Lawrence.

Source: Dayton schools could ban spectators at games

I talked to David Lawrence earlier today- my opening comment to him was “We will rule with an iron first” said in a bad actors foreign accent.

He told me they had worked on this for six months – and I said that it’s too bad that they didn’t have competent PR advice.

How this should have been framed.

Lawrence played basketball and ran track at Dunbar- positioning him with a unique voice of authority in handling this matter. Using the words “preemptive measure” is the first mistake- since it implants the idea that these fights are a foregone conclusion. An opportunity for a teaching moment lost.

Here is the statement and plan a competently advised spokesperson would have given:

My name is David Lawrence, I’m the chief of innovation for the Dayton Public Schools, but before that, I was a Dayton Public Schools athlete and graduate. My track records are still are on the wall at Welcome Stadium, and I played basketball at Dunbar. I am proud to have played with other Dayton leaders like Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams, proving once again, that athletics are an essential part of building tomorrows leaders.

I take great pride in our young athletes, who are some of the best in the state. Their coaches are also some of the best in the State. And, we believe in athletics as a key component in character building, teaching sportsmanship, and representing the values of pride, respect and excellence that have been a mainstay of our programs since before I was a high school athlete.

Last year, some people came to our athletic events and seemed to think that fighting was a part of our program. It’s not. If you want to see fights, may I suggest you buy tickets to the Dayton Demolition Hockey games, or go to a boxing match or MMA event. There will be no fighting at, or after Dayton Public Schools athletic events this year. The following warning will be posted, and given at every sporting event. If any fights do break out, the protocol will be as follows: the game will be declared a forfeit for both teams. It is up to our athletes, the coaches and the school administration to make it clear that we don’t tolerate fighting in, after or surrounding any sporting event. The battle is in the arena- on the hardwood floor, between those who have earned the right to represent their schools.

If an event is besmirched by the conduct of those attending a game, fans of those schools, for the remainder of the season, all of their games, no one under 18 will be allowed to attend without an adult chaperon. To enter the event, ID’s will be scanned, and those adults will be held criminally liable for the actions of those under their care. There will be no second chances. If another fight breaks out surrounding a game with one of these teams, the remaining games of the season will only be open to players, coaches and the families of team members. I would hope this makes it crystal clear to all participants. If for any reason there is another fight- a single punch thrown, the season for that team is over.

We are also announcing a new pricing policy: all tickets are $10, but with a free ticket for adults when accompanying a student.  Revenue will go into a fund for the entire season, to be split evenly among schools at the end of the season. Any team that has an event forfeited, will not be eligible for collecting any ticket revenue for the season. This is a change in event pricing, to encourage more adults to chaperon their kids. We’re proud of our athletic programs and want to see our community take an interest in their kids. New season pass pricing is available to alumni and adult fans who don’t have kids to chaperon, with a one time $50 ticket available that gets you into all DPS ticket sporting events.

We look forward to increased attendance and the best basketball of the season. I hope to see you there.

Dayton Public Schools, and the people of the city of Dayton deserve better. It does make a difference on how you say things.