After the smoke cleared from the shit-show that pretends to be a school board meeting last night, a week after they hired The Ohlmann group to manage their marketing starting last Wednesday, there was one really important new program launched by DPS, led by Dr. Markay Winston.
You didn’t see it in the Dayton Daily news, because the story was the controversy over buying out former Chief of School Innovation David Lawrence for “over $200,000” because Rhonda Corr is our own version of Donald Trump- if she doesn’t like you- you’re fired (except as much as they try to turn their board meetings into reality TV- this is a government organization that actually enters into legally binding contracts that have to be honored. Corr and the board will have to deal with this issue again when either this board or the new one, decides to dump Corr and she wants her contract bought out).
So what was this big news that didn’t make the news, or get a proper PR roll out? The program that isn’t on the DPS website, the one that can’t even get the meeting time published correctly?
“Marketing” via Dayton Public Schools
DPS is starting a home school e-learning program where students can enroll in DPS and get a DPS diploma, and participate in DPS extra-curricular activities, get a DPS supplied computer, and even get free wi-fi.
The rest of the students, who are using their new 1 to 1 computers in school, and may be able to bring them home next year (I’m on the technology steering committee and have been pushing for this from day 1), will not get free wi-fi. However, Dr. Baguirov who likes to take credit for rolling out the program in record time, under budget with amazing success says they are still looking at costs for providing mobile hot spots to students who don’t have wi-fi at home, but the costs are high.
Winston had a lame deck Dayton Innovation Virtual Academy Board Presentation Feb 21 2017 which was clearly not done by a professional marketing firm. Had the board known what an ad agency does, this would have been rolled out in a way to get free press, and make a big splash- instead of the headlines being about another Rhonda Corr failure. See the provided slide image- does that look like an exciting new program you’d want to enroll your kid in? Does it look like it’s run by professionals? None of the other slides in the deck could stand on their own as an explanation of what DPS is doing.
E-schools as they are run in Ohio are a scam. If they were compared to the worst public schools, and the worst charter schools, comparatively- they make the worst public schools look like Harvard. Virtual schools are virtually unregulated and the results are a mixed bag. The largest, ECOT- the “electronic classroom of tomorrow” is bigger than Dayton, but has graduation rates that make DPS look awesome:
With its most-recent graduation rate of 38 percent, few districts in the state rank lower. Only 35 of the roughly 700 traditional school districts and charter schools that serve high-school students have a worse outcome, and most of those are other statewide e-schools and charters that exclusively serve dropouts.By comparison, Columbus schools’ most-recent graduation rate was 77 percent. Cleveland’s was about 64 percent.
Phillis said it’s astonishing that ECOT continues to escape the scrutiny of lawmakers despite meeting only three of the 24 possible state testing and graduation standards, receiving F grades in all but one category. ECOT got a D in the performance index, which is an index of state testing performance.
However, while DPS keeps bragging about their single non-F grade, an A in annual yearly progress, at least ecot has a D in state testing performance. We all know the saying “when you’ve hit bottom, the only other direction is up” is the true meaning of that A- not that they are successful.
Even though my firm didn’t win the marketing bid- I think I’ll still do the job that the people they hired didn’t do- properly promote this new program.
The information sessions for Parent Information Sessions DPS Virtual Academy will be as follows:
Northwest Library: 2410 Philadelphia Dr
Feb. 27 from 10 am – 12 pm (West)
Board of Education Community Room
Feb. 28 from 4-6 pm (Central)
Burkhardt Library: 4680 Burkhardt Ave
March 7 from 10 am – 12 pm (East)
Madden Hills Library: 2542 Germantown St.
March 9 from 4-6 pm (West)
Make sure you tell them where you heard about this new program if you chose to go.
“Did we ask to do this?” was a question asked last week during a protracted Dayton Board of Education meeting? This was during an hour long discussion about awarding a contract for marketing the Dayton Public Schools for the next four years.
During that discussion, board members suggested they use students to create the materials (one would wonder if that’s been the case over the last 20 years). Others didn’t know why they needed marketing at all. Joe Lacey didn’t like the use of the word “slick graphics” by the remaining person in the “public information office”- the one that couldn’t show them what they were purchasing. You know- a presentation on who they chose and why. The purchasing department that had run the process couldn’t do much better. And, when asked why they didn’t have an actual contract to look at before they voted, the board attorney tried to tell them that if they saw the qualifications- it could lend to bias, and wasn’t legal.
Wed. morning the 22nd, Forgot to mention, that the “Learn to Earn” board was mentioned in the Dayton Daily the morning of the 20st- for putting out an RFP to hire an ad agency to connect with the community and let them know all about their programs. Of course, they only have to reach about 1,500 parents each year, but at least they know what and why they need competent advertising. My firm will not bid the contract because we don’t believe in quasi-public organizations spending tax dollars without voter oversight.
The Preschool Promise board approved a large marketing plan this week, including plans to hire a vendor to run a “field campaign” for grassroots outreach in Dayton. Board member and former Dayton Mayor Clay Dixon said the marketing approach “is of the utmost importance.”
“That is actually how we’ll go out in the community, shoulder to shoulder, eyeball to eyeball,with the parents to make sure they are aware of the program, aware of what we do to get those kids into one of our quality programs,” Dixon said.
The board’s request for proposals for field campaign vendors is going out this week. Lightcap said the vendor will hire people who know Dayton’s neighborhoods and can build relationships with community partners, all in an effort to connect with the families who would participate in expanded preschool.
That’s when I interrupted and called her a liar. And was supported by another staff person- with an Request for Qualifications, which was what they used to select a “winner”- the point wasn’t to compare actual proposals- but, the skill sets.
That the purchasing department misrepresented the amount of the contract on the agenda as $112,500 instead of the actual $300,000, was another problem, that they didn’t care to call the staff on.
Tonight, the school board published their “board docs” saying the meeting started at 6pm. Only when we got there, they were a half hour into it. Competent PIO’s and board secretaries wouldn’t make that mistake. Especially since this was the actual business meeting- the one where they were supposed to vote on business.
And vote on some sticky business they did. After, Dr. Walker mis-ran the public speaking section giving some speakers up to a half hour at the podium (and no- it wasn’t me). We’ll have that story after we edit some of our video. There is supposed to be a 3 minute limit. It should also apply to board members. The meeting ran from 5:30 to 9:05 before they went into executive session.
They couldn’t make up it clear what they were doing about an intervention specialist that they hired at Dunbar who used to be a sub. She’s working on her PhD, but is 9 credits short of a teaching certificate. They hired her knowing that- and so she bought a house, a car, and now has no job- and two kids at home to feed. Apparently, this district isn’t smart enough to know how to get her enrolled in Teach for America- where no teaching license is required.
Then came the issue of paying off David Lawrence to go away because Superintendent Rhonda Corr doesn’t like him. This has been subject of executive sessions for months. The buyout had been agreed to- and yet, here they were, waiving the 48 hour rule to vote because their staff can’t publish an agenda with the right start time, or in adequate time to not have to invoke the rule.
Dr. Baguirov objected, saying the waiving is for emergencies- something he didn’t protest last week when they did it to hire The Ohlmann Group to do their marketing. Then he and Joe Lacey objected to spending $200,000 to buy Lawrence out- when he could have been used in the district (had it not been for Corr being intimidated by a competent black male). The vote was 4-2 to send Lawrence away with what was contractually due him. A huge loss to the district- as board member Lee stated. In fact, the last thing I said to them as I walked away from the podium when I spoke was “you should have hired David Lawrence.”
Here is the text of my speech as written from tonight:
There is a 48 hour rule for a reason.
There is also reason we have an elected school board.
It’s your job to hire a superintendent, and a treasurer, and to run checks and balances on them.
Tonight you are waiving the 48 hour rule again.
It’s fitting that you are doing it to pay the home-grown competent internal candidate for superintendent you passed over, to go away. Because the current superintendent didn’t like him.
But I guess you were ahead of your time- picking a leader for our district much like the one our country ended up with. You know the one that brings huge protests out over their actions.
Remember her Reduction in force- based on numbers that no one was able to verify- including your treasurer, who you are re-hiring tonight.
The treasurer who was over the purchasing department that ran the process that extended 6 months- and you waived the 48 hour rule last week to execute.
If you were doing your job, and your due diligence before you voted to approve a contract for a year, with multi-year options, on something as important as marketing services for your failing school district and it was run competently, I wouldn’t have watched and recorded video for an hour of discussion about a contract that you eventually voted 5-1 to approve, with John McManus being the only no vote, and Mr. Lee being absent.
The contract, which was supposed to be awarded on Sept. 20th. When you actually came around to vote on it, on November, 1, you chose to not award because the process of the request for proposal was flawed. You had 5 bidders, and were about to award it to the most expensive bidder.
This time you used a Request for Qualifications, a different contracting vehicle, although it still asked for many of the exact same details, just in a more convoluted manner.
This time, you only had 3 bidders, and once again, the recommendation of your superintendent, was to award to the same, most expensive bidder.
When you had questions about what you were buying, why you were buying, and why it was necessary, your superintendent sat there- and at one point, even asked you for guidance to what you want. You still bought it.
The purchasing department couldn’t legitimately explain what you were buying. Ten days before you voted, at 10pm on a Saturday night, there was an email issued saying that “Responses have been evaluated and results provided for review and determination of a recommendation to the DPS Board of Education. It is expected that the recommendation will appear on the Feb 21, 2017 business meeting agenda.”
So, what I learned last week is that you had homework due in 17 days, but, your staff decided to change it to 10 days. They either never provided you with anything, or they did and you all decided not to do your homework, based on your confusion last week.
The waiving of the 48 hour rule on a million dollar contract, the fact that the agenda outright lied about the amount of the contract- listing it at $112,500 instead of $300,000 – “because it was pro-rated” as an excuse to mis-represent it to the public.
The public records request I filed the next day, still hasn’t been fulfilled as I speak, a week later. So I can’t tell you what you bought or didn’t buy last week either.
What’s even more important, is that you did it at a meeting that didn’t allow for public comment. So, yes, I was out of order when I interrupted and called your staff lawyer a liar. One of your staff confirmed I was right. That you voted on it- after learning your attorney was misguidingly stopping you from evaluating qualifications for a qualitative contract, is negligence.
You had every right to review all submissions of an RFQ, and to see the contract you bought.
She still has her job.
Your purchasing person, still has her job, and now, I am going to question if any of you are fit to carry out your duties other than Mr. McManus and Mr. Lee. There needs to be an investigation into the ethics filings of Dr. Baguirov and if his private business does work with CareSource, and why the board was never presented with offers for the Patterson Kennedy site as well.
This School System needs you performing your due diligence it’s what the kids deserve- because, as your superintendent loves to say- it’s all about the kids-
which should prove she has no business in her position-
it’s also about our professionals, our city, our future.? And by blindly awarding a very large contract, you shouldn’t be a part of that future.
End of prepared speech.
After tonight’s meeting, Baguirov called me a liar to my face over questioning his business relationships and non-disclosure of all his businesses in the video about the real estate deals. He still thinks I’m a lobbyist for some real estate developer- yet won’t say why the vacant land isn’t being auctioned. Corr shot daggers at me for much of the meeting- and was particularly pissed when she saw Dayton Daily reporter Jeremy Kelley talking to me. She really doesn’t like it that she’s the one to blame for the buyout of Lawrence’s contract.
This board, under Walker is a model of incompetence. The meeting management was totally lacking. They couldn’t even figure out what they were voting on, nor could the audience follow. Compare their use of “Board Docs” with the simple agenda’s used by the Dayton City Commission and you can quickly see the why this district is dysfunctional- and the public being left out of the process or misled by the incompetence of their leadership and staff.
There are people pulling petitions like sharecroppers pick cotton. Hopefully, come next January, we’ll have four new, competent board members and this kind of chicanery will end.
Other peoples money. That’s the key to real estate, and especially real estate deals managed by those we elect who are supposed to be working in our best interest.
We’ve see stupid deals in Dayton for a long time, and they seem to slide along into oblivion in the mind of the public. No one got hoisted by their petards on the Arcade deal, or the Arcade tower, or the Wayne Avenue Kroger, or…. the list gets really long.
Let’s just say this: politicians raise bad real estate deals to a new art form. And locally, there are plenty of failures. However, it would appear that the deals by the Dayton Public School Board of Education may take the cake. This is a long video. But, it should make it pretty clear that there are serious questions about the deals they’ve done, the ones they’ve refused to do- and who’s been driving the deals- and questions about his entanglements.
We look closely at the site downtown on E. First Street where Patterson Co-op once stood, a greenfield, ready for development, and the site on Wyoming at Alberta where Patterson Kennedy Elementary once stood- near Miami Valley Hospital and the University of Dayton.
We’ve spent the last two months pursuing this story- and trying to figure out why Dr. Adil Baguirov seems to be the only member of the Board of Ed- including the school superintendent, that knows what’s been going on when it comes to these deals- and we’re wondering if this is by design.
If the schools wanted to optimize the value of these vacant properties, the key factor would be what property taxes will the development generate to the district in addition to the sale price- nothing else.
Watch the video. We’ll post supporting documents later.
Here is “Dirty Deals Done Dirt Cheap” featuring the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education, the Dayton and Montgomery County Port Authority, the former DPS operations Chief John Carr, the DPS board attorney, Jyllian Bradshaw and CareSource.
It takes time and money to do videos and research like this. If you value exposing Dirty Deals Done Dirt Cheap, please consider making a donation: www.esrati.com/donate.
Full disclosure: My firm, The Next Wave, did some work for the new superintendent Rhonda Corr last summer. At the end of the proposed solution was a pricing matrix that included an option to take over the complete marketing operations of the district, that were being handled by 3 people (2 of whom retired Dec 31, 2016). An RFP went out that was so badly constructed it lead me to write this post: Hiring An Agency: The R.F.P. Guide (for Governmental Organizations). The board was supposed to vote to pick an agency on Sept. 20, and work was to begin Sept 21. They blew that date, and on Nov 1. 2016 the purchasing department under treasurer Hiwot Abraha tried to push the district to hire The Ohlmann Group of Dayton, who were the high bidder. The number isn’t showing anymore on BoardDocs but if I recall correctly it was over $360,000. The board refused. Dr. Baguirov even questioned why the bids always go to large firms, and pass over veteran owned businesses (like mine). Some of this was covered in the post: The calamity named Rhonda Corr
So here we are again. The treasurer launched an RFQ this time, just as convoluted. There was no award date, nor was there a set time frame. They capped it at $300,000. There was no guarantee of award. It was supposed to be a request for qualifications, but asked for solutions- much like an RFP. They wanted everything submitted as an attachment- the language looked like it had been run through a cut and paste machine from several other RFPs. The purchasing department has zero expertise in hiring creative firms. The due date was January 20 2018.
There was a single communication to bidders at 10pm on Saturday night Feb 4 2017:
Dear Responders: Thank you for your interest in DPS Request For Qualifications for Comprehensive Marketing Services. 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 February 21, 2017 business meeting agenda. Selected firm(s) will be contacted to negotiate contract terms and conditions.
Lie number one was that the results were presented to the board of education. Lie number 2 is that it will appear on the Feb 21 agenda.
It’s now on the Feb 14 agenda- with a request to waive the 48 hour rule, and award it once again to the Ohlmann Group, this time, for $112,500 with 3 1 year options for a total of $450,000.
If you look at contracts presented to the Dayton City Commission, you can actually examine the contract that they are about to approve. In this case, all we see is this boilerplate:
Contracted services to provide Comprehensive Marketing Services for DPSD to include, but may not be limited to Public Relation Services, Print/Media Design & Management, Marketing Consulting Services, Social/Digital Media Services , Web Development, and other services to be determined by a defined “Statement Of Work.” Effective February 15,2017 thru February 14, 2019. To include three (3),one (1)-year options to be exercised at the sole discretion of OBOE. February 14, 2017 Board Agenda
Compare this to the text of the Nov 1 attempt to hire Ohlmann for over 3x more:
Contracted services to provide Comprehensive Marketing Services for DPSD to include, but may not be limited to Public Relation Services, Print/Media Design & Management, Marketing Consulting Services, Social/Digital Media Services, Web Development, and other services to be determined by a defined Statement Of Work” Effective November 1, 2016-thru October 31, 2017. Funds to follow
And the public can evaluate these and weigh in how? With the 48 hour rule waived each time?
Of course, the public didn’t get a chance to weigh in on the 3 year contract awarded to Rhonda Corr either- which came as a surprise a few weeks ago, and basically, paid her as much as they were paying Lori Ward- who actually got them out of academic emergency and never caused the community to practically shout down the school board over mid-year reductions in force.
Leaders are able to communicate a vision of a desirable future. They don’t do all the work- they just point the way.
Dayton Public Schools and the Dayton Board of Education haven’t ever been able to tell the story of why you should send your kids to their schools. You know, the ones with the big fat “F” is every category (except for the one time A in annual yearly progress- which is pretty easy when you are on the bottom.).
The board president believes that the one-to-one computer initiative and computer guided learning is the answer, but, just passing tests, day in and day out, isn’t what school should be.
The new superintendent thinks that changing personnel is part of the solution- never mind the fact that we’ve been losing about 20% of our staff every year.
The community just passed a tax levy to support “the pre-school promise”- as if pre-school is the golden ticket.
We’ve got bigger problems than pre-school in Dayton. Back on Valentines day 2015, I posted A plan for the Dayton Public Schools and it garnered a whole 21 comments (most from the regulars). It had many of the same ideas that are in this video, but, the reality is- half the people read, and half watch TV.
So, here is a video, to show the feeble minded un-marketers at DPS how you effectively tell a story about a vision of what could be (if we were doing the work for them- it would have a different slant- but, since they refuse to hire people who can actually market them- T.F.B.).
Please share. Please discuss. Please do something other than the same old half-baked solutions- because, we’re running out of time for Dayton.
I had planned to write a post to define the Sunshine laws, how “work sessions” are supposed to work, and what a “business meeting” is.
I was also going to cover how most elected bodies manage going into executive session, what they are allowed to talk about behind closed doors, and what it means if there is a board that spends a LOT of time in executive session- but then, I said, maybe I should look back on the 2500+ posts on this blog… surely- I’ve covered it before? And, the answer is: of course I have- over and over. Even about DPS. Even with arguments in comments with Dr. Adil Baguirov, Joe Lacey, etc.
I could just send you to all the posts- and you know what, since I’m feeling stuffed and lazy this Thanksgiving, I’m going to do that. But, there are a few things I need to point out before I do that.
Most boards go into executive session at the END of their regular meeting. This is so guests who are invited to speak, don’t have to sit around and wait for them to finish in the back room. It’s also usually done this way, so people WON’T know how long they are in executive session.
Why is the length of executive session meaningful? Typically, the limited issues that are allowed to be discussed in executive session are ones in which a board/commission/etc. is reviewing the findings and options that are presented by those they supervise- for DPS that means the Superintendent and the Treasurer. They should be getting well prepared documents in advance, with cost benefit analysis, organizational charts, performance reports, contracts, bids, etc. By the time they arrive, they should have their questions ready, and should know the material inside out. Then it comes down to are there 4 votes to support the action? This really shouldn’t take long if the organizational leadership has provided cogent, succinct, relevant briefing material. So, when you have long sessions behind closed doors- it means you are questioning your leadership. Not a good sign.
Competent leadership guides the board in the direction they are taking the organization. Weak leadership relies on the board to guide them in doing their job.
Based on the amount of time the Dayton Board of Education is spending behind closed doors- our new superintendent must be floundering in their eyes. Have they recognized yet that they made a huge mistake in hiring Rhonda Corr? Is that why there have been long executive sessions- ones that she’s not in? That most likely means they are discussing her future here.
Executive sessions are usually not needed for things that need immediate action if an organization isn’t flying by the seat of their pants. Announcing a list of layoffs, then going into executive session, then voting on it- in a “work session” instead of a “business meeting” has so many flaws in it, there is the potential for 20 separate or one-class action lawsuit for managing it incorrectly. The former board Treasurer is already suing them for his illegal firing. Items like this, should be discussed in executive session- and decided on, then posted on the next business meetings agenda- with good notice, and then acted on. At least in theory – that’s how it’s supposed to go.
But, this post is already longer than it needs to be.
You could have just read this post: What is a legal meeting of the Dayton City Commission? Yes- it’s about the city commission, but it spells out the differences between public meetings and work sessions- which the board of ed calls different things- review sessions, strategic planning discussion, various committees etc. It’s why Dayton Daily news education reporter says that this board meets more, longer than any other school board in the region. Hmmm, maybe that’s why the district is failing?
Or this post: Dayton Board of Ed votes 4-3 to donate taxes to GE/UD This one doesn’t really get into the nitty gritty of the sunshine laws, but is interesting because Joe Lacey denies screaming and gets involved in the comments. The reality is- the board didn’t really want citizen input- and gave away a big tax break to General Electric. The fact that the vote was 4-3 shows there was a little common sense on the board at the time with current board members Lacey, Taylor and Lee all voting yes. None of the no votes are still on the board. There are 87 comments on this post- a lot of insight for those who want to learn more.
And, saving the best and most relevant for last, including comments by Dr. Baguirov and Joe Lacey, is the one about how the meeting was handled when the Board was in the process of subverting former Superintendent Lori Ward as she was about to attend a forum with local groups. Time for some sunshine in DPS meetings The labeling of the local New Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam as hate groups was just one more indication of the racist overtures of the current board president. Again, comments are illuminating with contributions from Baguirov and Lacey.
Several former employees have said that they felt they were being discriminated against because they were African American. The list of firings from the November 8th meeting- had a preponderance of African Americans on it. Several former African American employees said they wouldn’t come back to the district unless Dr. Baguirov is either off the board, or minimally not board president. Ideally, they’d like to see a majority of the board no longer on the board, but Baguirov was the main sticking point.
One last observation, strong black males, outspoken competent leadership, seem to have been high on the list for the recent cuts that were made with bad enrollment and financial data. Something else to think about.
If you go back to my speech at the October board meeting, I said the number one thing that is required for building the school brand back is trust. The “Sunshine Laws” are key to building trust through transparency. The board needs to make a few key changes immediately if they want to restore trust after this latest round of fiascos:
All board meetings should be filmed and put online.
All board meetings should have complete agendas published at least 48 hours before a meeting- and ideally 72 hours before.
All business, items to be voted on, must be done at a business meeting, or a meeting where citizen participation is welcome.
Executive sessions should be held at the end of regularly scheduled meetings, so people don’t have to wait while you futz around in the back room.
The system of using “Board Docs” to publish agendas needs so many improvements it should be abandoned. It’s not mobile friendly- or ADA compliant. It seems to be fluid- without clarification of when changes are posted (some info seems to be posted while or after the meeting took place), the sections are confusing and overly complex. It’s not easily searchable. That they pay for this joke of a system is another indication that their IT director deserved his termination more than most.
See you at the Tuesday December 6 2016 meeting, at 5pm where we will learn if John McManus becomes president, if the rest of the cuts using bad data are acted upon, if Rhonda Corr will keep her job.
The meeting the citizens are organizing to plan for this meeting is:
Thursday December 1, 2016 6-7:30 p.m.
Corinthian Baptist Church
700 S James H. McGee Blvd, Dayton
“Parents of DPS students are invited to join a conversation about proposed changes to the yearly budget and personnel in our classrooms.
Please join us to ask questions, provide feedback, and share our vision for the future of our children and community. School board members have been invited to attend to answer questions and provide greater understanding for their plan for Dayton Public Schools.”
Warning, this post will be long. There will be a lot of pieces and parts of stories of incompetence, coming from many sources. It’s easy to say To Long/Didn’t Read. But this is for the people who care about our schools, our city, and our kids. It’s a compilation of antics that I’ve observed and heard and been asked to deal with over the last 6 months, but, because I wanted to step up and be a part of the solution, I stayed quiet. That’s not my style. It’s also not fair to the people of the city who’ve come to depend on me to speak the truth. I apologize.
This post will probably preclude me from ever doing what needs done for the district. It’s not the first time bringing the truth to light has cost me and my business work. I’m not known as the ninja for nothing.
If you want the short answer: The Dayton Board of Education made a mistake of epic proportions when passing over a qualified internal candidate with known flaws to bring in an untested rookie superintendent with a mottled past to be a “turnaround specialist.” There are questions of racial discrimination, a propensity to hire women (the entire “cabinet” of DPS is now female) and there have been so many public relations disasters that morale within the district, confidence in the administration and the community is at an all time low. There are multiple lawsuits either pending or coming.
full disclosure: I’ve done work for the district over the last half-dozen years. I’ve talked to Superintendents since Percy Mack about restructuring marketing, schools and the message to the community. I’ve served on the Technology Steering Committee off and on since 2012. I was an early advocate of 1 to 1 computing. I was asked by the new superintendent, Rhonda Corr to tackle two projects, weeks after her arrival. There was no P.O. or RFP or even an arranged price. What I turned in included a proposed payment of $1000 for the work to date, an estimate of approximately $12K for the work as specified and about $50K to produce it, or, hire my firm for a complete outsourcing of all PR for the year for $250K.
The district issued an RFP with a short time line. I offered my assistance in how to frame the RFP to the treasurer- I was rebuffed. I worked through my fathers death to turn in what was a comprehensive plan to a poorly constructed open ended RFP with no budget, goals, or the normal briefing that comes with an agency selection. They published the request for bid, but the only agencies that submitted were The Ohlmann Group, Hafenbrack/Upward, Nova Creative, Noir Marketing and my firm, The Next Wave. I know this because they mistakenly sent an email with everyone CC’d- plus this community is pretty small. The contract was to be awarded Sept. 20 with work to commence Sept. 21. The purchasing department missed all deadlines they set. When I asked why it wasn’t on the Sept. agenda- I got an answer from Corr that they weren’t done with evaluations- and that she was one of the guilty parties. I kept pushing for the award, and asking why there were zero communications from purchasing. I spoke at a board meeting. I’ve heard board members blame the drop in enrollment on everything from stabbing at schools to bad marketing. When the purchasing department did finally do their interviews, it was the most unprofessional selection committee I’ve ever seen. They handed us a two page form as we headed up the elevator on what they wanted. There were to be no questions specific to our proposal. Finally, the board pushed and on Nov 1, the superintendent presented the recommendation that they hire Ohlmann- the highest and largest bidder. The board refused the recommendation. The superintendent’s suggestion was to ask other school systems how to run a selection process for a creative services firm. This is like asking me to do advanced calculus. School systems aren’t marketing driven organizations, nor do they have people that understand marketing and have experience working with these types of firms. Out of frustration, I wrote a guide to government agencies on how to run an agency selection process and forwarded it to the board. They still haven’t acted, even tough their Public Information Officer retires at the end of the year and their Telecommunications director leaves for UD after 31 years at the district at the same time.
end of disclosure.
Out with the old…
The reason Lori Ward and the board parted ways will never fully be known, I even called for her to go. Both my reasoning and the boards reasoning are probably in alignment on her inability to cut deadwood from the bloated organization. If you wanted to see the Peter Principle in action, you could swing a dead cat around the administrative palace on Ludlow and hit several people who had far out climbed their bandwidth.
Sitting on the Tech Steering committee I was facing at least two of them, maybe three. It was hard to say, because the committee often had 20 people in attendance, but very few actually participate. Being silent is an acceptable job role in DPS.
I also believed that their PIO, although a very nice lady, didn’t know good marketing from bad. Several examples of failure have made it to this blog– but “enroll, commit, succeed” is still one of the worst taglines I’ve ever seen.
Lori Ward didn’t fire people. She is also black, a well respected member of the community and knows the district inside and out. It wasn’t long before she left with a large buyout of contract, sick time, vacation pay and headed to Cleveland Public Schools to head HR. Kind of an odd position for a person that doesn’t fire people.
The board also parted ways with Craig Jones, the Treasurer. Craig was a very conservative guy. He was also, as one board member put it, “insubordinate.” This might be because he was vehemently against giving tax abatement to companies like GE, Emerson, CareSource, and whatever other private pied piper that had become part of Nan Whaley’s plan to raise more money than god to stay in power and to subvert the schools.
The board picked Hiwot Abraha to take over. She was the person who under the pre-Craig treasurer Stan Lucas, ran the show while he was out ill. Hiwot stepped into Craig’s shoes with a solid balance sheet- and a $30 million dollar reserve. All the computers had been paid for and software money allocated before the school year started. The schools had even refinanced bonds under Craig to put us in a stronger position.
The board screwed up the process and procedure for firing Craig. He’s now suing them. He is the first of what will be many.
Normally, a district the size of Dayton would have 20+ applicants for Superintendent. With Dayton facing takeover by the state of Ohio for failing performance grades, the applicant pool was less than half that. Indecision by the board let their first round first choice candidate slip away. She was an assistant superintendent in Beavercreek with a penchant for finding grant funding. Passed over in this round was internal candidate David Lawrence, so when round 2 came, and he was excluded, a lot of people, including most of the building principals who were under him were confused. Board members said the reason was they wanted an outside perspective- someone who wasn’t part of the problem they thought they had. Another barrier to attracting talent was that they were only offering a one-year contract. That’s not really a vote of confidence, but since the job might disappear in a State takeover in 2 years- why have to pay more to buy them out.
Round 2 was covered on this blog. Even though they didn’t want an insider, this time Dr. Roberson who hadn’t been with the district long enough to learn the names of the principals was a finalist. Lawrence sat in the back of the room. Next to Dr. Tom Lasley of “Learn to Earn.”
With time to hire already at a premium, the passed on their token internal black male candidate, ruled our Dan Schroer (who was quickly hired by Springboro) because of his pro-police in schools answer which had the Racial Justice Now people ready to lynch him, and left them with Rhonda Corr.
I met with Corr early on, at the Third Perk coffee house, catty corner from HQ. She brought Colleen Wells as her scribe. I showed previous work my firm had done for the district, talked about ideas that were rejected including a “day in the life” type project, curated by 2x Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Larry Price– who even offered to shoot for 2 days in the District for free- and was rejected.
The meeting went an hour and a half in late afternoon on July 7. She seemed receptive and we got along fine. A few weeks later, on Tuesday the 26th at the Tech Steering committee she asked me to take on two challenges: graphics for the windows around the board meeting room because there is no district branding on that end of the building, and a way to increase attendance because “we know for a fact that if kids don’t miss more than 10 days of school our scores go up.” I responded, so you watched Dr. Roberson’s presentation on my blog? She denied it. His simplistic solution as presented at the 3 ring circus came down to a catch phrase that he had the audience chanting: “success begins with less than 10” as in absences.
To me, this assignment was like the captain of the Titanic handing an ice pick to a deck hand and saying- go take care of that iceberg for me. The district has serious communications deficits and window dressing and a marketing solution to attendance issues are the first challenge. Typically, we start with a comprehensive strategy for repositioning and then work tactically to get there.
There was no request for proposal, no PO, just go ahead and do the work. A week later I met with her to give her a plan. It solved the window dressing problem with a much bigger idea- complete with a strategy to begin to reposition the district honestly, and a strategy for incentivizing/gamification of attendance along with a playbook. We threw in reference to other critically needed components and addressed the payment for services as outlined in the above disclaimer.
Other things were happening in the district around the same time. The annual week long principals institute, a program that had been run by Chief of School Innovation David Lawrence was scheduled to meet at Charity Early. Part of the reason, was as a celebration of the principal’s 50th year in education. Charity Early is almost like a retreat- because it was built in collaboration with the Girl Scouts who have their facility there. None of this was known by our new Superintendent who cancelled it- and instead decided to spend money to rent the Crowne Plaza for a day – to make it feel more like a conference. So much for paying for a facility- the A/C was out the entire day. This was the beginning of the undermining of Lawrence by Corr.
In fact, their first meeting, was a fraction of my first meeting a week before. She had district lawyer Jyllian Guerriero with her, as she met with him for 15 minutes at which time there was no listening- just orders. You are to have no further contact with principals in the district. You are going to be over special projects: Athletics, Males of Color, Dayton Biz Tech and Longfellow Alternative School. There was also a fracas around this time over the hiring of the new district Athletic Director. Mark Baker, a Dunbar grad, had been offered the job by David Lawrence, and in a power play- someone wanted to rescind it and give it to another candidate out of D.C. This may have been Corr’s first wake up call that there people in this town with more juice that she’ll ever have. After a few days of confusion, the Baker appointment went through.
I had a conversation with Corr about demoting Lawrence. She said it wasn’t a demotion, it was putting him in charge of the things that needed the most help. She wanted to make sure the Males of Color initiative was a success, and she didn’t want him overloaded with other things.
Several people seem to be in the good graces of the new superintendent. Bob Bucheim, a recent hire to the district, who gets promoted to Executive Director Curriculum and takes over a number of schools that had previously reported to David Lawrence. I’d worked with Bucheim on the Technology Steering Committee and found him to be enthusiastic, positive and a lot like my golden retriever when she was a puppy. When asking a former supervisor of his about him, the response was “I had 12 principals under me, if asked to rank them 1-12, Bob would be 15.” His claim to fame was as a scheduling wizard. Scheduling is a critical part of high school enrollment- so critical that when Lawrence was over Thurgood, they used to have a schedule preview day about a week before school started to give them a chance to dry-run the classes to iron out any mistakes.
When school started, Meadowdale High School still didn’t have a master schedule. The process had begun with Lawrence before his demotion, but when he was told not to talk to anyone- he obeyed. It’s a complex process, including input from the DEA reps in the building, the principals, the guidance counselors. Eleven days in, Corr asked Lawrence to step in to intervene and clean up the mess left by Bucheim and Dr. Sheila Burton who didn’t put a master schedule in place. He outlined clearly what he had done to start the process, when he was told to stop and wanted to make sure this wasn’t another attempt to find fault with him. Soon after he wasn’t in charge of Athletics anymore. And then Males of Color was stripped as well.
Speaking of the Males of Color Initiative, David Lawrence had taken my Websitetology course over the summer. He thought it was incredibly insightful and useful- so much in fact, that he wanted the team from Males of Color to take it. Five sharp young men showed up on the morning of Aug 24 to take the class. I get a call, the PO for $495 wasn’t approved and I may not get paid by the district. At 8:47 am I send a text to Corr:
David Esrati:I hear the po for my training of the men of color wasn’t approved yet. I made a command decision- to allow them to stay at my risk. Teaching the rest of the day.
Rhonda Corr:What training?
David Esrati:Websitetology seminar. How to use the web effectively. You are welcome to stop by
Lawrence is dumbfounded. He’d never had to get a PO for less than 10K approved before, and, esp, by this one being held up by the Superintendent, who is playing dumb. Internal secretaries, the ones who run most organizations confirm with me as I’m trying to get paid a month later that Corr was the only hang up.
The Males of Color all told me they thought the training was outstanding. It tool the district until 9/29/16 to pay the bill.
Meanwhile, at the Tech Steering Committee, it’s come out that one of the pieces of software the district bought, Imagination Learning, requires headsets to work. No one bought headsets. Bucheim does his best puppy imitation- and no solid answers are given. I’ve been asking for a report of what we bought- basic computer/configuration/software packages and what the cost per seat per year is for software. I’m still waiting for that report, and it’s been promised for the November meeting. I’d been asking since May. The Imagination Learning software was $330K for a year, as days are dwindling and it can’t be used. I’m wondering who gets fired for this? Or do we negotiate with the vendor for a discount- since obviously, their sales team didn’t bother to stress what equipment is necessary. No one seems to care.
The problems at Meadowdale continue. Taylor Porter was a young black male scholar who was in the Bright Fellow program– sponsored by Ohio State and the Ohio Business Roundtable. On Friday, September 16th, word is he was handed a pink slip by Ms. Corr. Monday, veteran principal Jacquelyn Pope PhD resigns abruptly, sending out a robocall to parents. It makes the news. She blames Corr and lack of support. Corr all of a sudden wants to promote young Mr. Porter to Principal, but, unfortunately, his principals license won’t be ready till January. She’s forgotten that she fired him- and now makes him “dean of students.” The firing on a Friday, rehire on Tuesday seems to be a patented Corr move.
The funny thing is, in the last three years, Meadowdale has had two other principals quit mid-year. Both times Lawrence stepped in, took care of things and there was no brew-ha-ha. In the Army, they call Special Forces, the elite military unit I had the honor of serving with, “the silent professionals”- that’s what Mr. Lawrence provided to the district. Elite intervention in sticky situations.
The Meadowdale saga is still continuing. I was at the board meeting where the audience set up their kumbaya circle to try to bring peace back to the district in the wake of Ms. Slash and Burn Corr’s actions. I looked carefully at Board Docs and the list of employment moves. Sometime after the meeting a new sheet went up- and all of a sudden, we’re hiring a new principal for Meadowdale, at $95k a year. That makes him the second highest paid principal in the district. When David White, the well respected principal who turned around Belmont, left Ponitz for Trotwood, as did Tracy Mallory, Lisa Minor, and a host of other former DPS “superstars” we couldn’t find money to pay any of them more. And, of course, with Corr comes controversy. The hire, Donetrus Hill PhD. had resigned from his last position in Dallas in May of 2015 after it was exposed that he was offering students academic make up credit for floor mopping. By the time you throw in relocation expenses, this is a very expensive solution to the problems at Meadowdale. In the meantime, she’s stripped Lawrence of responsibility over anything and has him in a closet in the far corner of the first floor next to some IT equipment with a schedule saying that he has to be at his desk from 8:30 to 4:30 with no more than a half hour for lunch. He’s still making $102.5 K a year. He’s a proven principal.
There isn’t a single DPS employee that won’t vouch for Mr. Lawrences pre-Corr work ethic. Not only was he known to be in the office earlier and later than most, he’d work weekends as well. And, if there was a sporting event, he was there too. In fact, when you used to drive by the district parking lot at 8:30 at night most nights pre-Rhonda Corr, and you knew who drove what, you’d usually have seen Ward’s Volvo SUV and Lawrences’ car in the lot. Now, it’s empty.
Resetting the doomsday clock
It’s September 14th, my birthday. At 3:25 in the afternoon I get a call from Rhonda asking me to look over the press release that the district is preparing to send about the single “A” they received for the 2016 report card. It’s in Annual Yearly Progress- and it’s the only A that mattered. It meant the 2 year countdown to state takeover was now reset. Jill Moberley had written her version- and Corr didn’t feel comfortable with it. Could I take a crack at it.
I don’t have any of the actual data to work with- just what Jill included. Her headline: “Dayton Public Schools receives an A for student growth” and then a meandering mess of stats that no one cares about and fake quotes. I get to work. In 30 minutes, I’ve rewritten it, added some Cleveland flavor to it to make it sound like Corr actually has a heart, and send it back. My headline: “Dayton Public Schools resets takeover countdown”- what appears in the Dayton Business Journal is my release. People compliment Jill on her release, she says “I decided to try something a little different this time.”
No payment arrangements made, no bills issued.
This news barely hits the streets and next thing in the news, a new DPS teacher with an incredible vitae- gets arrested in Edwin Joel Brown school- for allegedly raping a child. DPS can’t buy a break, but, they think the best thing to do is keep stressing it wasn’t one of our students, we barely know the guy. The problem is, this isn’t the first sex offender news of the year, a Ponitz employee, who didn’t have a valid teaching certificate had been caught up in a prostitution case. Help is offered, but not accepted on this one.
One last thought: the A that saved the district had nothing to do with the new administration or leadership. The academic plan that got the district an A was written mostly by Lisa Minor who is now in Trotwood, and David Lawrence who is in purgatory.
The Marketing Bid Status
At this point, we’re a week from the award for the “comprehensive marketing services” contract which was supposed to be awarded on September 20th with work to start on the 21st.
I’m feeling pretty confident. Here I am, being asked to do emergency PR help. But, I’d also seen the email of who my competition was. Corr had told me that there were 5 bidders when I’d asked. But, here’s the part I’m struggling with, before the bid was turned in, after my father had died, I was taking my mom to Ben & Jerry’s on Brown Street to help fatten her up. I ran into Rhonda coming out of the Pine Club with friends of hers. I’d introduced my mother to her- and she’d asked how I was doing. I’d responded, I’m stressed out, working on this RFP from hell- her response to me, was “don’t worry, I want to work with you- this process is just a formality.”
I had come into the office the next day and told my staff. I wasn’t happy about it- because I don’t think things should work that way. I believed in the strength of our proposal. Others who have looked at it who work in the district, in the field, all thought it was outstanding. But, after years of trying to get federal contracts, it had become clear- RFP’s are usually issued AFTER the buyer has the vendor picked. For once, I was going to shut up and let it ride. Dad had died, I’m struggling with taking care of mom who is slipping into dementia, it’s about time something came my way. And, I know I’d do a good job.
Come the weekend before the award, I spend Saturday night writing the press release for the district to issue when they post the contract to Board Docs on Sunday- 48 hours before the board meeting Tuesday. I send it off- it mentions Jill’s retirement. It talks about why they picked The Next Wave and the expectations. I send it to Corr. When Board Docs comes out on Sunday- with no mention of the contract- I immediately write Corr asking WTF? You can’t slide this on at the last minute- it looks shady, and if there is one thing I don’t want to start out with is some sort of idea that this was snuck in. She has no answers to why. I research and find the State doesn’t have any requirements about 48 hours notice on contracts, but apparently DPS does. Doesn’t matter, it’s not happening now. In fact, Corr admits she hasn’t finished her review and rating of the 5 submissions.
The problem with an RFP, especially one with timelines and implementation schedules- is that the dates matter. Your request, my offer, make up a contract. If the dates aren’t right- it just doesn’t free flow into the next quarter. Especially with schools that run on a half a year schedule.
November comes. School has already been going along for two months. Teachers and students have formed bonds, expectations set. Rhonda tells me that she’s got a plan to fire everyone downtown and make them all re-apply for their jobs. She doesn’t know what half of them do. This is in central office- well away from the classroom. I’m pretty sure I can name a few people that need to go.
After me pushing at the October business meeting for them to award the contract to someone, and that it was disrespectful to small business and to the community and to the leadership including the board that tasked purchasing with hiring someone, they finally act on Nov 1. I’m at the meeting. The board is asked to waive the 48 hour rule to award the contract to the Ohlmann group. Ron Lee makes the motion, Dr. Baguirov complains about how the numbers don’t add up, how does a firm (mine) with a 2x Pulitzer Prize winner and is Veteran Owned not score higher. Why are we always giving contracts to the big company and in this case with the highest bid. The motion doesn’t get a second. Ohlmann had the contract in it’s grasp for a few hours- and gone. I get the notification from purchasing about this epic fail 20 hours later. The first communication at all from them.
But, now, the district has to make cuts. It seems they’ve lost 500 some students, which means somewhere between 3.5 and 5 million dollars won’t be there. We hear reasons that just help the district dig a deeper hole- “the stabbing at World of Wonder” caused it was the worst- straight out of Dr. Baguirov’s mouth. And while that story made headlines because it was on the school security cameras and in broad daylight, there was also a gun brought to Wright Brothers within a week and fights and other stuff that goes on all the time. You don’t need to bring any of that up.
Corr says if every principal just went out and recruited 15 students we’d be fine…. in November…. with what materials? With what story- “we got a single A and a bunch of F’s.” The community half buys this line of malarkey. Corr promises once again, cuts will be kept as far away from the classroom as possible.
Until the list comes out and a ton of para-professionals are all getting pink slips.
Para pro- what? You mean they went to jump school and are Airborne qualified? No- paraprofessionals are teachers aides, they come in many varieties, from bus aides, to handicapped student aides, to one-on-one coaches in the classroom. We have some that have been doing that hand holding for as long as 30 years. They don’t do it for the money- the most they could make is about $25k a year. Most of them have at least 2 year degrees and have passed their PRAXIS exams. The best part- is they aren’t paid out of general fund money- they get their money from the feds- Title 1- money for urban disadvantaged kid interventions. And, if you ask the instructional leaders of the district, the principals, the para-professionals are the ones who helped the district get the A in annual yearly progress. Without the chrome books.
Board Member Joe Lacey was at Kiser PK-6 the day the cuts came out- and he said “well where do you think the money came from to pay for the computers?” Never mind it takes a para in the room working with a teacher in order for those computers to be up and running- and in Kindergarten- where kids have never used a mouse- it can take as many as 5 para professionals to get the whole class online and working.
But it doesn’t stop there. The same day the para’s get cut, Karen Lombard gets her pink slip. She’s in tears. She’s been working in the district for 26 years, she’s known as an expert in her field, not just locally but nationally. She’s the one who made DPS preschools, all 14 of them, top notch and worthy of the vaunted 5 Star rating. In 2016 the Dayton Association for Young Children named her the “Administrator of the Year.” Principals who count on her to manage all the compliance issues and keep the pre-k thing on track are devastated. Tuesday comes, and Corr has been told she’s made a mistake. Someone calls and tells Ms. Lombard “we had a change of heart, would you come back?” She agrees. She’s not supposed to speak about the Friday firing- but, just like the internet, once something happens in a Dayton Public School the grapevine doesn’t forget or just stop.
Joe Lacey has no problem with firing MariJane Recob, director of the Challenger center at Kiser. He calls her a “museum curator” and says that he thinks that certified teachers are what make a difference. Even though he’s the longest serving member of the board, he seems clueless that not only was MariJane teaching before he put on his first speedo, she was doing STEM before anyone knew what STEM was. Board Members McManus and Taylor try to save her from the axe that week. Of course, they had very little time to prepare, because as usual, Corr can’t get her act together- the list was posted about an hour before the meeting. Also gone were Toni Perry Gillespie and Richard Melson- two people I never thought were good fits for the district. Melson likes to be called Dr. Melson, a salutation that leads people to believe he’s a PhD or EdD- but, no- it’s a divinity degree. He was a director of IT who never heard of open source software, and was responsible for directing the district into a very expensive proprietary piece of software called SunGard which is an expensive enterprise solution for running a district. Gillespie is part of the Monarchy of Montgomery County- and was hired as a coordinator of Community and Family Engagement, yet didn’t do much of either.
It was her office that set up the “Coffee with the Superintendent” last Saturday at Ruskin Elementary School. I attended for a part of it. If they had competent PR it would have been considerably different. I’m not going to spell out how to do one of these events, but ideally you have a presentation that knocks peoples socks off with your vision of the future to begin, and everyone leaves with a happy handout recapping the plan and gives them something to share with their friends and neighbors. None of that happened. Jill Moberley and Ken Kreitzer were both there. No, they weren’t filming, no they weren’t taking notes- just standing on the sidelines, playing with their phones.
The Superintendent is asked for an actual attendance figure. This is something Lori Ward could recite in her sleep. Corr’s answer was “thirteen thousand something.”
When asked about classroom size limits, she had to refer it to the principals in the room for the answer.
Learning to count
Remember, all these cuts and disruptions a few months into the school year are being driven by a “drop in dollars due to decreased enrollment.” There is one problem, every student that leaves the district has to be accounted for. It’s an exit interview. You have to track it to the state. We’re saying we lost about 450 or so, but no one has the report. A report that says “this many 7th and 8th graders went to the STEM school from Horace Mann and Wright brothers” when the school reconfiguration for middle schools happened. Or, we had lost a bunch to the middle school that DECA just opened downtown. Nope- no reports. No facts, no figures- but, remember, Corr said cuts would be far away from the classroom and if we just recruited students, and if we had better marketing…
This drop in enrollment and dollars is driving a RIF- reduction in force. It is the excuse you have to use to cut people who’ve signed contracts or are covered by union contracts. You also have to eliminate the position as part of a RIF- for instance you can’t RIF David Lawrence who has a contract through 2018 if you gave his job to three different people- two of which you hired in (Dr. Libby Lolli and Dr. Markay Winston).
And if it isn’t already bad, Dr. Baguirov is proud of himself for hiring an internal auditor to cut out waste. As the sole Republican on the Board- it’s his job to always go on about cutting government waste. The board lets the auditor go up on November 1, and present a whole list of things he identified as waste- just handing negative publicity and generating the easiest “DPS is incompetent” story Dayton Daily news reporter Jeremy Kelley ever had to write. So, not only can’t we hire enough bus drivers or get your kids to school, we also can’t stop them from taking lunches or using the bus for personal trips.
Then, this morning, the whole thing turns into a joke. Now, we’re still going to fire 30 paraprofessionals, but we’re going to hire 30 certified teachers with Title 1 money. We’re not really broke after all.
On Tuesday, DPS school board president Adil Baguirov added a new wrinkle to the process, saying the district plans to hire more teachers that will make up for the cuts of classroom aides, also called paraprofessionals.
“Instead of paraprofessionals, who are not certified and often don’t have college degrees in education or related fields, DPS now plans to have 28 new teachers, one for each building, to augment data-driven, modern, research-based education,” Baguirov said.
It was not immediately clear how the staff moves — layoffs of 20 administrators last week, an estimated 40 total cuts to be voted on Thursday, and the 28 hires that Baguirov mentioned for the first time Tuesday — fit together financially.
District officials have said millions of dollars in cuts per year are necessary because of an unexpected drop in enrollment that will lead to less state funding.
Classroom aides generally max out around $25,000 per year, while certified teachers in Dayton make between $38,000 and $71,000. Baguirov said those new teachers would be paid with the same Title 1 funding stream for low-income students that paid the 32 or 33 laid-off aides.
DPS Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the Title 1 money from the laid-off aides would also be used for professional development on blended learning, literacy and teacher leadership.While state money is expected to decrease midyear for DPS because of a drop in enrollment, federal Title 1 funding is basically constant until next school year, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
Newsflash- somehow, the count of missing students is off. Not a little, but hundreds. Somewhere we went from having solid numbers and accounting, to flying by the seat of our pants. Here DDn confirms the numbers weren’t legit.
The people directly responsible for these numbers: Treasurer Hiwot Abraha and Dr. Sheila Burton. Two of Corr’s trusted confidants. One other person to look as part of the inner cabal is the district attorney, Jyllian Bradshaw (nee. Guerriero) who worked with the hired firing hands.
Superintendent Rhonda Corr said last month that she brought in two outside consultants to do a review of district staffing levels and efficiency, helping shape the job cuts and realignment. Corr said the consultants were Deborah Heater, who spent years leading human resources efforts for Cincinnati Public Schools, and attorney David Lampe of Bricker & Eckler.
Heater’s company was paid $19,800 for its work on the “rightsizing” initiative. The contract was technically with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, with Lolli as a signatory.
The funny thing is outside of school or government jobs Heater can’t stay put anywhere much over a year and she has her own consulting firm and apparently works at another consultant as well. Reading her Linkedin Profile is a laugh a minute with “I” being the focus of everything.
Was there an RFP for the henchman? Nope. And why the sneak around through the MCESC? Maybe because the new Sheriff in town needs someone to blame when it all goes seriously south? Deniability is always the fallback for weak leaders.
The Dunbar fiasco
While much of the focus of the sixth floor is on educational achievement, one thing Dayton Public is known for is strong football and basketball teams. This year was no different with Dunbar’s football team going to State. Only one thing went wrong, the last two games the coach played an ineligible player. At the November 1 board meeting, this was a topic of discussion. The head of the district security, former Dayton cop, Jamie Bullens was there after conducting an extensive investigation. The discussion turned interesting when Board VP Sheila Taylor wanted to know how we prevent things like this. When study tables were mentioned, a staple of college programs, this was news to Taylor and she was asking why it wasn’t standard practice? This brought venom from Lacey who called her and the rest of the board out for even suggesting athletes deserve any kind of special treatment or extra help.
Corr got on her pedestal talking about how this “hurt children” and she was demanding resignations from two people. She had one in hand and was waiting on the other.
We’re not sure what she was asking for- the football coach or the athletic director, who is also the head basketball coach and a Dayton Legend, Pete Pullen who has now resigned as AD for Dunbar, but she was asking for his complete resignation on the first day of basketball practice. Had she pushed it, she would have been hanging from a rim, and not because she just dunked the ball.
Let’s see, play an ineligible player and you have to resign. Don’t follow board direction to hire a marketing firm- keep your job. Buy $330K of software that your students can’t use- keep your job? Don’t properly get the master schedule done at a high school and the principal quits- and keep your promotion. The list goes on.
The big money questions?
The district took a strange stance on Issue 9. The end of the happy loving relationship between the board and the Dayton City Commission happened in early August when both the city and the school board were headed to the ballot to float a levy. DPS backed down, even though the city was now going to encroach on education by funding the quasi-public organization “Learn To Earn” with unfettered money for 8 years to go to pre-school. The pre-school promise will get about $4.5 million every year- of which they get to keep 20% or $900K for their salaries and overhead. Not a bad deal. Poor school board members are capped at $5K a year. DPS board, which meets more, longer and seems less effective than any other board in the county according to Dayton Daily News reporter is effectively working for free.
Not fully understanding why the district wasn’t making a peep against Issue 9, on my own I dug into it and found where the money was coming from, and decided to make a few videos to try to steer people away from voting for it. It didn’t make sense to be throwing so much money at a private org with no legitimate oversight that can dole out money to private schools, charters, and even home schoolers. No income restriction. Flat out discretionary money. I thought with that kind of cash we could do something to really make a difference, roll out city wide wi-fi so that the kids could go home with their chromebooks and continue their learning. The short video had 15,000 views on Facebook in 4 days. Some board members appreciated the work – and saw what real marketing looked like.
One board member thought that by working with the City we’d have a seat at the table. Little did they realize, the table isn’t in the same room as the big boys. Another board member, may have financial connections to a pre-school, and could benefit from Issue 9 money floating their way. None of this made sense- and most importantly, this was an ideal time to be talking about the districts own 5 star free preschools that aren’t at capacity- not a peep. Was their a written guarantee of support from the people backing Issue 9 to throw money toward the DPS levy next spring? Or was it more like the kind of deal Dayton did with Kroger for the new Wayne Avenue store that never materialized?
Remember one of the big donors to the Issue 9 campaign was CareSource? $25K, in the pre-election report. They bought the old Patterson Co-Op land for a cool million from the board recently and immediately turned it over to the Port Authority so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes. Had this board had any competent legal help, or just a modicum of common sense, they would have put a deed restriction on the real estate that it couldn’t ever have it’s property tax abated. But, we only tax the poor people in Dayton anymore- and the ones who can’t vote.
Morale and the moral of the story
In my business, long ago, an agency defined advertising as “Truth Well Told” – a slogan that is probably even more important today than it was back in 1912 when McCann Erikson trademarked it as their credo. We seem to be missing a whole lot of truth in Dayton Public Schools since the arrival of Rhonda Corr. And while there are always two sides to a story, I put my faith in my long standing connections in the community. There are people all over this city who in front of the powerful- say, “that Esrati is crazy”- because in Dayton, you need a herd to be heard (a quote I heard early on from former Dayton Planning Director Paul Woodie) but in private, they call me, tell me the dirt, and ask me to do their dirty work.
It’s a thankless job. The strangest thing happened tonight as I was writing this. At 8:31 pm, Rhonda Corr called me. She can’t figure me out. She wasn’t happy that she saw me comment on Facebook that she had been fired in Chicago in the wake of the BBB debacle. She calls it laid off. We had a long talk, where she reiterated that she wants to work with me and my firm. That she sees something special there, but, I seem to turn on people. She said she had been warned, extend me an olive branch and you’ll get hit with it. I told her it was odd timing- I was 6,700 words in on an post about her and the district. Trying to set the record straight. As to her being fired or laid off, I wonder if it makes a difference what she calls it when she does the same thing to people here- proven people? Long time employees?
She talks about the building principals as CEO’s of their buildings. They are the true instructional leaders in the district, the master teachers. The ones who are held responsible for what learning goes on in school. When you have a 17 year district veteran saying this in the paper, you know something is seriously wrong with the changes:
Kiser Principal James Fowler understands the need. “We’re going to rethink how we deliver services based on them not being here,” Fowler said. “They make our 1-to-1 technology work. … It’ll be a big loss. They’re just so valued.”
That is from a former Air Force Major, a guy who toes the company line. The board may think they are brilliant, but if they opened up an anonymous chat room and asked the 30 building principals to give honest feedback about the Superintendent and where the district was going, they’d leave enlightened, and would reconsider keeping her here.
That the district’s doomsday clock isn’t ticking down the final two years of their rule has given them a false sense of security. Without major changes in the way the district delivers education, without absolute community buy in, without the full support of the unions who are all ready to stage a walk out or sit across the table and say “really? are you dreaming?” this district will be right back in the same situation in another year.
And Corr still thinks I’m the problem. I’m too abrasive or something. People said the same thing about someone people think I look like- Steve Jobs. I didn’t make this mess. I’m just the observer. The real test will come in approximately 17 hours when the board has its business meeting and parents, paras and teachers and community activists and political types converge on 4th and Ludlow.
I can see the signs now- “I’m not Fond’a Rhonda” “Show Corr the Door” “RESIGN” or “Rotten to the Corr” and they’ll want answers.
How did you go from controlled mediocrity for so many years to this tornado of turmoil? There are only 9 people who can be held accountable, the 7 board members, the treasurer and the Superintendent. In Ohio, you can’t recall a school board. The board hires and fires both the Treasurer and the Superintendent. Both have failed to give us honest answers causing the district to turn into a circus.
As I was leaving the Coffee with the Superintendent om Saturday, I heard one girl say to her friend “no wonder this district can’t keep teachers.” And here we are mid-school year, firing 30 classroom aides, based on bad data, saying we are going to hire 30 new reading intervention specialists mid-year, and put them in place. Even in spring, finding 30 qualified reading specialists is incredibly difficult.
You know what’s even more difficult? For this board to put their big boy pants on and realize they made a huge mistake. They could cut Corr, reduce the number of pending lawsuits immediately, start re-assessing the layoffs under a competent superintendent who knows the district, the players and who would have the support of a large majority of the current principals: David Lawrence.
But, that would never happen, right? They said that about Brexit and Trump. 3 for 3 anyone?
You know when Hillary Clinton said she was broke- and yet had million dollar homes?
That’s sort of how any smart Dayton voter would normally look at raising their taxes to pay for “city services”- which is what issue 9 is ostensibly all about.
Right after Queen Nan got herself elected with half-a-million dollars of OPM (other people’s money) to a job that only pays $45K a year- she promptly decided to add an assessment to every property owner in Dayton to replace all our street lights with high efficiency LED street lights- but, wait, isn’t that what we already pay taxes for?
Now, she knows that after the shopping spree that bought all the empty downtown buildings she could get her hands on- and gave away tax abatement to 80% of downtown property owners- directly hurting the Dayton Public Schools who get a majority of their funding from property taxes- she comes out with issue 9. And to bait and switch- she’s hitched her wagon to “the pre-school promise” which is supposed to miraculously improve our school performance on incoming kindergartners. Except- pre-school doesn’t do that for kids who have other issues- like extreme poverty.
And here lies the problem- for years, Daytonians have believed that you can tax income and since 70% of it is paid by people who live outside the city- who can’t vote, it’s like “free money.” Well, the problem is, if you do that, and jobs and businesses can’t move- no problem, but as we’ve seen- Austin Landing and Pentagon Parkway have filled with new office buildings– where the employees pay NO INCOME TAX AT ALL- at least as long as they work in tall buildings and wear a white collared shirt (Austin Landing is the most unfair, illegal, taxation district in the country- where only the little people who work at Kohl’s and Kroger pay taxes).
That’s why Nan can buy any office building she wants with your money so cheap- some businesses have abandoned downtown Dayton, and some have abandoned Dayton altogether- because they don’t want to operate in the County with the second highest tax burden in the State.
But- back to the pre-school promise. We already have “5 star preschools” – there are 14 of them, run by the elected group charged with education- the Dayton Board of Education. And while people complain they are only open 4 days a week- if Dayton gave them the $4.5 M a year that was going to go to the quasi-public “Learn to earn” people, they could be open a fifth day- and even afford transportation for those pre-schoolers. But, no, then we can’t hand 20% of that money each year to Nan’s friends- and let them spend it on overhead, their own paychecks and with pre-schools and daycare facilities that aren’t “5 Star”- and, there is no income restriction- so they could even pay for third shift daycare for kid that belongs to a doctor who works at Miami Valley Hospital.
If Nan truly cared about education- she wouldn’t have given tax abatement to General Electric, CareSource, Emerson, the list is long.
And, if you really wanted to see DPS improve- she could spend the $4.5M each year for 8 years- to build out citywide wi-fi that would get every single kid in DPS online at home- with their new 1-to-1 chromebook- so they could really teach themselves how to code, or open an online business, or take part in the global economy. And we could offer low price access to people to compete with Time Warner and ATT to the rest of the citizens- to help bridge the digital divide.
Hell, we just gave CareSource half-a- million dollars today- despite the fact that their CEO makes $3 million a year- and it’s all paid with tax dollars from the feds.
We shouldn’t be taxing the poor people in Dayton to help CareSource, or General Electric, or create an alternative “board of pre-school education”- we should be spending money where it comes back to all of us- in services for all.
I filmed this video Wednesday afternoon, edited it Thursday, posted it on Facebook at 6pm last night and it had over 1,500 views inside of 16 hours.
Issue 9 is spending $35K on digital advertising. I haven’t spent a dime on advertising- but, if you want it to reach more people by election day- feel free to donate by sending money to [email protected] at paypal, or dropping off a check at 100 Bonner St Dayton Oh 45410.
It won’t take that much to get it in front of a whole lot of people- or you can just share it online. Watch and share.
I never got paid more for doing better on a standardized test- I got paid more for bringing unique solutions to the table.
When we hear people talking about running government like a business, most of the time, they are really trying to say “put some measurable, quantifiable metrics on government, so we can keep things under control.” Unfortunately, because most people are of average intelligence- when a Republican says “I’m for smaller government” that translates to “smaller means less to control” so it must be “better.”
Reform, be it school reform, government reform, health care, welfare reform, judicial reform all require an assessment of what the real objectives are, and how do we set meaningful measurements to work toward. In fact, to have a conversation about anything with large ramifications- the first question should always be “what is the right goal- and how do we quantify it.”
A long time ago, I read a business book with profound impact on my approach to solving business problems- “The Great Game of Business” by Jack Stack. It tells the story of a young MBA sent to a failing re-manufacturing plant that International was looking to close up. When Mr. Stack got there- he realized that no one knew the goal, or how score was kept. Kind of like trying to play football without understanding what a first down was, or how you scored. He decided that if the employees knew how the score was kept- profitability, they could all work to make sure the parts they rebuilt, were in fact valuable- i.e. the cost to make them, was less than the cost to sell them. This was “revolutionary” thinking. He taught everyone how to read a balance sheet, how to track costs, how to apply costs, and how to value their contribution. The story continues on how he and a group of managers, hocked their homes, bought the plant, and turned the business into an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan).
Guess what, our government was supposed to be an ESOP. We pay taxes, our investment, and we hire our managers, the politicians, and we’re supposed to get a return on our investment, but we all know this hasn’t been working out well- especially since we’ve seen the value of our votes diluted by our overly expensive system of picking our managers.
Bringing this down to the local level. I’ve spent a ton of time the last few months, working as an advocate to get services delivered to a veteran. I’ve tangled with the VA and their SSVF program, the Montgomery County Veterans Services Commission and a few people in between.
The measurements that we’re supposedly focused on in this country is slowing the rate of veterans committing suicide and making sure they aren’t homeless.
First question is that really what we should be measuring?
There’s a philosophy called expectancy theory- which says if you believe something to be the expected outcome, that’s what you get. I expect Dayton Public Schools to have a 35% drop out rate- so I’m going to focus on “Dropout prevention.” That’s what we’ve done. Maybe if we focused on making the diploma the goal for all, and looking in every available nook and cranny on how to make that diploma the most valuable and attainable goal, we’d do better?
How about working the system on veterans homelessness a different way? Maybe it’s cheaper to create a way for businesses to hire and support veterans with incentives- like having the government pick up the first $20,000 of tax liabilities on at risk veterans? Or working with veteran owned businesses to have a competitive advantage in hiring and protecting low functioning veterans? One thing about hiring a veteran- there is no health care costs, since they have coverage through the VA. We already know small businesses struggle with health care costs (because our system is broken) – so maybe offering to pay for a civilians health care costs for every at risk veteran you hire- giving them a two for one deal?
I’m not saying these are vetted solutions- but, they are a different approach to the problem.
With our local system, it took the MCVSC almost 10 days to issue a check for “emergency food assistance” – thanks to some help from Commissioner Debbie Lieberman, that’s not going to be the case anymore. It took longer for a food stamp card- and we still don’t have the “Obama Phone.” All these things that are mission critical to a successful transition from homeless to homed, are falling through the cracks of a system that is measuring the wrong things. Delivering food stamps to the veteran is the current measurement- but how fast isn’t. See the problem?
How does Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen measure the success of the economy to make decisions about interest rate hikes? She’s got a ton of complex data that she relies on. How do I? Look at gas prices. We do well when gas prices are low, since so many of us are car dependent to get to work. One veteran I work with is currently living on $238 a week take home. He lives in an apartment in Trotwood costing $485 a month, he drives to his job paying $14.02 in Lebanon (he pays $600 a month in child support). He’s facing eviction because he was cut off from SSVF for “making too much money” – and when you figure in food, utilities and gas money, you can see where a 50 cent swing per gallon of gas makes or breaks him each month. Janet Yellen doesn’t understand that. Nor do the government income guidelines.
The first objective in any problem solving is making sure you are using the right measurements and valuing the correct data.
This is what the point of “Moneyball” was in picking winners in pro sports. Measuring the wrong things doesn’t get you the right results.
I can think of lots of things we’re not tracking correctly, but I’d like to hear yours in the comments.
Feel free to talk about abandoned houses in Dayton, unemployment figures, heroin overdoses, or graduation rates. I’d like your 2 cents.
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.”
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.