Battle of the bad school boards

The Esrati.com PollWhen I first ran for City Commission, Abner Orick was the director of the Board of Elections. He asked me “why don’t you run for school board first to get your name out?” I didn’t have kids in school, I didn’t understand politics in Dayton yet, and I didn’t realize that school boards are one of the most dysfunctional positions in the state of Ohio. It’s almost written into law to make sure you end up with a keystone kops krew- with no easy, specified way to remove a board, and allowing them to pick their own members when someone leaves. The fiasco with Adil Baguirov’s residency last year proved that there are no checks and balances on even the most basic rule- residency.

The pay is minimal- capped at $5000 a year (the cap had to come because Dayton routinely ran up huge board compensation with their over abundance of meetings).  The actual role of the board is convoluted- they are supposed to set policy and direction for the Superintendent- who is supposed to run the district. Most of the time- it’s the other way around.

All that aside, we have two school district boards and one college board of trustees that can’t seem to do anything right in the Dayton area- so, let’s have a little poll, and decide who should get the crown of incompetence for the first quarter of 2018.

Trotwood Madison Board of Education

Last week, the Trotwood School Board voted 4-1 to fire a teacher, Khalilah Forté, for cause. Forté organized a student college tour, outside of school, with private dollars. This, along with her taking a student into her home, against her principals warning, were the stated reasons. There is more to this story, including that the one school board member who didn’t vote to fire her, Norman J. Scearce III, was the past president of the group that sponsored the tour. All the kids who went on the tour, did so with parental approval. The student in question, had her parents leave the area- and she needed some place to stay until she graduated. 

I remember examples of this happening when I was in HS. In my day, the teacher would be praised for going above and beyond in looking out for the welfare of her students. Her personnel record was spotless in her 3 years at TM.

The district is ranked worst in the state, and just hired a new Superintendent. Students are unhappy with this decision to fire a teacher that went above and beyond for them and are threatening a walkout during testing week.

Dayton Public Schools Board of Education

In just the first quarter of the year, this BOE has redefined FUBAR, starting even before the 4 new members took office, with their an attempt at convening of a school closing task force closed to the public. Already working with an interim superintendent with a whopping total of 1 year experience in the district, they then hired her at a premium amount, for three years, without even opening the position to internal candidates. The bench clearing brawl that broke out at the end of a Thurgood/Dunbar basketball game ended up getting Thurgood tossed out of the tournament and Thurgood being put back in. They decided to waste a ton of money- and piss off the Ohio High School Athletic Association (the sports Mafia of the state) by taking them to court- even though the district was already under sanctions for the Dunbar/Belmont thrown football game attempt the year before. They won the suit, but Dunbar only won one game before getting knocked out. They lost in an appeal on the improper termination notification of former Treasurer Craig Jones. They lost a first round in a Sunshine laws case brought by me, pro se, against them for their task forces private bus tour of buildings to close.

The bus drivers union came to within two days of a strike- pushing some testing back a week. The demoting of the Belmont Principal 6 weeks before the end of the school year did nothing to stop the systemic problems of a school that’s over-enrolled and understaffed. There have been multiple calls for police intervention at the school since the change over to management by committee. The district also subverted  their own purchasing rules by sliding a contract for a PR survey by a Cleveland firm to the Montgomery County Educational Services Center. The district PR machine seems totally broken, with the non-renewal of Dr. Venita Kelly who was hired to manage the PR a year ago, along with a contract to the most expensive bidder on an RFQ last year. When the assignments for principals was made public last week- it came via Esrati.com- with the Superintendent only releasing an email to staff after the changes were public. And lastly, despite enrollment drops being a primary concern, procedures for enrolling students are still a mess- with some parents spending an entire day in the “enrollment center.”

Wright State Board of Trustees

It’s been a while since esrati.com covered much of the ongoing fiasco at my alma mater. Therefore, I’m not limiting the screwups to just the last quarter.

This board is about to put the university into fiscal ruin, and just two weeks ago, declared that $10M needs to be cut in 10 weeks. This didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a long steady progression into the abyss. While Dr. David Hopkins got to retire with a pension and with his dignity and immediately move to South Carolina so that he can’t be hauled back into court to pay for his sins, the board continues to oversee what can only be described as a train wreck.

The malfunctions all began when board members used WSU’s ability to bring over students that amounted to unlimited H1-B visas, so they could have cheap labor for their IT firms. Trustee Nina Joshi president and CEO of UES Inc. resigned after getting her hands caught in the cookie jar. Trustee Michael Bridges of Peerless Technologies managed to vote for WSU to hire his son for a $125K a year IT job, without the job even being posted. Either of these infractions would normally result in prosecution, but both got barely a hand slap. Bridges stayed on the board, his kids job offer revoked. Current board chairman, Douglas Fecher, the CEO of Wright Patt Credit union should have some explaining to do about how WSU bought his former HQ while he sat on the board.

The failure of WSU to execute and bring the Presidential debate to campus should have been an early indication of managerial malfeasance and an organization run amok, however it was just the easy target. Harder is the operation of a bunch of shell companies which have been spending money like they can print it, with no legitimate oversight- since they aren’t quite WSU, or anything else. The Wright State Applied Research Corporation and Double Bowler Enterprises both fall into the netherworld of quasi-governmental slush funds. That a bunch of former politicians, lobbyists and “economic development” types are tied in should set off alarm bells. The hiring of Jim “Lefty” Leftwich, who tried to represent both WSU and the State of Ohio on the same deal was just one indication that no adults are captaining the ship.

Labor relations at the university are at an all time low, with staff being told that it’s up to them to control costs, mostly by not spending money required to actually do their jobs. When the Trustee’s brought in an interim President to do the dirty work of slashing and burning bloat- they chose to not listen to Dr. Curtis McCray- and instead cut Swimming- but boosted athletics budget by a million for basketball. Now, with ten weeks left they are wondering where the money went.

The hiring of the new president drew a limited field thanks to the dire straights of the school. The eventual pick is an introvert, who has yet to figure out that her salary alone is part of the problem. If there is one place where pay for performance is indicated, it’s for “turnaround” leaders- and so far, she’s barely been able to point out where the cuts need to be made. First hint: paying former congressman Steve Austria $150K a year probably doesn’t win you any favors with the state.

Your three choices

We’ll quickly see which organization should win the prize for incompetence in the first quarter with this poll. Feel free to also leave any other pertinent issues that I managed to overlook in this post as comments. This poll is in no means scientific (we’d need to hire a consultant from Cleveland to do one of those…). I just thought it was time for something new.

 

Which Board Should Be Fired First?

Trotwood Madison School Board
Dayton Public Schools Board of Education
Wright State University Board of Trustees

The Dayton Day-old News fails again

Yesterday I broke the story of another inmate death in the Montgomery County Jail. It’s sad when an inmate has a longer life expectancy on Death row than in our jail. Yet, despite having my story online at 4:45 yesterday with a Chris Stewart byline– the front page story on today’s print edition was about the new body scanner and how it wasn’t in operation yet. Is the DDn on the Sheriff’s payroll as PR flacks?

Dayton Daily News has incorrect news

Count on the Dayton Day old news to have the story wrong.

In today’s paper, they tell us that the Dayton Public School Board of Education will have a meeting this evening to learn parliamentary procedure. Only problem is- that meeting was cancelled yesterday. Yet- we all know they desperately need the training.

Email sent at 9:53 yesterday morning:

In accordance with Section 3313.16 of the Ohio Revised Code and File: BD of the Handbook of Policies, Rules & Regulations of the Board, I hereby call for a Special Meeting to participate in Parliamentary Training of the Board of Education of the Dayton City School District, Montgomery County, Ohio, to be held in the , located at 115 S. Ludlow Street, Dayton, Ohio 4th floor conference room – Room 4S-415 on Wednesday January 24, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. HAS BEEN CANCELED

From Denise Gum to:

From: Denise Gum To: Les Weller, Adil Baguirov, Brennon Hattery, Robert Shirley, David Romick, Debbie Gunnels, Diane Mendenhall, Libbie Lolli, Greg Spencer, Hiwot Abraha, Jyllian Bradshaw, Jennifer Dennis, Lynne Applegate, LaRae Sweetman, Mario Gallin, Marsha Bonhart, Mary Raines, Robert Buchheim, Rhonda Corr, Roy Hollis, Joni Watson, Randall Harper, Serita Brake, Shelia Burton, Sheila Taylor, Venita Kelley, William Harris, David Esrati, [email protected], Jocelyn Rhynard, John McManus, Joe Lacey, Karen Wick-Gagnet, Mohamed Al-Hamdani, Robert Walker, Hazel Rountree, Markay Winston, Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, [email protected], Ty Alston, Dion Sampson, Ron Lee Cc: William Harris, Debora Wotring, Honey Thompson, Jennifer Bryant, Karen Gildow, Kimberly Lewis, Loise Ferguson, Mikaela Craycraft, Patricia Battle, Robert Walker, Richard Wright, Scott Helton, Sharon Thornton, Tchelandra Lewis, Jill Drury 1/22/18, 9:53 AM [email protected] – Inbox

The right answer on closing schools and hospitals

Small group breakout session of NAACP community meeting on Dayton Public School closings

Small group breakout session of NAACP community meeting on Dayton Public School closings

The Dayton Unit of the NAACP had another community meeting tonight about what the people they elect are doing to them. Much outrage, lots of talk, and nothing will change.

Sorry, you had a chance to not re-elect some people, and choices on who to put on the school board- but, you didn’t vote, and those that did, voted for people I didn’t endorse. But, that’s beside the point.

On the school closings. First off, if you aren’t outraged about the “Task force” that was named and tried to meet in secret, that’s your first mistake. Second, you elected four new people to the school board to effect change. So far, we’ve still not finished firing the idiot Superintendent Rhonda Corr who the last board hired over a totally qualified, DPS grad, black male. Didn’t see the NAACP up in arms when David Lawrence wasn’t even allowed to be a finalist. Then, there is the question on why is the new board continuing with Dr. Elizabeth Lolli instead of opening up a posting for Superintendent right now- when all the positions across the nation are being posted? You wait too long, and you get the Rhonda Corr’s of the world applying. Lolli was one of two key Corr hires- the other quit and sued- and if not for that lawsuit, Corr would still be causing chaos. Lolli has yet to tell anyone what her plan is to fix DPS- instead, she seems to be preoccupied in sucking up to the task force.

We need a real Superintendent who can convince parents that DPS is safe and well run. We need a superintendent who can bring students back, and help them succeed. Remember, the last “A” we got in yearly progress was based on the work of the last Superintendent and her Chief of School Innovation David Lawrence.

Someone has to be able to tell us where all these kids went and why. That’s something that should have been tracked by DPS every time a student left. My guess is the rapid changes of adding middle schools, having four bell times, high turnover of teachers, the stabbing at WOW, the throwing of the Dunbar/Belmont game, the crazy school board meetings- all are factors in why parents said “great things are happening anywhere but in Dayton Public.”

But, many of the people at this meeting don’t even have kids in the district. What worries them is why are they still paying for new buildings- that will be handed over for pennies on the dollar to charters or other private businesses? That’s what happens when a building isn’t used for 2 years by state law (this is what happens when you let Republicans Gerrymander the state so they can take control, even though this was a mostly Democratic state before they finagled the districts).

Tomorrow night- some other group is hosting a meeting about the closing of Good Sam Hospital.

My position is I don’t care what Premier has open or where. The people of greater Dayton are already screwed because we’ve allowed a duopoly to buy every medical practice in the city, operate in collusion via the “Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association” – GDAHA (who has a seat on the DPS task force btw) and raise prices and deliver less than amazing care.

However, over the years, the taxpayers have subsidized Good Sam and Premier by allowing them to operate their money machine as a non-profit and evade property taxes. In fact, in more than a few cases, we’ve had to fork over tax dollars to help them do things like beautify their neighborhoods or build some new buildings etc.

What real city leaders should do is tell Premier it’s fine and dandy for you to close down Good Sam, but, no, you can’t demolish it. Not until it’s been placed up for auction to make sure there aren’t other players who would like to compete to provide non-profit health care.

I’m sure The James or the Cleveland Clinic, or the UC Hospital Network or some other mega-medical institution might be interested in operating a hospital there, and would be happy to buy the buildings and maybe even pay taxes. Deny the demolition permit, force Premier to allow our community hospital a chance to remain.

Or- to possibly serve as any of the following:

  • A new jail/drug treatment facility. Since Sheriff Phil Plummer seems incompetent when keeping prisoners alive in the County Jail, maybe the city should stop allowing its citizens to risk being given a death sentence because they couldn’t make bail for a minor misdemeanor. Turning Good Sam into a rehab center might bring jobs and dollars back to the community- as well as provide a real way to stop mass incarceration.
  • Turn it into a huge retirement home. Considering the geniuses that Premier and UD hired to “program the Fairgrounds” gave a report saying our population is losing young people and getting stuck with old folks- projections for nursing home facilities are good. This one is already built. Find an operator that can manage it- and provide a specialized geriatric hospital that’s directly connected.
  • Turn it into a Sinclair Campus- since we’re already paying out the butt for Sinclair- no need to buy the church right next to Greene and Warren County lines- for $10M- donate the building to Sinclair and move their health sciences program into… wait for it…. an actual hospital. Let them work with real patients who can’t afford Premier or Kettering prices- as part of their learning experience. Who wouldn’t want to stave off bankruptcy for a chance to get life saving treatment at cut-rates?

Of course, none of these ideas will happen, because, when it comes to the Monarchy of Montgomery County- the demolition contractors and construction companies all pay well to buy their future contracts. If we keep desecrating the West side- more money for demolition- right?

While Cincinnati and Columbus are booming, Dayton is doing everything it can to tear itself down. As always, follow the money, and you get answers.

Hopefully the last DPS Board comedy skit

Abbot and Costello did a famous skit “Who’s on first” where the players had names that would confuse you. “Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third”

And then we have the last version of the Dayton Public School board where “I don’t know” is on all the bases. Need proof- watch this simple procedural vote turn into a sad comedy show.

A little background. DPS makes all it’s teachers sign contracts July 10, that they will work the next year. Getting out of the contract is frowned upon after you sign it. However, people move, quit, run out of FMLA, etc- and for the most part, if you turn in a resignation, the superintendent presents your resignation for acceptance and for the most part, the board votes NO, to not accept it.

On occasion, the people you want to quit do- and they do accept it. That’s rare. Or- in this case, the DEA president David Romick asks them to accept two resignations because these people had extenuating medical circumstances and needed the “blessings” of the district, so to speak.

What follows, including the mostly comment by the rarely there Dr. Hazel Rountree, was the kind of stuff you’d need pharmaceutical help to dream up. Comedy of errors this epic, well, as Hazel so kindly added via her open mic “This is so embarrassing. David Esrati is gonna eat us alive.”

In between McManus’s coherent description of what an effective board president needs to be able to do- and this clusterduck, was when Board Member Sheila Taylor suggested that the main reason Harris should be the next board president is because his skin is darker than the others.

I’m going to restate the obvious- McManus is the most qualified to lead this districts meetings through the next year. I’m also going to remind everyone that the board president is just there to guide the meetings, act as a coordinator between the board and the superintendent and to make sure mistakes like this don’t happen. It still takes four votes of this body to actually do anything. I found this article helpful to understand better board meetings.

As far as I’m concerned, the only four votes that I have any faith in at this point are Jocelyn Rhynard, Karen Wick-Gagnet, John McManus and Mohamed Al-Hamdani.

I didn’t have confidence in Rev Harris after watching him on the campaign trail, and he has said little to build my confidence so far. I’m more than willing to give him the benefit of doubt and watch, but right now, with the coming controversies of the closing out of the Rhonda Corr era (error) and the potential school closings, the steady, experienced hand of John McManus is the right solution.

I will also say, I believe that Rev Walker should step down from the school board. I don’t believe he’s still sharp enough to bring any value to the discussion. I also believe that since he was one of the Rhonda Corr supporters, and signed off on her questionable evaluation, he no longer deserves our trust or respect or the right to continue on. He, along with the rest of this old board, should be held liable for some of the seriously questionable actions they took- including the hiring of the Ohlmann Group without even knowing what they were buying.

As to board member Sheila Taylor, her main reason for remaining on the board is that this helps build her retirement in PERS- she works for Democratic Party Chair Mark Owens in the Dayton Municipal Court Clerks office for her real job. Her absence at key votes, including the buy out of David Lawrence, as well as her support of Corr over Lawrence in the first place- as well as her sign off on the revamped evaluation are all reasons for her to step down as well, but, for this district and this city to allow someone who still thinks qualification is judged by skin color- is unacceptable.

For those of you who don’t remember how new board members are added to replace those who resign mid-term, the board asks the community for candidates and then picks who they want. It’s how Reverend William Schooler was picked (by Sheila Taylor and Joe Lacey- over 8 other better qualified candidates including my x-girlfriend). Walker and Schooler ran together in their last election and thankfully the people of Dayton were smart enough not to elect Schooler to his appointed seat.

The obvious first choice to place on the board to me is Paul Bradley who ran in the last election. He would still be a great addition and his connection to Senator Sherrod Brown could be very helpful.

As to the second choice, I think Mario Gallin is still a good choice, bringing some historical knowledge and field experience to the board, but, again, the field would be open.

Since it’s obvious that the district has no plans on hiring competent marketing help, judged by the recent PR folly of the badly introduced issue of enrollment declines and possible building closing, I might even throw my hat in the ring- so if they can’t hire competent marketing help, at least they will have a board member to help them guide the district when it comes to messaging.

Note to overpaid DPS PR Genius Department- if parents and students don’t feel safe in DPS- they won’t go there. Your failure to properly manage the incident at Ponitz that was covered in two posts on this blog fully showcase your incompetence. For the $180K a year this district is spending because Rhonda Corr wanted to show how much she respected African American women after Dr. Winston said she didn’t- we need to see something other than a donated video done by your family members and credited for $18,500 as a tax write off.

And that should fully do it for the Esrati eating us alive.

I’ve now managed to clearly define the battle lines between me, the cannibal, and the district- a wounded horse waiting for euthanasia by the state. As a final note- I realized when I was 16, that after a meteoric rise as a sax player, I wasn’t going to become a pro- and switched my focus to photography, selling, writing, and eventually to advertising. Just because I suggest that someone isn’t good at doing things like being a school board member, or a PR person for a district, or even the right superintendent- it doesn’t mean I don’t like them as people, or feel they may have other awesome skills.

Now where’s the Franks Red Hot Sauce- I hear if you put that shit on everything it tastes better.

Apparently, skin color is still how we judge people

There were two parts of the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education meeting tonight. A meeting that started at 4:30 pm upstairs on the hot 4th floor- and then continued at 5:30 until 9pm downstairs.

It was a fitting end to the reign of terror of the last four years of incompetence. A comedy of errors turned a simple vote into many.

Speeches galore as Ron Lee, Joe Lacey and Dr. Hazel Rountree exit the board.

Considering the questions remain on how this board gave Rhonda Corr a glowing review just a little more than a month before they handed her walking papers- hasn’t been answered, there shouldn’t have been any speeches at all. But, I’m guessing it will all come out when they get deposed in the inevitable coming court actions. We also need to find out why they chose not to force Dr. Adil Baguirov to resign when they were informed that he didn’t live in the district.

But, the most astounding thing was in the first meeting which had existing members, Walker, Taylor, McManus and Harris meeting with new members Wick-Gagnet, Al-Hamdani and Rhynard to discuss who should be president and vice-president come January.

Again facilitated by Kathy Hollingsworth, when the existing board members were asked to describe what skills the new board president should have, Sheila Taylor jumped right in to say that the next president needs to be a male from that side of town – or something to that effect an African American. I will have the video up tomorrow.

For Reverend Harris to be judged purely by the color of his skin by Ms. Taylor shows how far we haven’t moved since 1963:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Martin Luther King, Aug 23, 1963- I Have A Dream speech- March on Washington

The suggested slate right now has Harris as President and John McManus as VP. Realistically, this is not the norm, that a rookie takes over as leader, without the institutional, procedural or proven experience.

If anyone needs a reminder of how well McManus can run a meeting, look back to where he stepped in to takeover for Dr. Adil Baguirov:

It was also floated that the board retain an outside parliamentarian by McManus in the early meeting, instead of allowing a board member to try to police other board members. DEA president David Romick might even apply for that job, if it means the kind of clusterduck voting that happened tonight won’t happen again.

The board did get the chance to celebrate some district accomplishments. After reading for weeks that a single Trotwood school was recognized by the State for major jumps in achievement, DPS trotted out four schools tonight that have done that: Kemp, Horace Mann, Edison and Cleveland Elementary all received honors with the MOMENTUM AWARD,  given to schools who have exceeded expectations in student growth on the Ohio School Report Card for the 2016-17 School year.

They also recognized Nicole Plennert, a Wright Brothers Middle School physical education teacher, who was awarded the Secondary Education Physical Education Teacher of the year for 2017 by the Ohio Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

But the take your breath away winner was the young man from the Dayton Boys Preparatory Academy who won first place in the  60th annual Lucia May Wiant Speech contest which was held November 8th at Wright Brothers Middle School.

Ve’Suan Smith gave his speech- “I can’t read” that brought tears to my eyes.

And, for the record, the color of his skin had nothing to do with his qualification or first place finish.

I’ll have it cut and up as a stand alone video tomorrow.

That speech gave me hope that despite the incompetence of the exiting board, there are still teachers making a difference in this district and we will have future leaders in Dayton who can deliver inspiration in three minutes or less.