There wasn’t supposed to be an executive session at last Thursday’s Dayton Board of Education meeting, but there was.
It was over 2 Dunbar assistant coaching positions. Sheila Taylor took offense to seeing Alfred Powell Sr. and Darran Powell, get hired as Assistant Boys Track Coach and Assistant Girls Track Coach respectively. What happened in Exec, I don’t really know- but, I do know that both of them are part of Dunbar Basketball Coach Pete Pullen’s brain trust. Pete Pullen who also got knocked out of being the Dunbar Athletic Director.
Why this was done just before the boys basketball championships is anyone’s guess. Why Dunbar lost by 30- well, that’s just what happens when the community loses respect for a district that made an irrational choice for superintendent, has been embroiled in controversy since she showed up, and has lost the confidence of parents- many of whom, took their kids to Trotwood.
The case for a different choice.
When the three finalists were released for the second round of superintendent candidates, the community saw one thing: disrespect.
Not making the cut was the defacto deputy superintendent, home town boy, graduate of Dayton Public Schools- Chief of School Innovation, David Lawrence. Who, btw, played growing up with City Commissioner Joey Williams who was on the 1984 Dunbar Boys Basketball team that won state. Lawrence won state in Track in 81, 82 and runner up in 84. His name is still on the wall at Welcome Stadium for his track records.
So when the two old friends watched the debacle at Trent Arena, they both noticed the former DPS parents, sporting Rams shirts.
It pained both of them, because, even if DPS academics weren’t tops, the City League football and basketball programs were always a point of pride.
And now that too, is slipping away, no matter how much new district AD Mark Baker tries.
The sad thing is, once you look at this slide deck- without the words to explain it- you’ll see that just like our athletic programs used to be tops- the board just bought out someone for “over $200,000” who actually had a plan to put this district back on track. Remember the “A” grade on Annual Yearly Progress- that pulled the districts rear out of the fire, was the last gift of the departed administration lead by Lori Ward and David Lawrence.
The other superintendent candidates, look like little league punters with their “plan” to fix things. Just watch the video, and read my analysis of The Three Ring Circus.
Why did our board pass over David Lawrence?
What I heard was that Dr. Adil Baguirov pushed hard for an outsider and convinced the weak members of this board, that any internal candidate wouldn’t have the skills to fix a large urban district- because if they did, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
Apparently, Baguirov is a pretty convincing salesman (as we’re seeing with the RIF, and the bus purchases, and of course the 1-to-1 computers which he takes full credit for), as the board passed Lawrence over for Rhonda Corr, a rookie superintendent who even had to explain her baggage of association with corrupt leadership and kickback schemes in Chicago.
Considering the questions this blog has raised about the RIF, the real estate deals, and now the bus deal, all with strong connections to Baguirov, one wonders if he didn’t handpick Corr so if any of his questionable behavior gets exposed, he has the perfect fall girl to pin it on?
Lawrence has said he has zero interest in coming back to DPS, especially with the current board. Face it, only the insane would accept a job working for this crew.
Considering his legal leverage over the board who broke their buyout contract with him in the process of approving it, there are grounds for removal of 5 of 7 board members, if citizens collect the mandated 4500 signatures. Would remaining board members McManus and Taylor pick 5 replacements that would be able to woo him back?
Would they have the balls to pursue termination of the just approved contract with Corr? Her negligence in causing this clusterduck should be grounds to void the recently signed 3 year contract with the deposed board.
Or, does Dayton find itself stuck with this rudderless ship? Word is local universities looking to give full ride scholarships to our best and brightest, aren’t getting calls back from Ms. Corr.
It’s sad that the kids of Dayton have to wait until January 1, 2018 for the natural process to replace the four fools who were unopposed 4 years ago. Word is Ron Lee, Hazel Rountree and Dr. Adil Baguirov aren’t even running again- and Joe Lacey should never see another elected position after any sane voter watched this video:
But, don’t worry, there is more dirt to come. It just takes me a while to put all these things into a format that’s clear for you.
If you’d like to support my efforts- just remember, there is a donation page https://esrati.com/donate
Thank you for paying attention. It’s time to stop the losing.
I’m the one who asked you about school grade alignment changes in the middle of the ship sinking, and yes, I’m also from Cleveland (Cleveland Heights) and will be glued to the game tonight.
In your first meeting with DPS staff, you mentioned that a blogger had criticized you for leading with your adoption story and poor powerpoint skills. That would be me.
You weren’t the only candidate who read my blog, doing your homework on DPS, Daniel Schorer not only read it, he accosted me in the hallway to the bathroom that night with an outstretched hand- and introduced himself. I didn’t want to introduce myself to him because of my bias to Mr. Lawrence being IMHO the best candidate to solve our problems, but as I heard my name slipping out of my mouth- he said “I read your blog, and I want to sit down with you if I’m selected.”
I would suggest you do the same. You are about to undertake a monumental challenge, with very little actual institutional knowledge about our city and how it works. There are 2,494 published posts on this blog, and literally 10x that in comments, over the last 10 years. This is the blog that covers Dayton politics, it is well read, by friend and foe. I will give you the unvarnished realities of Dayton and the challenges that you are facing. Many of them will depend on competent communications practices- something DPS has struggled with.
As to your presentation, while you may believe your adoption was the defining moment of your life, I don’t think you had anything to do with it. If you think that makes an iota of difference in your ability to turn our district around, I’d like to hear your rationale. You had limited time to sell yourself, and that was time wasted. I’ve had discussions with David Lawrence about how to sell your vision of the changes needed for DPS and I’ve advocated for a Pecha Kucha style presentation- 20 slides, 20 seconds each, that clearly and forcefully layout a plan. This presentation format leaves no room for excess, for ancillary ideas, it’s a globally accepted format to challenge people to change their thinking- and it brings a rigor to presentations. Not only should you have a PK to presentation, you should integrate it into the curriculum, setting a challenge to students with their new Chromebooks – have a district wide competition, to present their ideas with confidence.
You will need to turn to outside sources to work with your rebranding efforts. You will need to find a company that has the tools and smarts to re-position this district as anything other than the worst school district in Ohio. I own one such ad agency. I believe my firm has the tools and skill set to help you do it, but, by no means just take my word for it, do a search of “Dayton Advertising Agencies” and see if The Next Wave comes up in the top of your organic search. Look for the post Agencies That Aren’t The Next Wave — The Next Wave and start reviewing sites. Look for content that teaches and informs, look for discussions of how to do effective marketing, branding, building a brand voice. Narrow it down- interview the creative leaders of the four or five that you think fit your vision of communication strategies. Ask them how much they think it will cost a year for their services, and how much it will cost to effectively change the culture and brand perception of Dayton Public Schools? Ask what their first steps would be? Ask what they’d do if they were you and had no budget? Find out who would be their point person on the account, and what kind of access you’d have? Ask for before and after case studies of changed perceptions for their clients. Then hire someone. Push it past the board as a non-negotiable. Stanic did.
You took a contract for one year, for $140K. We both know that’s a low number for a huge challenge. The one year contract on a two year problem doesn’t exactly show they had the full confidence in you. Hopefully, there is a big performance bonus in it, or at least a healthy renewal built in after the one year training wheels come off.
Stanic rented an apartment downtown. Not that you will get to see the inside of your abode much this first year, but, if you really want to make a statement, buy a house. In the district. I’m going to say in Historic South Park, but that’s personal bias. The number one problem we’ve faced for the last 30 years I’ve been in this neighborhood is that young people buy here, but leave as their kids turn 5. You need to meet them, hang out with them, come to our Porch Patio and Deck parties (you missed the one last night), and figure out how to stop that trend.
I’ll also throw in this idea- hire Dan Schorer right now. Put him in charge of hiring 100 new to the district teachers. Have him go out and talk to the community and sell your vision while you sell it internally. Bring his political glad handing skills to the district. He’s already liked by the board, and you’ll need help. Base his compensation partially on minimizing the amount of money the district pays to outsource teachers. Have him work on making sure the teachers we have, come to school.
You have one year to prove yourself. You see yourself as a Michelle Rhee and must be prepared for the same kind of love/hate she’s engendered over her career. Look to your staff carefully and figure out who are the doers and who have ridden in on the “friends and family plan” that has allowed the Peter principle to flourish within the district. Ask hard questions. Those who can, will have answers, those who can’t answer, find their replacements quick. Having rot within the organization just spreads rot.
Last but not least, if we are going to roll out 1-to-1 computers, that cost $200 each, stop treating them and like some kind of Tiffany ring. Give them to the kids, teach responsibility, accountability and pride in ownership. Don’t spend $1500 on locking carts- spend it on proper carrying cases. Don’t give them the keys to the universe- only in school, let them take them home. Set up programs where kids can work to earn money to pay for damage they did, don’t sit and make excuses like “parents won’t pay.” It’s bad enough we stopped letting kids take textbooks home as if they were also works of art- don’t make the same mistake again. The internet, the computer, is the key to personal pursuits of knowledge, give our kids an equal chance. This is the one issue on the Technology Review Committee that has me livid. You can fix it.
And if you want the rest of my ideas on how to help you succeed, you should be able to figure out how to contact me, my LinkedIn is up to date (is yours?).
Citizen participation is something we love to do in Dayton. Groupthink is rarely the way you solve difficult problems. A quote from Ross Perot has stuck with me for a long time, “Whenever anything is being accomplished, I have learned, it is being done by a monomaniac with a mission.”
Leadership isn’t about appeasing the masses, it’s about invigorating them, selling them a rally cry, focusing their efforts on what needs to happen first, second and third in order to reach the ring. And, you better make the ring something they want.
So when the Dayton Board of Education trotted out their three candidates for our next superintendent, you’d expect a real sales pitch- not about them, where they were born, not about what they’ve done, but about what their vision is for the Dayton Public Schools and how they are going to do it.
What we got was three, mediocre, uninspiring presentations- that frankly could have been about any school system USA. There was no rigor, there was no delving into the real issues we’re facing. The candidates went in alphabetical order, a resume was handed out, a 6 question survey- which didn’t have a space for notes, and a comment card. They were color coded for each candidate- and collected and tallied before the Board went into Executive session to discuss who knows what.
This wasn’t a room full of professionals evaluating real plans, this was more like a high school class president election, with a lot more at stake and slightly more time allotted to each speaker.
Rhonda Corr began with how she was adopted. What that has to do with running our district I’ll never know. Does Dayton have a higher percentage of students who are adopted than other urban school districts? She talked about growing up in Cleveland, her work there, including her bi-lingual skills. When she talked about her successes- instead of having clear graphs, showing actual test data- she had the horrible Microsoft powerpoint clip art. The deck looked like PowerPoint 101 – first assignment. She glossed over her experience in Chicago- again- no real, hard facts, and described her termination there as being one of those things where bad things happen to good people- guilt by association, declaring her innocence. Was I inspired? Hardly. She was locked down behind the podium, almost like a lecturer.
Dr. Greg Roberson had a much better looking deck. It had to look good, because what he was selling was Dr. Seuss concepts to a NASA convention of astrophysicists. In the room, were most of the DPS principals- who had come out to support the candidate that didn’t make the cut- who was observing from the back wall. These are the instructional leaders of Dayton Public Schools. These are the people who manage the buildings where education takes place. As the only internal candidate, he should have been selling these folks his plan- grown out of his 10 months on the job at a cabinet level position. Instead of wowing them insight into the specific problems facing DPS, he comes up with his big idea, supported by his ridiculous data analysis- “if you look at our failing test scores- and just remove the kids who miss more than 10 days of school a year, you go from failing to passing.” He comes up with his little mnemonic for everyone to chant together- and there you go. We just need to have more truancy officers, interventions and a feedback loop to make sure kids come to school and we win! Yeah.
I had the gall to ask him to name the principals and their schools- or acknowledge them individually for coming out tonight- and got booed. Apparently asking someone to know 28 of the leaders of your organization of which you preside over is too much of a test. I’m sorry- if you want to lead our schools, and you already work there, I think it’s fair to ask that you know who reports to you. Also, I used to see former Ruskin Principal, Devon Berry on my street often, looking in to get one of the Crouch boys to school. Just showing up on the doorstep isn’t enough. Maybe, if we had schools that offered stuff that kids thought was worthwhile- like extra-curricular activities, or arts, or computer programming- they might be more interested, oh, yeah, and they weren’t hungry, or dealing with other more basic problems.
I’m pro-military, and generally think there is a lot that a veteran brings to the table. However, of all the candidates, on paper, Roberson is the least experienced by far. Bringing that up apparently isn’t fair either.
While I was at the mic- the battery on my camera’s hard drive died- and I didn’t pick it up until part way into Dan Schroer’s presentation. Maybe the battery was protesting my treatment. Maybe, there should be some other video of all this, done by someone from DPS.
Dan Schroer was very different than the other two. Before we even got started, he was glad handing like a politician. I tried to make it past him to go to the bathroom before the whole thing got started and he almost blocked me in the hall, demanding to shake my hand and know who I was. When I said my name, he responded that he has read my blog. I tried to dismiss him with I was in favor of the candidate who didn’t advance, and he came back with that if selected, he looks forward to meeting with me. If that doesn’t rule him out, I don’t know what would.
His presentation was also generic. No specifics. But, I gotta say the guy is likable, friendly, took the time to shake every questioners hand, asked their name. He’s the kind of salesman the district, hell, the city, the region needs. Give him good material to go out and sell a turnaround- and he’s your guy. He could charm the business community into engaging the district, he could help sell a levy, he’s Mr. Personality. He has practically no urban experience and when asked what he’d do about fights at athletic events, it was more police- even after I said the community was looking for alternatives to criminalizing behavior.
The candidates all came back with a 2 minute wrap up. What was really needed was a discussion with the board about the real issues we were worried about. The principals know what the problems are and so did some of the people in the audience. None of these candidate had a plan.
Here’s what a competent plan would have addressed at a minimum:
We have a “Catch 22” with Human Resources in DPS. We are short about 100 qualified teachers going into next year, our pay is low, our moral is horrible and because of the distinction of being the worst in the State- it’s incredibly difficult to recruit teachers. We’re also losing teachers at a ridiculous rate. Its a huge cost penalty we face in turnover, and it’s a major distraction when almost every day we’re short staffed by 20%. Forget kids in school, if the teachers aren’t there, we’re going straight into the States hands.
The communications part of DPS sucks. We’re going to be into July, before we have the new Superintendent on board. Corr said she’d spend the first 90 days listening. Damn, she won’t even start working on the problem until schools been in session for a month. None of the three presented the way they were going to transform perception, improve moral, right past wrongs, figure out how to sell the turnaround. Corr did mention PR in her presentation. Roberson had a bad type logo of DPS Proud in his. Only Schroer had the skills to sell a plan in my estimation, but, he didn’t have one to sell.
Transportation has been a constant nightmare at DPS. If you can’t get the kids to school, home visits and truancy officers don’t even become an issue. This is a constant complaint of almost all parents. There are solutions to this. Not one of the three even knows it’s a problem.
Connecting schools to the community is also a problem. With our desegregated/resegregated, magnetized/demagnetized, neighborhood/zone schools there is not a real working infrastructure to building relationships with parents and the community. Throw in the impending hail mary of converting three schools into middle schools into the middle of this mess and you’ve just added more complexity to an already dysfunctional school system. When I asked Corr her feelings on restructuring- she said it’s already the boards decision, but when pressed, she said she prefers PK-8 as an organizational model.
I didn’t see much to address any of these issues in these presentations. What I saw was a three ring circus without lions, ringmasters, elephants, clowns, or any of the regular parts of a real show. As mentioned in comments on another post- I did see Clayton Luckie parading around- and heard him say he was going to make a comeback, just like Marion Barry I thought. He said he’d beat me if I ran against him- and that David Lawrence will never be DPS Superintendent, apparently in retaliation for the district allowing Jonas Smith (Clayton’s uncle) to retire as Athletic Director.
City Commissioners Jeff Mims and Joey Williams were in the audience. Mayor “City of Learners” Whaley wasn’t. Her pal Tom Lasley, Dr. Education himself, was there- in support of Lawrence.
We now wait for the Board of Election to make up their minds on which one of these candidates will lead the district into the State takeover and eventual switch to an all charter system- like what they did in post-Katrina New Orleans, where Ms. Ward will be ready to roll with her charter management company (some have observed that Ms. Ward is probably more of a charter person than a public school person).
Others are talking about running a slate of candidates to replace some people on the board. The last time a slate was advanced it was the infamous “Kids First” group of 4 woman, who were backed by Reynolds and Reynolds with a $200K campaign. They helped pass a levy that made the construction companies a lot of money building new schools- and they bought the Taj Mahal downtown from Reynolds for a ridiculous price making their election one of the best political investment of all time.
My bet is the Board will want to hire Corr, and either choke on her price, which will probably be in the $200K or more price range of Ward- or they’ll end up with Schroer, who will come for considerably less and doesn’t scare any of them. Corr could also end up going somewhere else if they don’t lock her in quick. With just two weeks before the outgoing superintendent departs, they are cutting things awful close.
Dr. Baguirov dallies along while the Schools fail.
The Dayton Board of Education is lead by Dr. Adil Baguirov, who seems to think that the world waits for his decisions. Apparently, the 2 year deadline for State takeover hasn’t lit a fire under his butt, but it seems to be under others.
Today 3 Dayton Public School teachers quit, including an Engineering lead at Thurgood Marshall who is going to Springfield schools (update as of Friday, Jun 9- he’s remaining). Between the leadership vacuum, the impending takeover, and lower pay scales, everyone who has to depend on Dayton Public Schools for their paycheck is running scared and away from an already demoralized district.
Dr. Adil Baguirov, well, he’s out of town, so no new round of interviews till next week. One of their finalists already is probably going elsewhere. Time doesn’t wait, but Adil does. And note, the candidate from Beavercreek- with a much smaller responsibility than what the two DPS candidates have- was being paid at least $113K a year. That’s probably more than Gregory Roberson or David Lawrence make for dealing with a district twice that size- but, no- Dr. Baguirov doesn’t worry that maybe one of them might go apply for that newly open position and say “we’re done waiting” for his extended, leisurely timeline for selecting a superintendent. Remember- Beavercreek isn’t failing. It’s not at risk of a state takeover. It has money, computers, facilities, and, no one gets stabbed on the playground in broad daylight.
Why the board kow tows to the bullying of Dr. Baguirov is a mystery. There are six other people there, who have to realize that the market for superintendents willing to risk taking over a failed district for a 2 year turnaroud is kind of slim. But, wait, did I hear he wants to bring in even more candidates, and start over?
That a plan wasn’t firmly in place when they didn’t renew Lori Ward’s contract is the first sign of a clueless operation. That they’ve stalled so long that their candidate pool is shrinking is the second. That they don’t understand the cost of turnover, of firing, of learning curves- including the all important local socio/political landscape is beyond comprehension.
At this point there is only one candidate that they should hand the reins over to, and everyday they wait, is a few more empty positions to fill, and a day closer to the takeover. Make the decision next Tuesday or resign Dr. Baguirov.
Dayton can’t afford to lose any more assets on your education in hiring leaders.
“No one is coming to save your kids. You’re going to have to save your own kids”- Geoffrey Canada speaking at UD to a packed house of people who want answers to how we’re going to teach our kids.
Of course, the irony is- that’s why they asked Geoffrey here to speak- to tell us what the answers are.
And if you were listening- you heard the answer- but, you won’t like it.
Geoffrey calls it the “physics of education” and explains it in one of those math story problems we all hated (at least I hated as a kid)- but this one was easy: if a train leaves Dayton (obviously, Canada hadn’t heard about Governor Kibosh- I mean Kasich) at 9 a.m. heading East at 39 m.p.h., and another leaves at noon going 39 m.p.h.- when will train B catch up with train A?
This was to explain how you can’t expect kids who start behind- to ever catch up with kids who start at grade- working with the same number of hours of instruction. Basically- the metrics we somehow believe are supposed to work- learn one year’s material in 180 school days- only works for middle and upper class kids. Hello?
Not only that- but, even with our current system- he pointed out that a high school diploma is almost worthless in today’s job market- and even though our graduation rates suck- esp. for black males, 75% of our kids aren’t even fit for military service (he cited the report by a slew of generals “Ready, Willing and unable to Serve“). If they can’t even stop bullets for Uncle Sam, how the hell can they do something productive?
Of course, while we can find money for “Air Superiority Fighters” that cost a billion a piece- we’re unable to do the simple math- that by spending an extra $5K a year per student- for a total of $60k for a HS diploma- we can easily save the $35K a year we’re going to spend locking little Johnny up later – or paying for his unemployment, his uninsured medical costs, his bastard children and the baby mommas we all love to watch on Jerry Springer.
But, don’t even worry about the money. The reality is, we’re becoming a third world nation as it is. There are better educated people, willing to work for less, all over the globe. Not just making cars- but even willing to design and engineer them. Yep, we may have the guns, but we’re running out of people who can use them- and pretty soon, we won’t be able to make them either.
Canada talks about responsibility and accountability for teaching. This is always a sticking point with our “educators” that are failing to properly prepare our students for today’s global economy. In no other profession is failure so widely accepted, and no one gets fired (well- except for the wizards on Wall Street, but that’s another story). He’s not even worried about firing the mediocre teachers- just the bad ones- and catches hell for suggesting that some people weren’t cut out to teach. Why this is so hard to believe is unbelievable, since all of us had at least a few pathetic teachers growing up. Mine was a former nun- who became a Social Studies “teacher”- every student realized she was a joke, and so did other teachers- but she marched on to the same retirement that my best teachers earned. Thank you David DiCarlo, Betty Levy, Steve Young and Larry Geiger.
I’ve written about Canada before on this site- and long before I had heard of him- when I first ran for mayor, proposed that Dayton differentiate itself by providing 24-hour subsidized child care for residents as a way to draw people and jobs into the city and improve our schools.
Unlike other politicians- 20 years later- my ideas are still sound, and there to be seen and discussed- they also offer real solutions to problems- that we could try here. Over and over, Canada said, we can’t keep doing the things that aren’t working and expect different results (without throwing in the Einstein definition of insanity).
So, to Dayton Superintendent Lori Ward- are you willing to reinvent Dayton Public Schools to make success the norm?
Here are some suggestions on how to transform our schools:
Teachers are paid to teach for a school year (180 days)- lets change the terms and they are hired to move a child a grade level instead. Can’t get the kids up one grade in our standard 180-day year- either increase the school day- or lengthen the school year. You, and your students, earn time off by performance. We now have almost all schools air conditioned- so the longer school year shouldn’t be a problem.
Since we’re moving to “neighborhood schools” and should be able to cut busing considerably- let’s also end the 2-block collection rule. All students in a neighborhood will walk to the closest school building or a collection point- up to .75 mile from their home for k-3 and 1 mile grades 4-8 and 1.5 miles 9-12. This will help kids get to know kids in their neighborhoods (since kids could be going to DPS or to Charters) and help connect the communities.
Offer day care to all future DPS students starting at 90 days- till kindergarten. As part of the subsidy, parents must either have a GED or HS diploma or be enrolled in a GED program to qualify. The parents will be offered opportunities to attend Sinclair Community College if they successfully complete their GED. Family planning and counseling will be part of the program.
Rebuild our public recreation and parks departments- creating neighborhood sports programs city wide.
Institute new programs in the schools: mandatory learning of chess starting in first grade, tai chi and martial arts in every school, and a “Think and Grow Rich” influenced self-awareness program for every student.
And if we want to properly prepare kids for a digital world, it’s time to supply every student with a computer, move to open source texts and eliminate the flow of paper in our schools.
Canada ended his presentation with a poem he wrote in 2007 “Don’t blame me”
The girl’s mother said, “Don’t blame me.
Her father left when she was three.
I know she don’t know her ABCs, her 1,2,3s,
But I am poor and work hard you see.”
You know the story, it’s don’t blame me.
The teacher shook her head and said,
“Don’t blame me, I know it’s sad.
He’s ten, but if the truth be told,
He reads like he was six years old.
And math, don’t ask.
It’s sad you see.
Wish I could do more, but it’s after three.
Blame the mom, blame society, blame the system.
Just don’t blame me.”
The judge was angry, his expression cold.
He scowled and said, “Son you’ve been told.
Break the law again and you’ll do time.
You’ve robbed with a gun.
Have you lost your mind?”
The young man opened his mouth to beg.
“Save your breath,” he heard instead.
“Your daddy left when you were two.
Your momma didn’t take care of you.
Your school prepared you for this fall.
Can’t read, can’t write, can’t spell at all.
But you did the crime for all to see.
You’re going to jail, son.
Don’t blame me.”
If there is a God or a person supreme,
A final reckoning, for the kind and the mean,
And judgment is rendered on who passed the buck,
Who blamed the victim or proudly stood up,
You’ll say to the world, “While I couldn’t save all,
I did not let these children fall.
By the thousands I helped all I could see.
No excuses, I took full responsibility.
No matter if they were black or white,
Were cursed, ignored, were wrong or right,
Were shunned, pre-judged, were short or tall,
I did my best to save them all.”
And I will bear witness for eternity
That you can state proudly,
“Don’t blame me.”
By Geoffrey Canada February 2007
When people ask me why I still run for office- it’s because I believe there are solutions to our problems- that there is a way to change things.We don’t have to resort to paying companies to locate here- we just have to do what we’re supposed to do in our city and they will come.
Geoffrey Canada has achieved “the impossible” with his Harlem Children’s Zone. A community that couldn’t give a building away 15 years ago- now has the same buildings going for $700K. The “real residents” of Harlem are having to fight people off from coming in and buying up the neighborhood. He’s spoken to presidents and been on “60 Minutes”- he’s written books- he’s even been on Oprah, he has the answers- right in front of us.
The problems aren’t insurmountable- we are. We keep electing the same idiots. We keep accepting the logic that locks up a higher percentage of people than even the least “democratic” nation out there. We spend trillions on wars and their machines- while ignoring the most important resource we have: our kids. Because without them, there is no future.
Dr. Stanic barely has given up the “interim” title, and already PR issues are at the forefront. First was the no-bid PR contract to a Cleveland firm that was responsible for sending him to Dayton in the first place. Now, he’s running into a showdown with historic preservationists.
The problem with the highly charged preservation issue is that Stanic is fighting with a bunch of rules written by the construction lobby and dictated by Columbus, and his constituents are fighting to preserve romantic memories and their heritage. Mary McCarty describes Stanic’s frustration with the issue
Dayton’s interim superintendent, Kurt Stanic, could barely contain his impatience with opponents of the demolition of the old Julienne High School building.
About 90 minutes into the contentious meeting, Stanic asked for a show of hands: “How many of you voted for the bond levy in 2002?”
A significant number of hands went up.
“Well,” Stanic said, “if you voted for the levy, this is what you voted for. You voted to accept the rules of the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which earmarks the money for new construction.”
He didn’t actually say, “Gotcha!” but it sure felt as if he did.
I voted for the levy in 2002, and I certainly don’t remember any language that stated, “If you vote for this levy, we’ll tear down every last historic building in the district.” With the notable — and admittedly costly — exception of Stivers, that’s exactly what the district is proceeding to do.
Joe Lacey, a member of the Dayton Board of Education, said, “I don’t think anybody understood that. If they had, the levy would have failed in all the major cities, and the state would have to look at all the rules they have that favor new construction over renovation.”
Lacey said OSFC regulations are more negotiable than the superintendent indicated, “but the school district hasn’t tried to push them in terms of renovation. That said, they’re still stuck with the problem a lot of the state funding is based on square footage and the Julienne site is a lot bigger than what they need.”
Despite audience perceptions, Stanic said he didn’t feel angry or upset during the meeting. “I’m a very direct person,” he said Wednesday, “and maybe people aren’t used to that.” He added that the purpose of the meeting wasn’t to rehash the fate of Julienne, but to unveil the plans for the new building and solicit input. Stanic made strong points about the nature of his role: “My job isn’t historic preservation; it’s elevating the level of instruction.”
Missing from his comments, however, was any sense of real compassion for the feelings of the community that aren’t mere nostalgia; they stem from a passion for preservation. What lesson is here for our kids? That new is better than old in every case? That there’s no value in preserving the past?
Former Kettering Mayor Marilou Smith, president and valedictorian of the Julienne class of 1945, described the meeting “as kind of a downer.”
“The superintendent had some valid points, saying he took on a terrible job,” she said. “But I don’t think he was too sympathetic because he believes we need a new school right now.”
Stanic made it clear he would tear down the building the minute he got the go-ahead: “We’ve already waited a year, and that has cost the district at least a million dollars in the cost of new construction. I have to recommend what’s economically feasible and in the best interests of the school district.”
Perhaps sensing her cause was getting nowhere, Donna Martin, the head of Preservation Dayton, urged the more than 80 audience members to attend the meeting at the Dayton Plan Board at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20, where Julienne’s status as a local historic landmark will be debated.
It seems the preservationists missed a salient piece of ammunition in their favor: Dayton’s two top-performing schools, Stivers and DECA, are both housed in “old” buildings. If Stanic thinks there is any correlation between the quality of education and the age of the building, he’s doomed at improving student performance with his brand new set of buildings.
The Julienne/Dayton Christian building hasn’t suffered the maintenance neglect that has plagued other DPS buildings like Roosevelt. It’s also got an auditorium that can’t be matched. Granted, DPS isn’t planning on using the site for a High School, but, how about considering a combo-school, central office? Maybe it’s time for DPS to try to sell off the rest of the downtown palace- since they’ve recently managed to hand off the Training center across the street to Premier Health?
Is the battle over Julienne really where he wants to begin his relationship with the community? Considering that the “preservation lobby” in Dayton is one of the most consolidated power bases in the city- maybe compromise would be the smarter move. There is also the Julienne alumni that have ties back to the building. This may be an opportunity to build bridges into the greater Dayton community. Unfortunately, his PR consultants from Cleveland have no idea on how this all plays in Dayton.