Dayton Public Schools fail marketing 101

This is far from the first post on the extended failure of Dayton Public Schools to manage their marketing resource acquisition.

If this is your first time finding out about this, this post is the full recap, with all the documentation to let you examine the process and see how to fail at issuing an RFP for professional services. First clue- don’t have a single marketing professional on staff to help you evaluate what you are buying.

Second clue: have someone who has no knowledge of how to pick an ad agency write the RFP/RFQ.

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The initial RFP for “Comprehensive marketing services” issued by the Dayton Public Schools

With that said, here is the absolute failure that they issued to start the process. It was missing so many key pieces of information, like a budget, an objective, that it made me wonder if there was anything already written to serve as a guideline for picking an ad agency for governmental organizations. There wasn’t, so I wrote this for The Next Wave blog: Hiring An Agency: The R.F.P. Guide (for Governmental Organizations)

Well, actually I wrote it after the School Board missed their original start deadline of Sept. 21, and threw out the recommendation of their purchasing department who ran this “process” on November 1st.  It was pointed out that their “RFP process” kept favoring big firms, who they’d already worked with, and that the scoring rubric seemed to be off- especially since my firm had real diversity qualifications (Certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business by the VA, HUBzone by the SBA, Ohio ED/GE). They also wondered how a team that included a photographer, Larry Price, who has won an Emmy and the Pulitzer prize for photojournalism twice, didn’t rank higher as “qualified.” Five firms applied. Due to a cc instead of bcc on an email, I knew who the competition was. Had the process been handled competently, my bid should have been very well received.

Superintendent Corr’s answer was to suggest they go out and ask other districts how it’s done. Next came a new instrument to ask for proposals- this one, a Request for Qualifications. The difference being that the purchasing department is supposed to be ranking how qualified each agency is to do the job – to suggest who the board should consider issuing a contract with. Since there isn’t really supposed to be any proposed work, the instrument should be administered in a way that’s kind of like the Pepsi Challenge- blind of branding, just asking to see examples of past work, and describing the skill set of each organization. Yes, you can ask for prices- for a set service, but, usually, you would leave out anything that would tip off an evaluator who submitted what.

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DPS issues RFQ to replace RFP for marketing services

This wasn’t how they did it. In fact, much of the RFQ was a copy and paste job from the RFP. They were still asking for timelines, plans, and now, added how would you spend $75K. This time only 3 of the firms bid, with one subcontracting one of the other first round bidders to fill their “diversity” quotient.

The RFQ asked for a lot of “reporting” proof. Can you show that your marketing dollars spent were effective type things? Showing Neilsen numbers (as Ohlmann does for a lot of their response) doesn’t tell anyone how many widgets were sold. And, unless it’s the EFFY awards (Effectiveness), no ad awards shows actually care if your ad actually sold more widgets, but awards were important. Laughably, The Ohlmann Group bragged at length of how they’d won lots of “Mercury Awards” from the local ad club- the only problem is, they aren’t real awards given by judges- it’s a popularity contest- much like what the Dayton Business Journal does with “Best Pizza in Dayton” awards.

The RFQ, much like the RFP was based on a Board provided guesstimate of total hours of 3120- or 1.5 man years. This district is in much greater need of 1.5 man years- especially if they are hoping to do a rebrand. Both Ohlmann and The Next Wave would want to fix the website that was built in a proprietary content management system (supplied by the third bidder Upward) that has already cost the district a small fortune. Hilariously, it can only be maintained by one person in the district, the current default Public Information Officer Jill Drury, who came out of TV news and has no marketing chops.

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DPS Q&A for the RFQ

There was a Q&A issued 2 days before the turn in deadline of 20 January, 2017. In it, it clearly put a cap of $300K on the project. My firm, The Next Wave bid under it, at a fixed price to deliver 3.5 man years or 7280 hours. And, as a caveat, as long as we were on retainer and doing the work we specified- all the other stuff that they never budget or foresee, we’d do it at the effective rate of $41 an hour. The other two bidders were considerably more expensive- with the average hourly rate of $113 for the “winner” picked by purchasing and hired by the board without a contract review before the vote.

Now, what I’m asking you the reader to do, is to pretend you care about your school district, and where public dollars are spent. And take the time to actually read the proposals submitted by each of the three agencies.

Then read the score sheets/evaluators forms. Then read the contract issued to the Ohlmann Group, waiving the 48 hour rule to vote on it a week early at a meeting without public comment. Then, you decide- who had the best plan, the most cost effective proposal?

Remember that there is still a digital divide in Dayton and that the households feeding DPS schools are mostly poor and many don’t have reliable high speed internet. Also know that almost all broadcast media would have serious over-reach, delivering the DPS message to people who wouldn’t send their kids to DPS if you paid them (the exception being St. Ivers- I mean, Stivers).

That’s why The Next Wave proposal for a media spend of $75K a year was to hire someone in each neighborhood to meet the kids at the central bus stop and take attendance as the kids got on the bus. Then to follow up in the neighborhood with housecalls on homes where the kid may didn’t made it to the bus- and to try to figure out what the district can do to get the kid in school- all before the bus even makes it to the building. Novel idea? Creative? More valuable to the district than a TV campaign? You tell me. Some friends of mine who run a very hot shop in Minneapolis have a mantra- “Actions speak louder than words.” Doing things always beats talking about them in our book too.

Here are the documents provided by the DPS legal counsel for each agency. Note, she gave me scans of printouts, not the original high resolution PDF’s that each agency submitted, with the hope that the low-fi, non-ADA compliant docs wouldn’t be able to be posted and indexed as well- but, don’t worry- I ran them through OCR. Only The Next Wave doc has working links.
Note, the Ohlmann and Upward submissions both run 100 pages. The longest proposal we’ve ever done for a non-governmental client has run 6 pages. Why government purchasing departments think requiring so much information actually helps the process is beyond me.

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The Next Wave RFQ response

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The Ohlmann Group RFQ response

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The Upward Brand Interactions RFQ Response

Next is the evaluators score sheets. We were told there were 5 evaluators and that one was the superintendent. One can assume the woman from purchasing who ran this mess, Teri Allen, was also one. Obviously, after me calling for her firing after the first round debacle, she’s going to score for anyone but The Next Wave.

The comments in scoring are very different for the three firms.

Of course, my mockery of the actual RFQ in our response- which had the audacity to ask for an Org chart when DPS barely has one, isn’t helping engender warm fuzzys, but, this district has serious problems and asking about org charts makes me wonder?

How does an Org chart make you do better ads? Websites? Video production?

The real key is to read the RFP and then realize the RFQ is yet another cut and paste job- looking to create “gotchas” instead of to actually evaluate what an agency is bringing to the table.

I always tell new clients that hiring an agency is a lot like dating- it takes almost a year before you really know enough about each other to do anything really great. Of course, if you baseline is decades of mediocrity, it’s not too hard to look amazing out of the box.

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The RFQ scoring instrument

The last document is the actual contract, which was presented to the board on board docs as a $112,500 contract instead of $345K. Then there were the two additional “option years” making the whole thing a million dollar commitment.

The school board actually bought this contract, without reading it. Mostly because they were told they had a 90 day out (which was specified to all bidders in the RFQ).

The contract has one hinkey legal mistake, that should make it null and void:

2. In the event of a conflict, precedence shall be given to the following order: (1) this document, (2) the Request for Proposal, and (3) the Contractor’s proposal response, (4) “SOW’ for specified project scope.

Uh, what RFP? This was a response to an RFQ. The RFP had been withdrawn. Of course, you can’t see the top secret RFP, unless it’s actually awarded. Of course, The Next Wave proposal didn’t shy away from sharing our ideas fully- because, well, we actually care enough about this district to have done all this journalism to expose the incompetence at the top.

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The DPS contract with the Ohlmann Group

The real question is, how many people will take the time to examine all this? Probably not many.

That’s why we produced a video to walk you through the whole thing- ending with the absolutely insane meeting between Board Members Adil Baguirov, Sheila Taylor and John McManus with the representatives from the Ohlmann Group.

We’ve already posted and talked about this meeting, and a few of you watched the whole 90 minute debacle. The meeting was mostly Dr. Adil Baguirov showcasing his marketing expertise, including advocating for the use of Flash- a web application that’s almost universally despised by any modern web developer and has never been usable on any Apple iOS device.

You are probably wondering what the next step is? It’s pretty obvious that after calling for the resignation of 5 board members, and Superintendent Corr, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll change their mind and hire us. Of course, come Jan 1, 2018, there will be four new board members who may want to be able to fully explain why the current board and their picks for Superintendent and Treasurer have caused this district more trauma than triage.

There is another post coming that should clearly change the course of coming board action, but, it will take a considerable amount of time to write and fully document. It’s the final chapter for one of the DPS pretenders.

In the mean time, to those of you who take the time to read all the docs, I’d love to hear your evaluation of this three ring circus.

DPS bus buy should get someone busted

You read about the U-turn the School Board seemed to pull last Thursday at their “review session” last week on Esrati.com Dayton Public Schools. Unsafe leadership, unsafe buses

Today, we bring you the emergency meeting of the finance committee, the meeting that was hastily called after last Thursdays discussion.

The first question should be of course, why the rush? Did a district that hasn’t bought a standard school bus since 2010 seriously not have a full plan in place? This is the purchasing department that also knows how to run an RFP/RFQ process for marketing so well that they can present their findings to the board, without substantiation, or even a contract to review- and the board buys it lock, stock and barrel.

Going back to that marketing contract- the one where district legal counsel Jyllian Bradshaw spent an inordinate amount of time telling the board that if they were to listen to a presentation, or review the documents, they would have to recuse themselves. “You have to follow our scoring rubric” were her instructions.

So when Dr. Adil Baguirov presents his document “DPS New Bus Purchase: buy 30 buses, or finance or lease 60 buses or 115 buses?” to the finance committee tonight, does this mean he built a rubric, went out to bid, accepted bids and scored them? Did I miss something and find out he’s now on payroll in the purchasing department? And, superintendent Rhonda Corr who is the CEO of the district, is allowing this to happen? Didn’t she learn anything in Chicago when her boss got sent to prison for kickback contracts?

Since when do school board members negotiate contracts?

When is someone going to investigate Baguirov’s role in the real estate negotiations that sold the Patterson Co-Op site for half the value of a parking lot a block away? Why wasn’t the board and superintendent informed of a $900K offer on the Patterson Kennedy elementary site that was previously offered for a minimum bid of $720K but got no bids?

The more we watch the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education, the more questions we have. Maybe that’s why they meet more, do less, and have worse schools than any other district in the region.

Note- this bus issue brought board members Sheila Taylor and John McManus out, possibly causing this to be an illegal unannounced meeting of the School Board. Sitting mute- doesn’t really solve the issue. Dr. Walker even said Dr. Hazel Rountree wanted to attend, but didn’t for that very reason. This issue was so supercharged that Board member Joe Lacey said he was resigning his duties as finance committee chair for this issue when it is to be presented at the board meeting tomorrow.

Here’s the video of the meeting. Please feel free to share in comments what lines you like best- as our board members go where board members never should be involved.

Dayton Public Schools. Unsafe leadership, unsafe buses

Last night the Dayton Board of Education had a “review session.” Yes, it was a Thursday night meeting, instead of a Tuesday. Yes, it forced Board Member John McManus to have to call off work. Dr. Robert Walker and Ron Lee weren’t there. They held it in the room outside the board room- at the big square table. It was at least ten minutes in before Board Member Sheila Taylor who has repeatedly told them she is hearing impaired, had to ask for microphones. The board wasn’t taping the session, but I was.

Good thing I did, because yet again, we had a train wreck.

Or, more accurately a bus wreck.

And, yet again, no one in the DPS purchasing department under Treasurer Hiwot Abraha was fired.
The last time DPS purchased full sized buses was 2010. That means our newest buses are 7 years old. According to the expert from the Ohio Board of Education, Robert Harmon, buses in Ohio last 12.5 years- and our average fleet age is 13.5. Buses usually are retired at 150,000 miles- and Dayton has 40 over 200,000 miles. Every time the state comes to inspect, DPS loses  7-10 buses at a moments notice because the buses are deemed unsafe.

Dayton has a fleet of approximately 180 buses, and should have been replacing about 30 buses each year for the last 7 years to keep the inventory in rotation. But they didn’t.

You can blame the last school board, you can blame the last administration, you can blame anyone you want, but the reality is, without operable buses, kids don’t get to school. If they don’t get to school, well, that’s how the district gets straight F’s.

Parents are frustrated. Kids are losing. The district under Rookie Superintendent is a rudderless ship. This is the leader that gave me a first marketing assignment of how to improve attendance back in July. First clue: get the kids to and from school.

If you need evidence of failure- read this email I received today from the grandmother of a student who worked in my office under YouthWorks about 4 years ago:

No Bus, No Solution!
Hi, I am (youth works student’s) grandmother an I have sent emails, called both the Superintendent of DPS and to the head of transportation about not having a bus for my grandson to come home on because at times I do not have the money for bus fare or we have no ride to pick him up! 3 times this week no afternoon bus and went through this in Oct.2016 for 2wks. I have to keep him home due to this at times since no one can let me know that yes there will be a bus this afternoon! Since (grandson) is mildly Autistic this stresses him out and I don’t like that because of DPST they are not doing their job and say the same thing over and over! I have got to the point of thinking of pulling him out of school and do homeschooling because of the busing problem. Also there was no morning bus twice the week before and we have to be outside at 5:45am for the morning bus and had stood out side for 45minutes waiting in 6 degree temperature or even colder! Even email John McManus too  last night when I saw him on the news. I don’t want to hear about what may be done in the future they need to do something now! Is there anyone who can get in touch with? I just don’t know what to do! Thank you,

Coincidence? There are no such things.

The proposal on the table was to out right buy 30 buses for 2.5 million or so. The transportation experts both said you need at least 60 this year and the same amount each of the following year. They also pointed out that buses are currently around $85K each and next year they are projected to cost $100K. So every bus you buy now, saves you $15k- or to put in a marketers terms, buy 6 and the seventh this year is free. Put another way, the costs of maintaining current buses is also getting cost prohibitive as well, never mind you are failing the kids.

But, here is where it got weird: while the transportation guys knew we needed 60 instead of thirty, no one from purchasing had a justification for the 30 number- or why we were buying the buses outright for cash. There was no decision matrix, no chosen vendor, no information about warranty, vendor, or long term strategy.

Purchasing was deaf, dumb, mute and uniformed.

Then came Dr. Adil Baguirov to the rescue. We should finance 100 buses this year, it will cost us the same this year as buying 30 outright.

Wait? Where did he get these numbers? How did he know?

And why didn’t anyone else know?

Deja vu all over again, this sounds like the CareSource deal, which only the guy who has a private business in the health care sector seemed to know all the details. And the Patterson Kennedy land offer, where again, he was the only board member who knew there had been a $900K offer on the land- that had been rejected without being presented to the Superintendent and the full board.

No, not Dr. Baguirov, the guy who claims his main business is trucking and logistics? Yup. That guy.

The only board member who buys commercial vehicles for his business knows the whole set of options better than the people we pay to manage our district transportation system and guide purchasing.

By the end of the meeting, while Treasurer Abraha can’t figure out if we are leasing or financing the 100 bus fleet- she caves to say “acquiring” – the board wants a proposal on Board docs asap so we don’t have to waive the 48 hour rule to commit to spending 8.5M on buses next Tuesday.

That’s right- we only needed 30 buses at 5:30 but by 8, it was 100 and we’re going to have yet another meeting on Monday afternoon of the finance committee to knock this deal down in a hurry.

5:05 pm today from Cherise Kidd via email:

Special Meeting – Finance Committee March 20
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 of the Finance Committee of the Board of Education of the Dayton City School District, Montgomery County, Ohio, to be held on Monday, March 20, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. in the 5th Floor Conference Room located at the Administration Building, 115 S. Ludlow St., Dayton, OH 45402.
The purpose of this meeting is to discuss potential financing options for the purchase of buses.
The media is being advised of this meeting in compliance with the Ohio Sunshine Law.

Respectfully,
Robert Walker, D.Min.
President
Dayton Board of Education

Not that the board can whip up the money and just run down to Joe’s School Bus lot and pick out 100 bright shiny buses anyway- the wait time according to the experts is 6-8 months from order to delivery, but we have to do this deal in a hurry. Sort of like the contract with the Ohlmann Group that the board wasn’t allowed to see, voted a week early on, and then wondered why nothing had been done three weeks later, and oh yeah, btw, the deal wasn’t for $112,500 a year like on Board Docs, but for $345 a year, with a one year contract and 2 one year extensions (more on this to come).

This is just one more example of the incompetence of a criminally negligent school district at managing the health, welfare and safety of our schools. ?Buying buses is just part of the solution, we’re still failing at routing, staffing, and demonstrating competent leadership.

A real superintendent would have fired someone for even suggesting that a 30 bus purchase was a viable option, here, we didn’t.

It’s time to remove this school board, superintendent, treasurer and legal counsel for gross incompetence. The only way to do this is to collect over 4500 signatures and present the failings of this board to make reasonable and competent decisions.

This one, has put children in danger.

That’s not what schools are supposed to do.

Criminal incompetence at a Dayton Public Schools Board of Education meeting

For the last 6 months the new Superintendent, Rhonda Corr, has been trying to excommunicate David Lawrence from Dayton Public Schools. The former Chief of School Innovation, was demoted several times to try to get him to quit. She couldn’t use the Reduction In Force (RIF) ruse that she used to clean out some of downtown last fall, because she assigned his duties to no less than 3 other people.
She brought in Dr. Elisabeth Lolli and Dr. Markay Winston at similar or higher pay, and also assigned some of his work to Dr.  Bucheim. You can review some of this mess in the really long post: The calamity named Rhonda Corr.  Corr could have assigned David Lawrence to be the principal at the troubled Meadowdale too, but instead, hired in a guy from Texas. Lawrence was signed to a contract through June of 2018, and it was either work with him or buy him out. That’s how contracts work.
Lawrence started to use some of his accumulated 20 years worth of sick leave while his attorney and the board negotiated an agreement for his separation. Here is a copy of the very easy to read separation contract: DPS-LAWRENCE Agreement 2-17
Three short legalese paragraphs set the stage, and then the first clause:

1. Upon his execution of this Agreement, Employee shall cause to be delivered to the Superintendent his irrevocable letter of resignation from all employment positions held with the Dayton City School District. Said resignation shall take effect on February 21, 2017.
Employee’s letter of resignation shall be accepted by the Board, without public comment, at its next regular meeting following Employee’s execution of this Agreement.

But, when this item comes to the board, you don’t have to watch very long for Dr. Adil Baguirov to start commenting- thereby violating the contract, and voiding it.  First with his discussion of waiving the 48 hour rule to vote (as specified- “its next regular meeting”) thinking this isn’t an emergency. The reason they had to waive the 48 hour rule is because they can’t seem to prepare for meetings and actually post their agenda more than 48 hours in advance for issue C & G.

Baguirov is right, there has been plenty of time to discuss and post and not need the waiver. I pipe in “This is incompetence”- out of order.

Then Dr. Walker asks to move to executive session, and then Baguirov says we shouldn’t get rid of Lawrence on fiscal competency grounds, and then says to give a very qualified administrator over $200,000 to see him go as essentially unearned income.

Then he speaks on behalf of Board Member Taylor- who would agree with him, but she’s not here. Lacey says talking about what other members think is wrong.

Then Rountree jumps in that this has been discussed plenty in executive session, and no one knows why Taylor isn’t there. And calls for the up or down vote.

Ron Lee then has to agree with Rountree that this should be voted on. And that earlier decisions weren’t right (like hiring Corr over Lawrence?).

Then they are to vote to waive the 48 hour rule, Baguirov and Lacey vote no, the rest vote yes, 4 yes, 2 no.

Then there is confusion because Walker can’t tell what to do next. Where I pipe in “The buyout because of the personality conflict” again out of order. You hear a sigh from someone.

Then Corr asks to do D, E, F- skipping the actual vote on the issue that they just waived the 48 hour rule on. #FAIL. Of course, no one in the audience can follow the agenda, because the “Board Docs” application isn’t mobile friendly, it’s barely laptop friendly.

Then Lacey agrees for D, E, F and Hazel asks you have to vote on the first one, and Lacey says you don’t and we have an argument about order- because, well, confusion is always the best way.

Then McManus talks about transportation directors- he hasn’t said anything other than yes to waive the 48 hour rule on C&G.

Then Baguirov and Lacey want to withdraw their motions and confuse it more.

Now Lacey wants to separate the motion and gets in a fight with Rountree calling it a game, and he gets belligerent and wants to deal with something different. And then back to Mr. Lawrence and E & F.

Again mentioning Lawrence. Walker mentions Lawrence. We’re now 13 min and 31 seconds in- and voting on everything but Lawrence. Rountree abstains. 5-1.

Then Corr tries to come back to number D 1, and then G, a settlement agreement. Rountree moves, McManus seconds. Walker asks for further discussion- and Baguirov says he is staunchly opposed to this, due to the RIF on fiscal grounds. He can’t allow to pay over $200,000 to someone who isn’t going to be working here. There is work that Mr. Lawrence is qualified to do. He doesn’t understand why the board would allow this. He calls it a “massive payment.” And says he’s been against it in executive.

Rountree then says “treat people in the way you want to be treated” including buyouts and goes on about contracts. Lee continues about the issue and puts it back on Baguirov for this beginning under his watch.

It doesn’t matter what any of them think, the contract had to be voted on, simple yes/no and move on, without discussion. This discussion all violates the contract. Corr didn’t step in and stop discussion. Neither did board lawyer Jyllian Bradshaw.

In a corporate setting, these intentional missteps would be cause for termination. F&I insurance may cover the cost of the failings, but the board members would still be asked to step down. Unfortunately, school board members in Ohio can’t be removed by ballot initiative. Can they be removed for exposing the district to additional lawsuits?

At this point, the correct thing to do is to accept the resignation of all who discussed the issue violating the contract, Walker, Baguirov, Lacey, Rountree and Lee. Only McManus has abided by the terms. Taylor wasn’t present to get herself in trouble.

Corr and Bradshaw were responsible for managing this process. Both failed.

Let’s begin with 5 new school board members, a new attorney, and then let the new board decide if they should keep Corr, or terminate her for cause because of her inability to not only manage David Lawrence, but failure to control the process at the meeting bringing the district additional legal battles.

The obvious choice to replace Corr as superintendent? David Lawrence.

 

 

 

 

 

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

After the smoke cleared from the shit-show that pretends to be a school board meeting last night, a week after they hired The Ohlmann group to manage their marketing starting last Wednesday, there was one really important new program launched by DPS, led by Dr. Markay Winston.

You didn’t see it in the Dayton Daily news, because the story was the controversy over buying out former Chief of School Innovation David Lawrence for “over $200,000” because Rhonda Corr is our own version of Donald Trump- if she doesn’t like you- you’re fired (except as much as they try to turn their board meetings into reality TV- this is a government organization that actually enters into legally binding contracts that have to be honored. Corr and the board will have to deal with this issue again when either this board or the new one, decides to dump Corr and she wants her contract bought out).

So what was this big news that didn’t make the news, or get a proper PR roll out? The program that isn’t on the DPS website, the one that can’t even get the meeting time published correctly?

Slide about Dayton Public Schools Virtual Academy

“Marketing” via Dayton Public Schools

DPS is starting a home school e-learning program where students can enroll in DPS and get a DPS diploma, and participate in DPS extra-curricular activities, get a DPS supplied computer, and even get free wi-fi.

Wow.

The rest of the students, who are using their new 1 to 1 computers in school, and may be able to bring them home next year (I’m on the technology steering committee and have been pushing for this from day 1), will not get free wi-fi. However, Dr. Baguirov who likes to take credit for rolling out the program in record time, under budget with amazing success says they are still looking at costs for providing mobile hot spots to students who don’t have wi-fi at home, but the costs are high.

Winston had a lame deck Dayton Innovation Virtual Academy Board Presentation Feb 21 2017 which was clearly not done by a professional marketing firm. Had the board known what an ad agency does, this would have been rolled out in a way to get free press, and make a big splash- instead of the headlines being about another Rhonda Corr failure. See the provided slide image- does that look like an exciting new program you’d want to enroll your kid in? Does it look like it’s run by professionals? None of the other slides in the deck could stand on their own as an explanation of what DPS is doing.

E-schools as they are run in Ohio are a scam. If they were compared to the worst public schools, and the worst charter schools, comparatively- they make the worst public schools look like Harvard. Virtual schools are virtually unregulated and the results are a mixed bag. The largest, ECOT- the “electronic classroom of tomorrow” is bigger than Dayton, but has graduation rates that make DPS look awesome:

With its most-recent graduation rate of 38 percent, few districts in the state rank lower. Only 35 of the roughly 700 traditional school districts and charter schools that serve high-school students have a worse outcome, and most of those are other statewide e-schools and charters that exclusively serve dropouts.By comparison, Columbus schools’ most-recent graduation rate was 77 percent. Cleveland’s was about 64 percent.

Phillis said it’s astonishing that ECOT continues to escape the scrutiny of lawmakers despite meeting only three of the 24 possible state testing and graduation standards, receiving F grades in all but one category. ECOT got a D in the performance index, which is an index of state testing performance.

Source: Popular ECOT poor performer

However, while DPS keeps bragging about their single non-F grade, an A in annual yearly progress, at least ecot has a D in state testing performance. We all know the saying “when you’ve hit bottom, the only other direction is up” is the true meaning of that A- not that they are successful.

Even though my firm didn’t win the marketing bid- I think I’ll still do the job that the people they hired didn’t do- properly promote this new program.

The information sessions for Parent Information Sessions DPS Virtual Academy will be as follows:

  • Northwest Library: 2410 Philadelphia Dr
    Feb. 27 from 10 am – 12 pm (West)
  • Board of Education Community Room
    Feb. 28 from 4-6 pm (Central)
  • Burkhardt Library: 4680 Burkhardt Ave
    March 7 from 10 am – 12 pm (East)
  • Madden Hills Library: 2542 Germantown St.
    March 9 from 4-6 pm (West)

Make sure you tell them where you heard about this new program if you chose to go.

 

Why politicians make lousy real estate developers and vice versa

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.

Amateurs. School boards and quasi school boards.

If you have lots of meetings, it’s hard for people to pay attention. That’s been the modus operandi of the Dayton Public School Board under Dr. Adil Baguirov. Meetings were long, and many. Last night, where they had to pick a new president and vp and parliamentarian, the meeting ran 2 hours, and then into executive session for at least another 2.

Note- the president doesn’t make more money, has no more power, and has no extra duties other than to run the meeting. The district is run by the Superintendent, who is well paid to be the voice and leader of the school district. So, why it took 2 hours to do that is a pretty good indication of what’s wrong. They even had a long argument about their start times- so this year, their meetings will begin at 5:30 instead of 5pm. Sheila Taylor suggested they put an end time on their meetings- to be fair to the employees who have to be there, to be fair to the board members who don’t get paid more- and to try to put a damn cap on the long pontificating from the dais that became the norm under Baguirov. She was shot down.

She also voted as the only no to appointing Dr. Robert Walker (Div.) as president and Dr. Hazel Rountree (Ph.D.) as VP. I kept waiting to hear her resign in her later speaking opportunities- it was clear she had no faith in Walker.

Most bizarre was the speech by John McManus, who basically ushered Walker to the center seat- saying he’d promised to support Walker and would vote for him, but, if Lacey or Walker couldn’t get 4 votes, he’d step in…. really?

One change, it seems DPS is now going to record all meetings, but they take forever to post them, despite having the tools and bandwidth to do it in real time.

We recorded last night.

If you are looking for insight on how they are going to solve the RTA busing issue, don’t look here, they are still saying it’s not their problem and that they can’t organize a solution because of liability issues- both, untrue, especially next week when the state does count week for attendance for funding.

But as crazy as the DPS board is, we may have a new champion in amateur hour- the “Learn to Earn” board which is now in charge of $4.5 million a year from Dayton taxpayers thanks to the passage of issue 9. To start with- they meet in Riverside, not Dayton. And while they have managed to publish their meeting schedule, they haven’t published minutes, or much of anything on their website. They still have Lori Ward as the DPS superintendent.

We sent our video genius to try to film their first meeting- so the public could see exactly what this unelected body will do with your tax dollars.

First meeting- they got a lecture on the Sunshine Laws- from someone from “Nan Whaley’s office”- here’s that excerpt:

 

Every one who is interested in Ohio politics should learn about the Sunshine laws. Especially school board members (hint, hint).

They get to spend their money anyway they want- unlike the DPS board. So hiring consultants like UD Professor Richard Stock is not a problem for the Learn to Earn (or help our board earn) board. Stock is one of the people who helped guide the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission on the abomination that is Austin Landing- with its two tier tax structure (only the little people pay taxes there).

Stock catches himself trying to self-edit, since this is a real public meeting- and, oops, maybe he shouldn’t share the facts that the pre-school promise won’t make a bit of difference to the residents moving into Dayton’s new tax abated projects- singles, empty nesters- not parents with kids- at least not parents with good jobs with kids.

The reality is, this board has to waste tax dollars, duplicating a lot of the things that DPS already has in place- finance, HR, health benefits, legal counsel, purchasing, video of meetings etc- as well as a website… that all are overhead- to help give money to people who have 5 star pre-schools? Really? Remember, DPS has the most 5 star pre-schools, and they aren’t at capacity- and have to scrounge for money.

The entire meeting is here:

Lastly, and most important- the pre-election report from  Neigborhoods for Dayton’s Future.PDF was the last filing of the organization that paid for this tax funded quasi-public slush fund. They have still not filed their post general election filing. You can see the big dollar donors in my last post about this.

Until they publish their campaign finance report, they shouldn’t be allowed to meet, or to spend any of the funds- in the name of Sunshine. Also, they need to provide minutes, organizational documents, and their articles of incorporation etc. as well as disclose all expenses. These are public tax dollars at work.

We’ll tape the Friday meeting, but after that, they should have to pay someone to do it. And, maybe, they should consider having their meetings in Dayton- since it’s our money, and our city they are working for- meeting in Riverside just doesn’t cut it.

Time for an accounting of the Dayton Public Schools Treasurer

At the parents meeting Thursday night, Dr. Adil Baguirov cited yet another set of figures for student and money loss, now claiming the loss is closer to $3 million- and that the students discrepancy was off by 8 students. Yes, we know that student counts vary, but the funding shouldn’t yo-yo like this mid-school year. He also claimed that the reserves aren’t at the sacred “10% level” needed for bond ratings from the same losers at Wall Street that ranked junk securities AAA and threw this country into economic chaos- and then in today’s paper- their treasurer, Hiwot Abraha, claims they are on track.

At Thursday’s meeting, DPS parent Dave Fanjoy asked, given howmuch money the district has in reserve, why DPS chose to make the cuts in the middle of the school year.

Baguirov pointed out that the district’s bond rating was recently downgraded by one agency, in part because its reserve levels might be at risk if there was an economic downturn.

“Their requirements are always above 10 percent of the revenue in the budget,” Baguirov said. “We do not even have that 10 percent as of today.”

DPS Treasurer Hiwot Abraha confirmed Friday that DPS does narrowly have more than 10 percent in reserve today. According to the five-year forecast that the school board approved a month ago, that figure was just over 11 percent this past summer, and is projected to march upward to 13 percent this coming summer, 15 percent in 2018, and 17 percent in 2019.Asked about those numbers Friday, Baguirov pointed out that DPS had been below that 10 percent level in recent years.

Source: Dayton school cuts may be delayed

It seems that Baguirov and Abraha can’t get their figures straight- and the district has suffered a huge PR and credibility blow- because Abraha can’t give the board legitimate numbers. This was never a problem under former Treasurer Craig Jones who wasn’t retained by this board- and is currently suing them for not following the law on his dismissal. The 19 fired “administrators” from Nov 8th- may have the same basis for lawsuits.

But, if we need proof that Abraha’s office is a mess, a parent just called me to share that her $250 transportation check from the district (compensation for driving her kid to a charter school instead of using DPS buses) bounced- and she was charged a bank fee- that the district will be liable for.

It would seem that besides not being able to manage an RFP for marketing services properly, or giving the board correct info on loss of dollars or students, the treasurers office can’t keep their accounts balanced either.

At this point- it should be easy to fire the treasurer, but the public should really be looking at firing the school board. There has never been this much turmoil in the district- and it comes down to the Board’s hiring of Rhonda Corr and promoting Hiwot Abraha- instead of keeping Lori Ward- who took the district out of academic emergency (but Corr got a $7,500 bonus for it) and keeping the steady financial hand of Craig Jones.

If you need further proof that the public has had it with this board, the staff has had it with Corr, note that a video posted of a parents meeting has 37 views in 12 hours, without me promoting it.

Other than Baguirov spouting off new “numbers”- the interesting parts are he responds to my question about the para’s firing this upcoming Tuesday- with “we probably won’t fire them until summer,”

If you need an indication why the district can’t keep jobs filled, this kind of inspiring statement should be all you need to know.

There is also an exchange between the parent who was disrespected by Joe Lacey and Dr. Hazel Rountree and Ms. Hazel, where she blows off the parent’s concerns for being talked to like a child in front of her child. As Hazel sits in denial, people chime in “watch the video”- which went organically viral on Facebook with over 5,600 views and almost 150 shares within days of posting.

And as that conversations ends, Dr. Walker apologizes for the boards behavior, but doesn’t apologize for the RIF (even if the numbers were wrong).

At some point, the public should be able to get a full and honest accounting of not only the costs of the bad marketing, that caused the loss of students, which created the funding shortfall, which caused the RIF mid-school year in an emergency that caused the loss of faith and respect of all involved and brought massively bad PR to the district and has employee morale at an all time-low.

Maybe a bounced check will be the final straw that broke the camels back.

Dayton Public Schools Board of Education meets weekly because….

Last night I went to a Dayton Public Schools Board of Education meeting. It began at 5 pm, it ended at 8pm. Most of it was in executive session.

Why did they meet? Was it because Dr. Adil Baguirov couldn’t stand the fact that John McManus was still President Pro Tem until they met again?

Or was it because they needed to discuss yet again the layoffs of the para professionals – the action they tabled at the Nov 17th meeting- and Dr. B stormed out of, because he’s so anxious to fire people.

It certainly couldn’t have been to watch Judy Spurlock the head of HR give a presentation that would have had her fired from any professional organization. She just had to provide the excuse- because there was nothing for the board to learn, to act on, to advise on, to direct, to….

The meeting was held outside the board room, around a big square table. No microphones, no video by the board (just me) and a bunch of highly paid people sitting around with nothing to add. This kind of meeting is why meetings get a bad rap.

Dayton Public Schools state of HR presentationThe presentation was titled “Human Resources: An update” and was 9 slides using a template suitable for a funeral invitation. This is the norm for DPS presentations. No standard templates from a brand standards manual- because a brand standards manual doesn’t exist.

Not only were the slides a ramble, with no clear deadlines, actionable items, or decision trees- they were read to the group. To make matters worse, Ms. Spurlock sounded like she had one foot in the grave- thanks to some sort of illness. She didn’t even have control of her presentation- instead, having the board secretary advance her slides.

They were all uploaded to Board Docs just before the meeting- as JPGs- which aren’t ADA compliant (American’s with Disabilities Act) which also means they weren’t searchable.

Typically, corporate presentations include a title, a date, and the organization name on every slide- these didn’t. After I mentioned the omission of the PDF- it was uploaded.

What did we learn from Ms. Spurlock?

We learned that a half-a-billion dollar organization didn’t have standard operating procedures for standard HR tasks: posting jobs, interviewing, hiring or enrollment. There is no system, other than an outdated Lotus notes app to manage certifications, professional development, or evaluations. That the process for firing people- which seems to be very critical right now- doesn’t really have a process for exit interviews, collection of DPS property, or even what to do with their email accounts, passwords etc. In other words, we’re dealing with an organization being run by people with systems from the eighties- maybe.

Flowcharts would be really helpful in defining the workflows- but those weren’t presented. We learned they use CASNET- without defining what it was. It seems to be some kind of document scanning and archival process. No one asked how it fit in with other systems- if they even exist? It seems that this organization hasn’t heard of ERP- Enterprise Resource Planning, maybe that’s the norm when you turn an Elementary School principal into an HR Director.

I guess I’m qualified to teach physics, because I stepped foot in the Science building at WSU a few times too.

They’d looked at one piece of software- “Search Soft”- but had ruled it out because it wasn’t user friendly. Was a specification written? Do we know what they are looking for? I sit on the Technology Steering committee- do you think this has come up? Nah.

They will launch PD Express in summer of 2017 to manage their Professional Development. Again- the presentation didn’t inform the board of costs, length of contract, where the content was coming from. I’m sitting here wondering why they aren’t using the same tools they use to teach their students for their professional development- Google Applications for Education- GAFE, why there is even a spot on the web talking about it. Of course, because this is a meeting for board self worship- those of us in the peanut gallery who would ask this question- aren’t allowed. In business, we call this “eating our own dogfood.” In Dayton Public Schools, we call this buying what some other district bought, because no one we’ve hired actually knows anything about IT, Web Development, Cloud apps, ERP, Open Source Software etc. etc.

They are planning on evaluating evaluation software in Jan of 2017. They’ll form a committee. Amazing that the outline of the goals and objectives aren’t already specified and presented- just, “hey, we’ll form a committee.”

Then we talk about “Customer Service” where we want to redesign the HR page. Really? The district just spent over $90k building and rebuilding their proprietary site with a local firm. If it’s bad after that much money, why is the person in charge still employed… oh, right, she’s retiring in 30 days, and the RFP for marketing and communications support is still not awarded.
And the redesign needs to be  “Visitor Friendly and Easy of Use.”

We also need to redesign the office to make it more appealing and have private areas. No photos to show the flaws, no sketches of new floor plans, no budget for changes, no request to hire an architect, nothing- just we don’t like our offices.

But here is the kicker- now we announce how great we are for hiring over 220 new teachers. Considering the teaching staff runs between 800 and 900, this means that there has been nearly a quarter of the staff turned over in one year. In most organizations this would send red flags. Here, the board is happy- and ready to fire more people, while promising to hire new people.

Gee, I really want to work for this organization said the new teacher. Never.

The final slide was about reading specialists and bus drivers. Sort of like talking about Lawyers and Janitors at the same time- only distantly related as in they both clean up shit.

The pie in the sky information on reading specialists brought some edu/speak jargon from the superintendent, and Dr. Rountree, who is convinced that all teachers in Ohio are reading specialists- at least they were when she came up- back in the days of chalk boards and capital punishment. I still don’t know what a “RIP Band” is- and I’m sure none of the board does either- I googled it- nothing.

As to transportation- we’re still short drivers. We fired all the supervisors. If we can’t get the kids to school or home, does any of this matter? Was there a chart of how many we need, how many we have, what we do when people don’t show up- hell no.

But, this is the norm for presentations from Dayton Public Schools staff. No substance, no actionable information, no key, no goals, random format, poorly labeled. With no clearly defined next steps.

The next step for citizens is to meet on Thursday Dec 1, from 6-7:30 p.m. at Corinthian Baptist Church 700 S James H. McGee Blvd, Dayton to discuss next steps.

For the board, they should have posted their agenda for the Dec 6th meeting by noon Dec 1- where the fate of the paraprofessionals still hangs in the balance. This was punted from the Nov 17th meeting- so, there is no excuse for not knowing what’s coming.

One of the things that yesterdays meeting did, was end the possibility of reversing the actions taken at the Nov 8th meeting where 20 “administrators” were fired or terminated. That number isn’t really right, since some reverted back to their teaching positions- which may have effectively fired someone else- and at least one, Linda Stagles, the grant writer who didn’t bring in any grants, is being allowed to retire quietly- a courtesy not extended to Challenger Learning Center director MariJane Recob. After the second meeting, board policy requires a crazy 6 votes to rehire instead of just 4 or 5.

If this district wants to establish trust, and build confidence in the community, a new respect for the people and their time and money needs to be put in place. Meetings should cover real issues and involve substantive discussion, and create actionable plans. Meetings shouldn’t be held, just so the board can go back into executive session to argue over things that subvert the power and authority of the Superintendent. If you have to discuss her recommendations that much, you must not have that much faith in her.

It’s time for a new level of transparency and honesty in our district. It has to start with the timely posting of the next meetings agenda- including groundrules for citizen participation.

 

 

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Time to file an injunction against the Dayton Board of Education

I produce a video that goes viral on Facebook, showcasing the bad behavior of board members Joe Lacey and Hazel Rountree. I produce another video that asks the viewer to compare and contrast the leadership styles of Dr. Adil Baguirov and John McManus– which gets a fair number of FB views in a short time.

Both videos end with a call for parents to be at the next board meeting, Dec. 6th- to protest their bad behavior and the coming cuts. It was unclear if the public would be allowed to speak at this meeting, since it wasn’t the normal business meeting, but, then again, they shouldn’t be conducting business at non-business meetings.

Today, a meeting is first called for 29 November 2016, notifications by Cherise Kidd, the board secretary, at 11:23 am. I write a post. This meeting pre-empts both the parents meeting on the 1st- and the meeting on the 6th where it was unclear if citizens could speak.

Then at 4:48 pm Kidd sends yet another notice: The meeting is at Dec 6th, and people will be able to speak.

Then at 5:03, another notice, the meeting previously scheduled for Tuesday Nov 6th- will be held on “Thursday November 29th”– which according to my calendar- the 29th is on a Tuesday- and Thursday is Dec 1. But- minor details. When you are incompetent, you are grossly incompetent. And, “Public comments will not be heard at this meeting. The Board will allow comments from the public at a special meeting being held December 6, and at the regularly scheduled Business Meeting.”

I’m not even sure Baguirov is allowed to schedule these meetings- they came out of executive at the long meeting- with McManus as President Pro Tem. Until they go back into executive session, or vote in a public meeting, Baguirov isn’t president, McManus is. His term ends Jan 1, 2017- but, there is nothing saying this can’t be changed now.

In a Dayton Daily news article by Jeremy Kelley, we learn the layoffs will be discussed in exec on the early meeting- Tuesday or Thursday of next week- and then the vote will be at the Dec 6th meeting- and citizens will be able to speak. That’s unclear via the public notices and agendas.

At 6:34 pm on Friday the 25th, there is still no agenda on Board Docs for this meeting that is so important. How are people supposed to keep an eye on an organization that plays these kinds of games?

The board is losing credibility by the minute.

These kind of shenanigans only further prove that this is an organization in full blown panic mode.

As far as I’m concerned, the notification process has been botched. The meeting wasn’t called legally, and the next meeting should still be the 6th.

Of course, maybe this next meeting isn’t about the layoffs, but the mess they made on the non-sale of the Patterson-Kennedy School site for more than the minimum bid?

Or could it be to end the reign of terror and confusion caused by Rhonda Corr as superintendent?

Those might actually be more pressing than the layoff question.