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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.