Trouble coming Tuesday morning

Bus routing for 14,000 students plus isn’t easy. In fact, it’s a pretty difficult math problem.

I suck at math. Most Americans do. Even smart people don’t understand how you do this. The classic story was that of a business school student who turned in a business plan for an overnight shipping company- where everything wen through one hub. His name was Fred Smith, he got a C. You may have heard of his company though- it’s FedEx.

Dayton Public Schools has been struggling with these issues for years, despite having less schools, less students and now 4 bell times up from 2 long ago. I watched in horror as Dr. Sheila Burton gave a single slide “presentation” on how she’d solved our bus problem with 4 bell times, new rules and cuts- that the board didn’t ask the superintendent to fire her for incompetence on the spot was beyond me.

Boston Public Schools on the other hand have a much more complicated system- with over twice as many students. They chose another way to solve this:

“A trio of MIT researchers recently tackled a tricky vehicle-routing problem when they set out to improve the efficiency of the Boston Public Schools bus system.
Last year, more than 30,000 students rode 650 buses to 230 schools at a cost of $120 million.
In hopes of spending less this year, the school system offered $15,000 in prize money in a contest that challenged competitors to reduce the number of buses.
The winners—Dimitris Bertsimas, co-director of MIT’s Operations Research Center and doctoral students Arthur Delarue and Sebastien Martin—devised an algorithm that drops as many as 75 bus routes”

from “How Do You Fix a School-Bus Problem? Call MIT” subscription required

FedEx, UPS, USPS all spend millions on figuring out how to do their door to door routes more efficiently. UPS software saves millions in fuel costs and works at refining routes in real time.

But here’s the thing- packages don’t walk. Door to door delivery is essential for them- but, not for students. For some idiotic reason, DPS still insists on trying to route buses down one way streets in historic districts that just aren’t wide enough for buses. My whole office stood and watched- and laughed – as a new DPS bus tried to turn down Adams street- I know, I should have grabbed a video camera.

Why neighborhood collection points aren’t in the solution is idiotic. Other than special needs kids- who may be physically challenged, pickup and drop-off points can be moved- and, as an added benefit, kids get some exercise.

Unfortunately, we aren’t smart enough to ask MIT or even UD to try to help. Nope, we’ve got Dr. Sheila Burton, who’s last day should be Tuesday if this doesn’t work.

Additional resources: 2 non paywall articles:
Here is a free article on MIT on public transit issues: https://www.citylab.com/…/inside-bostons-bus…/522726/
And here is a great one- with all kinds of links from NPR http://www.wbur.org/…/07/27/mit-quantum-boston-bus-routes

The DPS saga continues: Principals leaving

The agenda for last nights review session wasn’t quite complete. Many more resignations that were turned in on the 10th weren’t included. While the board was falling all over itself for their “New Digital Dashboard” for reviewing their slow improvement from failure to mediocrity, the question of how we’ll even open school in the fall isn’t mentioned.

Scratch one Megan Winston from the roster. Winston, one of their “star” principals, who took over from Tracy Mallory several years back (another “star” principal who is now working in Trotwood) resigned yesterday. And while Corr was meeting today with the remaining principals for their planning for next year this morning at 9:30 there are two in the audience ready to resign, just finalizing their contracts with other districts. Principals contracts actually run through July 31- so if you leave early, you may owe the district some money back. Of course, if DPS was smart- 1) they would work hard not to lose them- by paying better and having a contract in place, and 2) have a way to keep these valuable assets on to manage a building transition via a per diem wage.

Dr. Adil Baguirov was in fine form, boasting that the district was the first in Ohio to have such amazing technology, and possibly in the midwest. Taylor actually asked Dayton Daily news reporter Jeremy Kelley to write about this stunning achievement. Apparently, she missed the group MMS I sent to the board members and Kelley- of a link to an undated article from Columbus about their new data dashboard.

The boards internal auditor, Randall Harper, gave the paper another freebie bad news story about the Athletic Department having yet another loss of funds from athletic event collections. Board members asked how this happened- and the auditor blamed a failure to follow the procedures put in place. The Dayton Daily made inquiries on who what where and how much and got the dodgy responses we just love (he can’t hide it- so why they don’t answer truthfully is unbelievable). If this theft is related to anything relating to Dunbar athletics- it would and could have impacted the vote later- to rehire coach Powell. Whole thing was strange. In any company I work at- you steal money, you get a pink slip, not a nice request to write an IOU.

The funniest faux pas came from Dr. Sheila Burton while walking the board through the data dashboard. When looking at attendance numbers- she publicly questioned the work of The Ohlmann Group, who the board hired to do marketing and enrollment campaigns but came up short. Why this contract is still in place, if you are publicly going to slam your sub-contractor is beyond me. Full disclosure, my firm was the low bidder, and the highest ranking minority firm- and didn’t get the contract. This has been extensively covered on this site.

Last but not least, Board Member Sheila Taylor wanted to go into executive session over the Darran Powell hiring – and another personnel issue that she wanted separate but didn’t want to identify by name. Well, it’s too late in the meeting to remove an item and not be by name. If she had prepared properly, reading the agenda- she should have had the item removed from the agenda in advance. Despite all her years on the board, she still seemed lost at the basics of Robert’s rules of order- and the process to vote something separate. This is part of the reason this board is beyond help.

No discussion of the board negotiations, school start dates, or questions about the mass exodus of talent.

Just another day at the circus.

 

 

McManus makes his case for change

At last nights Dayton Board of Education circus, there were two prepared speeches. One was on the agenda, and was supposed to go before citizen comments- from John McManus, and the other, came out of left field and was read by Joe Lacey.

Lacey was grandstanding, suggesting that the board that brought this rookie superintendent into the district to raise havoc, was soundly behind the teachers and valued them. This despite the breakdown of contract negotiations after Rhonda Corr kicked the professional negotiators out and tried to do it herself.

Talk is cheap. And Lacey is the only one running for re-election.

I’d not prepared a speech, because I was hoping to respond or build on what McManus would say. I knew something was coming, although I didn’t know what it would be. As usual, he’s too much of a southern gentleman to actually name names or point a finger directly, but, it was a well reasoned preamble to either firing Corr, or changing business as usual.

Here’s what hasn’t been said- since last years resignation deadline, 135 teachers have already resigned. Despite what HR Director Judy Spurlock said last week at the review session, this is a huge number, and it will grow by July 10, this years deadline. There isn’t a teacher or an administrator in the district that has faith in Rhonda Corr, with the possible exceptions of Dr. Sheila Burton who has turned into Rhonda’s lap dog, and LaMark Baker, who owes his career to her. Any other superintendent and board would have fired him, the Dunbar AD Pete Pullen, and the Dunbar Coach Darren Powell after the Dunbar fiasco game. As we saw yesterday, this derelict board decided to pin all the responsibility on Darren Powell, wrongly. He’s probably the least culpable of the above in this matter.

I asked McManus for the text of his speech, and thought it should be published. Between his speech, which Sheila Taylor actually stood and clapped for after, and the overruling of the superintendents recommendation to rehire Powell, we started to see visible questioning of Corr’s future at the helm.

My prediction is that she won’t last 3 months. The lawsuits will begin to expose her working style and lack of leadership, as well as other questionable practices. I’ll also be surprised if this board isn’t replaced wholesale before the end of July- as resignations mount and the floodgates open from depositions and legal filings against the board.

Here is the McManus speech as written-

John McManus, reading to DPS kids. This is the only board member who gets it.

John McManus, reading to DPS kids. This is the only board member who gets it.

Last week I had the pleasure of traveling to our nation’s capitol, something I enjoy doing from time to time to take in the history and the magic of the place. While there, I took the opportunity to visit a small national landmark, a quiet place that was intimately special and familiar to one of our nation’s founding fathers. As I walked the grounds and reflected on my own life, I found myself overcome with a profound sense of gratitude to the people of this community who have given me the incredible opportunity to serve in this elected system of government that has been left to us by many who came before us.

At that moment, I promised myself that I would spend my remaining time on this Board giving it every single thing I could to earn the tremendous honor that the people of Dayton have given me. I promised myself that I would no longer allow myself to be content when I should demand more. The people of this community deserve no less. Towards that effort, I would like to re-commit myself to my campaign promises to the people, and also make my own expectations known as we close one school year and hurdle towards the next.

I ran for this seat for three primary reasons. The first was due to the fact that I thought I could put my government experience to use in helping this District navigate its way out of a takeover by state government. It struck me as a fascinating challenge. Thanks to the incredible work of our amazing teachers, our staff, students, and parents, that threat is now gone for the foreseeable future.

The next reason I chose to run is because I wanted to put my experience in public sector human resources to work, hoping to improve the District’s once-dismal HR office. No government agency can expect to be well-performing if its HR office if failing. Under the strong leadership of Judy Spurlock, our human resources office is now miles ahead of where it once was, and I am so proud of her and her staff for transforming DPS HR into what I knew it could be.

The next reason that I chose to run was to take my passion for public sector administration to our community’s school district and help oversee a large scale government agency in the hopes of making it the most effective and efficient that it could be.

With the takeover threat gone for now and with the knowledge that our HR department is in the best health it has been in in a very long time, I am re-committing myself to my promise to deeply focus on administrative effectiveness and efficiency. This year has been a year of large-scale administrative changes downtown. We have a new superintendent, a new treasurer, new administrators in new positions, and long-term administrators in different positions than they once held. By now, I am confident that everyone sufficiently understands their role, and I am making a promise to my constituents to do everything that I can to help the administration effectively run this district.

I have worked in government my entire life. I’ve worked for the federal government, state government, and local government. I’ve worked in the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. Having served in all three branches of government and at all three levels of government, I have seen what it takes to ensure that a government agency runs well.

There is one common denominator, and that is planning.

We have done some incredible things at Dayton Public this year. We’ve provided expanded learning and development to our teachers. We successfully ensured the roll out of the 1 to 1 technology program. We selected and utilized Achieve 3000 and Imagine Learning to support a differentiated and personalized support system. We implemented the gold standard of ongoing assessments, that being NWEA. We have brought career technical education programs to every single high school, and we launched the Dayton Innovative Virtual Academy. The State of Ohio has commended DPS on our groundbreaking TBT, BLT, and DLT model.  We’ve invested long-overdue resources in transportation, and we’ve invested in new text books and a course of study where one had not been introduced in 6 years. Everyone in this District, from the superintendent, staff, teachers, parents, and students have my most sincere appreciation for ensuring this progress.

While applauding this progress, it is absolutely fundamental that Dayton Public Schools begin to sufficiently engage in long term and short term planning, and communicate that plan both internally and externally in a consistent and robust way. Our staff expect it, and they deserve it.

In the coming year, I will make it a non-negotiable requirement that I be provided with weekly updates from the administration of what is being done throughout the District. A Board cannot effectively carry out its responsibility of oversight if it is not well informed. Moreover, I will require monthly status reports on progress made that is specific to our strategic plan. We have a strategic plan, but I cannot recall the last time that we as a group sat down, studied it, and asked what progress has been made in critical areas outlined on the plan. No government agency can even hope to be performing at an optimal level if it does not develop a plan, continuously reference its plan, and dedicate itself to implementing the provisions of its plan with discipline in its execution. The plan must have appropriate point persons, coupled with actual deadlines, and specific ways in which to measure progress.

My intent here is not to micromanage. My intent is to do my job as a supervisor in ensuring that my employees are adhering to their own strategic plan in a disciplined and effective way. The people of Dayton elected me, and all of us on this Board, to do exactly that.

The most effective bosses I had were the ones who expected consistent, thorough, and reliable progress reports from me on the plan that they and I set up together. I hope to do the same for those that answer to this Board, as it will help all of us stay relentlessly focused on a charted course aimed at student achievement. Remember: accountability is not punishment. Accountability is evidence of proper management.

Finally, I will specifically refer to two examples where insufficient planning led to dissolution of order and discipline. The first example is that of the proposed reduction of force of building employees in the middle of the academic year. Although I was opposed to the RIF, I can readily acknowledge that its primary reason for falling apart was the fundamentally insufficient planning of what would come after the RIF. In fact, we had failed to replace multiple positions in senior management at the transportation garage for months after the RIF, leaving our director of transportation doing his best to lead our entire operation on his own. Our students, families, educators, and staff deserve a reliable transportation system, and I cannot help but wonder if better succession planning would have helped avoid confusion and embarrassment related to busing this year. We cannot lead and make critical and strategic decisions when the planning is insufficient.

The next example is that of the process surrounding the acquisition of marketing services. At the beginning of the year, I made a video informing my constituents that one of my three top priorities this year would be the implementation of an effective marketing program at Dayton Public Schools. This responsibility is a sacred one for me, as I was asked to approve others to speak for me to my constituents who gave me the honor of sitting in this seat. It pained me to vote against the proposal, considering that marketing was one of my highest priorities. The RFP and RFQ process was ill-handled to the point that we had to start over. That kind of performance is unacceptable for a government agency with nearly 3,000 employees and an annual budget of hundreds of millions of dollars. By the end of the ordeal, I had little to no confidence in the process and little to no knowledge of the vendor’s actual plan of action to provide effective marketing for Dayton Public Schools. By now, we have spent a small fortune on marketing, and I can only hope that it has tangible and measurable results by the time enrollment numbers are provided to the Board.

I have said what I felt I needed to say. In the coming year, I expect more information, more coordination, and more planning. Updates to the Board are critical, as is relentless adherence to our strategic plan. Long term and short term planning must be at the heart of what we do, and that plan must be communicated externally and internally on a consistent and revolving basis.

I will remind you of my reference to all of the transformational changes that have occurred at Dayton Public Schools this year. To all of you who were responsible for its implementation, I am so thankful to you for a job well done there. In the year ahead, let our planning and communication be at the center of all we do, and you will see that the changes that have been made this year are only the beginning.

Thank you.

School board member, John McManus, Business meeting, 20 Jun 2017

It has been revealed that the DEA and the professional DPS negotiating team are scheduled to meet with the Federal mediator separately in early July. The goal is to put a contract in place to stop anymore teachers from leaving the district and to begin the slow process of rebuilding respect between the parties.

I don’t see any hope for this district with either the current Superintendent or board and believe both should be removed by a judge, who can evaluate a number of insanely bad decisions, disruptions and questionable practices. Considering there are 14 people with petitions out right now, very easily the top 7 could be sworn in as soon as the election is completed in November. It would be up to the judge to say which of these existing board members should be allowed to run again.

In the meantime, an interim superintendent or superintendent team, should work hard at teacher retention, solving the bus/driver problems, and rebuilding the trust of the staff that’s stayed and the parents that haven’t walked.