To renew, or not to renew, is that even a question? DPS Superintendent Ward’s Contract

The Board of Education seems to be putting their elbows in their ears and saying “Nah, nah, nah, nah” while ignoring the upcoming deadline to review, renew or take action on Superintendent Lori Ward‘s contract.

Coming due next month, Ward is paid almost $200,000 a year- and has been at the helm since taking over from Kurt Stanic in March of 2010.

The district is two years away from state takeover.

In today’s paper- we find out that:

The top Dayton Public School was Valerie PreK-6 School, at 44 percent, earning a D….

(in Graduation rates) Dayton Public’s high schools earned an A (Stivers), a B (Ponitz), and four F’s (Thurgood Marshall at 73.5, Dunbar at 66.7, Belmont at 59.1 and Meadowdale at 50.0).

Source: Charter schools fail in K-3 Literacy

The board met at a retreat on Saturday, and went into executive session- but no mention was made of the contract or plans to either retain or replace Ms. Ward.

With scores like these, the decision should be pretty clear.

Dayton Public Schools and the state report card

If I ran a dating site and described each member by height, weight, and eye color and nothing else, how many people do you think would be happy about their dates?
The state report card has become the metric for measuring schools of late- leaving out all the nuances that make up a school or a district.
That the Dayton Public Schools have been continuously improving isn’t what makes the local paper- or any big jumps in performance at schools like Thurgood Marshall High School. No, what makes the paper is that:

Eight of the 10 best performing schools in the city of Dayton are now charter schools, according to 2009-10 state Report Card data.

via Eight of city’s top 10 schools are charters.

It’s headlines like these that hurt Dayton Public Schools- but, aren’t brutal because most Dayton Public Schools parents don’t read the paper. What’s brutal is how these stories will get manipulated and spun and then “telephoned” to other parents. The difference being- charter schools are businesses that depend on recruiting students to stay open and get funding (right out of the DPS budget) and Dayton Public Schools, well, they just sit there and take it.

Emerson Academy down the street has had a sign up for months saying “Be a part of a top ten school”- they have a nice big four-color brochure (8 pages, not a little trifold) that sells the school and is mailed to households without kids- just because they know they need to toot their horn to everyone, and they need to recruit the students with parents who care and get involved- because parental involvement is probably the second highest indicator for success in school- right after income level.

Dayton Public Schools on the other hand- takes all comers, including those with special needs. Twenty percent of DPS students fall into that category- making it incredibly hard to pull average report card numbers up- and keep budgets under control. Special needs by the way- besides including those with learning handicaps, also includes students who don’t speak English as a primary language. DPS has a school, Patterson Kennedy, that would give the UN a run for its money on number of languages spoken. And, DPS also includes programs that the state report card doesn’t measure- like music, arts, and athletics (there isn’t a charter school with a basketball team- yet, I keep waiting for a charter prep boys basketball school, that can recruit regionally and screw the OSHSAA)

Because it’s the biggest school district (even after losing so many students to charter schools) it becomes the focal point of the region. Dayton Public Schools aren’t very good is a message that gets broadcast across the state- instead of a message like “Stivers School of the Arts” is one of the top in the country- or, we have four Gates scholars almost every year. This hurts in not only recruiting better students, with higher parental involvement- and higher income- but the whole region as we get lumped in as a loser community. Sure, Dunbar won the state hoops title, but, the scores for the school are low (forget about those special needs students or poverty levels).

These shallow one-sided looks at the district performance hurt our property values, hurt our communities’ ability to recruit new people, and sustain an image problem- that’s been in place since the deseg order of the seventies (which built the suburbs- as those who could afford to move did- causing the economic segregation gap to grow phenomenally).

Charter School Enrollment

Charter school Enrollment

How much is at stake? Because each charter school gets about $5k from DPS for each student, plus DPS has to pay for transportation and other services, it gets expensive. With 27% of the students choosing charters- that’s about 5,200 students, times $5 k each – you are seeing $26 million get drained from DPS coffers. Not exactly chump change- but when you start seeing these students help the charters become 8 of the top 10 schools- you can either draw one of two conclusions:

  1. Dayton Public Schools can’t educate and Charters can.
  2. Charters are siphoning off the best students and filtering out the poorest and special needs students.

Somehow I just don’t buy the first answer. I’m sure there are many who will disagree, but considering how many charters also end up on the bottom of the scale – I think we’re seeing the results of some good marketing and cherry-picking of students.

With Dayton Public Schools finally working their way back to “neighborhood schools” they should be able to boost parental involvement and create true learning communities. This has been the method of the charter that became a conversion school up the street in Twin Towers. Ruskin Elementary, in partnership with East End Community Services is working toward a complete learning community modeled after the work done by Geoffery Canada in Harlem.

Also, the Dayton Public Schools has managed to mismanage their PR for something like the last 11 superintendents. Somehow, the good parts of Dayton Public Schools haven’t come to the forefront of public perception. A lot of this can be blamed on the Dayton Daily News, the newspaper that loathes its host community. Nevermind that DPS has also been more likely to hire PR consultants for their political connections- instead of the quality of their work: Avakian Consulting, Penny Ohlman Neiman and now Burges & Burges of Cleveland on a no-bid contract. If there has been anything done to change the DPS brand- it’s been with the aide of the incompetent. (If you’d like examples- I have them- just not the time to post them all).

There is $26 million at stake in lost revenue. There are perception issues that can continue to make it harder for DPS to recruit and retain students who can perform well on standardized testing. It’s time to see a plan to counter these trends and work to solving this problem that will continue to fester and eventually kill the district if not dealt with properly.

Dayton Public Schools has changed

As he’s getting ready to slip out of town, Dr. Kurt Stanic is owed some accolades. If you’ve met him- you’d probably realize he’s the epitome of public servant: he does his job with passion, and doesn’t like to take the credit. While he’ll probably be remembered by most for wanting to tear down Julienne, his real legacy is the progress made at the high school level.

All of the Dayton Public School high schools are now engaging students and running tight ships. No more wild kids running the buildings- no more questions of who is in charge. Learning is taking place and the scores are bumping up.

It all starts with the principal- and Erin Dooley at Stivers was the first to set things straight. It was also going on at DECA- with Tim Nealon, but as a funky joint venture- they were sort of off the radar. Next came Dooley protegee David Lawrence at Thurgood Marshall- and Marlayna Randolph at Dunbar. I predicted Lawrence’s transformational skills on this site- only to be laughed at. With Gates scholars, higher test scores, better attendance and even championship basketball teams, Thurgood Marshall is becoming a school of choice- not last resort.

Today the DDN reports on Dunbar:

The state report card released last August showed the Wolverines moving up to continuous improvement, the equivalent of a C. That’s after a decade of mostly Fs. The 600-pupil school also improved in every subject area on the Ohio Graduation Test from the previous year.

So what’s different at Dunbar these days?

“We’re really trying to focus on student engagement, doing a lot of activities centered around making (lessons) relevant to real-life situations for them,” said Principal Marlayna Randolph, who’s in her second year in the job.

via Dunbar’s classroom standing on the rise.

The progress is happening with the same student population, the same teachers for the most part, and some would say the new buildings are helping too. While new paint and walls do send a message, I’m betting that new buildings are only a small part of the answer (although the security systems and monitoring are much better than in old buildings).

The real change has been leadership- from Stanic on down. Even the school board has a new found belief in goal setting and management by objective. While the board still can’t figure out the advantages of open government and properly holding meetings and doing bids properly, they do understand that you have to let the Superintendent exercise his power.

The last remaining problem is image. Busing was finally totally over last week- after 40 years of failure. The damage was done- and its effects will probably stay with us the same as a limb amputation (it caused economic segregation to replace racial segregation within the district). The only thing that can undo it is for all the schools to have Stivers like performance, and to restore the perception of safety in Dayton proper.

A tall order.

Dr. Stanic has named Lori Ward as his replacement. The true mark of any leader in my book is how well they’ve prepared their successors. If Ward accomplishes half of what Stanic did in his short reign, Dayton Public Schools will be taken seriously as a system of choice.

Basketball awesomeness in Dayton

Yes, only Dayton could get over 8,000 people to watch the 64 and 65 seeds duke it out in the “play-in” game for the NCAA. How many will show up tomorrow, March 20, as Dayton City League rivals Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall go head-to-head for the Regional D-II championship?

I predict a full house at the Trent Arena in Kettering at 3pm. In fact, if they were smart- they’d move this game to UD and sell it out. This is the game to watch folks, shut off you TVs- and come watch two great teams go at it like it matters.

I’ll be there- rooting for the underdog Thurgood Marshall Cougars- will you?

Dayton Grassroots Daily Show v.17 : Race relations in Dayton

Interesting letter to the editor in the Dayton City Paper about the Dunbar/Fairmont basketball game and some racist little suburban kids. Well written, from a Kettering parent of a Fairmont cheerleader. Thank you Yvette Williams for speaking out.

I’ve got a PDF of it for you to read, since the DCP doesn’t have a proper web site:DCP letter 120909.pg18

I’ve tried to have a discussion about race and our community- with the post about “The White City” but it devolved into a discussion about gay rights in the comments.

Here, Greg and I talk about the race issue- and what YOU can do about it in this community, starting today:

We welcome your thoughts.