DPS continues controversy with bizarre moves

The Ohio High School Athletics Association sent a clear signal to Dayton Public Schools last year after they identified DPS District Athletic Director Mark Baker as the linchpin to the attempt to throw the Dunbar/Belmont football game. Instead of letting Baker go, and moving forward, DPS under former Superintendent Rhonda Corr, dug its heals in and gave him a two year contract.

This is what happens when people like City Commissioner Jeff Mims is advocating for you from the sidelines. Even though Mims left the school board and the state school board for his eventual throne on the City Commission, he still thinks he’s the man behind the curtain at DPS. Why else would he be the co-chair of the illegal task force on School Closings?

When OHSAA vacated Dunbar’s win in the tournament for failure to sit players for 2 games due to the bench clearing brawl at Thurgood in January, moving Thurgood back into the tournament, DPS decides to go to court to force Thurgood out and Dunbar back in. How does this help DPS students at Thurgood?

Legal action should have been taken against OHSAA- when they declared that students enrolled in Charter Schools now had to play sports at the school closest to their home- instead of closest to their charter school- and kids were torn from program after program- DPS sat on their hands. Because they aren’t really in it for the kids- they are in it for the money, just like the charters.

thumbnail of Incident File – Dunbar v Belmont – 1.26.18 – Redacted_Redacted

Redaction done by DPS staff. Click document to view full PDF

Defending Dunbar and Rookie Coach Chuck Taylor seems odd, especially after they had ordered Chuck to sit two games for his calling a parent a bitch. I’m unable to confirm if Taylor did in fact sit two games. From the attached reports on that incident:

Mr. Taylor in the Dayton Public Schools Athletic Handbook it states: Our goal is to not only be successful in our endeavors, but also to act according to the ideals of both good sportsmanship and good conduct on and off the court. Our program should operate with: integrity, honor, respect, and accountability. The use of the word “Bitch” to refer to a parent regardless of the situation showed a disrespect for women and our parents in which the Dunbar Varsity Team and the Dayton Community witnessed. This sets a poor example for the young men under your leadership.
Due to the severity of this incident I am imposing a two game suspension that will be served on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 and Friday, Friday February 2, 2018. Lastly we cannot always control the actions of our parents but we must control the way we react to them.

The program has been in total disarray since Baker was given his contract, and then forced the most successful coach in Dayton athletic history to the side to replace him with Taylor.

I’ve been informed that both Mark Baker and Dunbar principal Crystal Phillips are on paid administrative leave right now. This is unconfirmed at this point.

Acting Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli held a really stupid, short press conference on Thursday night with the three members of the slate, Harris, Al-Hamdani, and Wick-Gagnet standing mute behind her. The board members refused to comment, however, the choice of the three is telling.

The three remaining members who made the mistake of hiring Baker and letting former coach Pullen go, were no where to be seen: McManus, Walker and Taylor.

The lone independent candidate, Jocelyn Rhynard, seems to be doing her standard silent analysis of the issues, and may or may not weigh in before this is said and done. She’s cautious to the point of being ineffective so far.

What seems to be missing from all this is accountability at the top. Over Mark Baker according to the organization chart left over from the Corr era- is PR hack Marsha Bonhart, who had to have a hand in directing the press conference where nothing good was done.

It’s obvious that Lolli has no idea of how this is playing publicly. since she has zero connection to the community. Generally, this is seen as an embarrassing sidestepping of the actual need for action.

Litigation is never the best strategy for the court of public opinion unless you are either the underdog or absolutely guaranteed a win. DPS is neither in this case and will end up with even more egg on their face.

The only right course of action was to fire Bonhart, Baker, Phillips, Taylor and allow Thurgood to move forward and put this shitshow behind us and beg forgiveness from OHSAA.

Instead, we’re risking expulsion from OHSAA if we lose, and then, DPS will see even more exodus of students who used to stay in Dayton to be a part of powerhouse sports programs.

This school board and superintendent are getting horrible legal and strategic PR advice. You read it here first.

DPS: Special meetings are to avoid scrutiny

The announcement came on Thursday the 22nd- which is a day earlier than normal.

The Board wants to meet Thursday February 27, 2018 at 5pm to have an: “Executive Session to consider the employment, dismissal, discipline, or compensation of public employees and to investigate charges and complaints against a public employee.

The Board may choose to reconvene in public session for the purpose of conducting a public vote.”

That’s boilerplate text- and my guess is this will be where they make Dr. Elizabeth Lolli the Superintendent, with a multi-year contract, without public input, without asking the community how they feel about her, or where there is any opportunity for anyone else to apply.

And you know what? That’s just fine, because after I’m done with my lawsuit- and the judge finds that the Task Force met in violation of the Sunshine laws, Lolli, Burton, Abraha, Al-Hamdani, Walker and Harris, will all be unable to take action on closing any schools- because they discussed the issue in an illegal meeting.

If you need to see the visuals of the illegal meeting- the one the judge will review- watch “Goodbye Sunshine”

Unfortunately, this board is just as much of a mess as the last board, despite their shorter meetings.

At the community session on Thursday at Meadowdale Elementary, the community groups said the same thing over and over:

  • Safety
  • Communications and Transparency
  • Have a plan and stick to it

Unfortunately, there was only one board member actively engaging the community, Jocelyn Rhynard. The other board members, Walker, Al-Hamdani, Harris and Commissioner Mims, all stood off to the side, either talking to each other, or observing. Same can be said of Lolli, and DPS communications guru Marsha Bonhart.

As I walked from table to table, group to group, I recognized people at every table. And I kept thinking to myself, if David Lawrence was Superintendent, one, we wouldn’t be having a community in an uproar, because he actually understands and knows the issues and the community members- but, that he’d have his sleeves rolled up and be actively engaging and learning from the groups.

That’s why we need to have a board that comes clean on its plans for a superintendent in advance, and give the community an opportunity to weigh in.

Just remember, another man the last board passed over to hire Rhonda Corr – went to Springboro schools, which had been in turmoil, and brought order and pride back to a challenged district. That man, Dan Schroer, also managed to get Springboro to pass a levy on the first try ever.

I warned you about what would happen with Joey Williams. I’m warning you again, this board doesn’t understand open and honest communications, and as long as they feel the need to keep pulling secret meetings, emergency meetings, they will never earn the trust of the community.

And they won’t move this district forward.

thumbnail of Lolli’s smoking gun email

Before Al-Hamdani is in office, only he and Harris are in the loop

In the 171 pages of internal communications they released to me through a public records request- there was this gem from Elizabeth Lolli to Bill Harris’s private email and Al-Hamdani’s private email before Al-Hamdani had even taken office:

2. We have the first meeting of the Facilities Task Force on Tuesday, January 9 from 9:30-11 :00. The agenda includes a review of the district data that we have collected. I will make sure that you receive the same information Tuesday evening.

3. DPS has officially joined the Montgomery County ESC Business Advisory Group. The group has been meeting (Superintendents, Reps for the Superintendents and a consultant from MCESC) to develop the Ohio Department of Education Business Advisory Plan. They have been meeting monthly to write the plan, but after the plan is submitted in March, the meetings will be quarterly.

4. I am meeting with Phil Parker and Rick Stover on Friday to discuss the Accountability Panel and suggested changes they have for that group. We will also begin to plan out how best to rework the Contract with the Community. I will update you after the meeting to share the ideas they have and gain your input.

5. Tommy Owens met with me on Friday. He is suggesting that the BOE hire his firm to do the “grass roots” marketing for the district. He indicated a guess contract amount would be around $45,000.00 and he requested that we agree to hire him for two years ($90,000.00) if his company is hired. Please be prepared to weigh in with me on this idea. We currently have two PR people and we employ the Ohlmann Group.

7. Hiwot and I have our monthly review meeting with the Mayor and Shelley Dickstein on Wednesday. am meeting with Bill Burges on Friday to discuss a strategic communications plan that will include recruiting our students back to DPS.

What do you need to know about this: The Facilities Task Force is a district committee- being given privileged information. The district is now part of the Montgomery County ESC advisory group- the same ESC that I was denied the ability to serve on the board of. Lolli is making a beeline for Phil Parker of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce and Rick Stover– who is tied to everything business interest in Dayton- including CityWide Development. She’s talking to Tommy Owens – about marketing, when she wouldn’t talk to me, and also meeting with Bill Burges from Cleveland- who ran the campaign for “The Slate” of Harris, Al-Hamdani, Wick and the unfortunate loser Paul Bradley.

Used to be this had to go through purchasing- because it was mandated- now, we can just hire at will. BTW- someone find a company website for Tommy Owens please? I can’t find it.

Lolli isn’t working for the full board. She’s not informing the full board. If I was the board members cut out of these communications, I’d fire her.

But, then again, 3 of the board members were involved with hiring Rhonda Corr over David Lawrence and can’t admit they made a mistake. And four new board members don’t know what the Sunshine laws are.

Same screwed up situation, different actors. Sorry people, Tricks are for kids, not the way you move a district forward.


DPS school closing task force- first meeting

This time, there were chairs for an audience. Didn’t stop Channel 7 and the paper for claiming they were the ones who stopped the first meeting (by leaving the room). All the TV stations were there. Noticeably absent was Dr. Robert Walker, board member. But DPS was there in force- Dr. Lolli, Dr. Burton, Treasurer Hiwot Abraha, head of facilities Richard Reyford, and of course the PR dept. Marsha Bonhart and Dr. Venita Kelley.

The district even filmed it.

I did too- and made a little video of the pertinent parts about the open meetings laws:

thumbnail of PRR – School Facilities Task Force 2 – 1.24.18

Future Think, formerly DeJong-Healy offered a summation of their study on enrollment projections

I wasn’t given a packet- but DDn reporter Jeremy Kelly offered his up for me to photograph. I later asked the district for digital copies and got scans of printouts (not ADA compliant)- which I am sharing here.

I took photos of the votes on the white board. I’m posting those. Each member was given two dots- to help rank what they thought was most important.

The task force added two members thanks to pressure from the NAACP- Loretta Williams- their education director, and another minister. At the NAACP meeting the minister to people ratio was probably 20-1. When you consider that both African American school board members are ministers- we now have 3 ministers on this task force- and still not a single parent, student, or non-affiliated community member.

The task force asked for more data- and all of it was from the district- once again, proving that this is an official committee of the district- fully required to be open meetings compliant. The information that they were asking for wasn’t rocket science- and should have already been gathered and available to the internal administrators of DPS- who should have been able to do this themselves- because that’s what they are paid to do.

However, it’s pretty obvious from Dr. Burton’s first spreadsheet presentation in December- right up to yesterday, that she’s a blithering idiot pretending to be smart.

The slides with the building costs per student are all incredibly incendiary because  she includes the Jackson Center building which is housing the former Longfellow students. Something like 30 students, 3 teachers- and a whole building to heat and light. Outliers like that shouldn’t be part of your curve. Shock factor for stupid people. If you pulled that shit in a board room of professionals you’d be fired on the spot- after they laugh you out of the room for even presenting it.

I’ll say it again, including Dr. Tom Lasley of “Learn to Earn” is like GM inviting Fiat Chrysler in to decide what plants to close. The man has his own tax funded, un-regulated school board, that hands out public tax dollars to private companies to take DPS students away from the district for substandard pre-schools.

This is a WTF inclusion on a task force that for the most part, may be smart people, but, when you get down to the reality of it all- we pay professional administrators in DPS to do this work, including our interim Superintendent, and have a school board who we elect, to make these decisions. This is a total abdication of their responsibilities and handing off public decisions to private enterprise. Which, of course, is what caused all these issues in the first place- since DPS has been losing students to less-regulated, charter schools, which for the most part- either perform on-par or much below DPS.

thumbnail of ED498849

We’ve been there, done that when it comes to performance

The task force is “studying building closures” – a facilities decision, yet are asking a lot of questions about school performance and quality. This is outside of their assignment, but what would normally be done by an accountable superintendent. Here is 96 pages of the same bullshit from the “Council of the Great City Schools” from 2002 talking about fixing the schools. No need for more study- what’s been missing is competent leadership that can restore faith, order and competence to the community.

When it comes to facilities and performance, now that the only people who will benefit are the people who have designs on acquiring the closed buildings after 2 years of vacancy for pennies on the dollar, or those that receive income tax dollars from the employees- we have to realize that the buildings, the locations of the buildings and the where the students live that go to those buildings have NOTHING to do with the educational performance in the buildings. Educational performance is people- buildings are just a tool. Oakwood does fine with 100 year old buildings, we could too. This task force should be limited purely to operational efficiencies- which mean costs of transportation, costs of keeping the buildings open, and how to best fit the students we have into the least number of buildings for efficient operation. We bus kids no matter what. Walking is so last century.

The obvious answers on reducing operating costs is to close Valerie- because it’s an old building, shut down Longfellow at Jackson Center, sell off HQ and the building across the street. Reduce HQ staff costs which are among the highest in the state. Move back to the old HQ on First Street- or lease back a tiny bit of Ludlow from it’s new owner. Sell off the vacant land that the district is still maintaining and then temporarily close EJ Brown which is a mess. Make a decision on if you are a PK-8, PK-6, 7-12. or 9-12 or whatever- configuration and stick to it.

Then aggressively work to bring kids back into the district over the next two years. Ask everyone in the district making more than $100K a year to take a pay cut to $100K with bonuses if they bring kids back to the district- and if they get “A” grades in annual progress. Put your money where you mouth is.

thumbnail of PRR – School Facilities Task Force 1 – 1.24.18

DPS School closing task force handout- glaringly incomplete

The agenda for tours should tell people something- first three buildings are Valerie, Meadowdale Elementary and Wogaman. Two are in Harrison Township and pay no Dayton income taxes.

The reality of this whole exercise is that the people we elect, and they pay, to run our schools are being subverted by an ad hoc organization with no accountability to the people of the city of Dayton.

Our new “interim superintendent” is handing over this process to City Manager Shelly Dickstein and the people can sit in the back without any input as these outsiders overrule home rule.

The entire school board should be recalled for abdication of duty, but since Ohio makes it almost impossible to do, we’re stuck with what we have.

Reverend Harris and Mohamed Al-Hamdani are driven by other factors, mostly their own egos.

Al-Hamdani has already been rewarded with a job in the county building- working for Russ Joseph in the County Clerks office. This hasn’t yet been made public. Note, Board member Sheila Taylor works in the City Clerks office where Russ Joseph used to be her boss. When the local party controls two members via their patronage jobs, we’re already in trouble.

This task force can only bring more trouble.

The board needs to start interviewing for a real superintendent, and figure out who can lead this district, because right now- it’s not them, it’s not the interim superintendent and it certainly isn’t the staff, who sprung this on the community at the last minute.

  • Dayton Public Schools closing task force priorities
    The task forces’s voting on priorities
  • Dayton Public Schools building closing task force guiding principles
    Dayton Public Schools building closing task force guiding principles




Task force conflict of interest?

A reader pointed out an overlooked relationship.

Dayton City Commissioner Jeff Mims

Dayton City Commissioner Jeff Mims

Dayton City Commissioner Jeff Mims, formerly of the State Board of Education, formerly of the DPS Board of Education is supposed to be the building closing task force co-chair with Mohamed Al-Hamdani who will be seated to the school board tonight.

His daughter, LaDawn Mims-Morrow is the principal of Residence Park Elementary (AKA World of Wonder). It’s one of the schools on the closing list- and gained fame when a 7-year old student was stabbed on the playground during recess. The assailant was never found.

How Mims can serve on a task force where an immediate family member is affected is just one more question this community needs to ask.

Of course, since they want to hold all their meetings in private in violation of the Ohio Sunshine Laws, we won’t be able to ask that question.

Esrati and his video camera shut down first task force meeting before it starts

I couldn’t get an agenda. I couldn’t get confirmation of the meeting. I showed up before 9am, set up my camera, and waited.

thumbnail of School Facilities Task Force- Meeting One agenda

The “Agenda” that the interim Superintendent handed out.

The Board Secretary and I exchanged pleasantries. I spoke to the Superintendent. I took a photo of the agenda (which I shared on FB and with the Dayton Daily News). The Superintendent was the one to tell me the meeting started at 9:30.

Just before the meeting started, Dayton Daily news reporter Jeremy Kelley started asking questions of City Commissioner Jeff Mims and school board elect Mohamed Al-Hamdani about the legality of this meeting- citing ORC and the Open Meetings Laws (commonly called the Sunshine laws). At some point, they told Kelley that it wasn’t a public meeting and he’d have to leave. My longtime friend Chuck Hamlin, cameraman for CH 7, packed up his gear, the CH7 beat reporter and Kelley all headed outside the room in the airlock- and then to the street. Kelley started calling his bosses telling them he was told to leave.

I stayed. Camera running. Mama Nozipo Glenn stayed as well, sitting on the sidelines quietly.

DPS PR person Marsha Bonhart came over and told me I had to leave. I suggested she call the police, because that’s the only way I’m going. She said she wouldn’t do that. Next thing you know, the Superintendent apologizes to everyone and adjourns the meeting that never started. People mill around. CH 7 comes back in and interviews some folks (of course not interviewing me).

It’s clear that Mohamed Al-Hamdani didn’t pay attention to the sunshine laws when he was in law school. It’s pretty obvious that Jeff Mims, despite years of public service on DPS school board, the State School Board and the Dayton City Commission- didn’t read the law either. Nor do they care about being honest and open about their plans for the school district. And, Al-Hamdani hasn’t even been sworn in yet.

Rev. Harris was also in attendance as was Dr. Walker, the Treasurer Hiwot Abraha, the associate superintendent Sheila Burton and a few other staff. All should be censured. The OSBA clearly lays out the rules.

Board member responsibilities

The role and function of board members often are misinterpreted by the public. The board is a policymaking body and members are the chief advisors to the superintendent on community attitudes. Board members do not manage the day-to-day operations of a school district; they see to it that the system is managed well by professional administrators.

Board members do not evaluate staff, other than the superintendent and treasurer, nor do they typically become involved in employment interviews, other than those of the superintendent, business manager and treasurer. Board members may be consulted during the hiring process for other positions, such as assistant superintendent.

Source: Running for a school board | Ohio School Boards Association

It continues- I’ve highlighted a few things that are pertinent to this discussion:

As a start, the following guidelines are offered. A good board member:
Knows that he or she can legally act as a board member only when the board of education is in session. No one person, unless authorized, should speak on behalf of the board.
Avoids administrative decisions or attempts to second-guess the administration. The superintendent is the chief administrator and the board has no administrative function.
• Is well acquainted with school policies.
• Should vote at all times in the best interests of the children of the school district.
• Is flexible and realizes there are times when changes must be made, when tradition cannot be honored and when pressure must be ignored.
• Remembers that board business often requires confidentiality, especially in processes involving students, personnel, land acquisition, negotiations and security.
• Is interested in obtaining facts, but also remembers that the administration has responsibility for operating the schools, rather than spending all its time making reports to an individual board member.
• Is a good listener at board meetings, on the street corner, in the community or anywhere else approached, but never commits himself or herself, the board or the administration.
Knows that the reputation of the entire school district is reflected in his or her behavior and attitude.
• Is able to support a decision when it is made.

The reality is- this is an illegal body, trying to operate illegally, and board members and a prospective board member, seem oblivious to the law.

As further background:

This was what I sent yesterday:

From: David Esrati <[email protected]>
Date: January 8, 2018 at 11:14 AM
To: Denise Gum <[email protected]>
CC: Jyllian Guerriero <[email protected]>, Marsha Bonhart <[email protected]>
Subject: Request to be added to the mailing list- Public records request
Ms. Gum,
I would like notification of all meetings of the “Task force” that was announced last Thursday.
For clarification- what time is the meeting tomorrow– and is there an agenda?
Could I please have those asap.
Also- can you please clarify when the authorization was voted on by the school board to direct the superintendent to engage the district in this task force?
And what the vote was?
Who chose the members of the task force? And when did the board assign Mohammed, Rev’s Walker and Harris to this task force?
And here is the condescending uninformative answer I got from Ms. Bonhart, who didn’t bother to even tell me the correct time of the meeting:
From: Marsha Bonhart Neilson <[email protected]>
Date: January 8, 2018 at 11:22 AM
To: “Denise Gum” <[email protected]>, [email protected]
CC: [email protected]
Subject: Request to be added to the mailing list- Public records request
David –
Again, please address your public records requests to DPS legal counsel Jyllian Bradshaw and/or the public information office; do not approach other DPS employees to obtain  public records. They can’t help you.

FYI – district offices are closed today, January 8th.

Thank you –

Marsha Bonhart

For the record- pertinent excerpts from the Sunshine Laws starting on page 89

The Open Meetings Act defines a “public body” as any of the following:
a. Any board, commission, committee, council, or similar decision-making body of a state agency, institution, or authority, and any legislative authority or board, commission, committee, council, agency, authority, or similar decision -making body of any county, township, municipal corporation, school  district, or other political subdivision or local public institution;
b. Any committee or subcommittee thereof;
2. Identifying public bodies
The term “public body” applies to many different decision -making bodies at the state and local level.
If a statute does not specifically identify an entity as a “public body,” Ohio courts have applied several factors in determining what constitutes a  “public body,” including:
a. The manner in which the entity was created;
b. The name or official title of the entity;
c. The membership composition of the entity;
d. Whether the entity engages in decision-making;
e. Who the entity advises or to whom it reports.
Close-up: applying the definition of “public body”
Using the above factors, the following entities have been found by some courts of appeals to be public bodies:
a. A selection committee established on a temporary basis by a state agency for the purpose of evaluating responses to a request for proposals and making a recommendation to a commission.
However, at least one court has determined that a selection committee whose members were appointed by the chair of a public body, not by  formal action of the body, is  nevertheless a public body and subject to the Open Meetings Act
B. “Meeting”
The Open Meetings Act requires members of a public body to take official action, conduct deliberations, and discuss the public business in an open meeting, unless the subject matter is specifically exempted by law.
The Act defines a “meeting” as: (1) a prearranged gathering of (2) a majority of the members of a public body (3) for the purpose of discussing public business.
c. Discussing public business
With narrow exemptions, the Open Meetings Act requires the members of a public body to discuss and deliberate on official business only in open meetings.
“Discussion” is the exchange of words, comments, or ideas by the members of a public body.
“Deliberation” means the act of weighing and examining reasons for and against a choice.
One court has described “deliberation” as a thorough discussion of all factors involved, a careful weighing of positive and negative factors, and a cautious consideration of the ramifications of the proposal, while gradually arriving at a decision.
Another court described the term as involving “a decisional analysis, i.e., an exchange of views on the facts in an attempt to reach a decision.”
Note that the Ohio Supreme Court recently held that discussions of public business may also be conducted over any other media, such as the telephone, video conference, email, text, or tweet.
In other words, just because a discussion did not occur in-person does not mean it is exempt from the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.
In evaluating whether particular gatherings of public officials constituted “meetings,” several courts of appeals have opined that the Open Meetings Act “is intended to apply to those situations where there has been actual formal action taken; to wit, formal
deliberations concerning the public business.”
Under this analysis, those courts have determined that gatherings strictly of an investigative and information-seeking nature that do not involve actual discussion or deliberation of public business are not “meetings” for purposes of the Open Meetings Act.
More importantly, the Ohio Supreme Court has not ruled on whether “investigative and informational” gatherings are or are not “meetings.” Consequently, public bodies should seek guidance from their legal counsel about how such gatherings are viewed by the court of appeals in their district, before convening this kind of private gathering as other than a regular or special meeting.