Hopefully the last DPS Board comedy skit

Abbot and Costello did a famous skit “Who’s on first” where the players had names that would confuse you. “Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third”

And then we have the last version of the Dayton Public School board where “I don’t know” is on all the bases. Need proof- watch this simple procedural vote turn into a sad comedy show.

A little background. DPS makes all it’s teachers sign contracts July 10, that they will work the next year. Getting out of the contract is frowned upon after you sign it. However, people move, quit, run out of FMLA, etc- and for the most part, if you turn in a resignation, the superintendent presents your resignation for acceptance and for the most part, the board votes NO, to not accept it.

On occasion, the people you want to quit do- and they do accept it. That’s rare. Or- in this case, the DEA president David Romick asks them to accept two resignations because these people had extenuating medical circumstances and needed the “blessings” of the district, so to speak.

What follows, including the mostly comment by the rarely there Dr. Hazel Rountree, was the kind of stuff you’d need pharmaceutical help to dream up. Comedy of errors this epic, well, as Hazel so kindly added via her open mic “This is so embarrassing. David Esrati is gonna eat us alive.”

In between McManus’s coherent description of what an effective board president needs to be able to do- and this clusterduck, was when Board Member Sheila Taylor suggested that the main reason Harris should be the next board president is because his skin is darker than the others.

I’m going to restate the obvious- McManus is the most qualified to lead this districts meetings through the next year. I’m also going to remind everyone that the board president is just there to guide the meetings, act as a coordinator between the board and the superintendent and to make sure mistakes like this don’t happen. It still takes four votes of this body to actually do anything. I found this article helpful to understand better board meetings.

As far as I’m concerned, the only four votes that I have any faith in at this point are Jocelyn Rhynard, Karen Wick-Gagnet, John McManus and Mohamed Al-Hamdani.

I didn’t have confidence in Rev Harris after watching him on the campaign trail, and he has said little to build my confidence so far. I’m more than willing to give him the benefit of doubt and watch, but right now, with the coming controversies of the closing out of the Rhonda Corr era (error) and the potential school closings, the steady, experienced hand of John McManus is the right solution.

I will also say, I believe that Rev Walker should step down from the school board. I don’t believe he’s still sharp enough to bring any value to the discussion. I also believe that since he was one of the Rhonda Corr supporters, and signed off on her questionable evaluation, he no longer deserves our trust or respect or the right to continue on. He, along with the rest of this old board, should be held liable for some of the seriously questionable actions they took- including the hiring of the Ohlmann Group without even knowing what they were buying.

As to board member Sheila Taylor, her main reason for remaining on the board is that this helps build her retirement in PERS- she works for Democratic Party Chair Mark Owens in the Dayton Municipal Court Clerks office for her real job. Her absence at key votes, including the buy out of David Lawrence, as well as her support of Corr over Lawrence in the first place- as well as her sign off on the revamped evaluation are all reasons for her to step down as well, but, for this district and this city to allow someone who still thinks qualification is judged by skin color- is unacceptable.

For those of you who don’t remember how new board members are added to replace those who resign mid-term, the board asks the community for candidates and then picks who they want. It’s how Reverend William Schooler was picked (by Sheila Taylor and Joe Lacey- over 8 other better qualified candidates including my x-girlfriend). Walker and Schooler ran together in their last election and thankfully the people of Dayton were smart enough not to elect Schooler to his appointed seat.

The obvious first choice to place on the board to me is Paul Bradley who ran in the last election. He would still be a great addition and his connection to Senator Sherrod Brown could be very helpful.

As to the second choice, I think Mario Gallin is still a good choice, bringing some historical knowledge and field experience to the board, but, again, the field would be open.

Since it’s obvious that the district has no plans on hiring competent marketing help, judged by the recent PR folly of the badly introduced issue of enrollment declines and possible building closing, I might even throw my hat in the ring- so if they can’t hire competent marketing help, at least they will have a board member to help them guide the district when it comes to messaging.

Note to overpaid DPS PR Genius Department- if parents and students don’t feel safe in DPS- they won’t go there. Your failure to properly manage the incident at Ponitz that was covered in two posts on this blog fully showcase your incompetence. For the $180K a year this district is spending because Rhonda Corr wanted to show how much she respected African American women after Dr. Winston said she didn’t- we need to see something other than a donated video done by your family members and credited for $18,500 as a tax write off.

And that should fully do it for the Esrati eating us alive.

I’ve now managed to clearly define the battle lines between me, the cannibal, and the district- a wounded horse waiting for euthanasia by the state. As a final note- I realized when I was 16, that after a meteoric rise as a sax player, I wasn’t going to become a pro- and switched my focus to photography, selling, writing, and eventually to advertising. Just because I suggest that someone isn’t good at doing things like being a school board member, or a PR person for a district, or even the right superintendent- it doesn’t mean I don’t like them as people, or feel they may have other awesome skills.

Now where’s the Franks Red Hot Sauce- I hear if you put that shit on everything it tastes better.

Apparently, skin color is still how we judge people

There were two parts of the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education meeting tonight. A meeting that started at 4:30 pm upstairs on the hot 4th floor- and then continued at 5:30 until 9pm downstairs.

It was a fitting end to the reign of terror of the last four years of incompetence. A comedy of errors turned a simple vote into many.

Speeches galore as Ron Lee, Joe Lacey and Dr. Hazel Rountree exit the board.

Considering the questions remain on how this board gave Rhonda Corr a glowing review just a little more than a month before they handed her walking papers- hasn’t been answered, there shouldn’t have been any speeches at all. But, I’m guessing it will all come out when they get deposed in the inevitable coming court actions. We also need to find out why they chose not to force Dr. Adil Baguirov to resign when they were informed that he didn’t live in the district.

But, the most astounding thing was in the first meeting which had existing members, Walker, Taylor, McManus and Harris meeting with new members Wick-Gagnet, Al-Hamdani and Rhynard to discuss who should be president and vice-president come January.

Again facilitated by Kathy Hollingsworth, when the existing board members were asked to describe what skills the new board president should have, Sheila Taylor jumped right in to say that the next president needs to be a male from that side of town – or something to that effect an African American. I will have the video up tomorrow.

For Reverend Harris to be judged purely by the color of his skin by Ms. Taylor shows how far we haven’t moved since 1963:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Martin Luther King, Aug 23, 1963- I Have A Dream speech- March on Washington

The suggested slate right now has Harris as President and John McManus as VP. Realistically, this is not the norm, that a rookie takes over as leader, without the institutional, procedural or proven experience.

If anyone needs a reminder of how well McManus can run a meeting, look back to where he stepped in to takeover for Dr. Adil Baguirov:

It was also floated that the board retain an outside parliamentarian by McManus in the early meeting, instead of allowing a board member to try to police other board members. DEA president David Romick might even apply for that job, if it means the kind of clusterduck voting that happened tonight won’t happen again.

The board did get the chance to celebrate some district accomplishments. After reading for weeks that a single Trotwood school was recognized by the State for major jumps in achievement, DPS trotted out four schools tonight that have done that: Kemp, Horace Mann, Edison and Cleveland Elementary all received honors with the MOMENTUM AWARD,  given to schools who have exceeded expectations in student growth on the Ohio School Report Card for the 2016-17 School year.

They also recognized Nicole Plennert, a Wright Brothers Middle School physical education teacher, who was awarded the Secondary Education Physical Education Teacher of the year for 2017 by the Ohio Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

But the take your breath away winner was the young man from the Dayton Boys Preparatory Academy who won first place in the  60th annual Lucia May Wiant Speech contest which was held November 8th at Wright Brothers Middle School.

Ve’Suan Smith gave his speech- “I can’t read” that brought tears to my eyes.

And, for the record, the color of his skin had nothing to do with his qualification or first place finish.

I’ll have it cut and up as a stand alone video tomorrow.

That speech gave me hope that despite the incompetence of the exiting board, there are still teachers making a difference in this district and we will have future leaders in Dayton who can deliver inspiration in three minutes or less.

 

 

 

The Elephant in the Dayton Public School Board meeting last night

I didn’t speak at public comment.

Neither did DEA chief David Romick.

Why speak to a board that doesn’t listen, doesn’t respond, and brought on the chaos and confusion that has ruled their last year- the reign of Rookie Superintendent Rhonda Corr?

The union voted almost unanimously to send a message – no confidence in the school board, no confidence in Rhonda Corr. There was no discussion of this. Just a lot of glad handing themselves and passing out participation trophies to each other for having a first day where kids got picked up and delivered by buses that ran on time. Seriously- every other district in the country can do this, only the worst district in the state can’t get this right.

So what should have happened?

After the vote to accept the contract, the issue of the no confidence vote should have been brought up.

The board should have responded with a public vote of confidence or no confidence in the superintendent- so the public can know where they stand.

Although this can be done in executive session, this is a litmus test vote to let the people they represent know how they feel about the performance of the superintendent. It’s a hard decision- but a necessary one. Sticking your heads in the sand is not an option. A no confidence vote is a serious issue considering the entire DEA is half the districts workforce- and without them- there is no district.

Another scenario- John McManus, the only functional member of the board, should have said immediately after the ratification of the DEA contract, “while we are patting ourselves on the back for settling this contract at the last possible minute, may I remind the board that there are 10 other bargaining units, and none of those are settled. Our Superintendent, although claiming to be a master negotiator, cost us over $150K to Huffmaster for nothing. We let this happen. I am hearby promising to tender my conditional resignation to the new board members when they take office in the spirit of healing and recognition of the failures of this board in the past year to guide this organization in a way that would have earned the respect of the professionals we employ.

I would also ask the other two board members, Dr. Walker and Ms. Taylor to join me in this move.

To the four existing board members who have earned this vote of no confidence, I ask that you pledge to resign the day after the election results are finalized and make way for the new board immediately so this process of healing can proceed at the fastest possible pace.

As to the no-confidence vote in the Superintendent, I voice my own opinion of her performance and ask that each of you do that now. It’s time to clarify to those we represent what we think of her performance in light of this move by the DEA. If there aren’t four votes of confidence in her favor, I ask that we work to negotiate her separation from this district to be effective immediately, and Dr. Lolli be asked to serve as interim superintendent until the new board is in place.”

Of course, since McManus is the quintessential southern gentleman, we can’t expect him to go out on a limb and do the right thing.

As to the other 6, they have no clue what the right thing is.

I will be organizing a candidates forum soon for the 7 challengers. I don’t think there is any reason to give Mr. Lacey an opportunity to speak at this forum, since it’s been quite obvious that he’s had plenty of time to speak- including last night, and didn’t. The voters want change, and there is no reason to even consider his re-election.

If you disagree with not allowing him to participate- please rewatch this video:

 

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.

The public crucifixion of Dunbar Coach Darren Powell

The DPS board meeting was not streamed. And the end of my video will be the camera locked in, wide- because I was asked to leave by security.

Dr. Adil Baguirov was excused at the beginning because he was “traveling.” It’s probably the reason the tech steering committee meeting was cancelled today as well. Sadly, no staff is capable of running that meeting, because, well, there is no IT director for the district right now thanks to the Fall RIF.

This was a night for speeches. Board Member McManus was scheduled to speak before public comments- for a special presentation, but at the last minute, it was moved to after public comment. Yet, Joe Lacey got to make an unscheduled ramble about how important teachers are- because the house was once again packed with them- all wondering why contract negotiations were at a standstill.

Former DPS teacher “Mr. U”- Brian Urquhart got up and had the audience joining in – “it doesn’t buy the groceries, it doesn’t pay the bills” to address the lack of a contract.

I got up and apologized for interrupting the board meeting last week- because they couldn’t stay on topic, asking why teachers had lesson plans, and the board didn’t. I gave them an “F” and called for the board to get an independent parliamentarian to guide them- pointing out “new business” is for voting items- not for speeches, and that the superintendent is who they address- not staff. I questioned how 4 Stivers teachers are resigning- as well as her Chief Academic Officer- and how they can spend so much on legal fees- but still not have a negotiating team at the table.

One teacher in attendance wrote this on Facebook “Get out the BBQ sauce, because David Esrati just grilled the DPSBOE.”

But, the more interesting part was the McManus ramble of our refined Southern Gentleman- who had had enough of Board members working in the dark. He asked for a clear strategic plan, and regular updates on how we’re moving toward goals. It took a while, but it was clear by the end that he felt bamboozled by the Superintendent and the Treasurer on both the RIF and the Marketing Contract fiasco. It wasn’t fire and brimstone of one of our black ministers, but, for John McManus it was an epic earful. Considering at least 3 and probably 4 seats will be occupied by someone else come January, it was pretty clear that this superintendent better learn how to inform the board better or she may be gone.

Then came the HR vote. That four teachers were leaving Stivers was unheard of. It wasn’t mentioned. What did happen is Joe Lacey asked for line 91 to be voted separately. Since Board Doc’s is worthless on mobile- I had to ask Dayton Daily news reporter Jeremy Kelley to confirm what I thought line 91 was – and it was the supplemental contract to hire Darren Powell as coach of the Dunbar football team for next fall. The role was called, Ron Lee abstained, later blaming it on his many absences. McManus, Walker, Rountree voted yes, Lacey voted no and then Taylor voted no. Lacey chimed in “it takes 4 to hire” and just like that- Darren Powell was publicly crucified for a whole bunch of peoples failures- including district Athletic Director LaMark Baker, who according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association was the primary party in the Dunbar/Belmont fiasco. The same Mark Baker that got a rushed 2 year contract a few months ago- before the ink on the reports was dry.

That they hired Belmont Coach/AD Earl White back to both positions just previous once again points to the failures of the DPS HR Department. The jobs were all specifically posted to exclude that possibility, making the entire athletic contract awards process tainted. Is it any wonder the board just allocated a quarter of a million plus for outside legal counsel. They know they’re going to need it.

After the vote, I got in trouble. I asked, “So who is going to be the Dunbar football coach?” Legitimate question. No response had me asking again. Because, well, you can’t have a team without a coach, and practice is NOW. This is a question the Superintendent should have had an answer for. This is proof that this board doesn’t respect their Superintendent by hanging her out to dry on her choice for head coach.

Many believe this entire mess was the final straw for Dr. Markay Winston, and why she resigned.

Needless to say, no one answered. But Rountree made a speech, Lee made excuses, and, if Walker said anything, I don’t remember it- possibly because I was talking on Mr. U’s phone to coach Powell’s father- outside the room.

Lawsuits may come, another coach may be named, but, all that vote did was screw the kids at Dunbar out of a coach, and leave the program in the midst of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Exactly the wrong three words you want to hear when running anything, unless your goal is to run it into the ground.

Hopefully, I’ll have video up tomorrow.