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.

Dayton Public School board- still dazed and confused

thumbnail of Dayton Public School IT Assessment 1 11 2018 (3)

The deck for the 1 to 1 institute recommendations, Harris cut them off before they could explain the critical slide 14. Click to download PDF

Reverend William Harris, who still can’t say my name right, or that of Mohamed Al-Hamdani, flexed his new presidential muscle in his first meeting as commander in chief by cutting off a presentation by consultants who were hired by the board to report back on out 1 to 1 computer implementation. With no time limits on the agenda, just as the consultants were getting into the meat of their report, he ended their presentation- about 30 minutes in. Sheila Taylor was the ONLY board member who had the guts and wisdom to question his actions. The rest sat deaf dumb and mute. Taylor, was clearly in the right- as no board member has the right to speak for the entire board as clearly outlined in OSBA rules.

I cited this statement in my post about the attempt by Mohamed Al-Hamdani to close the illegal meeting about school closings to the public:

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.

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

Harris was authorized to speak for the board- but, when he made the unilateral decision, and Taylor questioned it, the proper move was to call for a vote on the continuation of the presentation by all board members. Harris just shut it down.

The critical slide 14- where the actual steps moving forward were to be discussed is what we missed. It was the main reason I was interested in their presentation. The slide read:

• Establish expectations for usage of eSchoolPlus and Google Classroom
• Connect the use of the Google Application Suite to “Power Up”
• Establish classroom management practices using Google Classroom (post assignments, communications, etc.)
• Discuss grading protocols using Google Classroom
• Create lesson plans that encourage effective small group, collaborative and independent learning options
• Infuse technology into teacher learning
• Support Data Dashboard adoption with building meetings and identify additional formative and summative data elements
thumbnail of PR for vote 10-30-17 DPS 1 to 1

They spent $30K for a report, but didn’t want to hear the meat of it. Click to download PDF

This was a $30K contract, approved at a non-business meeting (no public input) on Oct. 30th 2017. You think for $30K they’d be allowed to finish. The key takeaway was we did good at hiring more IT people and building infrastructure, the weakness was that this process should have been run by more than one person (Baguirov gets all the credit) and that it should have had more top level buy in. We didn’t get to hear the rest, so, oh, well.

On to my presentation, Harris tried to tell me that my 3 minutes started when I approached the podium- not when I began speaking. My teleprompter app had flipped on mirror text and I was resetting it.
Here is the text of what I said:

Congratulations to the voters of the Dayton Public School district for selecting four new board members, a majority, to redirect a failing district that has been characterized by a complete failure of leadership to instill confidence in their abilities or the future of the district.

The actions of the previous board and their ineptly chosen Superintendent have led to 20% turnover in staff, an almost completely new central office team, and a shrinking enrollment that has put school building closure on the agenda.

There is unfinished business from last year. The completion of the firing of Rhonda Corr should be foremost on the agenda. How her original mediocre evaluation penned by John McManus was changed to glowing now is incredibly relevant to her termination. We need to know what part remaining board members had in that change, and that they be held accountable.

Investigations on how and why Dr. Adil Baguirov was allowed to remain on the board after I made it clear he didn’t live in the district, and then proceeded to actively push a bus deal through procurement that not only is a violation of board policy- but also a conflict of interest since his private business does business with the vendors in the process.

These are not matters that should be overlooked. They have serious long term implications for the district, as well as set the tone for how this board will differ from the last one and everyone preceding it.

However, whatever hopes the citizens had for change have already been crassly violated, when the last board apparently sanctioned the interim superintendent to join a task force to study school closings without a proper vote to assign members or outline the scope and authority of the task force.

That a board member elect was named co-chair before he’d even been seated to this board does nothing to instill confidence in this new board. That he argued from his position of authority as a board member and a licensed attorney that the meetings should be held in private in violation of the Ohio Open Meetings laws- commonly known as the Sunshine Laws do not bode well for the future of this board.

But, beyond all that, this board met a week ago, and blindly followed the direction of the interim superintendent who crafted the agenda. Again, tonight, we see the same thing. The superintendent leading the direction of the meeting- with no real change in direction- other than to change the way you approve her agenda items to require only one vote instead of several- using simplified a “consent agenda”

Where is your direction to the superintendent on addressing issues of student safety? Besides the riot at Ponitz that the former superintendent tried to cover up, just last week we had a full fledged brawl at the Dunbar Thurgood basketball game. If you want people to send their kids to your schools- they have to feel safe. I see no item on the agenda on this.

Since we’re dropping in enrollment, what steps have you formulated to evaluate the performance of your superintendent and the district PR department that was hired last year by the former superintendent after your purchasing department failed to hire a PR firm in a legitimate, defensible manner? Your current PR people can’t even keep your site up to date. The time of this meeting wasn’t online.

And lastly, we need to have an actual role call to determine which of you support this closing task force meeting in private so voters will know who actually deserves a seat on the dais.

We voted for new people with a promise of transparency- yet, we’ve yet to see it.

By a simple yes or no response from each member, I need a response to that last issue. Failure to do so- will be taken as complicity to violate the Sunshine laws.
Thank you

Their response: nothing. So they all agree that it’s ok to have some task force meet in private to discuss the future of our school closings.

But- wait, then as I got back to the camera, Karen Wick-Gagnet made a statement suggesting there has been no additional movement on the task force and they are still new at this and are working to set a new culture. She didn’t answer the question, but at least acknowledged that they have work to do and are still learning.

Once again, Harris, who has been on the board for more than a few of these, stumbled and voted YES on resignations after July 10. Al-Hamdani meekly followed with a NO, then others followed until Jocelyn Rhynard voted YES- and then as seemed to happen more than a few times, Harris forgot to get Wick-Gagnet’s vote. Then Rhynard realized her error- asked for a re-vote, more confusion as it was sorted out- until we had the right 7 No vote that is normal to not accept resignation under contract.

I softly applauded as they finally got it right.

There was also a question about using a consent agenda by Taylor, who wasn’t familiar with the process. She was right to question its use, and that it should have required a vote to agree to implement the new process, however she couldn’t make her statement clearly. The process allows items that have been covered in the review meeting to be passed together, as one vote instead of separate votes. The new process wasn’t on the review meetings agenda- it hadn’t been discussed, therefore Taylor was correct- it needed to be voted on. They didn’t.
They also failed to vote on the treasurers recommendations, which were included in the consent agenda, but then read separately after they had voted- thereby creating the need for a vote. But, what’s getting it right when you are new at this… optional.

It wasn’t long before Harris once again was forgetting how to count to seven before calling the results of a role call, I quietly corrected them- before they proceeded. He’d skipped Wick-Gagnet.

Next thing you know DPS Media maven Marsha Bonhart is in the back talking to security and then came to ask me to stay silent- and not “shout out.” To which I said, 1) it’s embarrassing that they don’t know what they are voting on. 2) If I was shouting- you’d know it.
She left having assurances that I’d keep to myself as they were almost done.

Once again the board used “New business” which is when you are supposed to introduce issues requiring a vote to make speeches. All were stupid, except Wick-Gagnet’s who talked about how we change culture to change outcome. Worth a listen. Again, wrong part of the agenda, but, we’ll probably have to wait until they hire a proper parliamentarian.

After the meeting wrapped up in a timely 75 minutes, they headed into executive session to discuss a personnel issue and a real estate issue. Spotting  attorney Beverly A. Meyer going in, it’s a good bet that they were discussing strategy for final termination of Corr, ie settlement. Meyer was the attorney who uncovered many of Corr’s shortcomings when she was hired to investigate the work environment of Dr. Markay Winston- who’s accusations were mostly unfounded in her findings.

The board attorney said there would be no announcement after executive session.

Evaluation and endorsements of the Dayton School Board candidates

full disclosure and entanglements: I’ve been friends with Karen and Jim Gagnet for years, I’ve done work for them both since they opened the 2nd iteration of  Coco’s on Wayne Ave. I’ve printed materials for Jo’el Jones, Jocelyn Rhynard, Mario Gallin has lunched with my mother, her husband, TRRuddick is one of the most frequent commentors on my blog directly or via Facebook. All that said, I know, or have interacted with all of them over the years.

In my last year of going to school board meetings to speak, cover, review, reform, I’ve seen one absolutely steady presence, Mario Gallin. She’s ALWAYS there, in the back, with her Microsoft Slate, taking notes, paying attention. I’ve seen Jocelyn there a lot, Jo’el comes often, but isn’t always there the whole time. Of course Joe Lacey is there- with his hoodie. At one point we joked about starting a twitter account for his hoodie.

I have a reputation for being honest to a fault. The reason this has taken so long to write- is because I wanted to make sure I made the right choices, and for the right reasons. I’m going to explain what I’ve seen, and what I think we need more than anything to move the district forward.

The Dayton Board of Education meetings are out of control, they run 4 hours, and THEN can go into executive session. They are totally ineffective at advancing intelligent thought or direction for a district in constant turmoil. A large part of it is because we have 7 people on the board who think they have to share their thoughts on every subject. Unless what they say is either a policy question, guidance or direction for future policy or objective setting, and it requires an answer, or action to be performed, board members should be seen but not heard. First and foremost, grandstanding political types need not apply to my board of the near future.

Secondly, what is grossly missing is respect for the public, the employees, the leadership. Board members are paid a max of $5K a year, the person they hire- the supposed educational professional is paid $200K a year plus benefits. This is the person who should be running the district and the meeting, giving clear and actionable information and progress reports. These meetings need to flip. The Superintendent needs to run the meeting agenda- with the board approving or disapproving the agenda items (which are created by the Superintendent). Yes, the Board can sit up on their platform, but the Superintendent needs to be elsewhere- look at the city commission meetings for seating arrangements. If the board is voting on the superintendents recommendations- let the superintendent actually ask for the vote- so they understand who they are saying no to. This kumbaya stuff has to go.

Third, although all three should tender their resignations on Jan 2, 2018, or whenever the new members are sworn in, since the DEA has voted no confidence in the board and they’ve lead the district to the brink of destruction, there will be 3 remaining members, Dr. Robert Walker, Sheila Taylor and John McManus. I have to evaluate how the new candidates will interact with the old ones- to counteract a huge cat fight. Sheila Taylor is absolutely unpredictable, intellectually challenged and holds grudges and can be combative. Walker is a weak man, who let others bully him into believing that internal candidates were unacceptable for internal promotion, he believes he speaks from some sort of both moral and community authority, but, his input/guidance or even exhibited understanding of what is going on- is nonexistent. John McManus, is a new comer to Dayton, he didn’t have connections or name recognition and spent almost $40K to beat Nancy Nearny by 400 votes. He bought his printing from me, I helped advise him on how to run, and I consider him a friend. He’s by far both the most political member of the board, and also the board gossip- as in he’s always talking to other board members- outside of the meetings. This is actually a problem, and needs to stop. The Ohio Sunshine Laws actually prohibit polling of board members- and some could say McManus is walking on questionable ground. He’s also dangerously polite, lacking a real spine. When he takes a strong stand, he weakens it by curtsy. Of the three remaining board members, he’s the only one who deserves to finish their term, even though he has been involved in many of the bad decisions. When he asks questions, it generally demonstrates a solid understanding of what is going on.

Fourth- we need board members willing and able to demand accountability, across multiple skill sets, and issues. The district is a half a billion dollar operation- it’s not just teaching, it’s building maintenance, allocation of resources, HR, transportation, a food service operation, fiscal and legal compliance, janitorial, purchasing, athletics, marketing, IT, etc. To oversee this requires more than just “I’m a parent” or “I’ve been involved in the community” – corporate boards are usually populated by seasoned professionals who’ve had some success in life, leaders of people, experienced business thinkers, as well as people who understand that what they say, should have gravitas, and be words of wisdom. Shooting from the hip might work in Westerns, but, we actually need people who can actually identify the correct targets and aim and pull a trigger for maximum effectiveness in the middle of a fire-fight. (sorry my military background is sneaking in).

All this said, this is a political decision, and we have been presented with a group running as “The Slate” backed by Nan Whaley, picked from central casting with a black preacher, an Asian bureaucrat, a middle eastern refugee turned success story and a wizened white woman who overcame her hardscrabble upbringing to run successful businesses. They hired a “professional” political consultant, got a ton of endorsements, raised a bunch of money and expect the public to accept the package lock, stock and barrel. This has precedent, although on a much grander scale, when the business community put their money behind the “Kids First” slate of four powerful women, who would in turn get a levy passed that would bring $850M in new construction work to rebuild the schools. The new buildings did NOTHING to improve academic performance, and the internal culture of entitlement and mediocrity was allowed to continue to fester, which got us to where we are today; second worst district in the state.

Which brings me to my last qualifier: at this point, there is only one action that will be acceptable to turn this district around, and that’s to immediately install competent leadership that is willing to work with the board to clean house.

I am choosing candidates based on their stomach to do the following:

Fire Rhonda Corr for cause. Fire Hiwot Abraha for cause.

Hire, ranked in order of preference a new superintendent and possibly two, of the following three people to begin turning the district around:

David White, former DPS principal now in Trotwood Madison to run the district, or at least manage the operational side. He’s a wizard at bringing organizational controls to flailing operations.

Rusty Clifford- former Superintendent of West Carrollton schools. An advocate of year round schooling, a seasoned superintendent that knows the landscape and resources of the region, he can help Dr. Lolli manage the academic and instructional revamp of the district and work on rebuilding trust of the teachers and their union in focusing on excellence in classroom instruction.

The third choice, is a little more controversial, but would also be a seasoned hand that could quickly jump in, at least until we have time to find a long term solution, would be Jim Schoenlein former Kettering Superintendent. We need someone who knows how to run a district and a board, with a focus on academic excellence, with a diverse district. Again, teamed with Dr. Lolli, we’d have a clean start.

If a candidate has expressed an unwillingness to make this change, and is willing to continue with the Rhonda Corr rookie at the helm, experiment, they are unacceptable candidates.

All this being said, I have to look at what a functioning board would look like- and who would bring what skills to the table and how do we do it. You get to vote for up to four candidates, and remember, since there are 8 running, any vote for someone you don’t really feel is worthy- you are possibly pushing them ahead of someone you really want to win, so, voting for just 1, 2 or 3 candidates can be more powerful by not cancelling your vote out.

I am going to start with two candidates I feel are a totally unacceptable. If you think that either of these candidates is worthy of your vote, you probably shouldn’t read the rest of my endorsements.

Joe Lacey MUST NOT BE REELECTED AT ANY COST. He’s been a disruptive force on the board for his entire tenure. Not that disruption isn’t needed, it’s just that he’s been totally ineffective at swaying people to his side, or building alliances, and when he has built a coalition, it’s often been with wrong side. He actually brags about being the only no vote- when in fact, if he had any value at all, he’d have gotten others to go along with him, or found and helped others run and win. He’s been a problem for way too long and needs to go away permanently. Rewatch him trashing a parent in front of her child- and realize this man has zero respect for anyone and also know that’s he’s emotionally damaged and goes into histrionics if he thinks someone someone doesn’t like him because of his personality (way too often).

The Reverend William (Bill) Harris is part of the slate. His whole pitch has been “I’m working in Hilltop, and I think truancy is what we need to focus on.” For those that don’t know Hilltop, it’s a crappy public housing project on what should have been one of the prime pieces of land in Dayton. It’s been marked by violence, drug deals in the open, and crime. It’s been that way, it continues to be that way and it hasn’t changed thanks to the good reverend. Blaming truancy for our woes and making it his number one priority is demonstrated ignorance of the challenges facing DPS. Dr. Roberson made his entire pitch for the Superintendent position built around truancy and I dismissed him then too. Harris has said “I won’t be anyone’s puppet” as part of the slate- yet, that’s comically what he is. I don’t think he brings any of the critical thinking skills we need to this board, nor do I think he has the intellectual horsepower to move the district forward at a critical time. He’s Ron Lee 2. Pass, please.

The best choices for the board

DEA president David Romick’s face turns into a lemon when the idea of Ann Marie “Mario” Gallin returning to the board is broached. He says “She was terrible” the last time she was on the board- which was a while ago. In the time since, she kept attending board meetings and has worked at Ruskin- throwing herself into our own social experiment with wrap around services. She understands the actual problems in the classroom, the community and the interface. She’s well read, she talks about the dysfunctional nature of the board and the current agenda, and she brings the ability to actually question academic rigor in practices that are proposed. She’s a decent human being, and she’s not politically motivated. She’s not a big dollar candidate- which should also tell you she’s only interested in serving the kids best interests. She would be a calming, steadying, experienced hand on the board. You can’t go wrong voting for Mario.

Paul Bradley is the youngest candidate and part of the slate. He’s still wide eyed and optimistic. And while he’s not been to meetings, he knows what functioning government is supposed to do after working for Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown for 6 years. His understanding of how federal programs work, how to interface with the community, his easy going, restrained personality makes him an excellent choice for the board. There are zero downsides to electing Paul. He’ll be awesome.

Karen Wick-Gagnet. I’ve known Karen and worked with her for a long time. Personally, I tried to talk her out of running, knowing that her dislike of confrontation and controversy would make this job a spirit killer for her. Not voting for Karen would be better for her well being, but bad for our district. She’s an amazing business woman, who’s been through boom and bust with her husband Jim. I’ve said before that if you want to see economic development in Dayton done on a budget- Jim is the best developer hands down. A big part of his success, has been his partnership with Karen. She’s the one who keeps things on point and running smoothly. She’s not a grandstander. She’s thoughtful, and talks about practicing mindfulness. I’ve watched her, and their businesses grow. I’ve watched her work for years- and if you know anything about restaurants- staffing is always tough, since you deal with people who tend to gravitate to the dramatic, with issues of alcoholism, drug use and drama- yet, she’s always been able to keep a steady work force, and attract some of the best talent in her restaurant. We’re lucky to be able to vote for someone who is doing it for the right reasons.

The next three are a vote at your own risk, although after a lot of thought, my choice is clearly the first, if you feel you have to cast a fourth vote.

Jocelyn Rhynard is a serious force to contend with. She talked about the dysfunction of the board meetings- which is the prime problem. She raised more money as an individual than anyone else. She sought and got endorsements. She surrounded herself with good people, and listened to them. I believe her heart is in the right place. So, what’s the reservation? She’s not my style of candidate. She holds things close, won’t take strong stands, hasn’t clearly said that she believe Corr to be a fundamental problem (although I know she thinks it), she attends board meetings and started a parents group. But, her emphasis on being a parent as qualification makes me ill. It has since the days when Dick Zimmer used to say he had 9 kids and 19 grandkids- as if the ability to fornicate was a skill critical to being elected (and I guess if you want to fcuk the public- it is). She also hedged when I asked her for the email from Marsha Bonhart- so I could verify it was sent to all, and the same. It was public record- and she held back. I worry about her not fully understanding that she’s there to represent us, in an open transparent manner. I worry about her doing a McManus and not being forceful enough at the right time. Yes, she came out the day after I posted about the Bonhart scandal- which to me, reeked of grandstanding. I don’t want that. But, she’s the best choice.

Jo’el Jones has been involved in “Neighborhoods over Politics” as has Shenise Turner Sloss. It’s an organization that had noble beginnings and potential, but got caught up in internal squabbles early on. Jo’el is a human wrecking ball- loud, demanding attention, and opinionated. She will grandstand. She’ll get in fights- on the campaign trail, her and Reverend Harris have not gotten along. She’s a disorganized hot mess most of the time. She’s known she’s been on the ballot since August- yet, is just now throwing herself into it at full force. Yes, she may be the voice of the community, or be tied in. She may have worked in the past for DPS, but, there may be a reason she’s not there now. I feel she’ll be a distraction and a carnival barker if elected. Another Hazel Rountree, and I don’t say that kindly- as I’ve found her to be the most ineffective board member ever. But, then again, if you want someone to get in a catfight with Rhonda Corr and sell tickets- Jo’el is your candidate.

Mohamed Al-Hamdani is a total wild card. I wanted to sit down and ask him real questions, hardball, and see what he says away from an audience, but he’s too busy being best man in Paul Bradley’s wedding this weekend. He’s definitely the lynch pin to “The Slate” and like another refugee, Dr. Adil Baguirov, moved into Dayton just in time to file. This guy has political aspiration signs coming out of every side of him- in neon, with strobe lights. This board run is his first step to his long future political career. And, he’s arrogant, by the truckload. Early on, I asked a question about the hiring of Burges and Burges and how much it cost- and why they didn’t buy local talent- and he tried to sidestep it and said they hadn’t paid them a dime. I don’t need to be lied to ever, and especially before you have been elected.

Mohamed thinks he knows it all. He has a smugness that rubs people the wrong way. He thinks he has all the answers. He probably reminds people of me in some ways- but, with the establishment nod. His campaign rhetoric has been full of bullshit about all the teachers that taught him- and his story of coming to America- all nice and fine, but missing any substance. He may indeed have all the answers, but, I’ve not heard them, and his testiness will bring back some of the rancor to the board that we can’t afford. He has a law degree- which would and might be handy, but, so does McManus- and it hasn’t kept us out of trouble. One of the biggest mistakes Americans make at the polls is thinking that being a lawyer makes you a good lawmaker- and that’s actually the opposite. Good lawmakers and only the best lawyers, understand that their profession is actually the art of compromise. Too many think it’s to win at all costs. Mohamed is a total wildcard. He may be smart, he may have a good story, he may even understand the issues, but I’d put Mario and Jocelyn ahead of him for my slate. He’s also been the one to say that if “The slate” is elected, they won’t disagree with each other as much in public- lending me to believe he’s planning on operating behind a curtain.

Congratulations. You just read over 3000 carefully chosen words about the 8 candidates for the Dayton Board of Education. The number of hours of research, candidates nights, talking to each candidate in person, going to board meetings, knowing the existing board members and the district- were all drawn into this piece. I’m sure there are lots of people who will say I’m wrong. That Candidate X is better suited than Candidate Y. I’m sure people will say “how could you be impartial, you’ve done business with them” etc. I don’t claim impartiality, I just share my thoughts and how I came to the conclusions I did.

In the best of all possible worlds, the board of tomorrow is John McManus, Mario Gallin, Paul Bradley, Karen Wick-Gagnet and Joselyn Rhynard- five people who can guide the district forward – and ignore the other two- Sheila Taylor and Robert Walker. If either of them are smart and resign- and the board can pick another candidate or two- they should open up to the public, and see who steps forward as well as consider adding Mohamed, although I think there are others who may be better suited. And although i think my best role would be to run the district marketing- with the should have been winning bid I submitted a year ago, I would also consider serving if asked. I’ve told this to David Romick, and I would have to have the DEA’s approval. Of course, I’ve made my vision for the district known- via my video, “There Ain’t no F in Dayton” and this blog- which many teachers have said has been instrumental in helping them get their message out about the incompetence of the central office.

My goal and dream- is for the Dayton Board Of Education to not need investigational oversight and constant course correction. My dream is to have a district that is performing at least at a “C” level on all measurements, because, I don’t believe every district can be above average, and for an urban district straight C’s would be an A.

A Dayton candidates night and a voters fright

Last Wednesday night, instead of working, or doing something fun, I went in for a two hour reminder of why Democracy no longer works in America.

(full disclosure- my firm has done some work and printing for the following candidates or their businesses, Jocelyn Rhynard, Shenise Turner-Sloss, Darryl Fairchild, Karen Wick-Gagnet)

When this country started, it was easy to pick people for elected office. You’d have a town hall of all the white male property owners, they all knew each other, and they chose the people based on personal knowledge and it was done.

Now, we just let anyone on the ballot, at least anyone that can make it through the political parties barricades and hurdles enforced by the board of (S)elections, and then to raise as much money as possible to run for an office that very few of the candidates and even fewer of the voters really understand.

Both the Dayton City Commission and the Dayton Board of Education positions are limited in their actual scope and power. This is by design. They are only allowed to hire a few people, and are there as a corporate board, to guide and review the performance of the leader they hire, be that person called a City Manager or a Superintendent. Instead, we’ve got ego-maniacal demi-gods running who think they not only steer the ship, but also are the guys running the engines, standing guard duty, manning the radar, cooking the food and even scrubbing the decks- all for a mere pittance on the school board and on a salary way richer than it should be for the city commissioners, who only have to show up for one meeting a week.

That said. Sorry about the audio in this video. The PA provided by the City of Dayton at the Northwest Recreation Center badly needed a new XLR cable, but, we’re too busy giving away millions to downtown investors to spring for $15 for a new cable (or less if you go to CCT). I’m even sorrier for what was recorded.

Of the school board candidates, only one actually talked about what we might need to do to change the way we deliver education in the classrooms to move achievement forward- that from Mario Gallin, a former school member who works at Ruskin for East End Community Services and still attends every board meeting. The Ruskin/EECS educational delivery method is based upon the Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children’s Zone model of comprehensive wrap around services. The only other candidate to mention anything of the like was slate member Paul Bradley who spoke of the Oyler school in Cincinnati which he knows about because his fiancee worked there.

The seating and speaking arrangements were telling. First came “the slate” from the left, then the soloists, who have their own alignments, and the sole incumbent, Joe Lacey who cited parenting duties for calling him away and leaving early. Then the Commission candidates, less Joey Williams. In an unprecedented concession, Priority Board Chairman David Greer allowed Jeff Mims to have Williams time allotment, which judging by Mims reactions to questioning the city’s loss of funds due to internal errors, was a mistake. Mims got defensive and blamed the mess on former planning director Aaron Sorrel, which Darryl Fairchild was quick to call him on. Somehow, despite massive failures in her past, City Manager Shelley Dickstein always gets a hall pass, no matter how much taxpayer money is wasted, and the city commission is never to blame either.

The “slate” is four candidates running together for the school board. Insiders believe them to be hand-picked by Mayor Nan Whaley. Mohamed Al-Hamdani, William E. Harris Jr., Paul Bradley, and Karen Wick-Gagnet have hired a campaign manager (Nan’s old campaign manager) Uriah Anderson, who works for the ever popular Burges & Burges out of Cleveland. They are the folks Sinclair and the Health and Human Services levies both hired (hence the dual billboards around town). This kind of money, power and help hasn’t been seen since the “Kids First” slate ran in 2001 with the sole goal of putting a ton of money into the hands of demolition contractors, construction companies, architects and adding a $645 Million jolt to an ailing Dayton economy.

If you want to read an interesting excerpt on Kids First, follow this link. They spent over $200K on a campaign where all their opponents collectively spent $13,000 between 5 candidates. Note that the four seats that are up this time- were filled by unopposed candidates (Lacey, Roundtree, Lee and Baguirov). The last cycle, we had 4 candidates for 3 seats, and newcomer John McManus spent north of $35K to unseat Nancy Nearny by a mere couple of hundred votes forcing an automatic recount, while the other incumbents Walker and Taylor waltzed on in.

When asked (by me, via Chairmen Greer) why the slate hired an outside consultant, and how much they paid them, the room seemed to turn on Mohamed Al-Hamdani who tried to pass off the question with “we haven’t paid them anything yet” – while defacto saying their campaign manager worked for Burges. The slate is keeping quiet about how much they’ve raised or spent, and because the first reporting deadline isn’t until Oct 28th- the voters will have very little time to learn who is buying their candidates and for how much.

Needless to say, if you look back to the Kids First promises, and the whys, the district is in the exact same sorry shape now as then. Still at the bottom of the barrel for educational achievement, yet with a much higher staff turnover, more turmoil, a third less students, funded by an ever shrinking property tax base (often thanks to Nan Whaley and her love of tax abatement as economic development). The only difference between that slate and this one is that the Kids First slate actually would openly embrace charter schools, while anyone running for school board now has to categorically blame them for the failing of the district.

I still plan to listen to the candidates again, yet, I threw up a little when I heard Reverend Harris saying that he was going to concentrate on truancy as his platform. This is the simpletons solution to educational improvement- and why I also laughed at Dr. Roberson’s entire presentation of his case for why he should be superintendent. The other single issue candidate seems to be Jo’el Jones, who thinks all of our problems can be solved by the office of family and community engagement rising from the ashes. I agree it’s needed, but, it won’t solve the problems of this sinking ship.

While there is no doubt more to Jocelyn Rhynard than her four kids in the district, and her involvement in her kids school, River’s Edge, I didn’t feel she had a fully formed plan and was way too nice in her response about how she’d work with current superintendent Rhonda Corr. Going back to being on the campaign trail with former Dayton City Commissioner Dick Zimmer, it’s always bothered me that procreation counted as qualification for office- he’d start out with “I was born in Dayton, grew up in Dayton, had 9 kids and 19 grandchildren” – as if he chose where to be born, grow up. Mim’s also tells the same sorry story about how he told his family to move to Dayton when he was 3 months old. Rhynard, like Gallin, actually attends school board meetings regularly. Jo’el Jones is also sometimes there. I’ve never seen any of the slate attend.

We need more than platitudes and feel good stories- which is also part of Mohamed’s approach. He’s got a great story to tell of how he came as an immigrant and Dayton’s been good to him, but, he moved back into the city the same day he filed to run, a part he conveniently leaves out.

Hopefully, in the Wednesday night Dayton Education Council candidates night at Ponitz High school (741 W. Washington Street) – starting at 6pm we’ll here speeches sounding more like cogent solutions to stop the turmoil, turnover and terrible achievement scores instead of homilies and grand standing.

If any candidates need an example of what a plan to improve school/student performance looks like, I offer this video I made last December to make a case for a trans-formative plan to discussion. Of course, since no one on the board cares about anything except their own agenda- it was never discussed.

If you are looking to research candidates online- here are the websites I can find:

Of course in most of my searches, more shows up about many of these folks on esrati.com.

Thanks for reading.

The dilemma of the friends and family plan comes to light

Karen Wick Gagnet and Jim Gagnet are like family to me. I’ve known them for over 20 years. I’ve watched in amazement as Jim has set his sights on redevelopment and done things that others wouldn’t even dream of. The list of his successes is formidable. At one point, he was teamed up with Tom Tornatore and they tried to rehab almost all of the Oregon business district single handedly. They ended up in bankruptcy when local lenders didn’t have the balls or vision to see what these two were up to. The buildings that house the 5th St. Wine and Deli, Roost Modern Italian, Luckys, the Samu (which has Press, Sew Dayton and  Pulse) and Johnston (with Clash Consignments) were all part of their “empire” as was the Diner- now Vex.

Jim shook off that fall, and started back. The derelict building in South Park without a roof- at 412 Hickory was his next major project. He paid $30K for a building that had negative value. He rebuilt the roof, the floors, the windows- all from cash since no bank would lend. He also took on building Coco’s number 2 on Wayne Avenue- most of which was built with his own sweat equity.

They hired my firm- The Next Wave to develop the identity, the ads, the menu design. We built their website, I was even involved with the architectural plans. They’ve been good clients for a long time.

Now, they are being drawn and quartered on the front page of the Dayton Daily news for getting preferential treatment by the city. Lots they’ve bought had been dumped on, and may have even contained some of the materials from their rehab of adjoining homes. From the DDn:

City Public Works Director Fred Stovall said the Coco’s owners called city Street Maintenance Supervisor Jim Brinegar directly and asked for the cleanup; he stressed it was for their residential property, not their business. Brinegar OK’d it, and the city hauled off roughly eight truckloads of trash.

Last Wednesday, the crew came back for another pile. At least five city workers were at the site, along with two city dump trucks and a city front-loader, which was scooping up blocks of concrete.

Stovall said city workers hauled away another eight truckloads that day, but he put a stop to it when contacted by the Daily News. He estimates the roughly 16 truckloads at two cleanups cost the city about $2,600.

via City cleans up private property for Coco’s Bistro owner | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

To many in Dayton, this is an insult. Repeated calls about dumping are often ignored. Alleys and empty lots in other areas of the city are ignored. But, this is Dayton, where we have no problem shooting anyone in the back who dares to do anything other than what the herd mentality rewards.

The reality is, if our city were working properly, we wouldn’t be a dumping ground. The other reality is, Nan Whaley has fundraisers at Coco’s. We do take care of those who take care of our politicians. But, even if the bill was $5,000 or $10,000 this is a bogus chump change argument- a public lynching of good people for the benefit of selling papers (notice I don’t call it a newspaper).

The City Commission gave UPS a buyout of a lease that was to run through 2019- with annual revenue to the city of almost $2 million a year, as well as the requirement to maintain the old Emery Air Freight hub in pristine, operational condition. The city took the net present value, or about $7 million as a buyout. The commission then gave away half of it- to IRG- carpetbaggers from California- and a three-year lease on the property which is due to expire in the spring of next year. IRG then proceeds to scrap  everything of value in the building to put more money in their pockets, lets the facility go to hell, and has next to nothing to show for it.

That didn’t make the front page of the paper. Let’s see- $3,000 is iTeam worthy- but $3 million+ isn’t?

I don’t think that the city should have cleared the private lots based on published city policy. When my neighbor Rodney bought the dump  of a house next to my cottages for tax value, he’s had to pay for all the debris hauling- and he’s still being charged taxes at the same rate as I am for my cottages- despite the fact his has no utilities and is falling apart. We need to provide fair and honest service to our citizens, regardless of who you know, and how much money you have. It’s the American way.

Had it not been for the Gagnets, the city would still have a bunch of under-utilized empty buildings- not just on Warren street, but in the Oregon District as well. They are the real champions of economic development- and they deserve not to be prosecuted in the court of public opinion because our city is run by petty criminals who take care of themselves and those they like- with the  infamous friends and family plan.

I often get told that my lack of tact makes me unacceptable as a candidate for commission. I believe in open, honest discussion of issues, and stick to the facts, the truth and look at things from an objective point of view. This is an incredibly hard post to publish. It’s also risking a client. There are no other candidates who will touch this with a 10-foot pole, or open their sites up to comments and discussion- I do, I always have, and I always will. You don’t have to like me, or my positions, but I promise one thing, you will respect me for not playing favorites or ducking the hard subjects. Thank you for reading.