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.

DPS Levy will fail until they learn marketing 101

I’m biased. I own an ad agency. Dayton Public Schools uses someone else. I think that’s mistake number 1, but, I’ll share number 2 and 3… and maybe more.

Would you buy this product?

Same old thing, doesn’t have any new features or benefits. In fact, it will give you less than you got before, but we want to charge you more.

Your answer? No.

So why is the Dayton Public School Superintendent talking about money saving changes and the customers inability to pay? Pan handlers know you don’t get money from people standing in the food pantry line, they go ask people with money, Percy should take notes on his way out of town. Time to come up with the Hail Mary Plan and sell it hard. Get the business leaders to stop scrutinizing the budget to save pennies and start believing that this district can produce quality products with just a few more dollars.

Second issue keeps rearing it’s ugly head: The sweetheart deal the Kids First board gave Reynolds & Reynolds for the palatial offices downtown. Treasurer Stan Lucas is still defending that purchase. The only Kids First person left is Yvonne Isaacs, who is now Board President. Time to admit it- they screwed up, apologize and try to move forward. The citizens of Dayton aren’t going to forgive the district easily, but it’s time to put the boat anchor firmly at the bottom of the chain of complaints and give them something new to think about. When the king is still living in a castle, it’s hard for the paupers to sympathize.

Three: Read Sun Tzu. If the district doesn’t learn how to parlay some of it’s strengths into sabers soon- it’s all over. Sell your strengthgs: Stivers for one, Horace Mann, DECA there are stories here… (of course they let DECA slide out of their system when the last levy failed, and didn’t get anything for one of their star players in return). It’s time to run a full court press, the blitz offense- on the good stuff- because the bad stuff is just putrid.

Read the DDN article today- and does it sound like Phil Jackson talking about the Lakers chances- or does it sound like the Bengals making excuses for their convicts and controversy?

Superintendent unveils plan to cut costs for smaller levy
Superintendent Percy Mack launched a plan Monday, June 2, to make money-saving changes in response to a consultant’s study of the city school district’s business and education operations.

A committee of business and community leaders commissioned the study to help the district reduce costs so it can seek a smaller levy this November than the 15.17-mill levy that was defeated in 2007.

Mack said the district must recognize that the local economy is troubled.

“People don’t have discretionary money,” he said. “Even if they wanted to, they don’t have discretionary money to give. We have to work hard to get the levy down as low as possible.”

Among the cost-saving measures in Mack’s plan is leasing out one of two downtown office buildings the district purchased from Reynolds and Reynolds in 2003 for $15.5 million and consolidating administrative offices in the other building.

Treasurer Stan Lucas said circumstances have changed since the 2003 purchase, including last year’s $30 million cuts and more than 400 layoffs in the wake of the levy defeat. But he still believes buying the Reynolds buildings was the right move.

“At the time, we made the best decision for the district,” he said. “We didn’t know in 2003 there would be such a cutback. It was the right thing to do then and this is the right thing to do now — try to maximize the use of the facilities.”

Mack’s plan also includes:

• Busing. Students currently must live at least 1.5 miles from school to ride a school bus. That perimeter will be extended to 2 miles. A new committee will review transportation operations to identify other cost savings.

• Nutrition. A consultant will review nutrition operations in search of savings.

• Facilities. The district will review of warehouse space, and a committee from business operations, human resources and the legal department will have recommendations by month’s end on union contract changes that could bring savings.

• Budget. A new financial oversight committee will include the treasurer, assistant treasurer, chief operating officer, chief academic officer, audit committee members, the executive director of human resources and business community volunteers.

• Education services. The Council of Great City Schools will send consultants for a comprehensive review of special education and early childhood programs. A new team will monitor teacher training and the district’s data staff will visit every school next year to help principals use data better. Also, the district will explore pay-for-performance plans.

And if that isn’t enough uninspired thinking- try reading the “analysis” they wasted money on in this article:

Outlook for levy grim in Dayton
DAYTON — A researcher painted a bleak economic outlook Monday, June 2, for business and community leaders helping Dayton schools plan for a November levy.

Richard Stock, director of the Business Research Group at the University of Dayton, said the city has seen dramatic drops in employment, median income and real estate values in recent years.

Stock said the prospects for a recovery in the next three years are slim. And while the tax burden in Dayton is lower when compared to nearby communities, it feels heavier to city residents who, on average, have much lower incomes.

“There are reasons why lower-income people are concentrated in the city of Dayton,” he said. “There is a reason why, as a collective, they make decisions about the kinds of taxes they can afford.”

Stock gave his report to a committee that is reviewing the city school district’s operations to recommend changes that might bring cost savings with the goal of reducing the size of the November school levy.

Tom Breitenbach, president of Premier Health Partners and chair of the group, said he is still optimistic about the levy’s chances, despite Stock’s report. He pointed to recent successes in countywide levies for Human Services and Sinclair Community College, the resiliency of the school district and the community’s commitment to its schools.

Economic issues

Among the economic issues cited by University of Dayton researcher Richard Stock were:

A steep decline in the employment index since 2000, in contrast to employment gains in Cincinnati, in Ohio as a whole and nationally. The losses were driven by 33,000 job cuts in manufacturing over that period.

Median income, adjusted for inflation, is 10.5 percent lower in Dayton today than in a decade ago and has fallen faster here than in any other major Ohio school district.

The poverty rate for children age 5 to 17, which was 24 percent in 2000, grew to 32.8 percent in 2005.

The taxable value of real estate per student in Dayton, which grew steadily over the last decade, has now fallen to its lowest level in 20 years.

Uh, DOH! And, let’s start by asking Tom Breitenbach how much Premier Health Partners pays in property taxes? Sitting on a cool billion in cash, maybe it’s time for Premier to step up. They rent space right across the street in the 40W Fourth Tower- maybe they might want to move to the old Rey Rey training center and help the schools out.

Anyone who needs a researcher to tell them times are tough, really needs their head examined. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and talk trash (like I’m doing), but, it’s time to create a recovery plan that sounds like something some taxpayers might want to actually buy.

Breitenbach gets paid millions each year as CEO- if he’s all that great, time for him to try being Superintendent for a few years and prove he’s really worth all that money. You up for it Tom?