A confederacy of dunces – Meet your Dayton Public Schools leadership

The Review session last night lasted less than 45 minutes. It included long pregnant pauses while the board took time to review the documents- for the FIRST time. Stuff they should have seen 48 hours in advance.

Apparently, I missed that they’ve decided to hire Fahlgren Mortine – an ad agency out of Beavercreek (and part of a much bigger network based in Columbus) to advise them on “Strategic Planning and Development” – whatever that is.

The new “Chief of Schools Special Projects” made her debut- she’s the woman with her back to the camera. Can’t say she sounded remotely like an agent of change. You want to hear that- go listen to the new Trotwood Superintendent- who can spell out his entire plan- without having to hire consultants for $475K

One other question comes to mind- is how much would it cost to transport all the high school students in Dayton- and might that make a bigger impact on graduation rates and educational outcomes? Is it less than the $475K plus the $360K we’re spending for the next three years on this contract plus the new “chief”?

I’m going to swipe the rest of the analysis from Mario Gallin who attends all the meetings and was a school board member. Dayton voters screwed up when they didn’t put her back on this board. Harris, Al-Hamdani, Wick-Gagnet and Rhynard are absolutely clueless judging by their lack of questions. Walker is brain dead. McManus is too nice- and Taylor- a no show.

From Mario:

“The board review had its moments (see previous post), but beyond that it was business as usual. So many items and they were done in under 30 minutes.

Among the things they did not inquire about –

Who is this new Belmont principal, what makes him the guy, and how are we going to introduce him to the school and neighboring community, all of whom have a keen interest in what goes on there.

Ms. Spurlock gave a detailed analysis of recent hires for the district, include 9 SROs to be added to the current SRO roster. Mohamed Al-Hamdani did ask if some of the new SRO positions would be assigned to Belmont (answer – we don’t know). However, the opening for a new principal at Meadowdale High School wasn’t mentioned and no board member asked. In their defense they need a large piece of paper with diagrams to keep track of all the changes and shuffling around of personnel.

There are two positions listed for Challenger Flight Specialist. One member of the DPS Concerned Parents Facebook page who was connected to the Challenger Center in the past questioned Jocelyn Spencer Rhynard directly about their credentials. She did not ask at the review session, but again, in her defense, she may have asked outside the meeting. Hopefully she will respond back to that person. Once more, a great opportunity to talk about what an asset the Challenger Center is to not only to DPS students but to students throughout the Miami Valley, not taken.

Supplemental contracts. Top level administrators are getting supplemental contracts for the month of June. Academic Coordinator CTE – $3725, Academic Coordinator Fine Arts and Phys Ed – $3333, Executive Director Athletics – $4450. Most interesting was Chief of Schools- Secondary. She was awarded a supplemental contract last month for $2600 for the period 6/11-6/30 and is back on the agenda this month for an additional $2600 for the period 6/25-6/30.

Not even a raised eyebrow.

Messrs. Jackson are on the agenda to become Directors of Transportation along with Ms. Ludd. A perfect time to discuss how Transportation has weathered the sudden death of a dynamic Director last December. Also, I come to think of it, why they are replacing 1 director of transportation with 3. And—nothing.

Moving on to Contracts. Last month the board approved the sponsorship contract with the Dayton Business Technology High School and this month they are approving the sponsorship contract with the Dayton Business Technology High School. Again, curious? No.

Catapult Learning West contract for $1.57 million dollars for nonpublic schools. No cost to DPS General Fund, but since the Board has to approve it, what will Catapult provide? In addition, they did the DPS summer school program. How did that turn out and is that a recommendation for this contract?

They are on track to approve Fahlgren Mortine  to serve as the facilitator for strategic planning and development. The Board needs a plan to fully make informed decisions about staffing, buildings and programs. But I looked at their website and am confused as to how this fits. Apparently, they are an ad agency. Another opportunity to inform the community about their plans missed.

You all are going to have to go to Contracts, number 6 yourselves. I’m running out of incredulity.

South Community for $900,000. There was a contract for $250,000 in the review agenda on June 12 but appears to not have made the Board meeting agenda on June 19. Still don’t know what they are going to do for this amount. And possibly neither does the Board.

On the plus side, congrats on supporting the Neighborhood School Centers.

An additional shout out to Denise Gum, Board Assistant. She has begun to annotate changes to Board Docs so the general public can see what changes are made to agenda items. She also uses Board Docs to publish Policy Committee agendas and discussion items under Library, Policy Committee. Check it out.

I also appreciate that DPS Facebooks and broadcasts the review sessions and board meetings. It is not easy to put yourself out there for criticism every time, but they have not flinched. It would be nice if they expanded to committee meetings as well.”
And her earlier post: “So today, during the board review of next week’ voting items, John McManus asked for information on a contract for Partners for Leaders in Education (a group out of University of Virginia) in the amount of $475,000 over 3 years. Conveniently, the new Chief of Schools – Special Projects was on hand to explain.

This is a turn-around program for failing schools. It is a 3-year contract with an option for an additional year. The goal is to develop principal and teacher leaders, with the result that academics will shoot through the roof (sarcasm added). She has used this in Cincinnati and thinks it is the bees’ knees (my words, not hers).

The Board announced the five schools that will be involved in this endeavor, which are coincidentally the 5 (previously unnamed) schools referred to in the job description for her position.

Fairview, EJ Brown, Belmont HS, Louise Troy, Ruskin.

I am infuriated on behalf of the staff, students and families which make up Ruskin PreK-6 school. I am beside myself because I have spent the last 10 years of my life working with some of the most successful, yes, successful, teachers, administrators, community partners, after school staff, and don’t forget students – people who have taken the Ruskin mission to heart and have made it work in many ways, but also and importantly, in ways that outsiders judge education – test scores. Room for improvement -of course – but Ruskin has consistently been in the top 5 for test scores overall in the district, student attendance, and discipline issues (actually lack thereof).

Rather than say, “We have a new principal and an exciting opportunity to improve on what already is going well”, we are now out there before God and everyone as being among the worst of the worst.

The administration and board talk frequently about sharing “the good news” of the district but they have just put one of the successes of DPS in the dumpster.

Makes me want to cuss out loud.”

Thank you Mario. We should all be cussing out loud.

School board agenda posted: more exits

It’s Sunday morning- and the agenda for Tuesday came out “early.”

The last of the internal candidates for Superintendent in the last posted position search, Dr. Greg Roberson is leaving. He’s the head of OEC- and is reportedly going back to Mt. Healthy where he was hired in from. Rumors have DEA chief David Romick asking for Roberson’s position.

David Lawrence was bought out. Rhonda Corr was paid off. Dan Schroer is now the Superintendent of Springboro- which is cool, calm and collected- and passed a levy for the first time on the first try. We’re now out of options for superintendents who applied.

Charity Earley principal Peggy Burks is retiring, immediately. DPS loses one of their most effective principals.

The director of payroll, Nicole Berkely, is leaving the treasurers office- after an internal squabble over pay for calamity days.

Dr. Venita Kelley is out after a year as Director of Strategic Communication and Community Relations, where there were no strategic communications and community relations took a dump.

Debra Corbin, the assistant principal at Ponitz is on FMLA Intermittent through the end of the year.

There are also some contracts for coaches for spring sports (hint: it’s already spring) while other districts have already hired their fall and winter sports coaches for the next year. The lack of respect for both coaches and parents in these last minute contracts is epic.

Tito Reynolds is hired in as the new assistant treasurer for $93K a year. He’s coming over from the Montgomery County Auditors office- where he’s been since 2013. Probably a dem party insider, strengthening the hold of the Mayor on the schools budget (which is considerably bigger than the city budget). Ostensibly, this is to fill the position of Brennon Hattery who left to keep his sanity.

There is no mention of the second reading of the new policies on public speaking in the agenda- but former Board member Mario Gallin who monitors things closely posted this on her FB wall:

So, without officially voting on it as a policy change at the next DPS business meeting as scheduled, the DPS website has already instituted a citizen participation procedure change mandating that anyone wishing to address the board must fill out a registration form and submit it 15 minutes before the start of the meeting. This is actually more draconian than the anticipated policy change requiring forms be submitted 5 minutes before. I am particularly offended by the hypocrisy in the first line. This is from their website Home Page to About Us to Board Meetings, then scroll down.

CITIZEN COMMENTS
The Board values input from the community and as such, the public is invited to attend board meetings and given time to address the Board during the public hearing portion of the business meeting. This is an opportunity for community members to share information, express viewpoints and concerns. It is not a forum for resolving disputes. Members of the public wishing to address the board, must complete the registration form in its entirety, and submit it to the board office representative no later than 15 minutes before the start of the meeting.

This comes on the heels of changes to the ability of the community to use district facilities as promised during the levy campaign in 2002. Dayton citizens were told that if they agreed to fund the building of new schools, part of the reward would be the ability to hold community meetings, use the buildings for community events, utilize the gyms as a community space (particularly attractive as the City was closing rec centers). Not all neighborhood communities have taken advantage of this, but now it appears that they should not even ask. Several months ago, the District removed Building Usage Request form from its website, along with the guidelines for community use. Now, in order to make a request, you must create an “account” which requires you to upload a Liability Insurance form but has no instructions as to what that is or who to contact with questions.

Long term practice has been to offer these facilities at no cost, as long as the building custodian was on duty during the week, usually until 9 or 9:30 pm. Weekend use did require the users to pay for a custodian for 4 hours at $30/hour. Sundays were a bit higher.

That also apparently has been scrapped. Rumor has it that in addition to a security deposit, fees will be charged according to which room in the building is being used and what equipment is required. I did talk to someone who tried to find out what those fees are, and they were told that fees would be assigned after the application was submitted.

There has been no public announcement or discussion of these changes at all.

Thankfully- I’m not the only one paying attention to the board.

Turnover is a major concern in this district. Until a steady hand takes control, expect to see a lot more people leaving for greener pastures.

 

 

 

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.

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.