Once again, Dayton Public Schools believes rose colored glasses will somehow solve their public relations fails. In an epic 4 hour meeting, first we handed out awards for showing up to bus drivers, awards for janitors for cleaning and a real award from the State for Teacher of the Year to a Stivers teacher, Rachael Murdock.
Then it was into a presentation first by Dr. Sheila Burton and then Dr. Elizabeth Lolli about how there was some good in the state test scores- which put us as the second worst district in the State (behind Trotwood). While this kind of information is great, it’s not really useful as “good news.” It’s like saying “we got shutout, but, at least we didn’t fumble the football” (and by the way, the score was 654-0).
It also shouldn’t be presented by administrators.
The proper way to present this, by a competent PR staff, would be a presentation outlining the steps we’re taking over the next 3 years, in order to remedy the issues. What best practices have we implemented that caused things to move up, how we compared to the State in areas we didn’t move up, and what are the performance goals for the future.
While identifying that Horace Mann got 5 “A”s is nice – without knowing what the “A’s” were in, or why, or how- is useless information and a waste of our time. How are we going to replicate those “A’s” across all the other schools is more important. It’s not what grade you got, but what you learned- and how you will improve that counts.
This set up the first fireworks. After Burton and Lolli finished, Baguirov had to blather on about schools getting “A’s” and how we’re not all failing. It was a ramble- unchecked. Joe Lacy had a totally illegible slide to show his analysis- and was promptly cut off by Walker. Rudely. Joe, stormed off the dais. When he returned to vote on an unscheduled Exec session midway through the meeting- he asked if he was allowed to vote now- after he’d been cut off.
The discussion in executive was obviously about the upcoming decision to replace Pete Pullen with Chuck Taylor as the head boys basketball coach at Dunbar. The public comments were dominated by people singing Pete’s praises. The only one to not talk about Pete, was the poor girl who was a DECA student who had cheered for Dunbar for her entire high school career- only to be told she couldn’t finish her senior year for her school, with her friends- and was risking her chance at a scholarship.
Sheila Taylor took a roundabout way of explaining how this was all the Ohio High School Athletic Associations fault and sorry. “We tried to appeal” was Taylor’s line- nevermind the fact that had she not given district athletic director Mark Baker a 2 year contract- this probably wouldn’t have happened.
The fireworks finale was the vote on Taylor/Pullen for the coaching job, but slipped in-between was the board voting not to pay Huffmaster on the contract they signed for Strike Prep. $35,766.78 will be cited in the lawsuit Huffmaster files- and then throw in fees, and penalties and this will cost even more.
The board should be held personally liable for the breech of contract. The superintendent as well, since she didn’t bother explaining that this wasn’t an optional payment.
The Taylor vote had a lot of BS attached. First and foremost, Baguirov announced he’d abstain. Why, not sure. Reality- dereliction of duty. He did this after Lacey actually made a competent case for why the board should reject the recommendations to not rehire the legend for a rookie coach.
He cited 20 years experience, the winning record, the loyalty, and the scoring system which seemed more subjective than objective- especially when you are talking a coaching legend with a record that’s unmatched- compared to a rookie with zero high school coaching experience. But his most damning point was that only 2 people applied to be head coach at one of the states premier programs.
There could only be one reason- insider information and bias. Why wouldn’t we have more applicants? Probably because no one that knows anything about the program and Pete’s legacy would apply until Pete resigned- what idiot would think they’d get picked over a coaching god?
And there lies your problem- only a system run by idiots would toss away one of the best coaches in the State- and possibly in the country – and that’s what we have. Only Chuck Taylor had the inside line on the plan, and here we are.
Lacey walked off to talk to the Dunbar parents, former players, coaches and of course the media- because he’s running for reelection, and because, he’d already been disrespected by the board that evening. This one vote isn’t a good reason to keep him, but, for the first time in a long time- Joe was actually right on the money. That should scare us all.
Until next meeting of the circus clowns, stay sane, and send your kids to CJ or the Miami Valley School. No signs of intelligent life emanate from the puzzle palace on Ludlow.
Apparently a new “policy” came from the State today- kids at charters who participate in sports at public schools- must play for the school closest to their home, not the school closest to their other school.
Kids who go to DECA and have played at Belmont for years, now are being told they have to go to Meadowdale.
Only two slight problems- DECA gets out at 3:30, Belmont gets out at 3:40 and Meadowdale, all the way across the city- gets out at 2:30. DECA is literally a 10 minute bike ride to Belmont.
Beam me up Scotty, no signs of intelligent life here.
Supposedly this came down from OHSAA, which has no idea of how convoluted our district is.
This isn’t about the kids, it’s not for the kids, it’s payback for DPS hiring Mark “the cheater” Baker to a two year contract.
It’s time this entire board goes, Baker goes, and someone gets fired for stealing the money from the gates of whatever sporting events were stolen.
The buck, literally, has to stop somewhere and soon.
This policy is insane, as is the entire premise of local control if this rule is allowed to stand.
Parents are livid. Kids are crying. Who benefits from this policy?
In other words, our District AD knew back in April (or should have) and sat on it.
Rule 1- if you don’t want to download the PDF (Which I’ve attached) here is the key language:
“For a matriculating 9th grade student whose parents live within the district and the student is a nontraditional/specialty student, home educated student, community school student, STEM school student or a non-public school student wanting to utilize Bylaw 4-3-1 exception 4 or 6 to participate in athletics at a high school where they are not enrolled, the district shall assign these students to the high school nearest to their parents’ residence within the district or, if separate attendance zones have been created, to the closest high school within the attendance zone of their parents’ residence regardless of whether that member school is poor performing. (* **See “notes” for additional information regarding non-public school students and home educated students). Note also that parents who live outside this multiple high school district may choose to send a 9th grade student to a non-traditional/specialty school within the district. Such a student shall be assigned for athletics at the district high school which is closest to the parents’ residence outside the district.
Every minute that Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) reign supreme under Rhonda Corr, the talent makes plans to leave. The board, unwilling to admit their massive failure of hiring Corr, of keeping Baker (while turning Darren Powell into the only fall guy), of the insane Reduction in Force mid-year, the questionable real estate deals negotiated by Adil Baguirov (and maybe Corr?), the botched buyout of David Lawrence (probably their only option for a superintendent), then the failure to investigate allegations that Baguirov didn’t even live in the district, then allowing him to somehow negotiate a bus deal, without action by purchasing (an insane violation of board policy) followed by the resignation and pending investigation into the short lived tenure of Rhonda’s hand picked Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Markay Winston….
and now- the envelope please…. Leaving the Dayton Public Schools
Dwon Bush is leaving the district to be an Elementary School Principal in Huber Heights- if her name sounds familiar, it’s because they tried to RIF her, and had a student make a compelling plea to keep her.
Vanisa Turney-Crews, an assistant principal at Kiser is leaving to be the Director of Curriculum and Instruction in Huber Heights.
Taylor Porter, who was Corr’s initial pick to be the principal at Meadowdale when the fan hit the shan, is going to Westerville to be an assistant principal.
Monica Utley, the principal of Fairview- gone.
Valerie Herdman, a future principal- gone.
Sam Eckhardt a superstar high school math teacher at Thurgood- leaving for Xenia. Math teachers are hard to come by.
Ralph Davis – is leaving, one of the key players in the Males of Color program.
And, because they haven’t had their new contracts boarded in their new assignments- there are at least 2 more principals leaving Dayton and 1 more administrator.
The resignation deadline is July 10. There will be plenty more. And while next week there are going to be 2 meetings to negotiate a contract, Corr is the reason that talks got shelved until August.
As long as she’s on top, people are gonna go.
Best case scenario: The board investigates Baguirov, he resigns, Lee and Rountree step down early as they both clearly are tiring of the fight, 3 people who’ve successfully turned in petitions get picked randomly for filling in until the election.
The new board invalidates the Baker contract- fires Corr for cause, fires Hiwot Abraha who can’t get her work done on time, or run purchasing legally, brings back Darran Powell as Head Football Coach (we don’t have time for this sideshow) and gets down on their knees to ask Lawrence to step in as interim.
If they ask nice enough, he may even come in and count part of his buyout as pay until next June.
If they don’t stop the resignations, and get a tentative contract in place before July 7, 2017- or at least have a man with a plan, their may not be enough people to put on a show next year. My guess, is instead, we’ll see that Baguirov has successfully completed his mission- to turn the district into such a clusterduck that the State can come in and turn the whole district into a charter and hand it over to the alternate “school board” Learn to Earn Dayton, and make sure the right people get paid off.
The longer lists of resignations are coming. If you are planning to resign, feel free to contact me to be added to the list. Tell me where you’re going and why if you’d like the public to know what the Reign of Corr hath brought. [email protected]
Update: 1 hour after publishing- have unconfirmed reports of another star principal leaving, and one who is considered a grand dame- may be fed up and turning in her resignation as well if Corr isn’t removed ASAP.
You knew the school board was ready, all of them dressed in their Sunday best- Joe Lacey even left his hoodie at home and combed his hair.
The teachers were ready too. When I say 400, it’s not an exact count, but it was the most I’d seen. They were wearing red, and they weren’t happy.
Negotiations on a contract have been going south, and for too long. The disrespect of the October surprise putsch, the buy out of David Lawrence, the buying of a $400,000 time clock system, the hiring of the highest bidder to do bad “marketing and advertising” for the district, the massive bus purchase- all while claiming broke- and paying the superintendent that’s turned this district upside down more than the board was paying the stable and confident former Superintendent, Lori Ward, are all sticking points. Oh, that and Dayton teachers are expected to do more for less than any other district in the County- with a few exceptions- like Jefferson Township- which shouldn’t even have it’s own district.
After the teachers leader David Romick got done with his address, they all marched out to have a street corner rally, complete with podium. The news media followed.
The only people who left before Mr. Romick was done talking was the three representatives from the Ohlmann Group after they made an apologetic and pathetic presentation of what they’d done so far for at least $40K of wasted money (more on this in a future post). They don’t sit through school board meetings- or provide PR advice to the district, hell- they don’t even bother to shoot their own photos for their ads, they use stock photography. Gee, maybe that’s why my firm lost, we had a 2x Pulitzer prize winner for photojournalism on our team to shoot for our proposed work.
When it came to the speakers, a young, 2nd year teacher who appears to be hitting it out of the ballpark for the district went up and made a plea for her job security. She’s teaching at Westwoood- you know, the neighborhood the Dayton Daily nominated as the most dangerous ‘hood in the city. Every year, she has had to fight to keep her position. You have to listen- this is who you want teaching your kids. Her name is Joshita Reza, and one day, if we’re lucky, she’ll be superintendent of DPS.
Dr. Hazel Rountree, the Board VP is going to look into why Ms. Reza is having problems worthy of a visit to the podium. But, later, circles back, and appears to not have understood anything that Ms. Reza said. It all comes back down to respect, and this board and superintendent don’t respect anyone.
And, if you have the lowest pay, the worst academic performance in the region- people go where the work is easier and the pay is better. It’s not rocket surgery.
I spoke, once again asking for their resignations, and why no one has done anything to investigate Dr. Baguirov’s questionable residency eligibility to even be on the board. It’s a moot point really now, as he already got them to buy the buses for $10M and help his friends in the trucking business. That was voted on after the very long executive session (where those who stuck around were treated to hearing yelling coming from the secret lair).
Before the speakers were invited to the podium, Dr. Walker asked John McManus to read the rules. This isn’t the norm. One of the rules is that you aren’t supposed to single out a single board member, but speak to them as a whole. Well, although I singled out Dr. B- I asked them all to resign, since they haven’t done anything to verify his eligibility. At least nothing close to what they’ve done to check on the eligibility of a high school football player.
I’m go glad to hear that “Great things are happening at Dayton Public Schools”
That you put that up on billboards should be grounds to have you removed- for breaking truth in advertising laws.
Because, unless you are deaf, dumb and blind, you are missing the point of why 300 teachers keep coming down here and questioning your leadership.
But- I can tell you there is a way to make that true. Resign. All seven of you.
You see, allowing an ineligible board member to do deals with your proxy is grounds for removal from office. From the real estate deals that smelled fishy- to the hiring of the most expensive bidder to do the “Great things are happening” campaign- to the bus deal- you’ve been asleep at the wheel. Following prompts from a board member who doesn’t even live in the district- and hasn’t since 2015.
I’d like to see the rent receipts for his half million dollar house in the Vandalia Butler school district- tell us who does live in the mansion.
Because sure as bees make honey- Dr., if he really is a Dr., Adil Baguirov is in a bit of a pinch. He’s registered to vote in a Ten Thousand dollar house on Maryland Ave- where he supposedly lives with his business partner- Islom Shakhbandarov.
He failed to disclose many of his business dealings on his ethics statements. He failed to disclose his maze of shell companies.
What we have here is our own version of Henry Hill- here to sell you 76 trombones. A carpet bagger- who is possibly lining his own pockets with inside deals with CareSource- Miami Valley Hospital, the University of Dayton, and even Learn To Earn.
Never mind the bus deal.
Since you won’t do anything about any of this- I’ve taken the next steps to have Dr. Baguirov removed by a judge. The next step is to remove the rest of you by collecting 4500 signatures. I think the people in this room will gladly help me get them in record time.
It’s time to stop embarrassing the city of Dayton. It’s time we had a superintendent and treasurer that actually lead our organization forward. It’s time to end the insider deals- and stop the loss of staff attrition – which has approached 20% annually.
Please, do us a favor- abdicate now- and save yourself the embarrassment- we’ve already got 13 people running for office to replace 4 of you. Do you need further evidence that the community doesn’t approve of your choice in superintendent or how you are running the district?
Because once we remove all of you- then we can legitimately claim “Great things are happening at Dayton Public Schools.”
Of course no response. Dr. Baguirov’s business partner and housemate for voting, Islom Shakhbandarov was sitting right next to the podium and filmed me as I spoke. As soon as the board broke for their executive session, Shakhbandarov ran to McManus asking why he didn’t cut me off for talking about his partner- McManus said “I just read the rules, it’s up to the board president to enforce them.”
I say fire the coaches, the athletic directors, the principals, the superintendent and move forward. Nobody was there to make sure this young man was eligible, or that his eligibility was being managed properly. The video speaks for itself- the kids didn’t want to “throw the game” and showed their disgust for this cockamamie scheme. Only thing I’m sure of is, this wouldn’t have happened if Superintendent Chaos Corr hadn’t run David Lawrence out of the district. Lawrence was previously over Baker- and, attended most of the sporting events- and knows how to calculate eligibility.
When the board came out of executive session, Dr. Hazel Rountree was missing. She’d walked off the job. Should be grounds for termination. When the going gets rough, or Hazel doesn’t get her way- she just gets going. This proves that she’s not worthy of her seat.
Joe Lacey was the only one who voted not to retain Baker. He’s a little late to the whole discussion at this point and doing nothing more than grandstanding. Of course, he dosn’t bother to hold himself responsible for putting Corr in charge of this circus. Watch the video of Corr and Lacey while he has his rant around the three minute mark.
Baker got his contract- with a 5-1 vote, with Hazel absent without leave. On his way out, Coach Powell said to me “We’re done” – knowing that they were going to be the only ones to take a hit for this gross failure to do the right thing.
Speaking of doing the right thing, the board still won’t address the eligibility of Dr. Baguirov at all. Thus, all failing their legal responsibility to follow their own rules.
The head of security who was tasked to spend all the time in the world interviewing everyone involved in the Dunbar/Belmont fiasco, hasn’t had any time to investigate Dr. B. Imagine that.
I’ve requested all the interview transcripts through a public records request for publication later.
When black people in Dayton screw up, leave no stone unturned. When it’s a slick talking, nattily dressed, carpetbagger who can’t make up his mind if we’re broke or flush- no investigation warranted.
As they always say the best defense in America is being rich.
Warning, this post will be long. There will be a lot of pieces and parts of stories of incompetence, coming from many sources. It’s easy to say To Long/Didn’t Read. But this is for the people who care about our schools, our city, and our kids. It’s a compilation of antics that I’ve observed and heard and been asked to deal with over the last 6 months, but, because I wanted to step up and be a part of the solution, I stayed quiet. That’s not my style. It’s also not fair to the people of the city who’ve come to depend on me to speak the truth. I apologize.
This post will probably preclude me from ever doing what needs done for the district. It’s not the first time bringing the truth to light has cost me and my business work. I’m not known as the ninja for nothing.
If you want the short answer: The Dayton Board of Education made a mistake of epic proportions when passing over a qualified internal candidate with known flaws to bring in an untested rookie superintendent with a mottled past to be a “turnaround specialist.” There are questions of racial discrimination, a propensity to hire women (the entire “cabinet” of DPS is now female) and there have been so many public relations disasters that morale within the district, confidence in the administration and the community is at an all time low. There are multiple lawsuits either pending or coming.
full disclosure: I’ve done work for the district over the last half-dozen years. I’ve talked to Superintendents since Percy Mack about restructuring marketing, schools and the message to the community. I’ve served on the Technology Steering Committee off and on since 2012. I was an early advocate of 1 to 1 computing. I was asked by the new superintendent, Rhonda Corr to tackle two projects, weeks after her arrival. There was no P.O. or RFP or even an arranged price. What I turned in included a proposed payment of $1000 for the work to date, an estimate of approximately $12K for the work as specified and about $50K to produce it, or, hire my firm for a complete outsourcing of all PR for the year for $250K.
The district issued an RFP with a short time line. I offered my assistance in how to frame the RFP to the treasurer- I was rebuffed. I worked through my fathers death to turn in what was a comprehensive plan to a poorly constructed open ended RFP with no budget, goals, or the normal briefing that comes with an agency selection. They published the request for bid, but the only agencies that submitted were The Ohlmann Group, Hafenbrack/Upward, Nova Creative, Noir Marketing and my firm, The Next Wave. I know this because they mistakenly sent an email with everyone CC’d- plus this community is pretty small. The contract was to be awarded Sept. 20 with work to commence Sept. 21. The purchasing department missed all deadlines they set. When I asked why it wasn’t on the Sept. agenda- I got an answer from Corr that they weren’t done with evaluations- and that she was one of the guilty parties. I kept pushing for the award, and asking why there were zero communications from purchasing. I spoke at a board meeting. I’ve heard board members blame the drop in enrollment on everything from stabbing at schools to bad marketing. When the purchasing department did finally do their interviews, it was the most unprofessional selection committee I’ve ever seen. They handed us a two page form as we headed up the elevator on what they wanted. There were to be no questions specific to our proposal. Finally, the board pushed and on Nov 1, the superintendent presented the recommendation that they hire Ohlmann- the highest and largest bidder. The board refused the recommendation. The superintendent’s suggestion was to ask other school systems how to run a selection process for a creative services firm. This is like asking me to do advanced calculus. School systems aren’t marketing driven organizations, nor do they have people that understand marketing and have experience working with these types of firms. Out of frustration, I wrote a guide to government agencies on how to run an agency selection process and forwarded it to the board. They still haven’t acted, even tough their Public Information Officer retires at the end of the year and their Telecommunications director leaves for UD after 31 years at the district at the same time.
end of disclosure.
Out with the old…
The reason Lori Ward and the board parted ways will never fully be known, I even called for her to go. Both my reasoning and the boards reasoning are probably in alignment on her inability to cut deadwood from the bloated organization. If you wanted to see the Peter Principle in action, you could swing a dead cat around the administrative palace on Ludlow and hit several people who had far out climbed their bandwidth.
Sitting on the Tech Steering committee I was facing at least two of them, maybe three. It was hard to say, because the committee often had 20 people in attendance, but very few actually participate. Being silent is an acceptable job role in DPS.
I also believed that their PIO, although a very nice lady, didn’t know good marketing from bad. Several examples of failure have made it to this blog– but “enroll, commit, succeed” is still one of the worst taglines I’ve ever seen.
Lori Ward didn’t fire people. She is also black, a well respected member of the community and knows the district inside and out. It wasn’t long before she left with a large buyout of contract, sick time, vacation pay and headed to Cleveland Public Schools to head HR. Kind of an odd position for a person that doesn’t fire people.
The board also parted ways with Craig Jones, the Treasurer. Craig was a very conservative guy. He was also, as one board member put it, “insubordinate.” This might be because he was vehemently against giving tax abatement to companies like GE, Emerson, CareSource, and whatever other private pied piper that had become part of Nan Whaley’s plan to raise more money than god to stay in power and to subvert the schools.
The board picked Hiwot Abraha to take over. She was the person who under the pre-Craig treasurer Stan Lucas, ran the show while he was out ill. Hiwot stepped into Craig’s shoes with a solid balance sheet- and a $30 million dollar reserve. All the computers had been paid for and software money allocated before the school year started. The schools had even refinanced bonds under Craig to put us in a stronger position.
The board screwed up the process and procedure for firing Craig. He’s now suing them. He is the first of what will be many.
Normally, a district the size of Dayton would have 20+ applicants for Superintendent. With Dayton facing takeover by the state of Ohio for failing performance grades, the applicant pool was less than half that. Indecision by the board let their first round first choice candidate slip away. She was an assistant superintendent in Beavercreek with a penchant for finding grant funding. Passed over in this round was internal candidate David Lawrence, so when round 2 came, and he was excluded, a lot of people, including most of the building principals who were under him were confused. Board members said the reason was they wanted an outside perspective- someone who wasn’t part of the problem they thought they had. Another barrier to attracting talent was that they were only offering a one-year contract. That’s not really a vote of confidence, but since the job might disappear in a State takeover in 2 years- why have to pay more to buy them out.
Round 2 was covered on this blog. Even though they didn’t want an insider, this time Dr. Roberson who hadn’t been with the district long enough to learn the names of the principals was a finalist. Lawrence sat in the back of the room. Next to Dr. Tom Lasley of “Learn to Earn.”
With time to hire already at a premium, the passed on their token internal black male candidate, ruled our Dan Schroer (who was quickly hired by Springboro) because of his pro-police in schools answer which had the Racial Justice Now people ready to lynch him, and left them with Rhonda Corr.
I met with Corr early on, at the Third Perk coffee house, catty corner from HQ. She brought Colleen Wells as her scribe. I showed previous work my firm had done for the district, talked about ideas that were rejected including a “day in the life” type project, curated by 2x Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Larry Price– who even offered to shoot for 2 days in the District for free- and was rejected.
The meeting went an hour and a half in late afternoon on July 7. She seemed receptive and we got along fine. A few weeks later, on Tuesday the 26th at the Tech Steering committee she asked me to take on two challenges: graphics for the windows around the board meeting room because there is no district branding on that end of the building, and a way to increase attendance because “we know for a fact that if kids don’t miss more than 10 days of school our scores go up.” I responded, so you watched Dr. Roberson’s presentation on my blog? She denied it. His simplistic solution as presented at the 3 ring circus came down to a catch phrase that he had the audience chanting: “success begins with less than 10” as in absences.
To me, this assignment was like the captain of the Titanic handing an ice pick to a deck hand and saying- go take care of that iceberg for me. The district has serious communications deficits and window dressing and a marketing solution to attendance issues are the first challenge. Typically, we start with a comprehensive strategy for repositioning and then work tactically to get there.
There was no request for proposal, no PO, just go ahead and do the work. A week later I met with her to give her a plan. It solved the window dressing problem with a much bigger idea- complete with a strategy to begin to reposition the district honestly, and a strategy for incentivizing/gamification of attendance along with a playbook. We threw in reference to other critically needed components and addressed the payment for services as outlined in the above disclaimer.
Other things were happening in the district around the same time. The annual week long principals institute, a program that had been run by Chief of School Innovation David Lawrence was scheduled to meet at Charity Early. Part of the reason, was as a celebration of the principal’s 50th year in education. Charity Early is almost like a retreat- because it was built in collaboration with the Girl Scouts who have their facility there. None of this was known by our new Superintendent who cancelled it- and instead decided to spend money to rent the Crowne Plaza for a day – to make it feel more like a conference. So much for paying for a facility- the A/C was out the entire day. This was the beginning of the undermining of Lawrence by Corr.
In fact, their first meeting, was a fraction of my first meeting a week before. She had district lawyer Jyllian Guerriero with her, as she met with him for 15 minutes at which time there was no listening- just orders. You are to have no further contact with principals in the district. You are going to be over special projects: Athletics, Males of Color, Dayton Biz Tech and Longfellow Alternative School. There was also a fracas around this time over the hiring of the new district Athletic Director. Mark Baker, a Dunbar grad, had been offered the job by David Lawrence, and in a power play- someone wanted to rescind it and give it to another candidate out of D.C. This may have been Corr’s first wake up call that there people in this town with more juice that she’ll ever have. After a few days of confusion, the Baker appointment went through.
I had a conversation with Corr about demoting Lawrence. She said it wasn’t a demotion, it was putting him in charge of the things that needed the most help. She wanted to make sure the Males of Color initiative was a success, and she didn’t want him overloaded with other things.
Several people seem to be in the good graces of the new superintendent. Bob Bucheim, a recent hire to the district, who gets promoted to Executive Director Curriculum and takes over a number of schools that had previously reported to David Lawrence. I’d worked with Bucheim on the Technology Steering Committee and found him to be enthusiastic, positive and a lot like my golden retriever when she was a puppy. When asking a former supervisor of his about him, the response was “I had 12 principals under me, if asked to rank them 1-12, Bob would be 15.” His claim to fame was as a scheduling wizard. Scheduling is a critical part of high school enrollment- so critical that when Lawrence was over Thurgood, they used to have a schedule preview day about a week before school started to give them a chance to dry-run the classes to iron out any mistakes.
When school started, Meadowdale High School still didn’t have a master schedule. The process had begun with Lawrence before his demotion, but when he was told not to talk to anyone- he obeyed. It’s a complex process, including input from the DEA reps in the building, the principals, the guidance counselors. Eleven days in, Corr asked Lawrence to step in to intervene and clean up the mess left by Bucheim and Dr. Sheila Burton who didn’t put a master schedule in place. He outlined clearly what he had done to start the process, when he was told to stop and wanted to make sure this wasn’t another attempt to find fault with him. Soon after he wasn’t in charge of Athletics anymore. And then Males of Color was stripped as well.
Speaking of the Males of Color Initiative, David Lawrence had taken my Websitetology course over the summer. He thought it was incredibly insightful and useful- so much in fact, that he wanted the team from Males of Color to take it. Five sharp young men showed up on the morning of Aug 24 to take the class. I get a call, the PO for $495 wasn’t approved and I may not get paid by the district. At 8:47 am I send a text to Corr:
David Esrati:I hear the po for my training of the men of color wasn’t approved yet. I made a command decision- to allow them to stay at my risk. Teaching the rest of the day.
Rhonda Corr:What training?
David Esrati:Websitetology seminar. How to use the web effectively. You are welcome to stop by
Lawrence is dumbfounded. He’d never had to get a PO for less than 10K approved before, and, esp, by this one being held up by the Superintendent, who is playing dumb. Internal secretaries, the ones who run most organizations confirm with me as I’m trying to get paid a month later that Corr was the only hang up.
The Males of Color all told me they thought the training was outstanding. It tool the district until 9/29/16 to pay the bill.
Meanwhile, at the Tech Steering Committee, it’s come out that one of the pieces of software the district bought, Imagination Learning, requires headsets to work. No one bought headsets. Bucheim does his best puppy imitation- and no solid answers are given. I’ve been asking for a report of what we bought- basic computer/configuration/software packages and what the cost per seat per year is for software. I’m still waiting for that report, and it’s been promised for the November meeting. I’d been asking since May. The Imagination Learning software was $330K for a year, as days are dwindling and it can’t be used. I’m wondering who gets fired for this? Or do we negotiate with the vendor for a discount- since obviously, their sales team didn’t bother to stress what equipment is necessary. No one seems to care.
The problems at Meadowdale continue. Taylor Porter was a young black male scholar who was in the Bright Fellow program– sponsored by Ohio State and the Ohio Business Roundtable. On Friday, September 16th, word is he was handed a pink slip by Ms. Corr. Monday, veteran principal Jacquelyn Pope PhD resigns abruptly, sending out a robocall to parents. It makes the news. She blames Corr and lack of support. Corr all of a sudden wants to promote young Mr. Porter to Principal, but, unfortunately, his principals license won’t be ready till January. She’s forgotten that she fired him- and now makes him “dean of students.” The firing on a Friday, rehire on Tuesday seems to be a patented Corr move.
The funny thing is, in the last three years, Meadowdale has had two other principals quit mid-year. Both times Lawrence stepped in, took care of things and there was no brew-ha-ha. In the Army, they call Special Forces, the elite military unit I had the honor of serving with, “the silent professionals”- that’s what Mr. Lawrence provided to the district. Elite intervention in sticky situations.
The Meadowdale saga is still continuing. I was at the board meeting where the audience set up their kumbaya circle to try to bring peace back to the district in the wake of Ms. Slash and Burn Corr’s actions. I looked carefully at Board Docs and the list of employment moves. Sometime after the meeting a new sheet went up- and all of a sudden, we’re hiring a new principal for Meadowdale, at $95k a year. That makes him the second highest paid principal in the district. When David White, the well respected principal who turned around Belmont, left Ponitz for Trotwood, as did Tracy Mallory, Lisa Minor, and a host of other former DPS “superstars” we couldn’t find money to pay any of them more. And, of course, with Corr comes controversy. The hire, Donetrus Hill PhD. had resigned from his last position in Dallas in May of 2015 after it was exposed that he was offering students academic make up credit for floor mopping. By the time you throw in relocation expenses, this is a very expensive solution to the problems at Meadowdale. In the meantime, she’s stripped Lawrence of responsibility over anything and has him in a closet in the far corner of the first floor next to some IT equipment with a schedule saying that he has to be at his desk from 8:30 to 4:30 with no more than a half hour for lunch. He’s still making $102.5 K a year. He’s a proven principal.
There isn’t a single DPS employee that won’t vouch for Mr. Lawrences pre-Corr work ethic. Not only was he known to be in the office earlier and later than most, he’d work weekends as well. And, if there was a sporting event, he was there too. In fact, when you used to drive by the district parking lot at 8:30 at night most nights pre-Rhonda Corr, and you knew who drove what, you’d usually have seen Ward’s Volvo SUV and Lawrences’ car in the lot. Now, it’s empty.
Resetting the doomsday clock
It’s September 14th, my birthday. At 3:25 in the afternoon I get a call from Rhonda asking me to look over the press release that the district is preparing to send about the single “A” they received for the 2016 report card. It’s in Annual Yearly Progress- and it’s the only A that mattered. It meant the 2 year countdown to state takeover was now reset. Jill Moberley had written her version- and Corr didn’t feel comfortable with it. Could I take a crack at it.
I don’t have any of the actual data to work with- just what Jill included. Her headline: “Dayton Public Schools receives an A for student growth” and then a meandering mess of stats that no one cares about and fake quotes. I get to work. In 30 minutes, I’ve rewritten it, added some Cleveland flavor to it to make it sound like Corr actually has a heart, and send it back. My headline: “Dayton Public Schools resets takeover countdown”- what appears in the Dayton Business Journal is my release. People compliment Jill on her release, she says “I decided to try something a little different this time.”
No payment arrangements made, no bills issued.
This news barely hits the streets and next thing in the news, a new DPS teacher with an incredible vitae- gets arrested in Edwin Joel Brown school- for allegedly raping a child. DPS can’t buy a break, but, they think the best thing to do is keep stressing it wasn’t one of our students, we barely know the guy. The problem is, this isn’t the first sex offender news of the year, a Ponitz employee, who didn’t have a valid teaching certificate had been caught up in a prostitution case. Help is offered, but not accepted on this one.
One last thought: the A that saved the district had nothing to do with the new administration or leadership. The academic plan that got the district an A was written mostly by Lisa Minor who is now in Trotwood, and David Lawrence who is in purgatory.
The Marketing Bid Status
At this point, we’re a week from the award for the “comprehensive marketing services” contract which was supposed to be awarded on September 20th with work to start on the 21st.
I’m feeling pretty confident. Here I am, being asked to do emergency PR help. But, I’d also seen the email of who my competition was. Corr had told me that there were 5 bidders when I’d asked. But, here’s the part I’m struggling with, before the bid was turned in, after my father had died, I was taking my mom to Ben & Jerry’s on Brown Street to help fatten her up. I ran into Rhonda coming out of the Pine Club with friends of hers. I’d introduced my mother to her- and she’d asked how I was doing. I’d responded, I’m stressed out, working on this RFP from hell- her response to me, was “don’t worry, I want to work with you- this process is just a formality.”
I had come into the office the next day and told my staff. I wasn’t happy about it- because I don’t think things should work that way. I believed in the strength of our proposal. Others who have looked at it who work in the district, in the field, all thought it was outstanding. But, after years of trying to get federal contracts, it had become clear- RFP’s are usually issued AFTER the buyer has the vendor picked. For once, I was going to shut up and let it ride. Dad had died, I’m struggling with taking care of mom who is slipping into dementia, it’s about time something came my way. And, I know I’d do a good job.
Come the weekend before the award, I spend Saturday night writing the press release for the district to issue when they post the contract to Board Docs on Sunday- 48 hours before the board meeting Tuesday. I send it off- it mentions Jill’s retirement. It talks about why they picked The Next Wave and the expectations. I send it to Corr. When Board Docs comes out on Sunday- with no mention of the contract- I immediately write Corr asking WTF? You can’t slide this on at the last minute- it looks shady, and if there is one thing I don’t want to start out with is some sort of idea that this was snuck in. She has no answers to why. I research and find the State doesn’t have any requirements about 48 hours notice on contracts, but apparently DPS does. Doesn’t matter, it’s not happening now. In fact, Corr admits she hasn’t finished her review and rating of the 5 submissions.
The problem with an RFP, especially one with timelines and implementation schedules- is that the dates matter. Your request, my offer, make up a contract. If the dates aren’t right- it just doesn’t free flow into the next quarter. Especially with schools that run on a half a year schedule.
November comes. School has already been going along for two months. Teachers and students have formed bonds, expectations set. Rhonda tells me that she’s got a plan to fire everyone downtown and make them all re-apply for their jobs. She doesn’t know what half of them do. This is in central office- well away from the classroom. I’m pretty sure I can name a few people that need to go.
After me pushing at the October business meeting for them to award the contract to someone, and that it was disrespectful to small business and to the community and to the leadership including the board that tasked purchasing with hiring someone, they finally act on Nov 1. I’m at the meeting. The board is asked to waive the 48 hour rule to award the contract to the Ohlmann group. Ron Lee makes the motion, Dr. Baguirov complains about how the numbers don’t add up, how does a firm (mine) with a 2x Pulitzer Prize winner and is Veteran Owned not score higher. Why are we always giving contracts to the big company and in this case with the highest bid. The motion doesn’t get a second. Ohlmann had the contract in it’s grasp for a few hours- and gone. I get the notification from purchasing about this epic fail 20 hours later. The first communication at all from them.
But, now, the district has to make cuts. It seems they’ve lost 500 some students, which means somewhere between 3.5 and 5 million dollars won’t be there. We hear reasons that just help the district dig a deeper hole- “the stabbing at World of Wonder” caused it was the worst- straight out of Dr. Baguirov’s mouth. And while that story made headlines because it was on the school security cameras and in broad daylight, there was also a gun brought to Wright Brothers within a week and fights and other stuff that goes on all the time. You don’t need to bring any of that up.
Corr says if every principal just went out and recruited 15 students we’d be fine…. in November…. with what materials? With what story- “we got a single A and a bunch of F’s.” The community half buys this line of malarkey. Corr promises once again, cuts will be kept as far away from the classroom as possible.
Until the list comes out and a ton of para-professionals are all getting pink slips.
Para pro- what? You mean they went to jump school and are Airborne qualified? No- paraprofessionals are teachers aides, they come in many varieties, from bus aides, to handicapped student aides, to one-on-one coaches in the classroom. We have some that have been doing that hand holding for as long as 30 years. They don’t do it for the money- the most they could make is about $25k a year. Most of them have at least 2 year degrees and have passed their PRAXIS exams. The best part- is they aren’t paid out of general fund money- they get their money from the feds- Title 1- money for urban disadvantaged kid interventions. And, if you ask the instructional leaders of the district, the principals, the para-professionals are the ones who helped the district get the A in annual yearly progress. Without the chrome books.
Board Member Joe Lacey was at Kiser PK-6 the day the cuts came out- and he said “well where do you think the money came from to pay for the computers?” Never mind it takes a para in the room working with a teacher in order for those computers to be up and running- and in Kindergarten- where kids have never used a mouse- it can take as many as 5 para professionals to get the whole class online and working.
But it doesn’t stop there. The same day the para’s get cut, Karen Lombard gets her pink slip. She’s in tears. She’s been working in the district for 26 years, she’s known as an expert in her field, not just locally but nationally. She’s the one who made DPS preschools, all 14 of them, top notch and worthy of the vaunted 5 Star rating. In 2016 the Dayton Association for Young Children named her the “Administrator of the Year.” Principals who count on her to manage all the compliance issues and keep the pre-k thing on track are devastated. Tuesday comes, and Corr has been told she’s made a mistake. Someone calls and tells Ms. Lombard “we had a change of heart, would you come back?” She agrees. She’s not supposed to speak about the Friday firing- but, just like the internet, once something happens in a Dayton Public School the grapevine doesn’t forget or just stop.
Joe Lacey has no problem with firing MariJane Recob, director of the Challenger center at Kiser. He calls her a “museum curator” and says that he thinks that certified teachers are what make a difference. Even though he’s the longest serving member of the board, he seems clueless that not only was MariJane teaching before he put on his first speedo, she was doing STEM before anyone knew what STEM was. Board Members McManus and Taylor try to save her from the axe that week. Of course, they had very little time to prepare, because as usual, Corr can’t get her act together- the list was posted about an hour before the meeting. Also gone were Toni Perry Gillespie and Richard Melson- two people I never thought were good fits for the district. Melson likes to be called Dr. Melson, a salutation that leads people to believe he’s a PhD or EdD- but, no- it’s a divinity degree. He was a director of IT who never heard of open source software, and was responsible for directing the district into a very expensive proprietary piece of software called SunGard which is an expensive enterprise solution for running a district. Gillespie is part of the Monarchy of Montgomery County- and was hired as a coordinator of Community and Family Engagement, yet didn’t do much of either.
It was her office that set up the “Coffee with the Superintendent” last Saturday at Ruskin Elementary School. I attended for a part of it. If they had competent PR it would have been considerably different. I’m not going to spell out how to do one of these events, but ideally you have a presentation that knocks peoples socks off with your vision of the future to begin, and everyone leaves with a happy handout recapping the plan and gives them something to share with their friends and neighbors. None of that happened. Jill Moberley and Ken Kreitzer were both there. No, they weren’t filming, no they weren’t taking notes- just standing on the sidelines, playing with their phones.
The Superintendent is asked for an actual attendance figure. This is something Lori Ward could recite in her sleep. Corr’s answer was “thirteen thousand something.”
When asked about classroom size limits, she had to refer it to the principals in the room for the answer.
Learning to count
Remember, all these cuts and disruptions a few months into the school year are being driven by a “drop in dollars due to decreased enrollment.” There is one problem, every student that leaves the district has to be accounted for. It’s an exit interview. You have to track it to the state. We’re saying we lost about 450 or so, but no one has the report. A report that says “this many 7th and 8th graders went to the STEM school from Horace Mann and Wright brothers” when the school reconfiguration for middle schools happened. Or, we had lost a bunch to the middle school that DECA just opened downtown. Nope- no reports. No facts, no figures- but, remember, Corr said cuts would be far away from the classroom and if we just recruited students, and if we had better marketing…
This drop in enrollment and dollars is driving a RIF- reduction in force. It is the excuse you have to use to cut people who’ve signed contracts or are covered by union contracts. You also have to eliminate the position as part of a RIF- for instance you can’t RIF David Lawrence who has a contract through 2018 if you gave his job to three different people- two of which you hired in (Dr. Libby Lolli and Dr. Markay Winston).
And if it isn’t already bad, Dr. Baguirov is proud of himself for hiring an internal auditor to cut out waste. As the sole Republican on the Board- it’s his job to always go on about cutting government waste. The board lets the auditor go up on November 1, and present a whole list of things he identified as waste- just handing negative publicity and generating the easiest “DPS is incompetent” story Dayton Daily news reporter Jeremy Kelley ever had to write. So, not only can’t we hire enough bus drivers or get your kids to school, we also can’t stop them from taking lunches or using the bus for personal trips.
Then, this morning, the whole thing turns into a joke. Now, we’re still going to fire 30 paraprofessionals, but we’re going to hire 30 certified teachers with Title 1 money. We’re not really broke after all.
On Tuesday, DPS school board president Adil Baguirov added a new wrinkle to the process, saying the district plans to hire more teachers that will make up for the cuts of classroom aides, also called paraprofessionals.
“Instead of paraprofessionals, who are not certified and often don’t have college degrees in education or related fields, DPS now plans to have 28 new teachers, one for each building, to augment data-driven, modern, research-based education,” Baguirov said.
It was not immediately clear how the staff moves — layoffs of 20 administrators last week, an estimated 40 total cuts to be voted on Thursday, and the 28 hires that Baguirov mentioned for the first time Tuesday — fit together financially.
District officials have said millions of dollars in cuts per year are necessary because of an unexpected drop in enrollment that will lead to less state funding.
Classroom aides generally max out around $25,000 per year, while certified teachers in Dayton make between $38,000 and $71,000. Baguirov said those new teachers would be paid with the same Title 1 funding stream for low-income students that paid the 32 or 33 laid-off aides.
DPS Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the Title 1 money from the laid-off aides would also be used for professional development on blended learning, literacy and teacher leadership.While state money is expected to decrease midyear for DPS because of a drop in enrollment, federal Title 1 funding is basically constant until next school year, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
Newsflash- somehow, the count of missing students is off. Not a little, but hundreds. Somewhere we went from having solid numbers and accounting, to flying by the seat of our pants. Here DDn confirms the numbers weren’t legit.
The people directly responsible for these numbers: Treasurer Hiwot Abraha and Dr. Sheila Burton. Two of Corr’s trusted confidants. One other person to look as part of the inner cabal is the district attorney, Jyllian Bradshaw (nee. Guerriero) who worked with the hired firing hands.
Superintendent Rhonda Corr said last month that she brought in two outside consultants to do a review of district staffing levels and efficiency, helping shape the job cuts and realignment. Corr said the consultants were Deborah Heater, who spent years leading human resources efforts for Cincinnati Public Schools, and attorney David Lampe of Bricker & Eckler.
Heater’s company was paid $19,800 for its work on the “rightsizing” initiative. The contract was technically with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, with Lolli as a signatory.
The funny thing is outside of school or government jobs Heater can’t stay put anywhere much over a year and she has her own consulting firm and apparently works at another consultant as well. Reading her Linkedin Profile is a laugh a minute with “I” being the focus of everything.
Was there an RFP for the henchman? Nope. And why the sneak around through the MCESC? Maybe because the new Sheriff in town needs someone to blame when it all goes seriously south? Deniability is always the fallback for weak leaders.
The Dunbar fiasco
While much of the focus of the sixth floor is on educational achievement, one thing Dayton Public is known for is strong football and basketball teams. This year was no different with Dunbar’s football team going to State. Only one thing went wrong, the last two games the coach played an ineligible player. At the November 1 board meeting, this was a topic of discussion. The head of the district security, former Dayton cop, Jamie Bullens was there after conducting an extensive investigation. The discussion turned interesting when Board VP Sheila Taylor wanted to know how we prevent things like this. When study tables were mentioned, a staple of college programs, this was news to Taylor and she was asking why it wasn’t standard practice? This brought venom from Lacey who called her and the rest of the board out for even suggesting athletes deserve any kind of special treatment or extra help.
Corr got on her pedestal talking about how this “hurt children” and she was demanding resignations from two people. She had one in hand and was waiting on the other.
We’re not sure what she was asking for- the football coach or the athletic director, who is also the head basketball coach and a Dayton Legend, Pete Pullen who has now resigned as AD for Dunbar, but she was asking for his complete resignation on the first day of basketball practice. Had she pushed it, she would have been hanging from a rim, and not because she just dunked the ball.
Let’s see, play an ineligible player and you have to resign. Don’t follow board direction to hire a marketing firm- keep your job. Buy $330K of software that your students can’t use- keep your job? Don’t properly get the master schedule done at a high school and the principal quits- and keep your promotion. The list goes on.
The big money questions?
The district took a strange stance on Issue 9. The end of the happy loving relationship between the board and the Dayton City Commission happened in early August when both the city and the school board were headed to the ballot to float a levy. DPS backed down, even though the city was now going to encroach on education by funding the quasi-public organization “Learn To Earn” with unfettered money for 8 years to go to pre-school. The pre-school promise will get about $4.5 million every year- of which they get to keep 20% or $900K for their salaries and overhead. Not a bad deal. Poor school board members are capped at $5K a year. DPS board, which meets more, longer and seems less effective than any other board in the county according to Dayton Daily News reporter is effectively working for free.
Not fully understanding why the district wasn’t making a peep against Issue 9, on my own I dug into it and found where the money was coming from, and decided to make a few videos to try to steer people away from voting for it. It didn’t make sense to be throwing so much money at a private org with no legitimate oversight that can dole out money to private schools, charters, and even home schoolers. No income restriction. Flat out discretionary money. I thought with that kind of cash we could do something to really make a difference, roll out city wide wi-fi so that the kids could go home with their chromebooks and continue their learning. The short video had 15,000 views on Facebook in 4 days. Some board members appreciated the work – and saw what real marketing looked like.
One board member thought that by working with the City we’d have a seat at the table. Little did they realize, the table isn’t in the same room as the big boys. Another board member, may have financial connections to a pre-school, and could benefit from Issue 9 money floating their way. None of this made sense- and most importantly, this was an ideal time to be talking about the districts own 5 star free preschools that aren’t at capacity- not a peep. Was their a written guarantee of support from the people backing Issue 9 to throw money toward the DPS levy next spring? Or was it more like the kind of deal Dayton did with Kroger for the new Wayne Avenue store that never materialized?
Remember one of the big donors to the Issue 9 campaign was CareSource? $25K, in the pre-election report. They bought the old Patterson Co-Op land for a cool million from the board recently and immediately turned it over to the Port Authority so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes. Had this board had any competent legal help, or just a modicum of common sense, they would have put a deed restriction on the real estate that it couldn’t ever have it’s property tax abated. But, we only tax the poor people in Dayton anymore- and the ones who can’t vote.
Morale and the moral of the story
In my business, long ago, an agency defined advertising as “Truth Well Told” – a slogan that is probably even more important today than it was back in 1912 when McCann Erikson trademarked it as their credo. We seem to be missing a whole lot of truth in Dayton Public Schools since the arrival of Rhonda Corr. And while there are always two sides to a story, I put my faith in my long standing connections in the community. There are people all over this city who in front of the powerful- say, “that Esrati is crazy”- because in Dayton, you need a herd to be heard (a quote I heard early on from former Dayton Planning Director Paul Woodie) but in private, they call me, tell me the dirt, and ask me to do their dirty work.
It’s a thankless job. The strangest thing happened tonight as I was writing this. At 8:31 pm, Rhonda Corr called me. She can’t figure me out. She wasn’t happy that she saw me comment on Facebook that she had been fired in Chicago in the wake of the BBB debacle. She calls it laid off. We had a long talk, where she reiterated that she wants to work with me and my firm. That she sees something special there, but, I seem to turn on people. She said she had been warned, extend me an olive branch and you’ll get hit with it. I told her it was odd timing- I was 6,700 words in on an post about her and the district. Trying to set the record straight. As to her being fired or laid off, I wonder if it makes a difference what she calls it when she does the same thing to people here- proven people? Long time employees?
She talks about the building principals as CEO’s of their buildings. They are the true instructional leaders in the district, the master teachers. The ones who are held responsible for what learning goes on in school. When you have a 17 year district veteran saying this in the paper, you know something is seriously wrong with the changes:
Kiser Principal James Fowler understands the need. “We’re going to rethink how we deliver services based on them not being here,” Fowler said. “They make our 1-to-1 technology work. … It’ll be a big loss. They’re just so valued.”
That is from a former Air Force Major, a guy who toes the company line. The board may think they are brilliant, but if they opened up an anonymous chat room and asked the 30 building principals to give honest feedback about the Superintendent and where the district was going, they’d leave enlightened, and would reconsider keeping her here.
That the district’s doomsday clock isn’t ticking down the final two years of their rule has given them a false sense of security. Without major changes in the way the district delivers education, without absolute community buy in, without the full support of the unions who are all ready to stage a walk out or sit across the table and say “really? are you dreaming?” this district will be right back in the same situation in another year.
And Corr still thinks I’m the problem. I’m too abrasive or something. People said the same thing about someone people think I look like- Steve Jobs. I didn’t make this mess. I’m just the observer. The real test will come in approximately 17 hours when the board has its business meeting and parents, paras and teachers and community activists and political types converge on 4th and Ludlow.
I can see the signs now- “I’m not Fond’a Rhonda” “Show Corr the Door” “RESIGN” or “Rotten to the Corr” and they’ll want answers.
How did you go from controlled mediocrity for so many years to this tornado of turmoil? There are only 9 people who can be held accountable, the 7 board members, the treasurer and the Superintendent. In Ohio, you can’t recall a school board. The board hires and fires both the Treasurer and the Superintendent. Both have failed to give us honest answers causing the district to turn into a circus.
As I was leaving the Coffee with the Superintendent om Saturday, I heard one girl say to her friend “no wonder this district can’t keep teachers.” And here we are mid-school year, firing 30 classroom aides, based on bad data, saying we are going to hire 30 new reading intervention specialists mid-year, and put them in place. Even in spring, finding 30 qualified reading specialists is incredibly difficult.
You know what’s even more difficult? For this board to put their big boy pants on and realize they made a huge mistake. They could cut Corr, reduce the number of pending lawsuits immediately, start re-assessing the layoffs under a competent superintendent who knows the district, the players and who would have the support of a large majority of the current principals: David Lawrence.
But, that would never happen, right? They said that about Brexit and Trump. 3 for 3 anyone?
The headline is in jest. There are few subjects that I’ve written about that have generated so many comments full of vitriol and hate.
David Lawrence, Chief of Innovation, Dayton Public Schools
Polarized audiences are nothing new to me. But some of the comments made on the most recent posts about my friend David Lawrence who also happens to be the “Chief of Innovation” for the Dayton Public Schools- who was passed over as a finalist by a divided Board of Education- have him as the singular reason for the failings of the Dayton Public Schools.
And, note, there are a few positive comments there as well. Most of it comes from just a few people, but they have plenty of “Brilliant” thumbs up. Personally, I discount all comments from people afraid to post under their real name. If you can’t face someone and say they are incompetent, a fraud, dangerous- to their face, then you are as much a part of the problem.
From math teacher at Meadowdale, to assistant principal at Stivers under superstar principal Erin Dooley, to taking over Thurgood, recruited to the STEM school and then recruited back to DPS the resume doesn’t sound like a failure. If there is one thing that’s beyond believable it’s that Erin Dooley would recommend her assistant principal for a promotion if he wasn’t competent. That’s not how she works. Before the STEM school opened, I suggested Lawrence as the principal to Dr. Hopkins over lunch- and after the first principal decided to return to academia, Hopkins told me he should have listened to me the first time- and was quite happy with his hire of Lawrence. This was back when I still thought Dr. Hopkins was making good decisions, before he drank from the Dayton Development Coalition kool-aid.
Let’s talk about the one success attributed to Lori Ward- improved graduation rates of DPS students. What you don’t know can be summed up in this letter from Sarah Darden of the Dayton Urban League:
“Mr. Lawrence was the first teacher, class advisor, and curriculum advisor to invite me to provide spring and summer OGT support while a teacher at Meadowdale High School during the 2005-06 school year.
When he became principal of Thurgood Marshall High School in 2008-09, he was the first principal to pay his own teachers to provide OGT summer support and at the same time he sent all juniors and sophomores to my OGT summer boot camp at the Urban League Center.”
Back in 2005, he realized that once seniors had failed the last OGT of the year, having to wait the summer to go back in the fall and test again, was suffering from the summer slide that causes all students to regress. Lawrence found funds to set up 4 teachers at the Urban League to do intensive test prep and administer the test in the summer. Voila- more graduates.
Upon arrival at Thurgood Marshall- the reconstituted Col White- there were serious discipline problems and low test scores. From 2009 until 2011 police calls went from over 45 to under 10 per year, the performance index rose from 64 to 82 and the graduation rate from 64 to 79 percent.
No other Dayton Public School has had that kind of elevation in scores over a short period.
Throw in three students winning Gates scholarships, adding a STEM lab, the basketball team went to State finals twice, the football team was undefeated in his final year, it was 2-8 when he arrived. I remember him fretting over a decision to remove the winning basketball coach- he thought that there was a better way to build character and respect and brought in Darnell Hoskins, who took the team to an even higher level. (Ironically, Hoskins was recruited by Middletown to replace Mark Baker who had been offered the DPS Athletic Director position by Lawrence only to have the Board overrule Lawrence).
“I invite you to stop by and visit our state-of-the-art engineering lab which is equipped with a range of prototyping capabilities: 3d modeling software–Autodesk Inventor, 3d printers, CNC routers and milling machines and a laser engraver. Our students are currently earning Sinclair college credit for three courses (two mechanical engineering and one for architectural modeling with Autodesk Revit) and a fourth credit opportunity is in the works. Last year our students in grades 9-11 earned 109 semester hours of college engineering credit which is transferable to any college. We also compete every year in the Tech Prep Showcase. A recent project was a microcontroller-based programmable Smart Cane for visually impaired people.”
None of that would be there had not Lawrence been principal.
While he was at Thurgood Marshal he also started a teachers academy.
As Chief Of School Innovation a few numbers to look at- suspensions have gone from 6,800 in 2012 to 3,500 in 2015, while scholarship money has gone from under $12 million to $22 million. He lead multiple initiatives including a principals institute, restorative justice practices, and bought into the latest trend, college credits for high school students (which I still believe to be a financial shell game- putting more money into Sinclair’s pockets and lessening the value of the HS diploma).
But according to “Angry DPS employee” who now tells us he’s leaving the district- Lawrence is a disaster- even alluding to rumors that Lawrence “couldn’t pass his Praxis test” – something you have to pass to get a teaching license, or a principals license in the State of Ohio. Lawrence has both, plus a superintendents license. There is also insinuation of Lawrence filing some kind of “wrongful termination suit” against DPS- yet, he was never fired.
One wild claim is that Lawrence had 30 teachers at Thurgood put in for transfer- he laughs because he wished he had 30 teachers there.
The David Lawrence I know has always been someone who wants to discuss how to transform schools through innovation. He’s a workaholic. He’s driven to excellence, and has been since long before I met him. Need proof- go look on the wall in Welcome Stadium of the records for the facility- his name is still up there for his 1984 track accomplishments. Funny thing is, I know another name up there- Dick Mann, from Cleveland Heights High School is on the wall for a lifetime achievement award- he was my gym teacher back in 1979, we used to snicker about his name.
Lawrence also served in the US Army. I think that’s what got our original discussions going at the Y downtown. Mid-college, he joined the Army reserve, going to Ft. Benning GA to become an 11 Charlie (an infantry man who fires a mortar). He did 10 years in the reserves. Just one other thing that sets him apart from the other candidates- something our school board wouldn’t give any extra credit for- but, I would. The military changes most people- and in a good way. Considering it’s one option for many of our graduates, having someone who can say, “been there, done that” is a good thing.
And that leads me to the main reason I think David Lawrence was the right candidate- besides his institutional knowledge, his achievements to date, his ties to our community, his knowledge of the players, and the incredibly short 2 year window for the magic to happen.
I’ve actually met with most past superintendents, been hired to do work for DPS on a few occasions, sat through numerous meetings with high level employees, and been in the schools. I’ve served on the “Technology Review Committee” for the last 3 or 4 years. I’ve had to listen to candidates for school board “campaign” for years, and I’ve knocked on doors, talked to kids, parents, teachers.
He made a point of telling me David Lawrence will never be superintendent, and that he would run for office again, just like Marion Barry, and he’d “beat me.” And I’m sure he would, Dayton has no problem electing the selections of the Dem Party, or people of limited moral and ethical character. Former DPS AD Jonas Smith- is one of Luckies relatives. Missing money seems to be a family trait, there is a reason I call it the “Monarchy of Montgomery County.”
There is a group planning to protest the new hire at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. It won’t be pretty, if Dr. Baguirov is left to run the citizen participation part.
I ran into Mark Baker last night at the Marshall blowout of Ponitz. Mark has been working with the youth of this region for years, mentoring, coaching and making sure that academics gets the same weight as athletics. He’s now the coach of Trotwood-Madison. He was wearing a pork-pie hat. It looked good on him.
Mark is a leader, an inspiration and an unsung hero of our community. Unfortunately, our Mayor is none of the above. She wears hats that make her stand out, but not much else.
We need to support more Mark Bakers, and less Rhine McLins. If Mark had been given $127,000 to use toward his programs– we’d be seeing more kids succeed in school and in life, and fewer homicides. Unfortunately, Rhine took that money from lobbyists and people who want favors and blew it on mailings trying to smear Gary Leitzell, instead of telling us what she plans to do to make Dayton better.
We’ve got kids in a gang called the “Dayton View Hustlers.” They’ve been busy shooting each other- on the basketball court, at parties, and even at funerals for each other. These are kids who’ve lost a sense of purpose, who haven’t been given an opportunity to thrive in our community- so they’ve turned to street thuggery. They’ve been missing a Mark Baker in their lives.
Instead of building one mega-sportsplex in the center of town- we decided to build two- as if we still believe in a “separate, but equal” doctrine. Instead of investing in our youth—our future—we’ve given money out to corporations like candy, almost weekly, in the name of “economic development.” Had we nourished the Mark Bakers of Dayton instead, the “Dayton View Hustlers” would be the name of a basketball team, instead of a thug gang.
It’s time to use our heads for more than a hat rack, and turn this town around.