When the Emperor has no clothes: More DPS stupidity bordering on criminality

A refresher on Dutch folk tales:

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” (Danish: Kejserens nye Klæder) is a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they do not see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent”. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” The tale has been translated into over 100 languages.[1]

Source: The Emperor’s New Clothes – Wikipedia

update: 18 Oct- key part missing from this synopsis- the Emperor also knew the suit was invisible- but, chose to believe the weavers too. (end update)

We know that Dayton Public Schools has problems managing their public image. Now, the people that Rhonda Corr hired to manage it, are actually actively destroying credibility and possibly breaking laws.

Dayton Public Schools Director of Media and Public Relationships is an expert in censorship of free political speech

Dayton Public Schools Director of Media and Public Relationships is an expert in censorship of free political speech

Unfortunately, the director of Dayton Public Schools media and public relations , Marsha Bonhart, either thinks she’s doing someone a favor (providing grounds for her dismissal) or is woefully ignorant of the audacity of the email she sent out to candidates before tomorrow’s Dayton Educational Council candidates forum from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., at Ponitz Career Technology Center, 741 W. Washington Street. (The  event will be broadcast live on DPS TV Spectrum Channel 21. and hopefully livestreamed as well).

The email, suggests that free speech should be limited, political discourse restrained, and that no one should disparage her boss, Rhonda Corr, whose future tenure will be decided by the very people that Ms. Bonhart seeks to censor and reign in.

The email reads:

From: Marsha Bonhart Neilson [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: Sunday, October 15, 2017 7:09 PM
To: Marsha Bonhart Neilson <[email protected]>
Subject: More information

Dear candidates, as an addendum to Friday’s email:

  1. It is very important that we keep this forum civil.
  2. We ask that you not participate in or instigate any “bashing” of Superintendent Corr, Dayton School Board members, or each other.
  3. Please stay focused on providing quality answers to all of the questions.
  4. When answering questions, remain seated until the end of the event.

Thank you and we look forward to you providing voters the information they need to make informed decisions.

Marsha Bonhart
Director, Media and Public Relations

Dayton Public Schools
115 S. Ludlow St.
Dayton, Ohio 45402
937-286-0023 (c), 937-542-3023 (desk)

Since Ms. Bonhart works for an organization that receives a lot of federal funds, we might look over to the Hatch Act of 1939 about what is allowed and appropriate for public employees to engage in during a political campaign. Note both the first and second bullets:

These federal and D.C. employees may not:

  • use official authority or influence to interfere with an election
  • solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency
  • solicit or receive political contributions (may be done in certain limited situations by federal labor or other employee organizations)
  • be candidates for public office in partisan elections
  • engage in political activity while:
    • on duty
    • in a government office
    • wearing an official uniform
    • using a government vehicle
  • wear partisan political buttons on duty

Source: Hatch Act of 1939 – Wikipedia

The fact that the meeting is being held in a public building, on public property, for a public purpose, specifically, to discuss issues and the candidates who have the ability to vote to hire or dismiss Ms. Bonhart, shows she’s sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong.

A true public relations professional in an organization that serves the public should know better than to get involved in this process, and know that her communications are all public record and not private.

Considering we’ve already had members of “The Slate” publicly state that they might try to skirt sunshine laws:

A member of the slate of candidates, which was endorsed by Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, (Mohamed) Al-Hamdani said the four would not show disagreement in public, doing more preparation behind closed doors. He did not address how that would fit with open meetings law.

Source: Election will change face of Dayton’s school board

We may have even bigger problems in store when it comes to what is acceptable political behavior and what is not if Ms. Bonhart is the new ruler of political dicourse.

I believe that Ms. Bonhart should either retract these rules and publicly apologize for her attempt to influence political speech and interfere with an election via her official capacity, or be dismissed for cause. I don’t expect our current board, superintendent, elections officials, the county prosecutor, the state school board, the Ohio Ethics Commission or the Secretary of State to do their jobs and censure this kind of blatant abuse of power, but, that’s why we have a free and independent press, to make sure you know when you are getting played.

When a public employee thinks they can regulate candidates speech, we have a real problem.

This needs resolution before this event begins tomorrow night.

UPDATE

Wed 18 May 2017

the “Friday email”

From: Marsha Bonhart Neilson [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: Friday, October 13, 2017 6:05 PM
To: Marsha Bonhart Neilson <[email protected]>
Cc: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]
Subject: Candidates’ Night

Hello, Dayton School Board candidates,

Candidates’ Night, Wednesday, October 18th,  is drawing closer. As you know, the program, sponsored by the Dayton Education Council, will be aired live on DPS-TV from 6 to 8 pm with a strong presence on social media. We expect a large live audience as well.

You will be introduced and given 2 minutes to give an opening statement. When addressed by the moderator, each candidate will have 2 minutes to answer 3 rounds of pre-selected questions in addition to questions from the audience, phone callers and social media.

We ask that you arrive at David H. Ponitz Career Tech High School, 741 W. Washington St., 45402, at 5:15 for technical needs.

Again, thank you for your interest in becoming a member of the Dayton Board of Education.

Marsha Bonhart
Director, Media and Public Relations
Dayton Public Schools
115 S. Ludlow St.
Dayton, Ohio 45402
937-286-0023 (c), 937-542-3023 (desk)

Of note- the Slate don’t even get email directly- it goes through their handler, Uriah Anderson of Burges & Burges from Cleveland.

DPS PR machine is still not doing its job

First rule of public relations: be honest.

Second rule of public relations: be proactive. Be in front of the storm, not in the middle of it, or after it passes.

Third rule of public relations: be trustworthy, which is an extension of the first two rules.

Despite hiring 2 PR professionals for $180K a year, in addition to an “ad agency” for $345K a year, Dayton Public Schools continue to soil themselves through inept public relations. It may have absolutely nothing to do with any of the people who are hired to do PR, because this school board and superintendent are totally tone deaf and sabotage their own positions of authority at will and often.

Here is some backstory of how the move from the 2.0 to 1.0 gpa for athletics began, long before the Dunbar vs Belmont eligibility fiasco last year. (btw- I went to the rematch on Thursday and watched Belmont annihilate Dunbar 42-0). The story comes from “the man who would be superintendent” if it wasn’t for a board that doesn’t like strong black males with better community ties than they have. David Lawrence, the former Chief of Innovation for Dayton Public Schools, before he was bought out for big money to go away by this incompetent school board, told me he proposed this lowering of standards plan to former superintendent Lori Ward over 3 years ago. Note, he was a DPS athlete who went on to play D-1 sports. He still holds track records at Welcome Stadium.

His reasoning made sense. First, there are other districts, albeit ones that aren’t failing in all academic categories, that use this standard. Not that Oakwood or Centerville has to apply it to as many students, but they will allow kids to participate. But here is the kicker, he put the blame squarely on the teachers in this district, who sometimes would only give a midterm and a final, with no quizzes, tests, or other evaluation items like class participation, attendance, homework, etc. This meant some kids were being discriminated against- because some teachers don’t really try to work with the dumb jocks and take great pleasure in ambushing them.

Dang.

Didn’t see that one coming at all. But when you have a district with a horrible graduation rate, failing at all levels of academic success, this story seems more legit than the one coming out of the PR machine days after a seemingly secret meeting pops this change on us like a magician pulling an elephant out of a hat. We expect a rabbit, not an elephant.

First issue is why was this done, without proper public knowledge in advance, at an unscheduled meeting? That’s a guaranteed sign of “we’re being sneaky” instead of “we’re being strategic.” Proper PR handling would have made sure this issue was out in public long before and well explained and discussed before hand- as well as having proper answers for the board members who voted against or abstained. That way, it doesn’t feed the fires of the public who sees this as yet another lowering of standards.

I still posit that part of this policy is driven by fall out from sanctions imposed on the district after the Dunbar fiasco. The board had to lower standards in a hurry because most high schools wouldn’t have had enough players to play this year after athletes from DECA and other charter schools could no longer play for the program of their choice. In other words, the district was reacting instead of being proactive. Yet, none of that is in the explanation being circulated on Facebook by new media relations head Marsha Bonhart:

Lots of discussion about Dayton Public Schools and the sports policy – and a lot of confusion. As director of public relations and media at DPS, please allow me to help everyone understand the bar is NOT being lowered – it’s being raised. Student athletes who carry a GPA between 1.0 and 1.99 will have to raise their grades each quarter AND pass five classes to remain eligible to play any sport. They must be involved in an hourly, Monday – Thursday academic improvement program that includes tutoring. They have to remain in the program for a year until their GPA raises at least to 2.0. If they do not show quarterly improvement and do not pass the classes, they will not participate in any sports. If their grades slip the next year, they are back in the program for the entire year, again.
The deal is, improve your grades, pass five classes or you don’t play. This is for grades 7-12, girls and boys. Questions? 542-3023 (937)

Note, this is on her personal account, not on an official district channel. The post on the site, which most people can’t navigate, is here, posted Aug 26th (the decision was made and announced Aug 22):

FAQ for New Athletic Eligibility Policy

DPS to encourage athletes to perform better in the classroom

To Our Parents and Community,

There has been lots of discussion about Dayton Public Schools and the new sports policy – and a lot of confusion.

As director of public relations and media at DPS, please allow me to help everyone understand the bar is NOT being lowered – it’s being raised. Student athletes who carry a GPA between 1.0 and 1.99 will have to raise their grades each quarter AND pass five classes to remain eligible to play any sport. They must be involved in an hourly, Monday – Thursday academic improvement program that includes tutoring. They have to remain in the program for a year until their GPA raises at least to 2.0.

If they do not show quarterly improvement and do not pass the classes, they will not participate in any sports. If their grades slip the next year, they are back in the program for the entire year, again.

The deal is, improve your grades, pass five classes or you don’t play. This is for grades 7-12, girls and boys. Questions? (937) 542-3023

Marsha Bonhart Neilson

Director of Public Relations & Media, Dayton Public Schools

Source: News | FAQ for New Athletic Eligibility Policy

Maybe the big news is that Marsha has a new last name?

Or that she tries to legitimize the lowering of standards as “he bar is NOT being lowered – it’s being raised”- which is straight out of a 1980’s style PR textbook, where you try to reframe the truth. This is a complete and utter #FAIL, days after the fact. If this is the best spin DPS can put on this dead on arrival PR nightmare, Marsha and her new boss should be next on the chopping block. See the three rules at the beginning of this post.

My main questions still remain: why is this study table policy limited to athletes? The district is in academic emergency, shouldn’t all students getting less than “C’s” be getting mandatory help? And, besides the discriminatory nature of this plan, last I heard, we didn’t have money to pay teachers more, so who is paying for these professionals to help guide our dumb jocks up to a 2.0? The district is claiming volunteers? Is that really the answer?

As with most cases DPS, we have to look at the root problems: poverty and low expectations. If you believe in expectancy theory, this lowering of GPA requirements reinforces a problem that the district is already fighting to overcome. The timing of this announcement should have been made before school started as well- which means, once again, we’ve started a school year out with controversy- much like last years RIF. This kind of leadership is only reinforcing perceptions of a district in turmoil. Competent leadership would know better- but we don’t have competent leadership.

No PR machine on the face of the earth can fix stupid. At this point, only voters can. Yet, even though he was the lone vote against this change, Joe Lacey still shouldn’t be on this board, he’s part of the problem that made this fiasco happen when he hired Rhonda Corr, which is the real reason this district has been mired in controversy for the last year.

 

DPS enters the final countdown

Sorry, I’ve been busy with the real world lately, not enough time to spare to write about the soap opera/tragedy/dramady that’s the Dayton Public Schools over the last 2 weeks.

I’ll start with the contributions of the only Board Member who is running for re-election that we know of- Joe Lacey. He shouldn’t. That said, here’s his genius share at the last meeting, at the end, in closing comments, yes, our preliminary test scores went up, but, so did everyone in the state- and they went up more. So, our Annual Yearly Progress- the factor that “saved us” from State takeover and was a false flag to rally around, isn’t really happening. In fact, we still suck. Yet, Rhonda has a 3 year extension. Go figure.

Tonight, he decided to stick his foot in his mouth discussing the retirement of Horace Lovelace, one of the few master principals the district still has working for it. Apparently, the amazing thing about Mr. Lovelace was that, according to Lacey, was that Lovelace could do such amazing things with the problem children (aka black boys). Joe still doesn’t understand the why of single sex schooling – and as the meeting took a break before the executive session, he was called out by two Kiser employees who read him the riot act. He tried to wiggle out of his racist comment as a misstatement. The ignorance was deafening. I’ve got it on tape- so come election season, he can expect to see it combined with his past escapades of disrespecting the public combined into a very nice video hit piece to make sure he doesn’t return to do more damage to the district.

I’ve been waiting for someone to help me out and pull all the HR spreadsheets from June 10, 2016 to June 10 2017 to clearly show how many teachers, administrators and staff have abandoned ship. 20% attrition is probably on the low side- but Ms. Judy Spurlock actually told the board, without any facts, that it was lower. No one caught it. Rookie Rhonda said 20% attrition is normal- to which the proper answer should have been, you’re fired, but no one on the board has a spine, or a functioning brain attached. No organization can afford a 20% attrition rate- the turnover costs alone, in terms of onboarding, hiring, training, mentoring and then the acclimation process almost guarantees failure, or if nothing else, a stepping stone district, which is what we will forever be until we offer competitive pay.
Here’s an NPR article from 2016 lamenting the 8% attrition rate and the teacher shortage.

Also on the agenda was another incompetent incomplete presentation by Dr. Sheila Burton. One slide with four changes in transportation. Back to zones, 4 bell times, no 30 minute rides, and last but not least- cutting off transportation to private day care. The board jumped on this last one- telling day care operators to buy their own damn buses. McManus in particular. Then came public comments and the truth about the daycare situation came out- parents can’t send their kids to DPS if they don’t have day care. All the kids are Title 20 funded- and it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. You want to drive parents out of the district- or to charter schools- that often include after school care…. next you know- the board and district are reversing themselves. Nevermind, the busing situation with 4 bell times makes a mess for parents with kids going to different schools. Only an idiot would think that 4 bell times is the answer.

Of course, the answer, which I proposed in the short film, “There ain’t no “F” in Dayton,” of staffed neighborhood bus stops never was in the mix. That would save the district time, gas, and cut down on the number of accidents caused by trying to take buses down streets designed for horse and buggy.  It also helps with attendance issues- and building community relations- but, nooooo……

Last meeting, this meeting, resignations keep coming. Corr even admitted that she couldn’t find a replacement for Horace Lovelace this late in the season, but, why worry, she’s too busy paying $160K to Huffmaster to PREPARE for hiring replacements for the strike.

Yep- they get the money whether the negotiations work or not. After the strike begins, then we start paying as many as 600 temporary teachers to half-ass do what 800 full time teachers under her command still fail at- make real, tangible academic progress and stop the district from being a shit show.

The strike vote has been taken. She still thinks there is a chance to play hardball with the DEA, despite ignoring every warning sign that they are sick of this BS coming from downtown. We have no money and have to RIF in November, then we have money to buy out a capable administrator, who by the way, was replaced by three people, 2 of which she hand picked, paid more- and then had one quit after a year. And, btw- we still had money to give administrators a $300 to $350 a month expense bonus…. and we don’t have money for a raise after 4 years? Rhonda’s own contract is richer than former superintendent Lori Wards.

This week, she hired 2 $90K administrators to handle PR- without even notifying the other applicants that the job was filled. Previously, the old PIO made less than that- with 30+ years with the district. And this is on top of her hiring the most expensive ad agency bid on the RFQ last spring. Welcome to DPS Marsha Bonhart – formerly of Channel 2 and DCDC- to your new $87K a year position of Director of Public Relations and Media, and Dr. Vernita Kelly who will make $89K a year as Director of  Strategic Communications and Public Relations. I assume they will also both get the $300 a month expense accounts as well… but Rhonda says these two replace 3- maybe 4 positions, since they hadn’t filled Jill Moberley’s job, Jill Drury’s job or Ken Kreitzer’s job. Oh, and remember- Drury was the only one who knew how to manage their website. I know Marsha, and she’s not going to be actually running the website or designing the brochures- and I’ve yet to meet a PhD who could either…. hmmmmm.

And, btw- where is either of these ladies experience with turning around a failing brand?

There were questions tonight on the hiring of Miami University to to an IT survey. Since the contract was under $50K, it wasn’t bid. But, for this, the board wanted a presentation on what they’d do. Yet, when the PR contract was bid, they were told that their involvement in the evaluation process was strictly verboten and would be a problem- even though it was for $350K. Nice way to stick to standards.

The news media was all there- and asking questions of Rhonda and  Board President Dr. Walker about the strike. The reality is, they are the reason there will be a strike, and they refuse to take responsibility. That the community isn’t calling for a replacement board, or state takeover at this point is unreal.

Just another performance of the greatest (side) show on earth. Welcome to Dayton Public schools.

Afterthought: better use of the Huffmaster money by the board: fire Rhonda, settle with the teachers, and move forward.