The mysteries of DPS marketing

If you pay $25K a year for “Annual stratus hosting for DPS website and other technical services as required for District Office of Strategic Communication” as the Dayton Public Schools pay Oxiem LLC, you should call me. You qualify as “A sucker born every minute” (which it turns out wasn’t said by P. T. Barnum)- which fits with the general circus we have running the district.

It’s on the agenda for tonight’s “review session.”

As are a ton of resignations. Maybe if they didn’t spend so much on hosting, and a website that only one person can manage, they’d have money to pay teachers and bus drivers?

But, instead of hiring the low bidder for their marketing and communications needs, they went with the high bidder- and their mad spending on media. Billboards based on a lame premise, and a ton of web advertising (without ascertaining the reach of the web to DPS students and parents who live on the wrong side of the digital divide.) Instead of fixing the one bad site, they started building microsites. Lots of them. This is what people did back in 2005, not in 2017.

I’m not going to link to the microsites- or promote them. I wouldn’t want to increase the visitor count into double digits.

They’ve also released some web videos. The graphics have the sophistication of the current logo- in other words, child like. None of them have view counts anywhere near the ones we’ve done to expose their BS.

Here is an example of their mad video skills. It had 9 whole views- published on the 12th.

Note, the Ohlmann group subcontracts video production.

Here are the latest invoices for the DPS media campaign. What seems to be missing, is approval from the board to expend funds for these media buys. They authorized the contract with Ohlmann Group, but, the media budget that was part of the RFQ- never had a spending authorization by the board.

thumbnail of Ohlman Invoice M013738-DPS thumbnail of Ohlman Invoice 013418-0000DPS thumbnail of Ohlman Invoice 013499-507-DPS thumbnail of Ohlman Invoice 013734-0000-DPS thumbnail of DPS #13418C for April and May thumbnail of DPS #13499-507

And if this isn’t enough to make your head spin, they have now decided to hire someone to be their head of marketing communications, for somewhere close to 6 figures.

I applied and put David Lawrence down as a reference.

There were a bunch of applicants, including the one long rumored as Rhonda’s favorite (not me).

Somehow, in Dayton, we think that reporting the news at one time, somehow gives you the qualifications to manipulate it and to solve marketing problems. The joke always goes that some of us have a face for radio, and then there are people like me, who don’t even have the voice for it. Marketing isn’t taught in journalism school. There are two local former journalists: Bonhart and Fogle.

But, here’s the list- with quick linkedin searches- not guaranteed to be the right person.

  • Marsha Bonhart Director of Development at Dayton Contemporary Dance Company
  • Anne Brewer- nothing obvious on LinkedIn
  • Marilyn Burchett ESL Tutor and Substitute Teacher Licensed to teach K-12 Music, Spanish, Business and Marketing. Valid thru June 2020
  • David Esrati, moi- Owner of The Next Wave
  • Julie Finley- nothing obvious on LinkedIn
  • Guy Fogle profile not available? Former News guy- and congressional candidate
  • Ian Frank – possibly Principal at Reading Community School District
  • Ryan Gilding – Public Relations Specialist at Beavercreek City Schools
  • Tawn Graham – actual ad person: Account Director at Northlich
  • Martha Hasselbusch Education Management Professional
  • Roy Hatfield Operations Manager at Classic Country Radio
  • Candace Hundley Special Education Teacher at Dixie Middle School
  • Cornelia Jammer Nonprofit Organization Management Professional (from Texas and connected with new Meadowdale Principal Dr. Hill)
  • Venita Kelley President, LOUD Family Entertainment; Founder, Kelley Communications and Consulting
  • Susan Newman teacher at DPS (and challenger to DEA president David Romick)
  • Adrienne Robinson Marketing and Public Relations Professional (formerly with the City of Dayton)
  • Suzie Tyson – nothing obvious on Linkedin
  • Sherri Waggoner Business Admintstration
  • David Wedderburn unsure which one.

The first priority of this new hire should be to reevaluate the website contract, hosting, and solution. The second should be to actually write a creative brief, and then go through the RFP process again. Here’s the tip sheet on how to do it: Hiring An Agency: The R.F.P. Guide for Governmental Organizations

And if you want to transform the district, into someplace where people actually want to send their kids to school, here’s my video submitted with my application. No one paid me to do this.

DPS to hire an expensive PIO

When we bid to do all their marketing communications, it was to take over the responsibilities of the PIO and also produce the work.

Instead, the board hired, without reading the contract, the Ohlmann Group- and spent stupid money on a bad campaign.

Now- they are going to hire someone to try to direct the Ohlmann Group.

This from a district that was crying broke last year. Note- Jill Moberly didn’t make this much.

JOB TITLE:                     Executive Director of Communications

 REPORTS TO:                  Superintendent of Schools

 SALARY SCHEDULE:        $94,500.00-$113,400.00

SUMMARY

The Chief Communications Officer provides leadership, direction and strategic planning for news and information as well as marketing and advertising of DPS schools, initiatives and progress.  The ideal candidate is committed to a brand journalism strategy, with experience developing and implementing internal and external communications strategies and managing the day-to-day operations of a busy Communications Department. As a member of the executive cabinet, this position provides counsel to senior leadership and serves the Office of the Superintendent as the chief media and communications strategist, crisis communications coordinator and official spokesperson for the District.

Source: SearchSoft – The Greater Dayton Area Employment Consortium – Job Board

If there is one thing Rhonda Corr has been good at, it’s hiring expensive people at the top of the food chain.

Action isn’t the same as a plan

Thursday night the Ohlmann Group gave a presentation to the board. Basically, a show and tell on how they made over $40,000 go out the door.

This wasn’t a presentation of the plan for approval, or sharing what comes next, it was just here is what we did, what we think it achieved, and, why we couldn’t do it better.

Ohlmann Group "creative" for Dayton Public schools and the PreSchool promise on billboards

Ohlmann campaigns for DPS and PreSchool Promise

The problem with “Great things are happening at DPS” is it’s not based on facts. Just saying it doesn’t make it true- just because it works for Donald Trump doesn’t make it work for a district in distress.

Not only is the campaign for DPS bad- the campaign for the PreSchool Promise is just as bad- and a horrific waste of money. Considering the digital divide in Dayton, not having a phone number is criminally inept.

Spreading the message via billboards, radio and digital channels isn’t effective either. Remember, there are only around 24,000 kids in the district, and 13,000 already go to DPS. Your target is the 11,000 who don’t- and since many of those households have multiple kids, a direct mail campaign would have been more effective- as long as you weren’t trying to lie.

The reality is, most charter schools in Dayton have test scores worse than DPS schools- and since DPS transports these kids- they know exactly who they are. Try telling charter parents what the benefits of sending their kids to DPS over a charter are:

  • Certified teachers in every classroom.
  • Support staff and systems for kids with special needs.
  • Sports and extra-curricular activities.
  • A chromebook for every child.

And a whole new leadership team working to rebuild the district with a plan, including a new transportation plan and brand new buses to make sure your kid gets to school.

On the flip-side, every kid that’s already enrolled at DPS should be taking home information about what’s in store for the district next year. Share success stories of recent grads. Talk about the programs in place to get scholarships, the ability to go to Sinclair for free. How DPS has a new groove.

At the same time, the district should be going out to the community and telling their story to neighborhood groups, to churches, to politicians and to business groups- asking for their help and involvement. If in fact “Great things are happening” those stories should be easy to tell.

The Ohlmann Group did get one thing right- the proprietary website content management system built by Upward is an expensive disaster and should be scrapped. This board picked this vendor- and has paid through the nose to keep it going. Building all these microsites doesn’t solve the problem- it just makes more problems. The district should have built a whole new site using industry standard open source solutions.

Considering the contract for the Ohlmann Group was $50K over my bid, and that we included full PR advice and 24/7/365 response, one has to wonder if the district is planning on bringing in a replacement Public Information Officer, since it’s obvious Ohlmann has zero interest in providing the board with support and guidance in handling issues at meetings, or to help them manage PR disasters like the handcuffed 4th grader, the Dunbar/Belmont thrown game, the bus buy, or the hiring timing on the District Athletic Director. While we didn’t get the contract, we’re there at the meetings to tell you what and why your school district is failing at every turn.

Ohlmann brought three people to the meeting, had one speak, and snuck out of the room as soon as they were done with their $40K worth of excuses. Totally ignoring the 400 teachers in red- there to start their own PR campaign to challenge the district status quo.

The board bought the Ohlmann contract, site unseen, mostly because they were promised a 90 day opt out at any time. Why they haven’t given Ohlmann notice at this point is beyond reason.

Stock photos? Microsites? A campaign based on an untruth?

Is this really the best DPS can do?

Ineligible School Board Member- ah, who cares…

Tonight I will once again ask the question, why is Dr. Adil Baguirov, our “International Man of Mystery” still on the board. If he sits as long as the public comments section, none of them are going to like what they hear. But the room full of teachers will.

Here’s the short video with me asking nicely on April 11th 2017, where it was “news” to Dr. Robert Walker, board president.

They knew full well what I had published, since I’d gone to both the head of security and to the board legal counsel by March 31st and given them the evidence I published on April 5.

That the board knew, didn’t do anything is yet another reason to remove them.

We’re in the process of asking the State Attorney General to remove Dr. Baguirov, and then will proceed to collect signatures to remove the rest of the board.

I’d cite the legal precedent, but- I’ve got to get to the board meeting which begins at 5:30pm

They will have a presentation by the Ohlmann Group- which should be interesting.
Here are the “media plans” of what they’ve spent already. I’ve yet to be given the invoices for the actual creative work- or to see the actual media buys- which they said they’d only mark up 10%. All I can say is, unlike anyone working for Dayton Public Schools, I actually know how to evaluate advertising campaign effectiveness, and I’m not seeing where the building of all these micro sites is the answer.
Here’s the links you’ll need to review:

Enroll DPS – because if you can’t enroll on the current site- build another.

Virtual DPS – because you don’t want to come to our school, and we will give you a computer at home and free wi-fi, since we don’t do that for the kids that do come to school.

DPS stories – because we don’t know where to look for stories ourselves- so we’ll crowd source them.

Career Tech DPS  – well, because we can bill for another microsite.

Here’s the initial media money wasted.

thumbnail of Ohlmann Group – Media Plan

Ohlmann group media plan

Dumb, dumber and Dayton Public Schools

Last week Dayton Public Schools launched their enrollment campaign- done by the Ohlmann Group, the highest bidder. We mentioned it: If this is the best DPS can do.

thumbnail of Ohlmand Group Invoice #1

Radio invoice

thumbnail of Ohlmand Group Invoice #2

Outdoor invoice

They spent $20k in media, but were supplied invoices from The Ohlmann Group- not the invoices from the media outlets. Considering their contract says they are only going to mark their invoices up 10% – DPS has no clue if they were paying 10% over net or gross- because, they don’t have anyone there who knows anything about buying media. The way radio and TV stations bill ad agencies as a middle man, there is the gross amount- and a 15% agency discount. It’s all horseshit these days – since the media outlets long ago hired huge sales teams- and even offer “free” production of ads. That’s why you see the “pan and scan” with a voice over ads- over and over for local businesses.

We asked for the DPS instructions to Ohlmann for this campaign and the invoice for the “creative” but those have not been released.

The real issue is that right after the campaign launched, DPS got hit with a protest over a 4th grader being put in handcuffs. DPS should have consulted their marketing/pr firm for an appropriate response, but, instead, stood mute as people asked questions. Instead of taking the campaign down- they continued with their “Great things are happening” while the public is hearing- we put kids in handcuffs. We’ve yet to see anyone from Ohlmann at a board meeting.

But, what we do see is a circus. At the last review session, where we asked at the beginning if they should be continuing with an ineligible board meeting, Board President Dr. Walker claimed they knew nothing of it (lie). Considering I’d informed responsible parties within the district, by continuing, they violated their own rules.

They discussed, and wasted the first 90 minutes of another one of their epic meetings – the handcuff situation, the “newcomers academy” or “international academy” and what to do with the historic Longfellow, without an iota of research, historical reference or input from their overpaid staff.

The handcuff issue was actually old news. This happened last fall. To have it come up now- just reeks of incompetent messaging management. The proper response is a simple one, instead, they did their best to imitate United Airlines.

On the international school- we’ve been there done that. First was the ESL school, Miami Chapel, and then, when that closed and was torn down, they put 900 kids over at Patterson Kennedy Elementary and it was like the united nations. Of course, institutional knowledge isn’t valued in DPS- most of the people who know this stuff have been shown the door, and the rest- well, they are ignored by the new superintendent and crew- who think they know it all and everyone who works there is expendable except them.

As to Longfellow. This conversation was as confused as could be. Why we need an entire building to house approximately 60 kids is confusing already. But, the boards lack of knowledge about historic structures, real estate development, real estate disposal, and preservation is epic. However, they throw out all kinds of possible “solutions” without any research or supporting documentation. Why they waste the public’s time with their wild ass ideas is incompetence on display. This time, it was costing them at least several hundred dollars an hour, as their attorney from Subashi & Wildermuth, Tabitha Justice (that’s really her name- a lawyer named Justice) had arrived to be part of the following executive session and sat through the clown show while her meter was running. Not a single mention of how the board disposed of the old Hawthorne School, or any discussion of Historic Tax credits. Of course since they fired their property manager in the November putsch, they don’t even have someone to assign this to.

Then came Dr. Hazel Rountree with a “presentation” based on her visit to Cleveland. We were assuming Cleveland Ohio, but the first site she pulled up was Cleveland Tennessee. She was so excited about the ads their agency had done, and was going to show them to us, but the district filtering software wasn’t allowing it. She wanted to get the agency from Cleveland who did these ads to give the district a quote. Does that mean they’re ready to fire The Ohlmann Group already? That Hazel didn’t know how to give a presentation using PowerPoint doesn’t give us much hope for our kids. There is a microsite for the “Get 2 School- you can make it” campaign, but as to what video she wanted to show, we’ll never know. BTW- while Hazel was fumbling her website- Superintendent Rhonda Corr who should have know immediately that Hazel was on the wrong site- sat on her thumbs and let Hazel twist in the wind.

However, if you want to see the difference between a district doing competent marketing and DPS’s failure- all you have to do is go look at the Cleveland Public Schools YouTube page and see how many videos they are posting and compare it to DPS.

There are ways to run a school board meeting, and a good superintendent wouldn’t allow school board members to turn it into a carnival barkers midway. Corr has no concept of control or command- and often sits there like a dazed bystander. Someone should show her video of how Kurt Stanic ran a meeting- or better yet, bring Stanic back.

As a final insult, the agency DPS hired to help them, Ohlmann, is spending $125K on media to promote the pre-school promise for Learn to Earn. And, after reading my firms proposal on how to market DPS, Learn to Earn is copying our playbook according to the Dayton Daily news:

The Preschool Promise board approved a large marketing plan this week, including plans to hire a vendor to run a “field campaign” for grassroots outreach in Dayton. Board member and former Dayton mayor Clay Dixon said the marketing approach “is of the utmost importance.”

“That is actually how we’ll go out in the community, shoulder to shoulder, eyeball to eyeball, with the parents to make sure they are aware of the program, aware of what we do to get those kids into one of our quality programs,” Dixon said.

The board’s request for proposals for field campaign vendors is going out this week. Lightcap said the vendor will hire people who know Dayton’s neighborhoods and can build relationships with community partners, all in an effort to connect with the families who would participate in expanded preschool.

Source: Dayton Preschool Promise: Board plans marketing blitz for public

When the Issue 9 people finally release their post election finance report- how much do you want to bet that Ohlmann either worked on the campaign or donated to it? We may never know, since the Neighborhoods for Dayton’s Future- seems to be exempt from post election or annual filing.

In the meantime, we’ve got a school board with an ineligible member, fumbling around with issues, while their lawyer racks up billable hours for sitting on her thumbs, and a union that’s ready to strike. We’ll have more on how to remove the entire school board posted soon.

Remove 5 members of Dayton Public School Board of Education? Yes please.

If you’ve been paying attention to the many meetings of the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education, you know that it’s turned into an absolute shit show since they picked Rhonda Corr as Superintendent. Just recently, they gave her a three year extension to her unorthodox one-year initial contract, after less than 7 months on the job- 7 months of turmoil and strife.

Not that the board needed Corr to create this mess, they do well on their own.

However recently, they’ve taken their incompetence to the level of criminal gross neglect- as showcased by their ignoring the first clause of the buyout contract with David Lawrence that they were supposed to vote on without comment.

The week prior, they voted early to award a contract that was published as $112,500, waiving the 48 hour rule only to have an hour conversation about a contract with the Ohlmann Group, that they obviously hadn’t read, or understood. The real amount of that contract, only revealed through a public records request that took too long, and was delivered on a ream of paper instead of the requested digital documents, $345,410 per year- with two additional one year options, making the contract worth a potential $1,036,230.

Considering that there were only 3 bidders, the second place bidder was at $321,100, and that the RFQ had stated that the cap was $300,000, one wonders why the only bidder under the cap wasn’t awarded the contract, especially, since it was the only true minority qualified business. (That bid was submitted by my firm, The Next Wave).

An old adage comes to mind, it’s called the rule of “P’s” – “Prior planning prevents piss poor performance.” Which fully sums up the actions of this board and leadership. How hard is it to publish an agenda? How hard is it for board members to take the time to either read what they are voting on- or, ask and get competent explanations from staff on what and why they are being asked to vote on.

The 48 hour rule exists for a reason- to allow both the board and the public to review actions of a public body before a meeting. It is only supposed to be waived when there isn’t time to properly notify everyone- something that shouldn’t be that difficult- posting an agenda 48 hours in advance of a public meeting.

From their own manual:

Emergency Meeting
Emergency meetings are called when a matter of urgent necessity must be decided and there is not enough time to allow for the 48-hour notice to members, or the 24-hour notice to the media. An example of a reason to hold an emergency meeting would be if a boiler were to suddenly break down in a school building and need replacing. The board could then call an emergency meeting to authorize payment.

Which brings us to their frequent use of the 48 hour rule- and the boards inability to actually review and know what they are voting for. The discussion about the buyout that wasn’t supposed to be discussed. The confusion about accepting a million dollar contract that they had obviously never seen.

These actions are clearly grounds for removal from office.

  • A board member is guilty of misconduct in office if he or she has willfully and flagrantly exercised authority or power not authorized by law, refused or willfully neglected to enforce the law or to perform any official duty imposed upon him or her by law, or is guilty of gross neglect of duty, gross immorality, drunkenness, misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeasance.
  • The petitioner must file a specific accusation of misconduct in office in Common Pleas Court.
  • The petition must contain valid signatures from people who live in the school district equal to 15 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the most recent election.
  • After the signatures are submitted to the court, a trial must be held within 30 days.
  • If the case isn’t dismissed by a judge, hearings proceed. A judge hears the case though the board member may ask for a jury trial.

Source: Can a school-board member be removed from office?

To take them to court, we’d need to collect signatures of 4,574 voters in the Dayton Public Schools district to move this forward. The only question is can one petition cover all 5 board members who willfully and flagrantly neglected their duty to comply with the contract terms they’d hashed out over months in executive session, or if this is just clear violation of the public trust and they can be prosecuted? Or, do we have to get circulate 5 individual petitions to do this? People who want to help get signatures should message me. Anyone planning to run in the fall, could start collecting the removal signatures while they collect their signatures to get on the ballot.

Both Superintendent Rhonda Corr and the staff lawyer, Jyllian Bradshaw, should be able to be terminated for cause by a competent board, for allowing the discussion to occur on the Lawrence buyout contract, and for voting for a million dollar marketing contract, without having it either presented or properly explained to the board. The board treasurer, Hiwot Abraha, was in charge of the marketing RFQ, and should also be held responsible for them voting a week early, without proper review.

Replace the five board members, Robert Walker, Ron Lee, Hazel Rountree, Joe Lacey and Adil Baguirov with competent members, who then remove Corr, Bradshaw and Abraha with cause, and replace them with competent people, and maybe, Dayton Public Schools will have a chance.

 

DPS to waive 48 hour rule to hire ad agency for 4 years

Full disclosure: My firm, The Next Wave, did some work for the new superintendent Rhonda Corr last summer. At the end of the proposed solution was a pricing matrix that included an option to take over the complete marketing operations of the district, that were being handled by 3 people (2 of whom retired Dec 31, 2016). An RFP went out that was so badly constructed it lead me to write this post: Hiring An Agency: The R.F.P. Guide (for Governmental Organizations). The board was supposed to vote to pick an agency on Sept. 20, and work was to begin Sept 21. They blew that date, and on Nov 1. 2016 the purchasing department under treasurer Hiwot Abraha tried to push the district to hire The Ohlmann Group of Dayton, who were the high bidder. The number isn’t showing anymore on BoardDocs but if I recall correctly it was over $360,000. The board refused. Dr. Baguirov even questioned why the bids always go to large firms, and pass over veteran owned businesses (like mine). Some of this was covered in the post: The calamity named Rhonda Corr

So here we are again. The treasurer launched an RFQ this time, just as convoluted. There was no award date, nor was there a set time frame. They capped it at $300,000. There was no guarantee of award. It was supposed to be a request for qualifications, but asked for solutions- much like an RFP. They wanted everything submitted as an attachment- the language looked like it had been run through a cut and paste machine from several other RFPs. The purchasing department has zero expertise in hiring creative firms. The due date was January 20 2018.

There was a single communication to bidders at 10pm on Saturday night Feb 4 2017:

Dear Responders: Thank you for your interest in DPS Request For Qualifications for Comprehensive Marketing Services. Responses have been evaluated and results provided for review and determination of a recommendation to the DPS Board of Education. It is expected that the recommendation will appear on the February 21, 2017 business meeting agenda. Selected firm(s) will be contacted to negotiate contract terms and conditions.

Lie number one was that the results were presented to the board of education. Lie number 2 is that it will appear on the Feb 21 agenda.

It’s now on the Feb 14 agenda- with a request to waive the 48 hour rule, and award it once again to the Ohlmann Group, this time, for $112,500 with 3 1 year options for a total of $450,000.

If you look at contracts presented to the Dayton City Commission, you can actually examine the contract that they are about to approve. In this case, all we see is this boilerplate:

Contracted services to provide Comprehensive Marketing Services for DPSD to include, but may not be limited to Public Relation Services, Print/Media Design & Management, Marketing Consulting Services, Social/Digital Media Services , Web Development, and other services to be determined by a defined “Statement Of Work.” Effective February 15,2017 thru February 14, 2019. To include three (3),one (1)-year options to be exercised at the sole discretion of OBOE. February 14, 2017 Board Agenda

Compare this to the text of the Nov 1 attempt to hire Ohlmann for over 3x more:

Contracted services to provide Comprehensive Marketing Services for DPSD to include, but may not be limited to Public Relation Services, Print/Media Design & Management, Marketing Consulting Services,  Social/Digital Media Services, Web Development, and other services to be determined by a defined Statement Of Work” Effective November 1, 2016-thru October 31, 2017. Funds to follow

And the public can evaluate these and weigh in how? With the 48 hour rule waived each time?

Of course, the public didn’t get a chance to weigh in on the 3 year contract awarded to Rhonda Corr either- which came as a surprise a few weeks ago, and basically, paid her as much as they were paying Lori Ward- who actually got them out of academic emergency and never caused the community to practically shout down the school board over mid-year reductions in force.

Considering the second RFQ talked about a rebrand, but didn’t specify timelines, budgets, all I can ask is how can DPS afford to hire Ohlmann Group who charged the City of Dayton $25K for a logo that looks a lot like what Fairborn bought for $20K. That’s about a quarter of their first years budget for DPS, gone.

There is no reason to skip the 48 hour rule to start this contract. It’s just an attempt to make sure the public and the school board, doesn’t look closely at this.

I’ll be putting in a public records request to see the bids and the score sheets, for both rounds. It’s time to shine some sunshine on the DPS procurement process.