DPS: Special meetings are to avoid scrutiny

The announcement came on Thursday the 22nd- which is a day earlier than normal.

The Board wants to meet Thursday February 27, 2018 at 5pm to have an: “Executive Session to consider the employment, dismissal, discipline, or compensation of public employees and to investigate charges and complaints against a public employee.

The Board may choose to reconvene in public session for the purpose of conducting a public vote.”

That’s boilerplate text- and my guess is this will be where they make Dr. Elizabeth Lolli the Superintendent, with a multi-year contract, without public input, without asking the community how they feel about her, or where there is any opportunity for anyone else to apply.

And you know what? That’s just fine, because after I’m done with my lawsuit- and the judge finds that the Task Force met in violation of the Sunshine laws, Lolli, Burton, Abraha, Al-Hamdani, Walker and Harris, will all be unable to take action on closing any schools- because they discussed the issue in an illegal meeting.

If you need to see the visuals of the illegal meeting- the one the judge will review- watch “Goodbye Sunshine”

Unfortunately, this board is just as much of a mess as the last board, despite their shorter meetings.

At the community session on Thursday at Meadowdale Elementary, the community groups said the same thing over and over:

  • Safety
  • Communications and Transparency
  • Have a plan and stick to it

Unfortunately, there was only one board member actively engaging the community, Jocelyn Rhynard. The other board members, Walker, Al-Hamdani, Harris and Commissioner Mims, all stood off to the side, either talking to each other, or observing. Same can be said of Lolli, and DPS communications guru Marsha Bonhart.

As I walked from table to table, group to group, I recognized people at every table. And I kept thinking to myself, if David Lawrence was Superintendent, one, we wouldn’t be having a community in an uproar, because he actually understands and knows the issues and the community members- but, that he’d have his sleeves rolled up and be actively engaging and learning from the groups.

That’s why we need to have a board that comes clean on its plans for a superintendent in advance, and give the community an opportunity to weigh in.

Just remember, another man the last board passed over to hire Rhonda Corr – went to Springboro schools, which had been in turmoil, and brought order and pride back to a challenged district. That man, Dan Schroer, also managed to get Springboro to pass a levy on the first try ever.

I warned you about what would happen with Joey Williams. I’m warning you again, this board doesn’t understand open and honest communications, and as long as they feel the need to keep pulling secret meetings, emergency meetings, they will never earn the trust of the community.

And they won’t move this district forward.

thumbnail of Lolli’s smoking gun email

Before Al-Hamdani is in office, only he and Harris are in the loop

In the 171 pages of internal communications they released to me through a public records request- there was this gem from Elizabeth Lolli to Bill Harris’s private email and Al-Hamdani’s private email before Al-Hamdani had even taken office:

2. We have the first meeting of the Facilities Task Force on Tuesday, January 9 from 9:30-11 :00. The agenda includes a review of the district data that we have collected. I will make sure that you receive the same information Tuesday evening.

3. DPS has officially joined the Montgomery County ESC Business Advisory Group. The group has been meeting (Superintendents, Reps for the Superintendents and a consultant from MCESC) to develop the Ohio Department of Education Business Advisory Plan. They have been meeting monthly to write the plan, but after the plan is submitted in March, the meetings will be quarterly.

4. I am meeting with Phil Parker and Rick Stover on Friday to discuss the Accountability Panel and suggested changes they have for that group. We will also begin to plan out how best to rework the Contract with the Community. I will update you after the meeting to share the ideas they have and gain your input.

5. Tommy Owens met with me on Friday. He is suggesting that the BOE hire his firm to do the “grass roots” marketing for the district. He indicated a guess contract amount would be around $45,000.00 and he requested that we agree to hire him for two years ($90,000.00) if his company is hired. Please be prepared to weigh in with me on this idea. We currently have two PR people and we employ the Ohlmann Group.

7. Hiwot and I have our monthly review meeting with the Mayor and Shelley Dickstein on Wednesday. am meeting with Bill Burges on Friday to discuss a strategic communications plan that will include recruiting our students back to DPS.

What do you need to know about this: The Facilities Task Force is a district committee- being given privileged information. The district is now part of the Montgomery County ESC advisory group- the same ESC that I was denied the ability to serve on the board of. Lolli is making a beeline for Phil Parker of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce and Rick Stover– who is tied to everything business interest in Dayton- including CityWide Development. She’s talking to Tommy Owens – about marketing, when she wouldn’t talk to me, and also meeting with Bill Burges from Cleveland- who ran the campaign for “The Slate” of Harris, Al-Hamdani, Wick and the unfortunate loser Paul Bradley.

Used to be this had to go through purchasing- because it was mandated- now, we can just hire at will. BTW- someone find a company website for Tommy Owens please? I can’t find it.

Lolli isn’t working for the full board. She’s not informing the full board. If I was the board members cut out of these communications, I’d fire her.

But, then again, 3 of the board members were involved with hiring Rhonda Corr over David Lawrence and can’t admit they made a mistake. And four new board members don’t know what the Sunshine laws are.

Same screwed up situation, different actors. Sorry people, Tricks are for kids, not the way you move a district forward.


Local campaign finance winners and losers

Number one rule in journalism: follow the money.

When it comes to politics and who wants to buy your vote: follow the money.

When I look to see what I could and should support, I like to look at the money. In Montgomery County it takes a lot of work to do it- mostly because the Board of Elections (or Board of [S]elections as I like to call them) has an incredibly bad, non-ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant website.

Everything about campaign finance reporting, accountability, and researchability is convoluted in Montgomery County.

In my book, good honest campaigns are supported by a lot of small money donors. The first Obama campaign, the Bernie campaign. Small money, large base, is more than likely a good cause and campaign. When you have a very few big donors, typically it’s an attempt to “Buy the People, for the Donors” not “by the people for the people.”

In Montgomery County, on Nov 7th, this Tuesday, we have three campaigns that share a common thread: Burges and Burges Strategists out of Cleveland. These are the people Nan likes, that Sinclair and the Human Services campaign likes, and who DPS used on their last levy- and who they then hired for “marketing consulting” as a payback. I’ve written about them considerably.

Why do we hire consultants from out of town?

Is it biblical? Mark 6:4 “But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

This one makes sure to spread the money around locally to favored subcontractors. The main one being The Ohlmann Group, which also does work for Sinclair and Dayton Public Schools under a contract- even though DPS board members have publicly criticized the “work product” they’ve received.

Other favored contractors:

The funny thing is, I look down the list of donors, and, guess what I see? It’s pay to play. You have to donate to be a contractor. Like a kickback, only we don’t call it that.

Let’s start with Issue 3, the Human Services levy. This is only half a levy, they come back around and do this all again in a few years for the other half the levy. Why is this? Well, it makes more money for companies like Ohlmann and Burges, and it means that if a levy does fail, it’s only half their money gone.

Here is the complete report: Human Services Levy Campaign pre-election finance report 2017

Brought forward $358,965.27
Raised $272,132.54 this period.
Total on hand $631,097.81
Total spent to make you tax yourself? $411,749.07

That’s a lot of money. Where did it come from should be your next question. And, this is where is gets interesting- payroll deduction contributes a huge chunk. You work for any of the county agencies that benefit from this tax- you pay a vig out of your paycheck. There are literally 32 pages, 45 donations per page,  of print outs of donations from employees of Job and Family Services, Stillwater, Information Tech Operations, Human Services Plan and Develop, Development Services Workforce, Juvenile Court, Mental Heath Board, Developmental Disabilities Services, Public Health, County Commission, Human Resources.

Is this legal? Should it be? Well, this is how unions get so much power in politics. And, when you look at who backs these issues, unions are always all lined up behind them.

The other donors? It’s only 7 pages, 8 donors per page. 56 donors, and of those, only 14 are small money (less than $500) donations. Most are deposits of the money from the employees, and then the 24 big boys and contractors. $257, 400.

Dayton Development Coalition $10,000
Shook Construction $5,000
Miami Valley In Ovations $20,000
Ohlmann Group Inc $2,000
Downtown Dayton Partnerships Corp. $2,500
Sebaly Shillito and Dyer $2,500
Hocks Pharmacy Inc $900
Fifth Third Bank $7,500
PNC Financial Services Group $10,000
Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association $135,000
Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce $1,000
University of Dayton $20,000
Burges and Burges Strategists Inc $3,000
Marty’s Personal Care LLC $1,000
Key Bank National Association $2,500
Jennifer Wolf $2,500
Colbert Family Health And Wellness $2,500
Dayton Public Services Union $500
Resident Home Association $2,000
Choices in Community Living $2,500
Total Homecare Solutions $5,000
Toward Independence INC $2,000
Oberer Construction Managers $2,500
Area Agency On Aging $15,000

Note the big money from the hospital lobby? Guess what? None of them pay a property tax, but reap huge money back from this levy.

And the Dayton Development Coalition and the Downtown Dayton Partnership- funded with some tax dollars. The Area Agency on Aging- is a primary beneficiary of these tax dollars- if not totally funded by them. Sounds fishy to you?

And of course, there is Burges and Ohlman- throwing a kickback amount for the windfall that comes their way. Pay to Play all the way. Apparently, $5K buys a big ad contract in Montgomery County.

How big?

  • Burges gets $90,629
  • Ohlmann gets $205,958
  • Spark Space Creative gets $47,096

And for the record, none of them are “union shops” and yet, all the promo materials they produce for the campaign- get Union bugs of some sort. The funny one is the signs- which have a “Graphics Art Guild” label- which isn’t a union, it’s a trade association.

On to Issue 4, the Sinclair Levy. I run the opposition campaign, on the Keep Sinclair Fair website.

thumbnail of Citizens For Sinclair

Click on image to download readable PDF

We don’t get to charge a vig to Sinclair employees to fund our property tax levy (again, one of two levies- this is the big one, the other was added 2 years ago, is much smaller). Unlike most of the county workers who benefit from Issue 3 who get charged payroll deduction, Sinclair staff isn’t represented by a union.

The saddest thing about looking at the payroll deduction is that President Stephen Johnson, who makes over $400K a year, only donates $100 a pay period, while one of his top lieutenants, Madeline Iseli, who makes about a third of his pay, donates $55.

Here the donations get mixed in with all the payroll deduction amounts. And the numbers get even bigger.

$628,116.27 brought forward
$51,586.17 raised this period.
$679,957,37 on hand
$408,786.39 spent.

Hmmmm, one thing sticks out. The amount spent on this levy- and the amount spent on Issue 3- $411,749.07.

Almost the same. It’s as if these two campaigns are in cahoots.

And why wouldn’t they be? Look who cashes in.

C3 Group $500
Sparkspace Creative $46,282.31
Ohlmann Group: $205,957.98
Burges & Burges: $82,287.485|
And of course, a ton of money to the fake union sign maker: Patriot Signs $18,300.21

If you compare the two campaigns- it’s as if central bookkeeping just sent duplicate invoices for the vendors. This isn’t the way things are normally done people. There is ZERO oversight of these vendors by the campaign committees- it’s as if the vendors just run the show.

The last campaign is the School Board slate. Or the Al-Hamdani, Bradley, Harris, Wick-Gagnet Committee. This is more like an actual campaign. No payroll deductions, but not exactly a normal fund raising distribution. Almost all the donations are $100 or more. Many of the donors don’t live in the district- some don’t live in the state. Union money, PAC money. These donations look very different than those of other candidates for school board.

thumbnail of Al-Hamdani, Bradley, Harris, Wick-Gagnet Committee

Click on image to download accessible PDF

Start total: $0
Raised: $50,503.00
Spent: $30,233.51

Most were raised at two fundraisers, one at Corner Kitchen and another at Coco’s (full disclosure, I have done work for Karen Wick and Jim Gagnet of Coco’s for years).

But, when it comes to who they spent their money with, the same names:

Burges & Burges: $12,000
Uriah Anderson (an employee of Burges- and Nan’s former campaign manager) $486.86
Spark Space Creative: $9,037.70
Patriot signs: $2,511.02

What is still missing is the money spent on media, and if that will be done by Ohlmann, or by Burges & Burges direct.

thumbnail of Rhynard, Jocelyn; Friends of Jocelyn Rhynard

Jocelyn Rhynard campaign finance report, click to download semi-readable PDF

For comparison, you can look at the finance reports of school board candidate Joceyln Rhynard where there are much more random donation amounts, and none of the same vendors. Full disclosure, she bought her actual union made signs from my company.

What is interesting is some of the same donors contributed to both campaigns- even though only four candidates can win.

As a final note, here are some photos of the Burges purchased campaign signs with the fake union bug.

Burges and Burges uses Patriot Signs who plae a fake union bug on their signs

Fake union bug of the Graphic Arts Guild on each campaigns signs





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


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?