Dayton Public Schools were 607 when Dr. Elizabeth Lolli was handed the reins by a school board that had just fired their last trainwreck (Rhonda Corr). She looked like the best one available to them. Hint, you were 607 because the people you had in charge were all trainwrecks. Lolli was hired by the one you fired- Hello?
When you are 607, the first thing you think you’d do is immediately lay out a plan for change. Need to see how it’s done? Look at the posts on this blog about the new Trotwood superintendent, Tyrone Olverson. He had applied to be DPS superintendent when they hired Corr, but didn’t even get an interview. When Corr was fired, no consideration was given to bringing David Lawrence in for an interview- even though he was still on the payroll and was passed over for Corr.
Of the three finalists in the Corr pick, Roberson has left the district to be replaced by a white woman who sent out requests to all principals to fill out a blank spreadsheet on all their students on IEP. In Dayton, that’s well over 25%- and, a database already exists. Currently, the district doesn’t even have software to manage IEPs nor do they have a solution in place. Nobody seems to be in charge of IT since they RIF’d their last IT director back in November 2017 when the district lied and said they were broke.
Dan Schroer, went on to be the new Superintendent in Springboro. A district that had been in turmoil thanks to a dysfunctional board. Less than 2 years later, the district passes a levy on its first try (a first) and they get an A from the state. One of only 28 districts to do it.
Back to no plan Lolli. Since she’s been in charge, she’s spent money like a house on fire, giving teachers retroactive raises, hiring high-priced administrators, and spending money on consultants without explaining the value proposition. The board, sits there mute. No demands for projections on how this will payback- or bring students back. Just like Wright State, Dayton Public Schools is suffering enrollment declines the likes of which we’ve never seen. To further screw with things, Lolli runs an illegal school closing task force which only decides to close 1 building (Valerie) and move HQ across the street (waiting to hand the old HQ over to Sinclair for some sweetheart deal that’s been not-so-secretly pre-arranged).
Lolli has never completed a single contract as a Superintendent in her life. This has meant, she never had to renew a contract, or face public scrutiny. She won’t complete this 3 year sweetheart deal either- since she’s capable of retiring at any time, and incapable of passing a levy (which this district will need in 1 year or 2 thanks to her wild spending).
When the District got the F on September 13th, her immediate response was to blame a software company, which she plans on suing, even though it won’t change the score. She has proclaimed in public:
“The first thing that I will assure you here, as a City of Learners in Dayton, Ohio, is that Dayton Public Schools is only an F on paper,” she said. “We are not an F school district.”
If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck- it’s a duck. You don’t need a PhD to tell that Dayton Public School is an F district, it’s in black and white. Read the scores. You fail.
Denial is not a turnaround strategy. Maybe, Lolli needs to stop thinking she’s another Republican who found themselves in a position of power accidentally, her Republican hero- Donald Trump. He’d call this “fake news” and get away with it. Lolli isn’t Trump- even though she behaves like him, without the help of Twitter.
Having a plan is something the board should have been working on since day 1. You were 607, you were facing “State Takeover” or on the cusp for the last 5 years, this is no surprise, yet:
School board members have long talked about a need for an updated, official plan laying out a direction for the district.
“Our hope is that we have a strategic plan that is measurable, that is attainable for the district focusing on what is most important – and that is academic achievement, graduation and preparing our kids for life after Dayton Public Schools,” said Board President William Harris…
In an interview, Lolli laid out specific areas that will likely be discussed: academics and instruction, finance, culture, safety and security, and technology.
“We will set some short-term and long-term ideas out there,” she said.
Lolli has been superintendent for 9 months- and is just now putting out “some short term and long-term ideas out there”- excuse me, what have you been doing since you were put in charge?
Dr. Harris, Div., not PhD, or Ed, Or Md. Let’s use truth in advertising.
Harris is total fail. He still likes to call himself “Dr.” in a professional setting, even though he’s a Reverend, not a PhD or MD. And of course, he was put in charge by this board because he’s black. A move made by a dumb racist on the school board, Sheila Taylor, and followed by the rest of the idiots- including Mohamed Al-Hamdani, Jocelyn Rhynard, Karen Wick-Gagnet and Rev Walker. McManus, who should have been president, always being one to be a peacemaker went along with it hoping to bring some semblance of leadership from the VP chair. He’s failed.
Since Lolli has taken over, she’s had no problems spending money on consultants, including $1800 to local PR Firm Fahlgren Mortine. One has to wonder why, since the district already has a three year million dollar plus purchase order sitting open with The Ohlmann Group. Never mind that the board has publicly lambasted Ohlmann and wondered what they bought.
I brought the Ohlmann group contract up in my last speech to the DPS board on Tuesday.
Reportedly, Harris asked if it was really true I’d not be back, gleefully. You’re on your own dude. Enjoy the highway to hell.
Because, here is a perfect Libbie Lolli move, the reason she was hated in every other district where she served, after getting an hour-long dissertation on the why the district is now worst in the state, 608, her response, as if this was all new to her, was to announce that she was going to cut an instructional day for every DPS student and hold inservice training for staff. Because, well, you know, they don’t know what they are doing:
Each Dayton Public School will close for one previously unannounced day in October or November for mandatory staff training, as the district attempts to improve the quality of teaching in its schools.
A message Friday morning from Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli to school staff mentioned the threat of state takeover next fall if the district’s report card doesn’t improve.
“Great teaching, every day, is the only way we will be able to change the results. It is within our power and control to do that!” Lolli wrote. “Beginning in October, schools will be closed for one day in groups of 2 or 3, to focus on teaching strategies and expectations for DPS classrooms.”….
Lolli said she was not surprised by the state’s critical evaluation of DPS teaching. She said the district has been working to improve “instructional design,” but it’s not a simple or quick process, saying DPS is in the second year of a three-year rollout.
“We didn’t have an instructional framework when I arrived,” said Lolli, who is starting her third year in DPS. “We’re trying to get caught up. We don’t want to have our staff lack the quality instructional practices they need and want. They don’t want to be behind their peers in other schools. But you have to have high-quality professional development and time to implement it if you’re really going to make a difference.”…
Her letter to teachers called them “the hope of the district and the students,” calling for everyone to pull together and change DPS’ report card grade from an “F” to a “C.”
“I think we can make some impact with this,” Lolli said later Friday. “Will it solve the problems tomorrow? No. But we’re on our way.”
Insulting your employees, with the support of the School Board is not a good way to go from F to C.
Any school board with an IQ of over 10, would ask where has a day of training ever lifted performance? And, if this was the case, why didn’t your training before school even start cover this material? You already knew the preliminary district data was going to bring bad news.
When I got to the point in my speech where I said I just couldn’t bring myself to go to the board review session because I couldn’t take being around idiots- there is a very faint noise from the audience on the video. It was board member Karen Wick-Gagnet’s husband exclaiming “What the fuck” as he sat behind a group of DPS ESL teachers who were there trying to get guidance for doing their jobs.
Yes, what the fuck.
Taking kids out of school so you can school your staff, because you have no plan, after three years on the job. It’s time Libbie Lolli be shown the door, along with the entire top level staff. Clean house. Oh, wait! That’s what the State takeover will do in exactly 1 year.
The question is, why do Dayton School Students have to suffer this clown show another day?
If you need to see what a school board that actually cares about student achievement looks like, watch one of my videos from Trotwood. As different as night and day.
The deck for the 1 to 1 institute recommendations, Harris cut them off before they could explain the critical slide 14. Click to download PDF
Reverend William Harris, who still can’t say my name right, or that of Mohamed Al-Hamdani, flexed his new presidential muscle in his first meeting as commander in chief by cutting off a presentation by consultants who were hired by the board to report back on out 1 to 1 computer implementation. With no time limits on the agenda, just as the consultants were getting into the meat of their report, he ended their presentation- about 30 minutes in. Sheila Taylor was the ONLY board member who had the guts and wisdom to question his actions. The rest sat deaf dumb and mute. Taylor, was clearly in the right- as no board member has the right to speak for the entire board as clearly outlined in OSBA rules.
I cited this statement in my post about the attempt by Mohamed Al-Hamdani to close the illegal meeting about school closings to the public:
As a start, the following guidelines are offered. A good board member:
• Knows that he or she can legally act as a board member only when the board of education is in session. No one person, unless authorized, should speak on behalf of the board.
Harris was authorized to speak for the board- but, when he made the unilateral decision, and Taylor questioned it, the proper move was to call for a vote on the continuation of the presentation by all board members. Harris just shut it down.
The critical slide 14- where the actual steps moving forward were to be discussed is what we missed. It was the main reason I was interested in their presentation. The slide read:
• Establish expectations for usage of eSchoolPlus and Google Classroom
• Connect the use of the Google Application Suite to “Power Up”
• Establish classroom management practices using Google Classroom (post assignments, communications, etc.)
• Discuss grading protocols using Google Classroom
• Create lesson plans that encourage effective small group, collaborative and independent learning options
• Infuse technology into teacher learning
• Support Data Dashboard adoption with building meetings and identify additional formative and summative data elements
They spent $30K for a report, but didn’t want to hear the meat of it. Click to download PDF
This was a $30K contract, approved at a non-business meeting (no public input) on Oct. 30th 2017. You think for $30K they’d be allowed to finish. The key takeaway was we did good at hiring more IT people and building infrastructure, the weakness was that this process should have been run by more than one person (Baguirov gets all the credit) and that it should have had more top level buy in. We didn’t get to hear the rest, so, oh, well.
On to my presentation, Harris tried to tell me that my 3 minutes started when I approached the podium- not when I began speaking. My teleprompter app had flipped on mirror text and I was resetting it.
Here is the text of what I said:
Congratulations to the voters of the Dayton Public School district for selecting four new board members, a majority, to redirect a failing district that has been characterized by a complete failure of leadership to instill confidence in their abilities or the future of the district.
The actions of the previous board and their ineptly chosen Superintendent have led to 20% turnover in staff, an almost completely new central office team, and a shrinking enrollment that has put school building closure on the agenda.
There is unfinished business from last year. The completion of the firing of Rhonda Corr should be foremost on the agenda. How her original mediocre evaluation penned by John McManus was changed to glowing now is incredibly relevant to her termination. We need to know what part remaining board members had in that change, and that they be held accountable.
Investigations on how and why Dr. Adil Baguirov was allowed to remain on the board after I made it clear he didn’t live in the district, and then proceeded to actively push a bus deal through procurement that not only is a violation of board policy- but also a conflict of interest since his private business does business with the vendors in the process.
These are not matters that should be overlooked. They have serious long term implications for the district, as well as set the tone for how this board will differ from the last one and everyone preceding it.
However, whatever hopes the citizens had for change have already been crassly violated, when the last board apparently sanctioned the interim superintendent to join a task force to study school closings without a proper vote to assign members or outline the scope and authority of the task force.
That a board member elect was named co-chair before he’d even been seated to this board does nothing to instill confidence in this new board. That he argued from his position of authority as a board member and a licensed attorney that the meetings should be held in private in violation of the Ohio Open Meetings laws- commonly known as the Sunshine Laws do not bode well for the future of this board.
But, beyond all that, this board met a week ago, and blindly followed the direction of the interim superintendent who crafted the agenda. Again, tonight, we see the same thing. The superintendent leading the direction of the meeting- with no real change in direction- other than to change the way you approve her agenda items to require only one vote instead of several- using simplified a “consent agenda”
Where is your direction to the superintendent on addressing issues of student safety? Besides the riot at Ponitz that the former superintendent tried to cover up, just last week we had a full fledged brawl at the Dunbar Thurgood basketball game. If you want people to send their kids to your schools- they have to feel safe. I see no item on the agenda on this.
Since we’re dropping in enrollment, what steps have you formulated to evaluate the performance of your superintendent and the district PR department that was hired last year by the former superintendent after your purchasing department failed to hire a PR firm in a legitimate, defensible manner? Your current PR people can’t even keep your site up to date. The time of this meeting wasn’t online.
And lastly, we need to have an actual role call to determine which of you support this closing task force meeting in private so voters will know who actually deserves a seat on the dais.
We voted for new people with a promise of transparency- yet, we’ve yet to see it.
By a simple yes or no response from each member, I need a response to that last issue. Failure to do so- will be taken as complicity to violate the Sunshine laws.
Their response: nothing. So they all agree that it’s ok to have some task force meet in private to discuss the future of our school closings.
But- wait, then as I got back to the camera, Karen Wick-Gagnet made a statement suggesting there has been no additional movement on the task force and they are still new at this and are working to set a new culture. She didn’t answer the question, but at least acknowledged that they have work to do and are still learning.
Once again, Harris, who has been on the board for more than a few of these, stumbled and voted YES on resignations after July 10. Al-Hamdani meekly followed with a NO, then others followed until Jocelyn Rhynard voted YES- and then as seemed to happen more than a few times, Harris forgot to get Wick-Gagnet’s vote. Then Rhynard realized her error- asked for a re-vote, more confusion as it was sorted out- until we had the right 7 No vote that is normal to not accept resignation under contract.
I softly applauded as they finally got it right.
There was also a question about using a consent agenda by Taylor, who wasn’t familiar with the process. She was right to question its use, and that it should have required a vote to agree to implement the new process, however she couldn’t make her statement clearly. The process allows items that have been covered in the review meeting to be passed together, as one vote instead of separate votes. The new process wasn’t on the review meetings agenda- it hadn’t been discussed, therefore Taylor was correct- it needed to be voted on. They didn’t.
They also failed to vote on the treasurers recommendations, which were included in the consent agenda, but then read separately after they had voted- thereby creating the need for a vote. But, what’s getting it right when you are new at this… optional.
It wasn’t long before Harris once again was forgetting how to count to seven before calling the results of a role call, I quietly corrected them- before they proceeded. He’d skipped Wick-Gagnet.
Next thing you know DPS Media maven Marsha Bonhart is in the back talking to security and then came to ask me to stay silent- and not “shout out.” To which I said, 1) it’s embarrassing that they don’t know what they are voting on. 2) If I was shouting- you’d know it.
She left having assurances that I’d keep to myself as they were almost done.
Once again the board used “New business” which is when you are supposed to introduce issues requiring a vote to make speeches. All were stupid, except Wick-Gagnet’s who talked about how we change culture to change outcome. Worth a listen. Again, wrong part of the agenda, but, we’ll probably have to wait until they hire a proper parliamentarian.
After the meeting wrapped up in a timely 75 minutes, they headed into executive session to discuss a personnel issue and a real estate issue. Spotting attorney Beverly A. Meyer going in, it’s a good bet that they were discussing strategy for final termination of Corr, ie settlement. Meyer was the attorney who uncovered many of Corr’s shortcomings when she was hired to investigate the work environment of Dr. Markay Winston- who’s accusations were mostly unfounded in her findings.
The board attorney said there would be no announcement after executive session.
Abbot and Costello did a famous skit “Who’s on first” where the players had names that would confuse you. “Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third”
And then we have the last version of the Dayton Public School board where “I don’t know” is on all the bases. Need proof- watch this simple procedural vote turn into a sad comedy show.
A little background. DPS makes all it’s teachers sign contracts July 10, that they will work the next year. Getting out of the contract is frowned upon after you sign it. However, people move, quit, run out of FMLA, etc- and for the most part, if you turn in a resignation, the superintendent presents your resignation for acceptance and for the most part, the board votes NO, to not accept it.
On occasion, the people you want to quit do- and they do accept it. That’s rare. Or- in this case, the DEA president David Romick asks them to accept two resignations because these people had extenuating medical circumstances and needed the “blessings” of the district, so to speak.
What follows, including the mostly comment by the rarely there Dr. Hazel Rountree, was the kind of stuff you’d need pharmaceutical help to dream up. Comedy of errors this epic, well, as Hazel so kindly added via her open mic “This is so embarrassing. David Esrati is gonna eat us alive.”
I’m going to restate the obvious- McManus is the most qualified to lead this districts meetings through the next year. I’m also going to remind everyone that the board president is just there to guide the meetings, act as a coordinator between the board and the superintendent and to make sure mistakes like this don’t happen. It still takes four votes of this body to actually do anything. I found this article helpful to understand better board meetings.
As far as I’m concerned, the only four votes that I have any faith in at this point are Jocelyn Rhynard, Karen Wick-Gagnet, John McManus and Mohamed Al-Hamdani.
I didn’t have confidence in Rev Harris after watching him on the campaign trail, and he has said little to build my confidence so far. I’m more than willing to give him the benefit of doubt and watch, but right now, with the coming controversies of the closing out of the Rhonda Corr era (error) and the potential school closings, the steady, experienced hand of John McManus is the right solution.
As to board member Sheila Taylor, her main reason for remaining on the board is that this helps build her retirement in PERS- she works for Democratic Party Chair Mark Owens in the Dayton Municipal Court Clerks office for her real job. Her absence at key votes, including the buy out of David Lawrence, as well as her support of Corr over Lawrence in the first place- as well as her sign off on the revamped evaluation are all reasons for her to step down as well, but, for this district and this city to allow someone who still thinks qualification is judged by skin color- is unacceptable.
For those of you who don’t remember how new board members are added to replace those who resign mid-term, the board asks the community for candidates and then picks who they want. It’s how Reverend William Schooler was picked (by Sheila Taylor and Joe Lacey- over 8 other better qualified candidates including my x-girlfriend). Walker and Schooler ran together in their last election and thankfully the people of Dayton were smart enough not to elect Schooler to his appointed seat.
The obvious first choice to place on the board to me is Paul Bradley who ran in the last election. He would still be a great addition and his connection to Senator Sherrod Brown could be very helpful.
As to the second choice, I think Mario Gallin is still a good choice, bringing some historical knowledge and field experience to the board, but, again, the field would be open.
Since it’s obvious that the district has no plans on hiring competent marketing help, judged by the recent PR folly of the badly introduced issue of enrollment declines and possible building closing, I might even throw my hat in the ring- so if they can’t hire competent marketing help, at least they will have a board member to help them guide the district when it comes to messaging.
Note to overpaid DPS PR Genius Department- if parents and students don’t feel safe in DPS- they won’t go there. Your failure to properly manage the incident at Ponitz that was covered in two posts on this blog fully showcase your incompetence. For the $180K a year this district is spending because Rhonda Corr wanted to show how much she respected African American women after Dr. Winston said she didn’t- we need to see something other than a donated video done by your family members and credited for $18,500 as a tax write off.
And that should fully do it for the Esrati eating us alive.
I’ve now managed to clearly define the battle lines between me, the cannibal, and the district- a wounded horse waiting for euthanasia by the state. As a final note- I realized when I was 16, that after a meteoric rise as a sax player, I wasn’t going to become a pro- and switched my focus to photography, selling, writing, and eventually to advertising. Just because I suggest that someone isn’t good at doing things like being a school board member, or a PR person for a district, or even the right superintendent- it doesn’t mean I don’t like them as people, or feel they may have other awesome skills.
Now where’s the Franks Red Hot Sauce- I hear if you put that shit on everything it tastes better.
CYA (cover your @$$) was in full effect at yesterday’s Dayton Public School board meeting. As was misinform and misdirection.
That they didn’t announce why Assistant Superintendent Dr. Sheila Burton was in the center chair replacing Rhonda Corr was odd and should have set off alarm bells, but, this board does everything wrong, including being unable to publish a bona fide agenda, stick to an agenda, or actually properly follow Robert’s Rules. Dr. Walker, spent time explaining that “New Business” was for public comment by the board members- it is not. New business is for items that will require a board vote, nothing else.
It was announced that board member Dr. Hazel Roundtree was absent for “family matters.” It’s odd, that Dr. Rountree is routinely out when important votes are to be discussed, but, considering she’s never really been “all there” on this board since her attempt to run for Dayton City Commission 2 years ago, where she made her real aspirations known, who cares if she is there or not. She should have resigned when Baguirov left and let one of the elect’s step into her seat, as should have Lacey and Lee.
The first order of business was to install Rev. William Harris to Baguirov’s seat. He started up to the dais before being sworn in and had to reverse course.
Next up in public comments, yet another ad hoc organization has popped up, “The Dayton Africana Elders Council” where they hauled out grande dame of DPS teachers, Margaret Peters, to speak to the board about a pending decision on adoption of a text for high school students. Apparently, teachers are being blamed for not being willing to teach “The Mis-Education of the Negro” by Dr. Carter G. Woodson because it’s “too difficult” and they want to send it back. For those of you not familiar with it (I’m in the same boat) it’s considered a seminal text on education of minority students in this country, even though it was written in 1933. The basic premise of the book is that our schools are designed to give students a Euro-centric curriculum that justifies the oppression and cultural norms of white society, trying to push students into believing “what their place is” isn’t what it should be in post Civil Rights Act America.
The Elders Council offered to provide the needed professional development courses for teachers to be able to teach this book effectively, and as usual, the response from the board was deafeningly quiet.
Next up were complaints about busing woes and then fights leading to suspensions at Thurgood, where the parent accused the principal, Sharon Goins of allowing this to build, and even saying that Goins said to the students after the fight, “oh, you finally fought.” Walkers response was to send PR out “to get their contact information” as he is totally out of touch with the fact that the information is required on the speakers sheet. What should happen is that they direct the superintendent (the person they hire and control) to get a complete report back to them on the situation and how it was resolved- and set a date for completion, and thank the parent for bringing the issue to the board.
Hopefully, this is how things will run after the new board steps up.
School fighting and suspensions aren’t a PR issue in a competently run district, they are the issue for the Superintendent and her staff. All PR should do is make sure the community knows what the steps are to register a complaint and communicate the Superintendent and boards position.
I spoke- calling for a full investigation into Dr. Baguirov’s residency, and now that I was proven right, I should have gotten an apology, but I’ll accept resignations of the remaining board members and anyone else who is proven to fail to act.
Next faux pas was on the proper way to do a first and second reading. Hint, it actually does require two readings, and typically is done with time between so the public can comment. When you do them both at once- it is usually stipulated as an emergency, and then you have to read it twice. They did not. The policy was about changes in the law to allow for school personnel to administer meds- as in asthma inhalers, epi-pens etc. It needed to be done- but it needed to be done right.
The last bit of confusion got me hauled out of the room by security for a talking to was their attempt to do something to give Rhonda Corr pay for housing from 2016. I had looked at the agenda on Sunday and again on Tuesday. There were two posts. I didn’t see anything about this and spoke up.
They tried to claim it was there hidden under “New Business” hidden under “Board Discussion” “a motion to approve the Reimbursement expense for Superintendent Rhonda Corr?”
It was tabled. There weren’t details enough in this description for anyone to know if this was $50 for parking fees at the airport- or months of rent (which shouldn’t be their problem, they paid her big money to accept this job- housing is her problem.)
Then off to executive session- with the new board members in the room to “bring them up to speed.” The public meeting ended at around 7:15, they sent the new members home at 8:30 or so. They then returned to executive session and voted 6-0 to put Rhonda Corr on administrative leave due to findings in the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission complaints filed by Dr. Markay Winston (a Corr hire) and Connie Selano. Even though Dr. Elizabeth Lolli was named in the complaint by Winston, the board chose to put her in charge of the district with Corr’s pay and her existing benefits package.
This decision came close to midnight- and, the DPS video crew, security, and others, had to sit and wait it out, all on the clock.
Early this morning in a text conversation, Dr. Lolli said to me that she will serve as long as the district needs. She looks forward to proving herself to the new board and has a deep love go the kids here and believes in the potential of the staff to turn this district around.
The other on hand superintendent possibilities are Dr. Sheila Burton, Dr. Greg Roberson (a finalist in the last superintendent pool), Erin Dooley, and maybe one or two others who have the credentials.
Considering this action by the old board, will have profound effect on the new board, it is a very strange mess we have ourselves in. With about 5 weeks left in their terms, should these three existing members be involved in cleaning their own mess up? And, since the others ignored the Baguirov eligibility issue- should they be trusted? Only in a dysfunctional district would have these questions. And, btw, the only board member being paid at this point in the year, is Rev. Harris. Ohio has a cap of $5K to pay a school board member annually, and our meeting happy board usually exhausts the funds by August each year.
Welcome to Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Lolli. Please put the train back on the tracks.
full disclosure and entanglements: I’ve been friends with Karen and Jim Gagnet for years, I’ve done work for them both since they opened the 2nd iteration of Coco’s on Wayne Ave. I’ve printed materials for Jo’el Jones, Jocelyn Rhynard, Mario Gallin has lunched with my mother, her husband, TRRuddick is one of the most frequent commentors on my blog directly or via Facebook. All that said, I know, or have interacted with all of them over the years.
In my last year of going to school board meetings to speak, cover, review, reform, I’ve seen one absolutely steady presence, Mario Gallin. She’s ALWAYS there, in the back, with her Microsoft Slate, taking notes, paying attention. I’ve seen Jocelyn there a lot, Jo’el comes often, but isn’t always there the whole time. Of course Joe Lacey is there- with his hoodie. At one point we joked about starting a twitter account for his hoodie.
I have a reputation for being honest to a fault. The reason this has taken so long to write- is because I wanted to make sure I made the right choices, and for the right reasons. I’m going to explain what I’ve seen, and what I think we need more than anything to move the district forward.
The Dayton Board of Education meetings are out of control, they run 4 hours, and THEN can go into executive session. They are totally ineffective at advancing intelligent thought or direction for a district in constant turmoil. A large part of it is because we have 7 people on the board who think they have to share their thoughts on every subject. Unless what they say is either a policy question, guidance or direction for future policy or objective setting, and it requires an answer, or action to be performed, board members should be seen but not heard. First and foremost, grandstanding political types need not apply to my board of the near future.
Secondly, what is grossly missing is respect for the public, the employees, the leadership. Board members are paid a max of $5K a year, the person they hire- the supposed educational professional is paid $200K a year plus benefits. This is the person who should be running the district and the meeting, giving clear and actionable information and progress reports. These meetings need to flip. The Superintendent needs to run the meeting agenda- with the board approving or disapproving the agenda items (which are created by the Superintendent). Yes, the Board can sit up on their platform, but the Superintendent needs to be elsewhere- look at the city commission meetings for seating arrangements. If the board is voting on the superintendents recommendations- let the superintendent actually ask for the vote- so they understand who they are saying no to. This kumbaya stuff has to go.
Third, although all three should tender their resignations on Jan 2, 2018, or whenever the new members are sworn in, since the DEA has voted no confidence in the board and they’ve lead the district to the brink of destruction, there will be 3 remaining members, Dr. Robert Walker, Sheila Taylor and John McManus. I have to evaluate how the new candidates will interact with the old ones- to counteract a huge cat fight. Sheila Taylor is absolutely unpredictable, intellectually challenged and holds grudges and can be combative. Walker is a weak man, who let others bully him into believing that internal candidates were unacceptable for internal promotion, he believes he speaks from some sort of both moral and community authority, but, his input/guidance or even exhibited understanding of what is going on- is nonexistent. John McManus, is a new comer to Dayton, he didn’t have connections or name recognition and spent almost $40K to beat Nancy Nearny by 400 votes. He bought his printing from me, I helped advise him on how to run, and I consider him a friend. He’s by far both the most political member of the board, and also the board gossip- as in he’s always talking to other board members- outside of the meetings. This is actually a problem, and needs to stop. The Ohio Sunshine Laws actually prohibit polling of board members- and some could say McManus is walking on questionable ground. He’s also dangerously polite, lacking a real spine. When he takes a strong stand, he weakens it by curtsy. Of the three remaining board members, he’s the only one who deserves to finish their term, even though he has been involved in many of the bad decisions. When he asks questions, it generally demonstrates a solid understanding of what is going on.
Fourth- we need board members willing and able to demand accountability, across multiple skill sets, and issues. The district is a half a billion dollar operation- it’s not just teaching, it’s building maintenance, allocation of resources, HR, transportation, a food service operation, fiscal and legal compliance, janitorial, purchasing, athletics, marketing, IT, etc. To oversee this requires more than just “I’m a parent” or “I’ve been involved in the community” – corporate boards are usually populated by seasoned professionals who’ve had some success in life, leaders of people, experienced business thinkers, as well as people who understand that what they say, should have gravitas, and be words of wisdom. Shooting from the hip might work in Westerns, but, we actually need people who can actually identify the correct targets and aim and pull a trigger for maximum effectiveness in the middle of a fire-fight. (sorry my military background is sneaking in).
All this said, this is a political decision, and we have been presented with a group running as “The Slate” backed by Nan Whaley, picked from central casting with a black preacher, an Asian bureaucrat, a middle eastern refugee turned success story and a wizened white woman who overcame her hardscrabble upbringing to run successful businesses. They hired a “professional” political consultant, got a ton of endorsements, raised a bunch of money and expect the public to accept the package lock, stock and barrel. This has precedent, although on a much grander scale, when the business community put their money behind the “Kids First” slate of four powerful women, who would in turn get a levy passed that would bring $850M in new construction work to rebuild the schools. The new buildings did NOTHING to improve academic performance, and the internal culture of entitlement and mediocrity was allowed to continue to fester, which got us to where we are today; second worst district in the state.
Which brings me to my last qualifier: at this point, there is only one action that will be acceptable to turn this district around, and that’s to immediately install competent leadership that is willing to work with the board to clean house.
I am choosing candidates based on their stomach to do the following:
Fire Rhonda Corr for cause. Fire Hiwot Abraha for cause.
Hire, ranked in order of preference a new superintendent and possibly two, of the following three people to begin turning the district around:
David White, former DPS principal now in Trotwood Madison to run the district, or at least manage the operational side. He’s a wizard at bringing organizational controls to flailing operations.
Rusty Clifford- former Superintendent of West Carrollton schools. An advocate of year round schooling, a seasoned superintendent that knows the landscape and resources of the region, he can help Dr. Lolli manage the academic and instructional revamp of the district and work on rebuilding trust of the teachers and their union in focusing on excellence in classroom instruction.
The third choice, is a little more controversial, but would also be a seasoned hand that could quickly jump in, at least until we have time to find a long term solution, would be Jim Schoenlein former Kettering Superintendent. We need someone who knows how to run a district and a board, with a focus on academic excellence, with a diverse district. Again, teamed with Dr. Lolli, we’d have a clean start.
If a candidate has expressed an unwillingness to make this change, and is willing to continue with the Rhonda Corr rookie at the helm, experiment, they are unacceptable candidates.
All this being said, I have to look at what a functioning board would look like- and who would bring what skills to the table and how do we do it. You get to vote for up to four candidates, and remember, since there are 8 running, any vote for someone you don’t really feel is worthy- you are possibly pushing them ahead of someone you really want to win, so, voting for just 1, 2 or 3 candidates can be more powerful by not cancelling your vote out.
I am going to start with two candidates I feel are a totally unacceptable. If you think that either of these candidates is worthy of your vote, you probably shouldn’t read the rest of my endorsements.
Joe Lacey MUST NOT BE REELECTED AT ANY COST. He’s been a disruptive force on the board for his entire tenure. Not that disruption isn’t needed, it’s just that he’s been totally ineffective at swaying people to his side, or building alliances, and when he has built a coalition, it’s often been with wrong side. He actually brags about being the only no vote- when in fact, if he had any value at all, he’d have gotten others to go along with him, or found and helped others run and win. He’s been a problem for way too long and needs to go away permanently. Rewatch him trashing a parent in front of her child- and realize this man has zero respect for anyone and also know that’s he’s emotionally damaged and goes into histrionics if he thinks someone someone doesn’t like him because of his personality (way too often).
The Reverend William (Bill) Harris is part of the slate. His whole pitch has been “I’m working in Hilltop, and I think truancy is what we need to focus on.” For those that don’t know Hilltop, it’s a crappy public housing project on what should have been one of the prime pieces of land in Dayton. It’s been marked by violence, drug deals in the open, and crime. It’s been that way, it continues to be that way and it hasn’t changed thanks to the good reverend. Blaming truancy for our woes and making it his number one priority is demonstrated ignorance of the challenges facing DPS. Dr. Roberson made his entire pitch for the Superintendent position built around truancy and I dismissed him then too. Harris has said “I won’t be anyone’s puppet” as part of the slate- yet, that’s comically what he is. I don’t think he brings any of the critical thinking skills we need to this board, nor do I think he has the intellectual horsepower to move the district forward at a critical time. He’s Ron Lee 2. Pass, please.
The best choices for the board
DEA president David Romick’s face turns into a lemon when the idea of Ann Marie “Mario” Gallin returning to the board is broached. He says “She was terrible” the last time she was on the board- which was a while ago. In the time since, she kept attending board meetings and has worked at Ruskin- throwing herself into our own social experiment with wrap around services. She understands the actual problems in the classroom, the community and the interface. She’s well read, she talks about the dysfunctional nature of the board and the current agenda, and she brings the ability to actually question academic rigor in practices that are proposed. She’s a decent human being, and she’s not politically motivated. She’s not a big dollar candidate- which should also tell you she’s only interested in serving the kids best interests. She would be a calming, steadying, experienced hand on the board. You can’t go wrong voting for Mario.
Paul Bradley is the youngest candidate and part of the slate. He’s still wide eyed and optimistic. And while he’s not been to meetings, he knows what functioning government is supposed to do after working for Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown for 6 years. His understanding of how federal programs work, how to interface with the community, his easy going, restrained personality makes him an excellent choice for the board. There are zero downsides to electing Paul. He’ll be awesome.
Karen Wick-Gagnet. I’ve known Karen and worked with her for a long time. Personally, I tried to talk her out of running, knowing that her dislike of confrontation and controversy would make this job a spirit killer for her. Not voting for Karen would be better for her well being, but bad for our district. She’s an amazing business woman, who’s been through boom and bust with her husband Jim. I’ve said before that if you want to see economic development in Dayton done on a budget- Jim is the best developer hands down. A big part of his success, has been his partnership with Karen. She’s the one who keeps things on point and running smoothly. She’s not a grandstander. She’s thoughtful, and talks about practicing mindfulness. I’ve watched her, and their businesses grow. I’ve watched her work for years- and if you know anything about restaurants- staffing is always tough, since you deal with people who tend to gravitate to the dramatic, with issues of alcoholism, drug use and drama- yet, she’s always been able to keep a steady work force, and attract some of the best talent in her restaurant. We’re lucky to be able to vote for someone who is doing it for the right reasons.
The next three are a vote at your own risk, although after a lot of thought, my choice is clearly the first, if you feel you have to cast a fourth vote.
Jocelyn Rhynard is a serious force to contend with. She talked about the dysfunction of the board meetings- which is the prime problem. She raised more money as an individual than anyone else. She sought and got endorsements. She surrounded herself with good people, and listened to them. I believe her heart is in the right place. So, what’s the reservation? She’s not my style of candidate. She holds things close, won’t take strong stands, hasn’t clearly said that she believe Corr to be a fundamental problem (although I know she thinks it), she attends board meetings and started a parents group. But, her emphasis on being a parent as qualification makes me ill. It has since the days when Dick Zimmer used to say he had 9 kids and 19 grandkids- as if the ability to fornicate was a skill critical to being elected (and I guess if you want to fcuk the public- it is). She also hedged when I asked her for the email from Marsha Bonhart- so I could verify it was sent to all, and the same. It was public record- and she held back. I worry about her not fully understanding that she’s there to represent us, in an open transparent manner. I worry about her doing a McManus and not being forceful enough at the right time. Yes, she came out the day after I posted about the Bonhart scandal- which to me, reeked of grandstanding. I don’t want that. But, she’s the best choice.
Jo’el Jones has been involved in “Neighborhoods over Politics” as has Shenise Turner Sloss. It’s an organization that had noble beginnings and potential, but got caught up in internal squabbles early on. Jo’el is a human wrecking ball- loud, demanding attention, and opinionated. She will grandstand. She’ll get in fights- on the campaign trail, her and Reverend Harris have not gotten along. She’s a disorganized hot mess most of the time. She’s known she’s been on the ballot since August- yet, is just now throwing herself into it at full force. Yes, she may be the voice of the community, or be tied in. She may have worked in the past for DPS, but, there may be a reason she’s not there now. I feel she’ll be a distraction and a carnival barker if elected. Another Hazel Rountree, and I don’t say that kindly- as I’ve found her to be the most ineffective board member ever. But, then again, if you want someone to get in a catfight with Rhonda Corr and sell tickets- Jo’el is your candidate.
Mohamed Al-Hamdani is a total wild card. I wanted to sit down and ask him real questions, hardball, and see what he says away from an audience, but he’s too busy being best man in Paul Bradley’s wedding this weekend. He’s definitely the lynch pin to “The Slate” and like another refugee, Dr. Adil Baguirov, moved into Dayton just in time to file. This guy has political aspiration signs coming out of every side of him- in neon, with strobe lights. This board run is his first step to his long future political career. And, he’s arrogant, by the truckload. Early on, I asked a question about the hiring of Burges and Burges and how much it cost- and why they didn’t buy local talent- and he tried to sidestep it and said they hadn’t paid them a dime. I don’t need to be lied to ever, and especially before you have been elected.
Mohamed thinks he knows it all. He has a smugness that rubs people the wrong way. He thinks he has all the answers. He probably reminds people of me in some ways- but, with the establishment nod. His campaign rhetoric has been full of bullshit about all the teachers that taught him- and his story of coming to America- all nice and fine, but missing any substance. He may indeed have all the answers, but, I’ve not heard them, and his testiness will bring back some of the rancor to the board that we can’t afford. He has a law degree- which would and might be handy, but, so does McManus- and it hasn’t kept us out of trouble. One of the biggest mistakes Americans make at the polls is thinking that being a lawyer makes you a good lawmaker- and that’s actually the opposite. Good lawmakers and only the best lawyers, understand that their profession is actually the art of compromise. Too many think it’s to win at all costs. Mohamed is a total wildcard. He may be smart, he may have a good story, he may even understand the issues, but I’d put Mario and Jocelyn ahead of him for my slate. He’s also been the one to say that if “The slate” is elected, they won’t disagree with each other as much in public- lending me to believe he’s planning on operating behind a curtain.
Congratulations. You just read over 3000 carefully chosen words about the 8 candidates for the Dayton Board of Education. The number of hours of research, candidates nights, talking to each candidate in person, going to board meetings, knowing the existing board members and the district- were all drawn into this piece. I’m sure there are lots of people who will say I’m wrong. That Candidate X is better suited than Candidate Y. I’m sure people will say “how could you be impartial, you’ve done business with them” etc. I don’t claim impartiality, I just share my thoughts and how I came to the conclusions I did.
In the best of all possible worlds, the board of tomorrow is John McManus, Mario Gallin, Paul Bradley, Karen Wick-Gagnet and Joselyn Rhynard- five people who can guide the district forward – and ignore the other two- Sheila Taylor and Robert Walker. If either of them are smart and resign- and the board can pick another candidate or two- they should open up to the public, and see who steps forward as well as consider adding Mohamed, although I think there are others who may be better suited. And although i think my best role would be to run the district marketing- with the should have been winning bid I submitted a year ago, I would also consider serving if asked. I’ve told this to David Romick, and I would have to have the DEA’s approval. Of course, I’ve made my vision for the district known- via my video, “There Ain’t no F in Dayton” and this blog- which many teachers have said has been instrumental in helping them get their message out about the incompetence of the central office.
My goal and dream- is for the Dayton Board Of Education to not need investigational oversight and constant course correction. My dream is to have a district that is performing at least at a “C” level on all measurements, because, I don’t believe every district can be above average, and for an urban district straight C’s would be an A.