The upcoming firing of Superintendent Rhonda A Corr from Dayton Public Schools for cause will undoubtedly bring a whole host of other issues, lawsuits, and claims against the district.
The crisis management skills of Interim Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli will be tested daily. When Corr claimed she had no idea of why she was placed on leave, the district should have responded that day with “Rhonda Corr and her attorney’s were informed of the basis of her dismissal for cause, but have not been given the final document. For her to say that she has no idea is just one more indication of her unsuitability to lead our district and her denial of facts and the bending of truth. Our community deserves better.”
That didn’t happen. But, what can you expect from an interim Superintendent on her second day on the job?
What really needs to be examined is how did we get here?
And that starts with the school board who didn’t renew Superintendent Lori Ward’s contract, dismissed treasurer Craig Jones and passed over internal candidate David Lawrence who was later paid to go away.
This is what happens when you let a fox run the hen house.
The fox, was the carpetbagger board member Dr. Adil Baguirov, who ran un-opposed and uninvestigated supposedly at the prompting of existing board member Joe Lacey.
Baguirov’s background has him tied to international lobbyists who were under constant investigation for influence peddling and bending the rules. Much the same thing that he did while on the board. The other 6 board members allowed him to bully them constantly and most of the time, he had his way. This board was complicit in every mistake Rhonda Corr made, mostly because her main supporter, Baguirov was using her as a smokescreen for his own questionable behavior on deals like the sale of Patterson Co-op property to CareSource where he had a conflict of interest and the purchasing of the buses with a 10 year warranty (when the buses are projected to have a 7 year life span). Much of this has been covered previously, but the key questions remaining was why the board, the superintendent and others failed to act when his residency issue was brought up first on April 5, 2017 and then again on election day Nov. 7 2017.
It is clear that he was the key force behind the re-write of Ms. Corr’s annual performance review- where the board was goaded into changing the original responses to glowing because of the optics of a less than stellar review would fit with the awarding of her 3 year contract.
That Board President Reverend Doctor Robert Walker (the title BS has to stop) agreed to sign both the re-written performance review and the complaint against Corr, says he is as criminally complicit in Corr’s failings as she is, and he should resign immediately.
Other questions that remain is how Corr convinced the board to buy out David Lawrence, in light of the investigation of racial bias brought forward by Dr. Markay Winston. While the investigation didn’t find anything substantially wrong with Corr’s behavior to Winston based on race- it did showcase complete and total insanity in operational functionality by the district leadership under Corr with the oversight of this board. If anything, the charges against Corr, which go entirely against what the boards final performance review said, should be grounds for their termination for cause.
There are still questions about the ousting of Charity Early Principal Peggy Burks, the hiring of Dr. Donetrus Hill at Meadowdale (another risky hire), the rushed contract for athletic director Mark Baker and a host of other questionable actions that were all done with board consent.
The only real option to move past this crisis is to have the remaining board members who are leaving, resign immediately, and the remaining three- submit their resignations to the newly elected board for them to choose whether to allow them to continue to serve.
An independent review panel should be put in place to evaluate every decision made by Corr and signed off on by the board over the course of her tenure, to evaluate processes and procedures that should have been in place or that weren’t followed so as to rebuild trust and integrity into a system that has lost all credibility after this debacle.
This could become a case study for rebuilding a district with best practices in HR, policy and procedure- or it could turn into a nasty web of lawsuits that never end.
The lynch pin in all of this is Baguirov. If Corr pursues a legal defense instead of going away quietly, there will be epic legal bills and a treasure trove of testimony via deposition that will peel back the cloak of confusion that has run amok in DPS for the last few decades.
Word is Rhonda Corr is planning a press conference this morning with her attorneys. Another bad move.
On Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017, the Dayton Board of Education will install Rev. William Harris on the board to the seat vacated by Dr. Adil Baguirov who finally had to resign because he didn’t live in the district.
Unfortunately, Joe Lacey, Ron Lee and Dr. Hazel Rountree didn’t tender their early resignations to allow Mohamed Al-Hamdani, Jocelyn Rhynard and Karen Wick-Gagnet to also take their seats early. Considering the board has a no confidence vote from the Dayton Education Association, the sooner the new board (which the DEA endorsed) takes office, the sooner the healing process can begin.
It’s also time to change some things about the way the meetings are run. First and foremost is to explain to the Superintendent that an agenda, in order to be effective, needs to be posted to the public site by Thursday at 5pm before a Tuesday meeting. Any changes, additions, “emergencies” better come with a damn good reason- as in, the person requesting the changes will stand in front of the board and explain why they couldn’t turn in their issue on time. They will have a disciplinary note added to their personnel file for each time this happens. The documentation must be complete- posted as a time stamped, ADA compliant single PDF. We can cancel Board Docs which isn’t ADA compliant. Isn’t mobile friendly, and isn’t searchable- at least the way it’s being used now.
If this isn’t acceptable, a different system can be put in place for posting of agendas.
Another issue is the number of meetings. There will never be a vote at anything but a business meeting, ever again. If there will be a vote, there has to be opportunity for public review- and comment.
All the “committee” meetings- will cease, until actual agendas are created, published- and reported back to a public business meeting. There will be no more hiding of business in committee, or discussion of public business without a video record. All committees must make reports with actual metrics- goals and progress reports. Committees that can’t do this- will cease to exist.
Each meeting will begin with an actual report by the Superintendent or designee, on progress on identified key performance indicators. Suggested initial metrics:
Student attendance, broken down by school, grade, race.
Staff attendance, broken down by union, building, classification.
Computer usage, performance metrics from academic improvement software applications.
Suspensions, Expulsions, Discipline, broken down by age, building, race.
Student performance/behind, on-track/advanced
Next will be follow up on outstanding issues as brought up during board meetings. Each issue must be designated open, on-hold, closed. Any time a board member speaks, it must either be asking for a clarification on presented items, or to open an issue for resolution on an agreed to time table. There will be no tolerance for speeches from the board. If it’s not on the agenda, it will either be added during “New business” or it will be attached to a current agenda item. Any board member who violates this rule more than 3 times in a meeting will be asked to leave the meeting.
When a board member brings an issue up for clarification, they must be able to get at least two other board members to agree that this requires further investigation. If they can’t get two other votes, the issue will be considered a violation.
The board will no longer refer to anyone else on the board with the title of Dr. unless they have a PhD- since this is an academic organization and not a church. Divinity degrees mislead the public as to qualifications. Also, it is unnecessary to address each other with “Board member” “Vice President” or “Board President” – this is a waste of time and an unnecessary formality. Mr. Ms. Mrs. or Dr. are fine and appropriate. The board may return to formal titles when they actually have a district operating above a “C” in all State Standards, if they feel it is a title worth bestowing. Below average school districts shouldn’t reward mediocrity with formal respect until they’ve earned it.
Other than actual, mandatory business required to keep the district operating, this current board should not be allowed to dispose of any property, enter into long term or large contracts or extend any contacts of staff until the new board takes their seats. At that point, a full review should be started on issues and actions of the board dating back to when they were made aware that Dr. Baguirov didn’t live in the district- and their actions or inaction on following their own policy. Any board members who remain who failed to act, should be held criminally liable for failure to comply with board policy. This also applies to legal counsel, and others who should have investigated this issue.
Head of security, Jamie Bullens retirement is a starting point for an investigation. He should be properly deposed by an independent investigator as to what actions he was asked to do, by whom, and what was done.
An external investigation should also be conducted into the sale of the Patterson Co-Op site to CareSource, the purchase of the buses with their 10 year warranty on 7 year life expectancy vehicles and Dr. Baguirov’s illegal involvement in the contracting process, a review of both Superintendent Rhonda Corr’s and Athletic Director Mark Baker’s contracts. If Dr. Baguirov was a key factor- and he didn’t live in the district, both these contracts should be nullified. An investigation into the award of the marketing contract to the highest bidder- and then the change of direction to hire internally- also needs review. This change of direction shows a lack of competency by either the Superintendent or Purchasing or both. Within a 6 month period, the district did a complete U-turn, after not meeting their stated goals with either solution.
Last but not least, considering the DEA no confidence vote in the board and superintendent, the current remaining board members should all tender their resignations to the new board for consideration. It should be obvious, that their performance created the turmoil that caused an 8 way race and the loss by the only incumbent who ran. It’s time to bring stability back to the district.
The days of packed 4 hour meetings has to stop now. RESIGN, and let this district heal from your trespasses of trust, respect and dignity and move forward.
The most important Key Performance indicator will be seeing turnover of staff drop below 8% from the current 20%. We can’t run schools and a teacher/staff training facility at the same time.
For that to happen, we need clear, focused leadership. It will be up to the new board to see if Ms. Corr can actually run a district instead of a circus. If she can’t, I have two words for you: David White.
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.
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” (Danish: Kejserens nye Klæder) is a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they do not see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent”. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” The tale has been translated into over 100 languages.
update: 18 Oct- key part missing from this synopsis- the Emperor also knew the suit was invisible- but, chose to believe the weavers too. (end update)
We know that Dayton Public Schools has problems managing their public image. Now, the people that Rhonda Corr hired to manage it, are actually actively destroying credibility and possibly breaking laws.
Dayton Public Schools Director of Media and Public Relationships is an expert in censorship of free political speech
Unfortunately, the director of Dayton Public Schools media and public relations , Marsha Bonhart, either thinks she’s doing someone a favor (providing grounds for her dismissal) or is woefully ignorant of the audacity of the email she sent out to candidates before tomorrow’s Dayton Educational Council candidates forum from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., at Ponitz Career Technology Center, 741 W. Washington Street. (The event will be broadcast live on DPS TV Spectrum Channel 21. and hopefully livestreamed as well).
The email, suggests that free speech should be limited, political discourse restrained, and that no one should disparage her boss, Rhonda Corr, whose future tenure will be decided by the very people that Ms. Bonhart seeks to censor and reign in.
Dear candidates, as an addendum to Friday’s email:
It is very important that we keep this forum civil.
We ask that you not participate in or instigate any “bashing” of Superintendent Corr, Dayton School Board members, or each other.
Please stay focused on providing quality answers to all of the questions.
When answering questions, remain seated until the end of the event.
Thank you and we look forward to you providing voters the information they need to make informed decisions.
Director, Media and Public Relations
Dayton Public Schools
115 S. Ludlow St.
Dayton, Ohio 45402
937-286-0023 (c), 937-542-3023 (desk)
Since Ms. Bonhart works for an organization that receives a lot of federal funds, we might look over to the Hatch Act of 1939 about what is allowed and appropriate for public employees to engage in during a political campaign. Note both the first and second bullets:
These federal and D.C. employees may not:
use official authority or influence to interfere with an election
solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency
solicit or receive political contributions (may be done in certain limited situations by federal labor or other employee organizations)
be candidates for public office in partisan elections
The fact that the meeting is being held in a public building, on public property, for a public purpose, specifically, to discuss issues and the candidates who have the ability to vote to hire or dismiss Ms. Bonhart, shows she’s sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong.
A true public relations professional in an organization that serves the public should know better than to get involved in this process, and know that her communications are all public record and not private.
Considering we’ve already had members of “The Slate” publicly state that they might try to skirt sunshine laws:
A member of the slate of candidates, which was endorsed by Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, (Mohamed) Al-Hamdani said the four would not show disagreement in public, doing more preparation behind closed doors. He did not address how that would fit with open meetings law.
We may have even bigger problems in store when it comes to what is acceptable political behavior and what is not if Ms. Bonhart is the new ruler of political dicourse.
I believe that Ms. Bonhart should either retract these rules and publicly apologize for her attempt to influence political speech and interfere with an election via her official capacity, or be dismissed for cause. I don’t expect our current board, superintendent, elections officials, the county prosecutor, the state school board, the Ohio Ethics Commission or the Secretary of State to do their jobs and censure this kind of blatant abuse of power, but, that’s why we have a free and independent press, to make sure you know when you are getting played.
When a public employee thinks they can regulate candidates speech, we have a real problem.
This needs resolution before this event begins tomorrow night.
Candidates’ Night, Wednesday, October 18th, is drawing closer. As you know, the program, sponsored by the Dayton Education Council, will be aired live on DPS-TV from 6 to 8 pm with a strong presence on social media. We expect a large live audience as well.
You will be introduced and given 2 minutes to give an opening statement. When addressed by the moderator, each candidate will have 2 minutes to answer 3 rounds of pre-selected questions in addition to questions from the audience, phone callers and social media.
We ask that you arrive at David H. Ponitz Career Tech High School, 741 W. Washington St., 45402, at 5:15 for technical needs.
Again, thank you for your interest in becoming a member of the Dayton Board of Education.
Director, Media and Public Relations
Dayton Public Schools
115 S. Ludlow St.
Dayton, Ohio 45402
937-286-0023 (c), 937-542-3023 (desk)
Second rule of public relations: be proactive. Be in front of the storm, not in the middle of it, or after it passes.
Third rule of public relations: be trustworthy, which is an extension of the first two rules.
Despite hiring 2 PR professionals for $180K a year, in addition to an “ad agency” for $345K a year, Dayton Public Schools continue to soil themselves through inept public relations. It may have absolutely nothing to do with any of the people who are hired to do PR, because this school board and superintendent are totally tone deaf and sabotage their own positions of authority at will and often.
Here is some backstory of how the move from the 2.0 to 1.0 gpa for athletics began, long before the Dunbar vs Belmont eligibility fiasco last year. (btw- I went to the rematch on Thursday and watched Belmont annihilate Dunbar 42-0). The story comes from “the man who would be superintendent” if it wasn’t for a board that doesn’t like strong black males with better community ties than they have. David Lawrence, the former Chief of Innovation for Dayton Public Schools, before he was bought out for big money to go away by this incompetent school board, told me he proposed this lowering of standards plan to former superintendent Lori Ward over 3 years ago. Note, he was a DPS athlete who went on to play D-1 sports. He still holds track records at Welcome Stadium.
His reasoning made sense. First, there are other districts, albeit ones that aren’t failing in all academic categories, that use this standard. Not that Oakwood or Centerville has to apply it to as many students, but they will allow kids to participate. But here is the kicker, he put the blame squarely on the teachers in this district, who sometimes would only give a midterm and a final, with no quizzes, tests, or other evaluation items like class participation, attendance, homework, etc. This meant some kids were being discriminated against- because some teachers don’t really try to work with the dumb jocks and take great pleasure in ambushing them.
Didn’t see that one coming at all. But when you have a district with a horrible graduation rate, failing at all levels of academic success, this story seems more legit than the one coming out of the PR machine days after a seemingly secret meeting pops this change on us like a magician pulling an elephant out of a hat. We expect a rabbit, not an elephant.
First issue is why was this done, without proper public knowledge in advance, at an unscheduled meeting? That’s a guaranteed sign of “we’re being sneaky” instead of “we’re being strategic.” Proper PR handling would have made sure this issue was out in public long before and well explained and discussed before hand- as well as having proper answers for the board members who voted against or abstained. That way, it doesn’t feed the fires of the public who sees this as yet another lowering of standards.
I still posit that part of this policy is driven by fall out from sanctions imposed on the district after the Dunbar fiasco. The board had to lower standards in a hurry because most high schools wouldn’t have had enough players to play this year after athletes from DECA and other charter schools could no longer play for the program of their choice. In other words, the district was reacting instead of being proactive. Yet, none of that is in the explanation being circulated on Facebook by new media relations head Marsha Bonhart:
Lots of discussion about Dayton Public Schools and the sports policy – and a lot of confusion. As director of public relations and media at DPS, please allow me to help everyone understand the bar is NOT being lowered – it’s being raised. Student athletes who carry a GPA between 1.0 and 1.99 will have to raise their grades each quarter AND pass five classes to remain eligible to play any sport. They must be involved in an hourly, Monday – Thursday academic improvement program that includes tutoring. They have to remain in the program for a year until their GPA raises at least to 2.0. If they do not show quarterly improvement and do not pass the classes, they will not participate in any sports. If their grades slip the next year, they are back in the program for the entire year, again.
The deal is, improve your grades, pass five classes or you don’t play. This is for grades 7-12, girls and boys. Questions? 542-3023 (937)
Note, this is on her personal account, not on an official district channel. The post on the site, which most people can’t navigate, is here, posted Aug 26th (the decision was made and announced Aug 22):
FAQ for New Athletic Eligibility Policy
DPS to encourage athletes to perform better in the classroom
To Our Parents and Community,
There has been lots of discussion about Dayton Public Schools and the new sports policy – and a lot of confusion.
As director of public relations and media at DPS, please allow me to help everyone understand the bar is NOT being lowered – it’s being raised. Student athletes who carry a GPA between 1.0 and 1.99 will have to raise their grades each quarter AND pass five classes to remain eligible to play any sport. They must be involved in an hourly, Monday – Thursday academic improvement program that includes tutoring. They have to remain in the program for a year until their GPA raises at least to 2.0.
If they do not show quarterly improvement and do not pass the classes, they will not participate in any sports. If their grades slip the next year, they are back in the program for the entire year, again.
The deal is, improve your grades, pass five classes or you don’t play. This is for grades 7-12, girls and boys. Questions? (937) 542-3023
Marsha Bonhart Neilson
Director of Public Relations & Media, Dayton Public Schools
Maybe the big news is that Marsha has a new last name?
Or that she tries to legitimize the lowering of standards as “he bar is NOT being lowered – it’s being raised”- which is straight out of a 1980’s style PR textbook, where you try to reframe the truth. This is a complete and utter #FAIL, days after the fact. If this is the best spin DPS can put on this dead on arrival PR nightmare, Marsha and her new boss should be next on the chopping block. See the three rules at the beginning of this post.
My main questions still remain: why is this study table policy limited to athletes? The district is in academic emergency, shouldn’t all students getting less than “C’s” be getting mandatory help? And, besides the discriminatory nature of this plan, last I heard, we didn’t have money to pay teachers more, so who is paying for these professionals to help guide our dumb jocks up to a 2.0? The district is claiming volunteers? Is that really the answer?
As with most cases DPS, we have to look at the root problems: poverty and low expectations. If you believe in expectancy theory, this lowering of GPA requirements reinforces a problem that the district is already fighting to overcome. The timing of this announcement should have been made before school started as well- which means, once again, we’ve started a school year out with controversy- much like last years RIF. This kind of leadership is only reinforcing perceptions of a district in turmoil. Competent leadership would know better- but we don’t have competent leadership.
No PR machine on the face of the earth can fix stupid. At this point, only voters can. Yet, even though he was the lone vote against this change, Joe Lacey still shouldn’t be on this board, he’s part of the problem that made this fiasco happen when he hired Rhonda Corr, which is the real reason this district has been mired in controversy for the last year.