Short memories. Dayton Public Schools

Summer of 2016, Dayton Public Schools thought they needed a tax levy.

Then came Mayor Whaley- who needed a tax levy even more. For some reason, the board rolled over and played dead.

They’d changed Superintendents, bringing in the rookie Rhonda Corr to replace Superintendent Lori Ward- who they had to spend big bucks to get her to go away. September 14, 2016, they find out, Ward had pulled a rabbit out of a hat- getting the district an A in Annual Yearly Progress- the first A they’d had on a State report card in decades. This averted state takeover. It also gave Corr and crew breathing room.

But, since Corr didn’t like some of Ward’s people- she had a housecleaning- ostensibly a Reduction in Force, to get rid of opposition, and so she could justify bringing in her own team of highly paid assistants. The board, under leadership of Dr. Adil Baguirov, claimed the district was short about $4.5 million- although no one could provide real numbers. On the chopping block along with the opposition, were about 30 para-professionals (teachers aides) who were widely credited with helping get the A in AYP.

Along came Nan’s issue 9. A quarter percent increase in the city income tax. The board actually BACKED it- despite it creating a whole other quasi-public school board for pre-school only. These “Learn to Earn” folks even got to pay themselves big money- instead of the $5k a year the board members make. And, btw- get $4.5 million a year- without any stipulations on where it goes- charters, private schools, churches, as long as they are doing pre-school. There is a bit of a conflict of interest here, but, we’ll save that for another post that’s coming.

That levy, btw- was financed with big money- although we still don’t know the full extent, since the “Neigborhoods for Dayton’s Future” PAC  that solicited the $1873 average donation still hasn’t filed their post campaign finance report.

Then the board has to finish doing Rhonda’s dirty work, buying out David Lawrence, who was Chief of School Innovation- and partially responsible for the A in AYP. They blew that buyout, but had the money to throw around.

And all of a sudden, after not buying any new full size buses since 2010, they are about to buy 30 and take 10 more on a grant. It’s an overdue $2.1 million buy. But, Dr. Adil Baguirov, who happens to be the only one who also buys trucks from the same dealers for his trucking company- all of a sudden jumps in with all the facts and figures and the district is ready to commit to long term financing of 110 buses.

The teachers union isn’t too happy. The paraprofessionals know they are toast. The deal Adil is talking about seems to have a 10 year service and maintenance contract attached- meaning the districts mechanics are probably going to lose their jobs too.

And, all of you voters are just along for the ride.

Watch the video- and don’t get fooled again.


DPS sleight of hand by doomed superintendent Ward

Changing the district’s school configurations is a distraction from the real issue at hand- leadership.

With the superintendent’s contract up for renewal, after 6 years of running the ship in circles, this “reconfiguration” as part of the solution, along with the rushed implementation of “1 to 1 computing” are just moves to distract the board from the fundamental problem- Dayton Public Schools are headed for a state takeover in 2 years, and the current superintendent is incapable of making any real improvement in test scores, retention of students or staff, or quality of education. Even the “Improved graduation rates” are still embarrassing. The third grade reading guarantee will result in half the students repeating the third grade.

Changing back to a middle school model for only some of the schools is just a magician’s sleight of hand trick to distract and give false hope that this “revelation” requires the keeping of the captain of this sinking ship.

Reshaping more than a dozen schools this fall is “a must,” according to Dayton Public Schools leaders, who say seventh- and eighth-graders have major academic and discipline problems in the current school configuration.

Joe Lacey and Adil Baguirov are the only school board members who had the sense to vote no- and abstain, from this sideshow. Other members of the board should be wondering how this became the solution of the day- and why they fell for it. Normally, program changes as drastic as this involve a careful communications strategy, a lengthy preparation plan, and building a cadre of leaders to explain the change.

However, DPS doesn’t have a communications team. This is because the current superintendent is incapable of firing grossly incompetent, or even marginally competent people from her team. The good ones leave for other districts- where they are paid more, respected and have real professional development programs. What’s left are the die-hard educators who refuse to let go of their ideals, and those who would never be hired by another district, or if they are- wouldn’t keep their jobs long.

Forty minutes later, the school board approved a resolution to reconfigure the grade makeup at 15 of the district’s 28 schools, meaning that more than 1,000 students and dozens of teachers and staff likely will make an unexpected move this summer. The plan removes grades 7 and 8 from most existing PreK-8 buildings, creates three middle schools at the existing Wright Brothers, Wogaman and E.J. Brown elementaries. It adds grades 7-8 to Meadowdale High School. No existing schools will close, and no new schools will be built.

Why change?

Superintendent Lori Ward said she knows the move will be disruptive to many, but said the district has to make changes that it thinks will help the most children succeed.“We find ourselves very, very challenged to make sure seventh- and eighth-graders are ready for high school,” Ward said. “I will tell everybody in this room, we’re not bringing it, as a district (on that front).”

Ward said seventh- and eighth-graders now have some of the highest suspension rates in the district and are roughly 30 percentage points behind state peers in most subjects.

There is no admission from Ward that the original change to K-8 schools was highly contested by the teaching staff that knew that mixing 8th graders with 3rd graders was a recipe for disaster. Top performing schools like Horace Mann, slipped- parents who knew better pulled their kids out.

Other districts have dedicated 9th grade buildings- for the very reason that this is the key failure point for teens, who are struggling with the move from K-8 grades that mostly don’t count, to the real world of High School.

Other districts that have attempted to fix poor performance- have moved to year-round schools- to fight the proven “summer slide” where kids lose about 20% of their skills each year. One of the reasons for all the new buildings was air conditioning- which would make year-round schools possible. Was this idea even discussed? No.

Wyetta Hayden, DPS chief of school improvement, said grouping all seventh- and eighth-graders into eight schools — rather than the current 17— will allow the district to cluster appropriate staff and offer better academic options. That means making algebra and career tech courses available to all of those students, with the hope of adding marching band and middle school sports.

She also said it ends the practice of having kindergartners in the same hallways as eighth-graders.

If it’s such a good idea, why is your top performing school (and the only one that’s worth 2 cents) Stivers 7-12?

And what’s this “hope of adding?” To quote master Yoda, “do or do not, there is no try.”

DPS Curriculum Director Bob Buchheim, a former middle school teacher and principal, called the switch a win for all elementary students, and “a must” for middle schoolers.

If this this is a win and a must, why are we keeping Stivers and Belmont 7-12? We won’t talk about Longfellow- because, well, no one talks about Longfellow. It’s sort of like Area 51 of the Dayton Public Schools. It’s where we keep the aliens.

Strong opposition

The school board vote on the change was not unanimous. Board President Adil Baguirov first suggested delaying the decision a week, then abstained from the vote.

Board member Joe Lacey was the lone vote against the move, arguing that the district just dropped the middle school system less than a decade ago, when the district’s overall performance index was the worst in the state. He also warned of possible fallout.

“We are in a competitive environment. We had a school called Patterson-Kennedy on Wyoming Street and we closed it because we had too many schools,” Lacey said. “Just a few years later, Emerson, a charter school, opened (blocks away) and became one of the highest-performing schools in the city.

“You can’t treat people like this and not expect… people to leave Dayton Public Schools.”

Joe Lacy understands. There are options, customer service is important. Giving the few remaining dedicated parents in the district the finger by springing this on them at the last minute is the action of desperation. Note, we’re still the holder of the worst performance index in the state- for a district that hasn’t been taken over…. yet.

Even some in favor of the plan had concerns. Teachers union President David Romick was upset that teachers had little notice and no involvement in planning. Ruskin Elementary teacher Karissa Jobman worried the plan would have to be thrown together too quickly and called for a task force to make sure it is done right.

The district posted a timeline on its website saying parent meetings would be at affected schools in the next two weeks. Burton said the district will begin to send notifications of 2016-17 school assignments to parents next week, giving them about three weeks to respond before open enrollment begins March 1.

Teachers’ deadline to file school transfer requests is Feb. 15. DPS Human Resources Director Judith Spurlock said she is beginning talks with the teachers’ union about staff needs.

“I want this to be successful. I think it could turn this district around,” said school board member Hazel Rountree. “It’s the move that we need. We can’t keep doing little baby steps and expect change.”

Source: Schools’ revamp stirs emotion

Ms. Rountree has been on the board for 2 years. Ron Lee, Reverend Walker, Sheila Taylor, have been on much longer. John McManus is the new guy- barely finding his way to his very expensive board seat (he spent around $30K to barely beat Nancy Nearny- (Full disclosure: I printed some of his materials at my business). To think that this idea of middle schools is a good idea as the ship is going under- and a lifeboat move at best- says that none of these people belong on the board.

These are issues that should have been brought up long ago, and discussed publicly, before making this move.

It’s time for new leadership. Effective leadership. Leadership that will clean house, communicate effectively with all stakeholders and get results. No more smoke and mirrors, no more parlor tricks.

Fire Lori Ward now. Reconsider the reconfiguration. Stop the distraction of 1-to-1 computing.

Hire someone from within the district who can clearly tell the board what their vision is, their assessment of current staffing and personnel, what their plan would be, and how they would engage stakeholders to join them with the execution of  the transformation of the district.

It’s time.

Dayton public schools suffer from incompetent PR

Yesterday, I had lunch with Dayton Board of Education member Adil Baguirov, Ph.D.. The first thing I preambled the conversation with is “Jill Moberly is incompetent.”
Full disclosure- this is damning to me and my business, although my firm hasn’t done work for Ms. Moberly for several years, we did at one time. She is their “Public Information Officer” and should have been fired or replaced long ago. She used to proudly state that she’s outlasted 11 superintendents. She needs to go either before or with our current superintendent, who has had 3 years to solve these easily solvable PR issues- that damn our school system to laughing stock and fodder for humiliation.

And, yes, I’m calling for the non-renewal of Superintendent Ward’s contract, despite liking her immensely. With less than 2 years to go before the district gets taken over by the state, change isn’t happening fast enough, or with the force needed. Frankly, she’s paid $200K which isn’t enough, but, when faced with losing her best high school principals to other districts over $10K a year- it’s time to take a pay cut and tie her future with her leadership team.

Poor concept for Dayton Public Schools billboard- "We don't teach" should never be on a school billboard

“We don’t teach” – ’nuff said

The first recent clue is the billboard campaign I just saw- “We don’t teach, we transform” – uh, no. Most people would stop after the first three words and say “yup.” This is just another failed campaign in a long line of failed PR. At least the building blocks aren’t in the logo on this ad. Those never should have been part of the logo.

But- the faux pas in today’s paper- with quotes from my friend David Lawrence, instead of the Superintendent or the PIO- were so badly positioned as to cause me to cringe. First the story in the paper- which focuses attention on the brawls- and the dangers of attending Dayton Public School high school basketball games:

Dayton schools could ban spectators at games

Dayton Public Schools issued what officials termed a pre-emptive measure Monday, announcing that any altercation on the court, in the stands or at the dismissal of a boys high school basketball game would result in the next City League boys contests to be played without spectators. Only players, coaches and officials would be present at affected games.

“Because community support is important to our teams, we are taking some bold steps to send a message to those who would attend our games for reasons other than supporting our players,” David Lawrence, chief of school innovation, said in a statement.

DPS said more school administrators and security personnel will be present at all games, and Dayton police officers will be assigned to oversee dismissal following all games.

The boys basketball season started Nov. 27. Toward the end of last season, boys City League games were rescheduled for Sunday afternoons, beginning Feb. 1, following several disturbances at the conclusion of Friday night boys games. Freshmen boys games that were scheduled for 5 p.m. on Fridays and all remaining girls games were not affected.

On Jan. 16, an officer told a dispatcher an estimated “100 kids” were involved in a fight at the Ponitz Career Technology Center on West Washington Street after a boys game against visiting Thurgood Marshall. No athletes or coaches were involved, and no one was arrested.

Ponitz defeated Thurgood 56-48 that night. Earlier in the season Ponitz defeated host Thurgood for the first time in program history.

City League boys games began this past Friday without incidents. There are two 8 p.m. (varsity) games scheduled for Friday: Belmont at Dunbar and Thurgood at Meadowdale. Stivers’ next City League boys game is Dec. 18 against visiting Thurgood and Ponitz’s next City League boys game is Jan. 5 against visiting Dunbar. All City League boys schedules include freshmen, reserve and varsity games.

DPS is in the process of informing parents, students and community members about the consequences should a disruption occur at any game.

Unlike previous years, there are no double- or tripleheader City League boys regular-season games scheduled for the University of Dayton or Fairmont’s Trent Arena. There were no reports of after-game incidents that involved City League football teams at Welcome Stadium this past football season.

“We appreciate our fans who come out to cheer for our student athletes and look forward to a great season of high school basketball,” said Lawrence.

Source: Dayton schools could ban spectators at games

I talked to David Lawrence earlier today- my opening comment to him was “We will rule with an iron first” said in a bad actors foreign accent.

He told me they had worked on this for six months – and I said that it’s too bad that they didn’t have competent PR advice.

How this should have been framed.

Lawrence played basketball and ran track at Dunbar- positioning him with a unique voice of authority in handling this matter. Using the words “preemptive measure” is the first mistake- since it implants the idea that these fights are a foregone conclusion. An opportunity for a teaching moment lost.

Here is the statement and plan a competently advised spokesperson would have given:

My name is David Lawrence, I’m the chief of innovation for the Dayton Public Schools, but before that, I was a Dayton Public Schools athlete and graduate. My track records are still are on the wall at Welcome Stadium, and I played basketball at Dunbar. I am proud to have played with other Dayton leaders like Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams, proving once again, that athletics are an essential part of building tomorrows leaders.

I take great pride in our young athletes, who are some of the best in the state. Their coaches are also some of the best in the State. And, we believe in athletics as a key component in character building, teaching sportsmanship, and representing the values of pride, respect and excellence that have been a mainstay of our programs since before I was a high school athlete.

Last year, some people came to our athletic events and seemed to think that fighting was a part of our program. It’s not. If you want to see fights, may I suggest you buy tickets to the Dayton Demolition Hockey games, or go to a boxing match or MMA event. There will be no fighting at, or after Dayton Public Schools athletic events this year. The following warning will be posted, and given at every sporting event. If any fights do break out, the protocol will be as follows: the game will be declared a forfeit for both teams. It is up to our athletes, the coaches and the school administration to make it clear that we don’t tolerate fighting in, after or surrounding any sporting event. The battle is in the arena- on the hardwood floor, between those who have earned the right to represent their schools.

If an event is besmirched by the conduct of those attending a game, fans of those schools, for the remainder of the season, all of their games, no one under 18 will be allowed to attend without an adult chaperon. To enter the event, ID’s will be scanned, and those adults will be held criminally liable for the actions of those under their care. There will be no second chances. If another fight breaks out surrounding a game with one of these teams, the remaining games of the season will only be open to players, coaches and the families of team members. I would hope this makes it crystal clear to all participants. If for any reason there is another fight- a single punch thrown, the season for that team is over.

We are also announcing a new pricing policy: all tickets are $10, but with a free ticket for adults when accompanying a student.  Revenue will go into a fund for the entire season, to be split evenly among schools at the end of the season. Any team that has an event forfeited, will not be eligible for collecting any ticket revenue for the season. This is a change in event pricing, to encourage more adults to chaperon their kids. We’re proud of our athletic programs and want to see our community take an interest in their kids. New season pass pricing is available to alumni and adult fans who don’t have kids to chaperon, with a one time $50 ticket available that gets you into all DPS ticket sporting events.

We look forward to increased attendance and the best basketball of the season. I hope to see you there.

Dayton Public Schools, and the people of the city of Dayton deserve better. It does make a difference on how you say things.

Full disclosure file: DPS hires The Next Wave

Some may think hell hath frozen over. Others may scream, rant and yell. But, to be fair- I’ve never been elected, I’m not a public figure, and believe it or not, my firm is damn good at what we do.

Dayton Public Schools- the Superintendent Lori Ward with the approval knowledge (update) of the School Board,  has hired The Next Wave (my small ad agency) on a one-shot P.O. to provide “Marketing and creative services to improve enrollment process for DPS including redesigning forms for digital completion, brochures, posters, direct mail as needed strategy and website”

The amount is $5,000 and the work is to be completed by June 30th.

I’ll post the PO if asked- it’s public record.

Will this bias my reporting of the Dayton Public Schools? Honestly- it’s difficult to do both, but since you don’t pay to read this- I don’t really care. My interests are in improving this city- and the city schools first and foremost. It’s why I’ve probably spent thousands of hours writing on this site- going to meetings, running for office, etc.

I’m not clearing this post with the superintendent or the school board. During the time that this is in effect- anything else I’ll write about DPS will be either commentary on published reports, or public information that I don’t feel is getting out about DPS. I will talk to the superintendent about the posts before they go up. I will also disclose my relationship with DPS in any post mentioning them.

And, again- remember, you read it here first. The DDN missed this.

Let the screaming begin- and bundle up (btw- it did get noticeably cooler this week- didn’t it….)

Dayton neighborhood schools: Finally!

Twenty years after I ran for Mayor saying we needed a return to neighborhood schools, the school board has caught on. However, if anyone thinks this process is now going to go over easy- they are sadly mistaken.

After working so hard to “theme” and “brand” schools- and promote “choice” trying to go back is going to tick off all of the very parents whom the school was wooing so hard to believe in their new product. It’s as if after years of saying “buy American” all of a sudden GM was bought by a Chinese car company- and Chevrolet was still advertising “The heartbeat of America.”

Residents who’ve chosen their neighborhoods based on other factors- such as type of home- knowing they could pick their schools- all of a sudden may want to move (and it may not be within the city- esp. now that the residency rule is history), or, we may find principals who’ve ignored their local neighborhoods finally having to build relationships with people who are vested in their community. I know South Park has tried over the years to establish relationships with Patterson Kennedy- with limited results (often thanks to leadership shuffling by the Superintendent). Ruskin is a model of building a community relationship- but, it’s also a merged school between East End’s former Charter and a Dayton Public School. Not many other school principals in Dayton have played in this sandbox ever.

Here is an excerpt of what the Dayton Daily reported:

The Dayton Board of Education on Tuesday, May 18, voiced unanimous support for a proposed policy that would require most pre-K through eighth grade students to attend a school in their neighborhood rather than choosing where to go, as they do now.

Incoming Superintendent Lori Ward and Chief Academic Officer Jane McGee-Rafal outlined the proposed 17 “attendance areas” that would go into effect during the 2011-12 school year if approved by the school board. The board heard a first reading on the policy recommendation Tuesday night and a second could come in December after the public has had plenty of time to comment.

“We are creating a process to redesign the district and nothing will be done in an overnight manner,” McGee-Rafal said.

High school students would not be affected at this time, said Ward, the district’s deputy superintendent who will replace Superintendent Kurt Stanic on July 1.

Ward said the plan would include “an element of grandfathering” but added those details haven’t been worked out yet.

via Dayton kids may have to attend neighborhood schools.

The big question is if this will be a big boost to charters or not? Will DPS be able to draw the same attendance zones for the charters- and not have to bus those kids door-to-door? Will charters soon become the only option for “schools of choice” in Dayton? The DDN article mentioned the following schools as remaining choice schools:

“We would encourage parents to enroll their child in their designated attendance area unless they select what we classify as a districtwide school,” she said.

Those seven designated schools include Charity Adams Earley Girls Academy, Dayton Boys Prep Academy, the River’s Edge Montessori and the Preschool Academy at Jackson. They also include three others where students are assigned by other schools — Gardendale Academy and Gorman School for children with special needs, and Longfellow Learning Academy for students with behavioral issues.

As it stands now- Patterson Kennedy is an English as a Second Language (ESL) school- and looks like a veritable United Nations in the morning. Would that stop as well?

The amazing thing is- she’s not even Superintendent yet (officially she takes the job July 1)  Ward is the first Superintendent to state what’s been obvious since busing was first implemented- “Running kids all over the city isn’t producing the academic results.”  Which is a real gutsy move.

The reality is probably sadder- the cost of gas, buses and drivers- as well as the damage that’s been done to our community fabric over the last 40 years by this failed social experiment- is only finally meeting it’s death thanks to the end of cheap oil and a failing economy- not because it’s really been the right thing to do since day one.

The school choice system will be missed by some (including the smart principals who worked the system to cherry pick student populations to improve their building scores for “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB)- which was more evident at the High School level). However, the added layer of bureaucracy and complexity made choosing Dayton Public Schools even more difficult for exactly the kind of families DPS needed. My former neighbors had 3 kids they wanted to enroll at Horace Mann- but, since they weren’t able to be given any assurances of all three kids going to the same school- they chose to send them to Holy Angels- before they ended up moving to Seattle. I remember the year after this happened- Horace Mann was something like 1 kid short of getting out of academic emergency- so there were ramifications.

I’d planned to write a post about the crazy draconian rules that DPS follows that have hurt them- since I’m experiencing them first hand right now: my girlfriend is planning on moving in with me July 1- Summer is when most people with kids move after all. Yet DPS won’t allow her to register the kids until she has a bill in her name. Which led me to investigate if this holds true for the “audition” school, St. Ivers, I mean Stivers- only to find out that the principal there will “hold spots” for students moving in from out of town, once they’ve aced the audition. These are the dirty little secrets of the “school choice” program- and why going back to making choices based on where you purchase a home make sense.

The real question is how this will affect neighborhoods with the least expensive housing stock- especially on the West Side- where the foreclosure debacle has played out in grand fashion? Will the area around the new rec center become more popular- thanks to this policy (although the school will still be one of the “district wide” schools)? How will test scores change- and will the turnarounds as required by NCLB be more frequent in the poorer neighborhoods?

A lot will depend on the size of the 17 new “districts”- will parents still have some choice in schools- i.e. South Park parents being able to choose between Ruskin, Patterson Kennedy, or will the boundaries be really rigid.

What other carrots can the Superintendent throw in with this new plan? After school care? Neighborhood sports programs? It will be a PR effort of major proportion to properly frame this and implement it without seeing yet another exodus from the Dayton Public School system that cannot take yet another hit.

Your thoughts?