Dayton Public Schools. Unsafe leadership, unsafe buses

Last night the Dayton Board of Education had a “review session.” Yes, it was a Thursday night meeting, instead of a Tuesday. Yes, it forced Board Member John McManus to have to call off work. Dr. Robert Walker and Ron Lee weren’t there. They held it in the room outside the board room- at the big square table. It was at least ten minutes in before Board Member Sheila Taylor who has repeatedly told them she is hearing impaired, had to ask for microphones. The board wasn’t taping the session, but I was.

Good thing I did, because yet again, we had a train wreck.

Or, more accurately a bus wreck.

And, yet again, no one in the DPS purchasing department under Treasurer Hiwot Abraha was fired.
The last time DPS purchased full sized buses was 2010. That means our newest buses are 7 years old. According to the expert from the Ohio Board of Education, Robert Harmon, buses in Ohio last 12.5 years- and our average fleet age is 13.5. Buses usually are retired at 150,000 miles- and Dayton has 40 over 200,000 miles. Every time the state comes to inspect, DPS loses  7-10 buses at a moments notice because the buses are deemed unsafe.

Dayton has a fleet of approximately 180 buses, and should have been replacing about 30 buses each year for the last 7 years to keep the inventory in rotation. But they didn’t.

You can blame the last school board, you can blame the last administration, you can blame anyone you want, but the reality is, without operable buses, kids don’t get to school. If they don’t get to school, well, that’s how the district gets straight F’s.

Parents are frustrated. Kids are losing. The district under Rookie Superintendent is a rudderless ship. This is the leader that gave me a first marketing assignment of how to improve attendance back in July. First clue: get the kids to and from school.

If you need evidence of failure- read this email I received today from the grandmother of a student who worked in my office under YouthWorks about 4 years ago:

No Bus, No Solution!
Hi, I am (youth works student’s) grandmother an I have sent emails, called both the Superintendent of DPS and to the head of transportation about not having a bus for my grandson to come home on because at times I do not have the money for bus fare or we have no ride to pick him up! 3 times this week no afternoon bus and went through this in Oct.2016 for 2wks. I have to keep him home due to this at times since no one can let me know that yes there will be a bus this afternoon! Since (grandson) is mildly Autistic this stresses him out and I don’t like that because of DPST they are not doing their job and say the same thing over and over! I have got to the point of thinking of pulling him out of school and do homeschooling because of the busing problem. Also there was no morning bus twice the week before and we have to be outside at 5:45am for the morning bus and had stood out side for 45minutes waiting in 6 degree temperature or even colder! Even email John McManus too  last night when I saw him on the news. I don’t want to hear about what may be done in the future they need to do something now! Is there anyone who can get in touch with? I just don’t know what to do! Thank you,

Coincidence? There are no such things.

The proposal on the table was to out right buy 30 buses for 2.5 million or so. The transportation experts both said you need at least 60 this year and the same amount each of the following year. They also pointed out that buses are currently around $85K each and next year they are projected to cost $100K. So every bus you buy now, saves you $15k- or to put in a marketers terms, buy 6 and the seventh this year is free. Put another way, the costs of maintaining current buses is also getting cost prohibitive as well, never mind you are failing the kids.

But, here is where it got weird: while the transportation guys knew we needed 60 instead of thirty, no one from purchasing had a justification for the 30 number- or why we were buying the buses outright for cash. There was no decision matrix, no chosen vendor, no information about warranty, vendor, or long term strategy.

Purchasing was deaf, dumb, mute and uniformed.

Then came Dr. Adil Baguirov to the rescue. We should finance 100 buses this year, it will cost us the same this year as buying 30 outright.

Wait? Where did he get these numbers? How did he know?

And why didn’t anyone else know?

Deja vu all over again, this sounds like the CareSource deal, which only the guy who has a private business in the health care sector seemed to know all the details. And the Patterson Kennedy land offer, where again, he was the only board member who knew there had been a $900K offer on the land- that had been rejected without being presented to the Superintendent and the full board.

No, not Dr. Baguirov, the guy who claims his main business is trucking and logistics? Yup. That guy.

The only board member who buys commercial vehicles for his business knows the whole set of options better than the people we pay to manage our district transportation system and guide purchasing.

By the end of the meeting, while Treasurer Abraha can’t figure out if we are leasing or financing the 100 bus fleet- she caves to say “acquiring” – the board wants a proposal on Board docs asap so we don’t have to waive the 48 hour rule to commit to spending 8.5M on buses next Tuesday.

That’s right- we only needed 30 buses at 5:30 but by 8, it was 100 and we’re going to have yet another meeting on Monday afternoon of the finance committee to knock this deal down in a hurry.

5:05 pm today from Cherise Kidd via email:

Special Meeting – Finance Committee March 20
In accordance with Section 3313.16 of the Ohio Revised Code and File: BD of the Handbook of Policies, Rules & Regulations of the Board, I hereby call for a special meeting of the Finance Committee of the Board of Education of the Dayton City School District, Montgomery County, Ohio, to be held on Monday, March 20, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. in the 5th Floor Conference Room located at the Administration Building, 115 S. Ludlow St., Dayton, OH 45402.
The purpose of this meeting is to discuss potential financing options for the purchase of buses.
The media is being advised of this meeting in compliance with the Ohio Sunshine Law.

Respectfully,
Robert Walker, D.Min.
President
Dayton Board of Education

Not that the board can whip up the money and just run down to Joe’s School Bus lot and pick out 100 bright shiny buses anyway- the wait time according to the experts is 6-8 months from order to delivery, but we have to do this deal in a hurry. Sort of like the contract with the Ohlmann Group that the board wasn’t allowed to see, voted a week early on, and then wondered why nothing had been done three weeks later, and oh yeah, btw, the deal wasn’t for $112,500 a year like on Board Docs, but for $345 a year, with a one year contract and 2 one year extensions (more on this to come).

This is just one more example of the incompetence of a criminally negligent school district at managing the health, welfare and safety of our schools. ?Buying buses is just part of the solution, we’re still failing at routing, staffing, and demonstrating competent leadership.

A real superintendent would have fired someone for even suggesting that a 30 bus purchase was a viable option, here, we didn’t.

It’s time to remove this school board, superintendent, treasurer and legal counsel for gross incompetence. The only way to do this is to collect over 4500 signatures and present the failings of this board to make reasonable and competent decisions.

This one, has put children in danger.

That’s not what schools are supposed to do.

Sunshine laws and Dayton Public School meetings

Sunshine law cartoon

Columbia Tribune: Sunshine John Darkow
03/09/2005

I had planned to write a post to define the Sunshine laws, how “work sessions” are supposed to work, and what a “business meeting” is.

I was also going to cover how most elected bodies manage going into executive session, what they are allowed to talk about behind closed doors, and what it means if there is a board that spends a LOT of time in executive session- but then, I said, maybe I should look back on the 2500+ posts on this blog… surely- I’ve covered it before? And, the answer is: of course I have- over and over. Even about DPS. Even with arguments in comments with Dr. Adil Baguirov, Joe Lacey, etc.

I could just send you to all the posts- and you know what, since I’m feeling stuffed and lazy this Thanksgiving, I’m going to do that. But, there are a few things I need to point out before I do that.

Most boards go into executive session at the END of their regular meeting. This is so guests who are invited to speak, don’t have to sit around and wait for them to finish in the back room. It’s also usually done this way, so people WON’T know how long they are in executive session.

Why is the length of executive session meaningful? Typically, the limited issues that are allowed to be discussed in executive session are ones in which a board/commission/etc. is reviewing the findings and options that are presented by those they supervise- for DPS that means the Superintendent and the Treasurer. They should be getting well prepared documents in advance, with cost benefit analysis, organizational charts, performance reports, contracts, bids, etc. By the time they arrive, they should have their questions ready, and should know the material inside out. Then it comes down to are there 4 votes to support the action? This really shouldn’t take long if the organizational leadership has provided cogent, succinct, relevant briefing material. So, when you have long sessions behind closed doors- it means you are questioning your leadership. Not a good sign.

Competent leadership guides the board in the direction they are taking the organization. Weak leadership relies on the board to guide them in doing their job.

Based on the amount of time the Dayton Board of Education is spending behind closed doors- our new superintendent must be floundering in their eyes. Have they recognized yet that they made a huge mistake in hiring Rhonda Corr? Is that why there have been long executive sessions- ones that she’s not in? That most likely means they are discussing her future here.

Executive sessions are usually not needed for things that need immediate action if an organization isn’t flying by the seat of their pants. Announcing a list of layoffs, then going into executive session, then voting on it- in a “work session” instead of a “business meeting” has so many flaws in it, there is the potential for 20 separate or one-class action lawsuit for managing it incorrectly. The former board Treasurer is already suing them for his illegal firing. Items like this, should be discussed in executive session- and decided on, then posted on the next business meetings agenda- with good notice, and then acted on. At least in theory – that’s how it’s supposed to go.

But, this post is already longer than it needs to be.

You could have just read this post: What is a legal meeting of the Dayton City Commission? Yes- it’s about the city commission, but it spells out the differences between public meetings and work sessions- which the board of ed calls different things- review sessions, strategic planning discussion, various committees etc. It’s why Dayton Daily news education reporter says that this board meets more, longer than any other school board in the region. Hmmm, maybe that’s why the district is failing?

Or this post: Dayton Board of Ed votes 4-3 to donate taxes to GE/UD
This one doesn’t really get into the nitty gritty of the sunshine laws, but is interesting because Joe Lacey denies screaming and gets involved in the comments. The reality is- the board didn’t really want citizen input- and gave away a big tax break to General Electric. The fact that the vote was 4-3 shows there was a little common sense on the board at the time with current board members Lacey, Taylor and Lee all voting yes. None of the no votes are still on the board. There are 87 comments on this post- a lot of insight for those who want to learn more.

This post isn’t about public bodies meeting- it’s about people who buy off public bodies meeting. The cast of characters has a similar lineup of the people who bought and paid for Issue 9. Public officials, Private meeting. Our Dayton – discussed behind closed doors as always- follow the money if you want the truth.

And, saving the best and most relevant for last, including comments by Dr. Baguirov and Joe Lacey, is the one about how the meeting was handled when the Board was in the process of subverting former Superintendent Lori Ward as she was about to attend a forum with local groups. Time for some sunshine in DPS meetings The labeling of the local New Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam as hate groups was just one more indication of the racist overtures of the current board president. Again, comments are illuminating with contributions from Baguirov and Lacey.

Several former employees have said that they felt they were being discriminated against because they were African American. The list of firings from the November 8th meeting- had a preponderance of African Americans on it. Several former African American employees said they wouldn’t come back to the district unless Dr. Baguirov is either off the board, or minimally not board president. Ideally, they’d like to see a majority of the board no longer on the board, but Baguirov was the main sticking point.

One last observation, strong black males, outspoken competent leadership, seem to have been high on the list for the recent cuts that were made with bad enrollment and financial data. Something else to think about.

If you go back to my speech at the October board meeting, I said the number one thing that is required for building the school brand back is trust. The “Sunshine Laws” are key to building trust through transparency. The board needs to make a few key changes immediately if they want to restore trust after this latest round of fiascos:

  • All board meetings should be filmed and put online.
  • All board meetings should have complete agendas published at least 48 hours before a meeting- and ideally 72 hours before.
  • All business, items to be voted on, must be done at a business meeting, or a meeting where citizen participation is welcome.
  • Executive sessions should be held at the end of regularly scheduled meetings, so people don’t have to wait while you futz around in the back room.
  • The system of using “Board Docs” to publish agendas needs so many improvements it should be abandoned. It’s not mobile friendly- or ADA compliant. It seems to be fluid- without clarification of when changes are posted (some info seems to be posted while or after the meeting took place), the sections are confusing and overly complex. It’s not easily searchable. That they pay for this joke of a system is another indication that their IT director deserved his termination more than most.

See you at the Tuesday December 6 2016 meeting, at 5pm where we will learn if John McManus becomes president, if the rest of the cuts using bad data are acted upon, if Rhonda Corr will keep her job.

The meeting the citizens are organizing to plan for this meeting is:

Thursday December 1, 2016 6-7:30 p.m.
Corinthian Baptist Church
700 S James H. McGee Blvd, Dayton

“Parents of DPS students are invited to join a conversation about proposed changes to the yearly budget and personnel in our classrooms.
Please join us to ask questions, provide feedback, and share our vision for the future of our children and community. School board members have been invited to attend to answer questions and provide greater understanding for their plan for Dayton Public Schools.”

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Dayton Public Schools : We’re broke, and we don’t want your money for idle real estate

Just two weeks ago, Dayton Public Schools were dead broke, because they’d lost 577 students, which worked out to $4.6M shortfall, and that this was a reason to cut contracted administrators and even teachers mid-year in a Reduction in Force.

Only next thing we hear is that it’s really only a $2M drop because of decreased enrollment, and well, we’re not sure exactly what the actual number is:

The new enrollment data from ODE shows there are actually about 17 fewer Dayton students attending charter schools this year, but almost 300 more attending private schools on state vouchers.

Source: DPS will lose $2.6M less than board president claimed

It would seem that management of numbers and money under the new administration is run with some kind of new math- where things no longer have to add up. Which brings us to the disposal of real estate by the board.

We just saw the board go into executive session on Wed Oct 26th  just before the election to sell the old Patterson Co-op location downtown for a million dollars to CareSource. At that meeting, Dr. Baguirov told DDN reporter Jeremy Kelley that the board was anxious to sell other properties because of holding costs, and that they’d come to some sort of agreement with the city that when they needed additional land to expand schools near downtown that are at capacity- they’d have the cities help. He also mentions some additional concessions by CareSource to the district, which weren’t described then, but in a conversation with me, he identifies them as: “along with mobile health clinic, medical equipment, internships, and other in kind contributions” and keeping CareSource in Dayton and bringing 900 jobs.

Problem is, immediately after selling the property to CareSource, it was transferred to the PortAuthority permanently ending any chance of property tax revenue to the schools.
Here is the video link-

http://www.mydaytondailynews.com/videos/news/dps-sells-prominent-land-downtown/vDrPNp/

The newspaper also had this to say about the real estate:

The grassy field, located at 118 E. First St., has been described by some developers and officials as among the most desirable and development-ready sites in downtown.

Source: Downtown school property to be sold for future CareSource use | www.mydaytondailynews.com

The question is, when was this parcel up for auction? When was it offered for sale? Were multiple bids asked for? The answer, of course not. But, what was done was  that CareSource kicked over $25K to the Issue 9 campaign, to help it raise taxes on its employees, to fund a private organization with an unfettered $4.5M a year to provide the “pre-school promise” through private organizations- and keep $900K a year for admin and overhead. Note, Dayton Board of Education members can be paid a maximum of $5k each a year. The Board didn’t make a peep about their existing 5 star pre-schools, that aren’t at capacity while this campaign was on. Made zero sense, unless another deal has been negotiated- either to send some of those Issue 9 funds back to the district, or that someone who runs for higher office in the future will be supported the same way Issue 9 was- handsomely.

The thing about disposal of old school properties is that any revenue must be used to retire debt on the new buildings. It can’t be put into teachers salaries or the general fund. As to schools near downtown that could be expanded with help from the city, Rivers Edge is the only “downtown school” left- and it is bursting at the seams. Ruskin would be another, but already odd deals have been done for surrounding buildings there. The two other sites that Dr. Baguirov may be asking for help from the city both are near Grandview hospital- the old Julianne School site in FROC or the old  Van Cleve School at the corner of N. Main and Helena. If you want a really interesting history of schools that are no more look at this site: http://www.oldohioschools.com/montgomery_county.htm

  • Patterson Kennedy School in Dayton ready for demolition
    Patterson Kennedy School ready for Demo
  • Timbers from Patterson Kennedy School in Dayton
    Timbers from PK school
  • Harvested stone from Patterson Kennedy School in Dayton
    Havested stone from PK school

Which brings us to the site that didn’t sell at Auction back in 2015- Patterson Kennedy School, which sat as a buffer between my neighborhood South Park and the UD Ghetto- excuse me, we don’t use that term anymore, especially after UD has spent so much money acquiring private real estate to use for student housing. The old PK was the place where all the kids who didn’t speak English were shoved, even after almost all the other new schools were built. It was at capacity plus, with over 900 students when they closed it. When they tore it down, there were parts that almost didn’t want to come down- with huge timbers providing a structural integrity that modern buildings can only dream of. If I have time, I’ll dig for photos of the demolition I took. But for now- remember it went up for auction in 2015- and didn’t sell, with what seemed like a high beginning bid price of $720K

Monday, Aug. 17, 2015

All 24 vacant properties that Dayton Public Schools is trying to unload went unclaimed in an online auction that closed last week, but there is still a chance that some of the sites will change hands.

“We had several parties who posted the initial bid deposits, but unfortunately we did not have any bidding whatsoever,” said Louis Fisher, national director of Sperry Van Ness auction services.

“I’ll make a recommendation that we go back to all those that registered and ask, ‘What would you offer?’ We had several parties who said they would love to make an offer, but the minimum bids were at too much of a painful threshold.

”With few exceptions, school districts are required by Ohio law to offer such properties via public auction. But since the properties remained once the auction closed, Fisher said the school board can negotiate with individual buyers.

Dayton Public Schools spokeswoman Jill Moberley said the district will wait to receive an executive summary from the auctioneer and will consider all options.

The 24 parcels once housed prominent local schools such as Colonel White, Orville Wright, MacFarlane and Fairport, but the buildings have been demolished, leaving empty lots ranging from 1.7 acres to 16 acres.

DPS officials said they are trying to sell the properties to eliminate the cost of maintenance, including significant mowing work, given that 10 of the properties are larger than eight acres.

Minimum bids were less than $10,000 for the six smallest sites (1.7 to 2.6 acres), just over $30,000 for most of the sites around eight acres, and $40,000 to $65,000 for the six sites ranging from 11 to 16 acres.

One major exception was the 3.27-acre former Patterson-Kennedy school site, at 258 Wyoming Street. Because of its location on the edge of the thriving Brown Street corridor, between the University of Dayton and Miami Valley Hospital, the minimum bid for that site was about $720,000.

“I think we will work something out (on that site),” Fisher said. “We have to go back and say, what is it worth, and have a competitive environment. We have to protect the school district so they’re not giving it away, and so they maximize the highest price that’s available in the market today.”…

Fisher said more than 1,200 people visited the auction website.

“With the real estate market crash (of the last decade), some of these sites were challenging at best, but there were some good sites, too,” Fisher said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do a Round 2, and tie some of these properties up with third-party buyers.”

Source: Dayton Public Schools don’t sell any properties in auction. | www.mydaytondailynews.com

Fast forward to Sept of 2016. Some developers out of Columbus decide to offer the District a premium over the minimum bid: $900K. They try repeatedly to submit their offer, yet, the legal counsel for the district, Jyllian Bradshaw (nee Guerriero), refuses their offers. In an email, labeled 3rd rejection by the bidders, on Oct 19th at 2:38 PM she says:

“Thanks for reaching out. At this time, the Board is not interested in selling the Patterson Kennedy site. I’ll reach out if anything changes.
Best,
Jyllian Guerriero”

The thing is, Jyllian can’t make that decision. It’s up to the superintendent, treasurer and the board. Multiple board members say they knew nothing of this offer, except Baguirov, who thinks the offer is “too low.”

Which makes me wonder if it was too low, why was the board willing to sell for $720K a year earlier? And, what if it was to someone who was going to build a 5 story apartment building which would bring in huge property tax revenues to the district? Or a grocery store?

Other emails hint that the Superintendent was the one standing in the way.

But, if we look at other real estate deals done in the area: UD bought over 115 acres from NCR, including the World HQ for a paltry $18 million in 2009. The Marriott by UD, critical to business and university visitors went for $18.5 million, in 2014, of course this came with an operating business included. Down the street on Warren, you have a 5 acre property the city mistakenly sold for $650. Then CityWide, the quasi-public slush fund selected Oberer Development to do “development”, but no one knows how much they had to pay for the property or what they will eventually put on it, or what the taxes will be to the schools, because, well- that’s how we roll in Dayton. When Jeff Samuelson wanted to use the property for a new Kroger, he was shooed away, much like these developers for the PK site, and then the city went down a rabbit hole over at Wayne and Wyoming.

Since Dr. Baguirov isn’t a real estate appraiser, or developer, and the former minimal acceptable bid was $720K, the question is why isn’t a $900K bid at least entertained? According to board lawyer Bradshaw, there are 4 offers on the property right now. Funny thing is, there is no for sale sign at the corner of Wyoming and Alberta.

One would think if this was the case, the property would be auctioned again.

UPDATE

5am. Nov 22 2016 Just one more cost in holding the real estate- the city street light assessment tax. Looking up PK site: R72 02803 0025 258 WYOMING ST $175.56 annually $1,053.34 total. I remember reading somewhere that DPS was charged millions for this Nan Tax that was shoved down the publics throat right after her very expensive election.  Premier and UD both protested and failed at lowering their $2M combined assessment according to a DDn article.

Or, are they trying to figure out a way to transfer the property to either Premier Health who was the leading donor to Issue 9 through their membership in the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association GADAH- who tossed $30K in the hat. Of course, Premier would want a CareSource style deal- where they won’t have to pay property taxes either. UD would want the same deal, even if they were turning it into graduate student housing.

Through all of these attempts to buy the property, the auctioneer is desperately trying to get the deal done. He is reaching out to John Carr, who was in charge of the real estate for the district when the auction was conducted, but wasn’t still supposed to be on the DPS payroll in 2016. Carr says it’s more an issue with the Superintendent than the board. This would be the new superintendent, Rhonda Corr.  The developer is told to try to route this through Tami Kirby at the Porter Wright law firm which is assisting the district (additional costs).

I talked to several superintendents who all said the same thing, if they were presented an offer for real estate that is currently not in use, it would be their responsibility to present it to the board and ask for the boards guidance. In this case, the only person I can ascertain knew anything of this was Dr. Baguirov who reportedly meets with the superintendent weekly.

In the last set of personnel cuts (Nov 8 review session), the Interim Chief Operating Officer, Jo Wilson,  the person tasked with property management, maintenance, and disposal was cut. Could this have been to keep her quiet about the CareSource deal and the plans for the Patterson Kennedy site. This batch of cuts was made with the bad numbers, and reportedly isn’t up for re-evaluation like the round of cuts that was punted from Nov 17th to the December 6th meeting. This was the meeting where Dr. Baguirov threw a temper tantrum and walked out of executive session, and told the press he had “personal business”- which opened the door for John McManus to take over as President Pro Tem and run the mobbed meeting like a true statesman.

So far, people who were reporting inaccurate numbers to the board that “legitimized” the RIF on Nov 8, still have their jobs. Is anyone starting to see a pattern here?

Rhonda Corr was asked for comment on this deal, she didn’t respond.