Why DPS will fail and Trotwood did not

The first and only call I ever got from the principal at Horace Mann was to request me to come to the school over an urgent matter concerning an 11 year old. She wouldn’t tell me what the problem was over the phone. I dropped everything, as did the 11 year olds mother and we arrived at the school within 20 minutes. Apparently, our daughter had done the unmentionable- brought “Dick Tarts” to school.

What’s a “Dick Tart” you ask? It’s like a cross between a “Tic Tac” and a “Sweet Tart”- shaped like a males anatomy. It was fished out of the trash by a kid who thought they were funny- my girlfriend had gotten them as a gag at one of those “passion parties” where women invite their friends over to drink wine and maybe buy some fun clothes and toys for the bed room.

I sit in amazement as I’m read chapter and verse out of the DPS handbook, that my kid is going to be suspended for 10 days for bringing sexually oriented material to school. And, risk expulsion. There was no negotiating, no discussion, no teachable moment or intelligent thought about the insanity of this remedy for a harmless piece of candy.

That was the only call we got from the principal.

Fast forward to yesterday morning. I run up with my camera to Trotwood Madison High School to hear their new superintendent talk about what escaping state takeover means and whats next. There was no patting ourselves on the back, there was no blaming software for our troubles, not a single mention of poverty holding our students back. Just a man with a plan.

Starting with remarkable ideas like parent engagement specialists making at least 10 calls a day to parents- not to tell them what their kid did wrong, but what their kid did right. There was the move away from Principal as disciplinarian- to principal as a lead educator focused on student achievement, spending time in the classrooms. They had a dean of students to deal with discipline.

And, after the first two weeks of school and working out the kinks, attendance is up. Way up. Because, when you care about kids actually being in school- they actually show up. Someone actually gets the idea that if a kid isn’t at school, they can’t learn. Rocket surgery thinking here folks. But, wait there’s more!

We know some kids aren’t in school because they have to work in order to eat. No worries, not only will we transport our kids home after school if needed, but, if they stay for after school activities or tutoring, they’ll get a ride home too- and dinner if they want it. Trotwood won’t allow poverty to be an excuse to miss school, or sports, or chess club. They’re all in.

And while they only moved up from 608, worst in the state to 603- the goal is to see how good they can be, how high can they go. Every single person working in the district has their sights set on student achievement. The superintendent, Tyrone Olverson is buying a house in Trotwood. He’s all in too. But what you have to admire most is he shares the spotlight, he walks his people up and lets them tell the world that they’ve bought in too. That they know what the challenges are. And the crazy thing is- he’s doing it with a lot of people who used to work in Dayton, people like Lisa Minor, who was part of the reason Dayton got an A in Annual Yearly Progress a few years ago and couldn’t repeat during the turmoil years of Corr/Lolli.

Back to DPS. Superintendent Lolli, is blaming software for their sorry ass performance and threatening to sue the vendor- even though the scores wouldn’t change enough to get them back to 607 from their now bottom of the heap 608. There was no talk of 608 to Great- like the kids are now chanting in Trotwood, there was no plan for transporting high school students, or making sure they are fed, or of calling homes with good news. No plan. Just more drivel about aligning curriculum with tests and structuring her forces. You’ve got a used up wet noodle from Middletown leaning on her friends and family to remake June Cleavers vision of DPS. There has never been an inspiring speech from Libby Lolli because there is nothing inspiring about her. One look at her track record of “leading school districts” shows a woman who has never completed a contract term in her life. She’s spending money with consultants and hiring high priced administrators at a rate like Donald Trump tells lies, and not having to worry how to pay for it in 2 years because that’s when she’ll bow out and retire. She won’t ever have a student high-five her, or a teacher hug her. Who wants to hug the ice queen?

My prediction is that Trotwood is going to leverage its state champion sports teams, it’s new-found swagger and structured approaches to education and start to grow. In fact, I see the day in the not too distant future when Thurgood Marshall High School, Meadowdale High School and the new Valerie at Meadowdale, are all acquired/absorbed by Trotwood as DPS shrinks below 10K students as DPS is taken over by the State, and parents get sick of the “plan du jour” of DPS, the ridiculous 2.5% Dayton income tax and the lousy service.

Compare Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald who is all smiles and positivity to Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley who flat out tells the entire nation (Frontline hit piece of September 11, 2018) that Dayton kids will never make as much money or have the kind of life she had thanks to her fathers union job. With Mayors like that, who needs to stay in Dayton?

While DPS says we can’t do pre-school 5 days a week, Trotwood says we can do pre-school and child care for you from 8-6 including 3 square meals a day. While Dayton is busy feeding the school-to-prison pipeline and switching winning coaches at Dunbar for losers, Trotwood is reveling in a new found confidence and feeding minds, bodies and souls.

Expectancy theory is a bona fide  management practice. You get the results you expect. Dayton still hasn’t a clue on how to transform itself, and I have a confession to make, last Tuesday, I stopped caring.

Not about the kids, who I wish and hope will manage to take advantage of the amazing teachers who put their heart and soul into trying to make a difference in the mad house. I care about them. I stopped caring about the “leadership” of DPS. I couldn’t find it in me to go to another board “review session” and spend time with stupid people. I’d had enough.

Over the last two years and a half years I went from having dreams of DPS turning around under the obvious choice for Superintendent, the home grown talent David Lawrence, to watching them pass him over for the train wreck of Rhonda Corr.

I did make a few friends out of that process. Dan Schroer a runner up, has become one of my favorite people to talk to over lunch. He’s now running the formerly raucous Springboro district like a Swiss watch, where he passed a levy on the first try- a first for Springboro. His district now has an A for a district grade, 1 of 28 in the state. When I called him to congratulate him, he spoke of how his staff is already planning visits to all the other 27 districts that got an A- to compare notes and learn how to improve. He didn’t take a bit of credit for the score himself, it was all about his team and their can-do attitude. And believe it or not, I made a friend in Rhonda Corr. Yes, even though I’ve called her some incredibly bad things on this site, I still like her as a person, and believe she was probably a great principal. She, as very few people could ever be, was just not built to take on working in a district that’s so dysfunctional. That eats its own, people like Darren Powell, Peggy Burks, David Lawrence, Pete Pullen, real people, who bled DPS right up till they had their throats slit by the very district that they loved.

With that being said, DPS has a retreat today. They should video it, but won’t. I won’t. I’m done. This coming Tuesday will be the last time I go to a meeting and record it. The last time I’ll speak. They’re on their own. Because, after 2.5 years of trying to lead a horse to water, I’ve realized they won’t drink anything but their own kool aide, and it’s the Reverend Jim Jones special blend.

My mind was made up before I went to video Olverson on Friday. But, what sealed the deal was Mrs Howard. Every time I’ve stepped foot in a Trotwood school public meeting she was there, sort of like our Mario Gallin. She made an effort to come over and thank me for what I do. She said it was important work, speaking truth to power. She bleeds Trotwood- but understands Dayton has to succeed if Trotwood is to survive. But, she wasn’t the only one. The president of the school board, the superintendent, at least half of his staff, all pretty much said the same thing as they made their way to me. The only people making their way toward me at DPS meeting is the security staff, John McManus, Jim Fowler and his team from Kiser, or Dr. Hill. The rest fear me, and the truth.

One last fact- Tyrone Olverson applied to DPS when they were looking to replace Lori Ward. They didn’t even give him an interview. Boy did we miss out.

 

DPS continues controversy with bizarre moves

The Ohio High School Athletics Association sent a clear signal to Dayton Public Schools last year after they identified DPS District Athletic Director Mark Baker as the linchpin to the attempt to throw the Dunbar/Belmont football game. Instead of letting Baker go, and moving forward, DPS under former Superintendent Rhonda Corr, dug its heals in and gave him a two year contract.

This is what happens when people like City Commissioner Jeff Mims is advocating for you from the sidelines. Even though Mims left the school board and the state school board for his eventual throne on the City Commission, he still thinks he’s the man behind the curtain at DPS. Why else would he be the co-chair of the illegal task force on School Closings?

When OHSAA vacated Dunbar’s win in the tournament for failure to sit players for 2 games due to the bench clearing brawl at Thurgood in January, moving Thurgood back into the tournament, DPS decides to go to court to force Thurgood out and Dunbar back in. How does this help DPS students at Thurgood?

Legal action should have been taken against OHSAA- when they declared that students enrolled in Charter Schools now had to play sports at the school closest to their home- instead of closest to their charter school- and kids were torn from program after program- DPS sat on their hands. Because they aren’t really in it for the kids- they are in it for the money, just like the charters.

thumbnail of Incident File – Dunbar v Belmont – 1.26.18 – Redacted_Redacted

Redaction done by DPS staff. Click document to view full PDF

Defending Dunbar and Rookie Coach Chuck Taylor seems odd, especially after they had ordered Chuck to sit two games for his calling a parent a bitch. I’m unable to confirm if Taylor did in fact sit two games. From the attached reports on that incident:

Mr. Taylor in the Dayton Public Schools Athletic Handbook it states: Our goal is to not only be successful in our endeavors, but also to act according to the ideals of both good sportsmanship and good conduct on and off the court. Our program should operate with: integrity, honor, respect, and accountability. The use of the word “Bitch” to refer to a parent regardless of the situation showed a disrespect for women and our parents in which the Dunbar Varsity Team and the Dayton Community witnessed. This sets a poor example for the young men under your leadership.
Due to the severity of this incident I am imposing a two game suspension that will be served on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 and Friday, Friday February 2, 2018. Lastly we cannot always control the actions of our parents but we must control the way we react to them.

The program has been in total disarray since Baker was given his contract, and then forced the most successful coach in Dayton athletic history to the side to replace him with Taylor.

I’ve been informed that both Mark Baker and Dunbar principal Crystal Phillips are on paid administrative leave right now. This is unconfirmed at this point.

Acting Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli held a really stupid, short press conference on Thursday night with the three members of the slate, Harris, Al-Hamdani, and Wick-Gagnet standing mute behind her. The board members refused to comment, however, the choice of the three is telling.

The three remaining members who made the mistake of hiring Baker and letting former coach Pullen go, were no where to be seen: McManus, Walker and Taylor.

The lone independent candidate, Jocelyn Rhynard, seems to be doing her standard silent analysis of the issues, and may or may not weigh in before this is said and done. She’s cautious to the point of being ineffective so far.

What seems to be missing from all this is accountability at the top. Over Mark Baker according to the organization chart left over from the Corr era- is PR hack Marsha Bonhart, who had to have a hand in directing the press conference where nothing good was done.

It’s obvious that Lolli has no idea of how this is playing publicly. since she has zero connection to the community. Generally, this is seen as an embarrassing sidestepping of the actual need for action.

Litigation is never the best strategy for the court of public opinion unless you are either the underdog or absolutely guaranteed a win. DPS is neither in this case and will end up with even more egg on their face.

The only right course of action was to fire Bonhart, Baker, Phillips, Taylor and allow Thurgood to move forward and put this shitshow behind us and beg forgiveness from OHSAA.

Instead, we’re risking expulsion from OHSAA if we lose, and then, DPS will see even more exodus of students who used to stay in Dayton to be a part of powerhouse sports programs.

This school board and superintendent are getting horrible legal and strategic PR advice. You read it here first.

Kids get punished for stupid adults: Dunbar BB forfeits playoff game and season ends

Because Dayton Public Schools doesn’t hire professionals, act professionally, follow procedure, pay attention, get the details right, etc. The Dunbar Boys Basketball team just learned that they had to forfeit their win on Monday Feb 26th in the tournament vs. Thurgood Marshall- giving Thurgood a  shot to the division II playoff game against Bishop Fenwick on Sunday March 4th at UD Arena.

Apparently the Ohio High School Athletic Association, who still is keeping a close eye on the district after the Dunbar/Belmont thrown game fiasco, got wind that players who were involved in the brawl at the Thurgood/Dunbar game a while back- weren’t punished, the school gets punished now.

Why does District Athletic Director Mark Baker still have a job? Why was it a good decision to unceremoniously remove Pete Pullen, one of the winning-est coaches in Ohio High School Basketball history to replace him with rookie Chuck Taylor?

At what point will the people who make these command decisions- the Superintendent and the Board, be held accountable?

Because this isn’t good for the kids. It’s not all about the kids. It’s just a string of failures to which there is no end in sight.

It’s time to cut losses. You now have a fireable offense to use to terminate Mark Baker’s contract. You have reason to fire Chuck Taylor. You have a reason to fire Dunbar Principal Crystal Phillips- after all, this is her second failure to implement policy. But then what? The people downtown STILL don’t seem to understand what it takes to run a school district.

In other district news, former treasurer Craig Jones won his appeal on his case against the district on wrongful termination. The thing that caught them was their failure to properly follow the Sunshine laws for notification of their impending planned action in executive session. The board hired the same lawyer as they have on my sunshine case, Brian Wildermuth of Subashi & Wildermuth. He’ll soon have another loss on his hands.

Maybe they need a better lawyer too, in addition to a Superintendent, Athletic Director, Principal at Dunbar, Basketball Coach at Dunbar…. the list goes on.

To renew, or not to renew, is that even a question? DPS Superintendent Ward’s Contract

The Board of Education seems to be putting their elbows in their ears and saying “Nah, nah, nah, nah” while ignoring the upcoming deadline to review, renew or take action on Superintendent Lori Ward‘s contract.

Coming due next month, Ward is paid almost $200,000 a year- and has been at the helm since taking over from Kurt Stanic in March of 2010.

The district is two years away from state takeover.

In today’s paper- we find out that:

The top Dayton Public School was Valerie PreK-6 School, at 44 percent, earning a D….

(in Graduation rates) Dayton Public’s high schools earned an A (Stivers), a B (Ponitz), and four F’s (Thurgood Marshall at 73.5, Dunbar at 66.7, Belmont at 59.1 and Meadowdale at 50.0).

Source: Charter schools fail in K-3 Literacy

The board met at a retreat on Saturday, and went into executive session- but no mention was made of the contract or plans to either retain or replace Ms. Ward.

With scores like these, the decision should be pretty clear.

Why Dayton needs to stop acting like a city in decline

Last night, I had the honor of attending the Dayton Public Schools Superintendent’s Scholars ceremony for kids getting straight A’s (yep- one of the Esrati household is brighter than most). There, we got to hear and later meet an exceptional student from Thurgood Marshall High School- Ashley Cooper. Ms. Cooper has a 4.1 gpa, is involved in all kinds of extra-curricular activities and is a Gates Scholar. Yep- she has a free ride to any school she gets in.

She wants to major in Political Science- and is accepted at Ohio State. I think she’s setting her sights too low- but, that seems to be typical in Dayton, we don’t realize that our city will be an undeniable powerhouse in the future- not because we have great leadership, or great schools, or even Gates scholars- but because we have something everyone needs and takes for granted: clean water:

Every gallon of water we use has an economic value — the value of whatever we can actually do with that water, whether it’s brew our morning coffee, grow an acre of wheat, or make a microchip.

Yet in our homes, our schools, our companies and organizations, we typically behave as if the opposite were true. We act as if clean, on-demand water has zero economic value. Especially in the developed world, the value inherent in water is hidden under a cloak of invisibility. Although the water has indispensable usefulness, it rarely has a price.

What’s often oddly missing from the conversation about the business of water is the price of the water itself. The companies that are taking water seriously today have something at risk — their inability to function without reliable water, or their reputation if they squander or damage local supplies. Some see an opportunity in persuading other businesses to try to understand their water risk.

What is so striking is that businesses that start to take the economic value of water seriously immediately start to use it and think about it differently.

via The Business of Water | Fast Company.

Sure the Dayton Development Coalition has their H2Open for business initiative, but unfortunately, we’re still confused about how to work together to sound like a real region on the move.

Just like Ms. Cooper, who could be shooting for Harvard, Yale, Princeton or other Ivy League powerhouses-yet is headed to OSU, we are still wasting considerable energy spinning our wheels in Ohio talking about banning abortion, ending collective bargaining and taxes on casinos- instead of blowing away our insane jigsaw puzzle of jurisdictions that make true leadership and vision a virtual impossibility.

If there is one thing I’ve noticed while watching the Cory Booker show- “Brick City” is that he has a single focus on crime reduction- and that his leadership position changes perception in the community.

We have no local leadership.

Every government authority has been handed over to committee, with city managers, administrators and directors- all given quasi-power and a bully pulpit that’s been cut down to pre-school size.

We forget the power of powerful voices- our school superintendents share the stage with the 7 dwarfs (the school board)- the Mayor has the four mouseketeers, the County administrator has the three blind mice- and our superstars, like Ashley Cooper are constantly surrounded with people without a purpose, without clear authority to go out and change the world.

We’re sitting on the most valuable resource known to man, yet we still fail to capitalize on it.

We’ve got talent like Ms. Cooper- and we fail to recognize it (the only major news outlet to show up in Google results for a search on Ashley Cooper, Gates Scholar is channel 45- FOX!).

How much else do we fail to recognize and capitalize on due to our dilution of leadership capital?

(and note, if you want to see change in Dayton- so that we can vote to change “leadership” mid-course- please contribute to the legal fund to challenge our ridiculous city charter)