The art of the deal- or how to settle the DPS labor dispute

Thursday morning, last day of negotiations.

In walks the DPS negotiating team (their fifth iteration). Lead by the Rookie Superintendent Rhonda Corr, who was chosen by a school board bullied by a member who wasn’t even a legitimate resident, and shouldn’t have been involved in the process. The associate superintendent, Dr. Sheila Burton, who puts together absolutely incompetent presentation decks, that leave you scratching your head how she passed powerpoint 101, nevermind got a PhD. (At today’s illegal meeting where her team publicly discussed the mediation, she put together a deck that made all kinds of assumptions on what the audience knew about the compensation program). Dr. Elizabeth Lolli, who had no idea what she signed up for when she came to this district. Treasurer Hiwot Abraha, who may be honest, but can’t tell us if we’re broke or flush with cash depending on which way the wind blows, and board legal counsel Jyllian Bradshaw.

The Dayton Education Association team hasn’t changed through the 8 months of bargaining, comes in.

Instead of being sent to different rooms, with the federal mediator, they are brought into the boardroom. and, a rich and powerful man sits at the head of the table.

No, it’s not Donald Trump, and this isn’t an episode of the Apprentice, no matter how much Rhonda Corr likes to throw people under the bus. In Sunday’s paper, she was going to pray for an answer, and she had to phone her friends (the board) to try to get them to finally give her authority to do what has to be done… as if they really know.

The rich and powerful man speaks, “what we seem to have here is problems with governance and guidance, and a lack of enlightened leadership. We’re going to make some changes today to fix the problems, and do what’s right for Dayton and our future, because, your antics stopped being entertaining a while ago.”

Clay Mathile, is a wise man. He’s taken a dog food company and grown it to a huge international corporation. He’s been in boardrooms before, and signed deals worth billions. Even though he doesn’t live in Dayton proper, he understands that Dayton, extends beyond the city limits- and that a teachers strike will be the final nail in an already rickety coffin.

Unfortunately, most of these people have no idea of who he is, or of his love of teaching businesses how to thrive and grow. They’ve not been involved in the programs hosted by his gift to our community- the beautiful campus known as Aileron. Nor, have they realized that when he does chose to get involved, he almost always gets his way.

“I saw your presentation of the issues yesterday, Ms. Corr, and I was deeply saddened that you felt the need to undercut the negotiation process and try to make the teachers look like greedy children. I’ve studied your attrition rates and your pay scales, and it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the reason you can’t afford better teachers is because you are constantly funding the replacement and training of those who leave, due to either of these two factors: the first being that you are underpaying your workers. Every teacher who leaves, has found their paycheck increase by at least 10%- and their step increases have all been honored by other districts. I couldn’t make the best dog food in the business by paying my people peanuts, and you aren’t going to get better test scores with this kind of turnover. The second factor is working conditions. You’ve operated your organization in a way that has created constant chaos, fear, uncertainty and doubt. That’s not how top performing organizations operate.

You, your administration, your lack of planning, your operational skills, have all demonstrated an ineptitude of epic proportions. Your last minute bus/bell plan was the last straw. A district that couldn’t get kids to school, is a district that couldn’t be trusted to teach.

It’s for this reason, I’m asking for your entire teams resignation. We will use the districts insurance to pay you severance, however, any contract entered into by this board will be nullified, since you failed to enforce your own rules requiring residency. Also, the negotiations involving Mr. David Lawrence, who you also violated the contract, showed gross incompetence of the board, risking another lawsuit.

We will ask the Montgomery County Educational Service Center to put in a new leadership team immediately, until the new board is seated on November 9th, at which point, they will provide technical assistance in hiring a new Superintendent, Treasurer and top level people.

The school board, will also resign. None of the existing members will return to office. In the interim, a board will be picked by random from the qualified candidates for the November election. They can’t do any worse than the existing board. I will open the doors of Aileron to the new board so they can get strategic leadership training.

Turning to the union, I’m assuming you are quite happy to have new leadership. In exchange, we are going to ask you that we start from scratch with how we teach school starting in 2018. We will continue with a normal school year until the end of this year, while working together to plan how we transition to a year round schedule, with full 8 hour days, where you are only teaching core curriculum for 4 hours a day, and splitting the rest of your day between planning and teaching guided activities. There will be no more stipends, supplemental contracts, or other pay variances. You will get paid for longevity and performance. I understand that pay for performance is hard to quantify, but, I am sure over the year we can figure out fair and balanced ways to reward those who deserve it.

I don’t expect the people who can’t perform will stay, because this transformation should help weed out those who talk, from those who can walk. I think this video by local activist David Esrati is a good way to introduce the community to the idea of this new way of running a district.

As to counselors and librarians in every building, I don’t think that’s enough. I also think we need full time nurses, and a full time IT person. We also need to add coding to our curriculum yesterday.

I will fund those personnel for the first year, but, I’m going to go back to David’s video, and put a charter change on the ballot to start recovering income tax dollars to tax abated and tax free properties- to bring some equality to school funding. It was found unconstitutional long ago, and if the Statehouse won’t fix it- I will.

As to your requests for compensation increases, we will recognize your three year of steps that were frozen, just as other districts have to those who have left. Also recognizing that DPS isn’t paying competitive wages, we ask that you accept a 3% increase this year, but that we will revisit our compensation plan as we work together to completely change our system. And, btw, the time clocks will only be used by hourly workers and contract labor, professionals will be treated as such.

Mr. Romick, will your team agree to start school on Sept 5th, giving us some time to prepare and to straighten out the bus plan and bell schedules for the coming year?And will you agree to these terms?

Romick, reaches across the table and shakes hands with Mr. Mathile.

He tries to say something, but, the words just don’t come out. You can see the joy in his face that the reign of Corr is done, and the dysfunctional board is gone.

Fast forward to July 10, 2018. Less than 40 teachers have resigned and only 10 who were eligible for retirement selected that option. Most are leaving because of spouses moving, or to return to school to pursue a doctorate. The new contract has been agreed upon, and most will make $65K a year, with performance bonuses based on indicators mutually agreed upon. For the first time ever, DPS buses ran at 98% on time and attendance jumped to 92%. The new School board only meets 2x a month, for less than 90 minutes. The public can speak at every meeting. Students are now taking their chromebooks home and using the new citywide DPS wifi system that was built with a federal grant.

The new Superintendent, David Lawrence, announces that state test scores across the board raised higher than the statewide averages, and that the new income tax collections have made possible new student/teacher ratios of 20/1 across the district. Headquarters staff has been cut by 20% with many of the grant and title money being managed through a new coordinated program run by the ESC.

Stivers School of The Arts has 12 National Merit Scholars, Thurgood Marshall has 4, Dunbar has 3, Belmont has 5, including 3 students who were refugees less than 5 years ago, and Meadowdale has 2. The new marketing campaign, produced by The Next Wave, is credited for helping communicate the new values and the help ease the transition to the year round model.

School enrollment tops 14,500.

Mr. Mathile is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in June of 2021 for his achievements in transforming urban public education by President Bernie Sanders.

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5 Comments on "The art of the deal- or how to settle the DPS labor dispute"

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading your fan fiction/proposal for DPS. It made me think of an episode of Black Mirror (a show on Netflix best described as a modern day Twilight Zone). You truly had a number of good ideas that could positively impact the district. Are there any that you believe WILL be implemented for 17-18? I am afraid that Nero Torch(e)s A Grader (anagrams ease the pain of reality) would prefer to watch the district burn than making meaningful change.

Jeffrey Wellbaum
Jeffrey Wellbaum

Sanders will not be President in 2021.

Stephen Partenach,III
Stephen Partenach,III


Welcome Mr. Clay Mathile. As a former lifelong resident of Dayton this is the by far the best news out of Dayton in a long time. Clean house and rebuild yes then news encouraged me to move back to from Kettering. Schools are number one for the future. David your video is number one you should promote Dayton and you should be Mayor.

Stephen Partenach,IIIl


Someone should tell Stephen that this didnt actually happen….

Mr. Whitefolks
Mr. Whitefolks

One could dream. Great post….