The “contract” for DPS Superintendent Lawrence- that no one’s talking about

If the Dayton Public School board was playing poker- they were doing it with all of their cards on the table and no money to bet. This contract isn’t so much a contract but the actions of some wildly confused folks who think that they are power brokers. Dr. David Lawrence is a poker player, and also does quite well at fantasy football- he knows his odds at every turn. Luckily, he’s not even playing at their table, he’s in the high-stakes room, getting complimentary drinks, food and winning.

Instead of realizing when past superintendent Lolli quit, they had very few options (as in next to none), instead of moving quickly to secure Dr. Lawrence’s services on a permanent basis, they instead, introduced him to a nationwide headhunter at their own expense. If they don’t want to keep Lawrence, the Alma Group would be happy to trot him out to their clients across the country- many of which will be willing to pay Lawrence considerably more, with bigger districts and ones with less problems. Lawrence has the resume of a superstar, and the shtick to go with it.

Instead of signing Lawrence to a long term contract, the board instead decided to do a one year deal with some performance incentives and a possible 2 additional years at their will. There is no retention clause, or any mention of remuneration for the value provided by continuity- or saving the cost of another national search. There is also no mention of a requirement to identify and train his potential replacement as part of his duties.

The base pay is slightly under what Lolli was making at the end of her contract ($215K base). Note, Lolli was never put through any kind of screening process, search, she was just promoted after the board had picked Rhonda Corr through one of these dog and pony shows 8 years ago. Corr was an absolute disaster, she hired Lolli, who was also, in retrospect, an even greater absolute disaster.

Lawrence, was handed a district on life support at the last minute, and had to step up and lead, with just a few weeks before school began. The only reason he could do this was that he’d been the business manager for almost a year- and besides growing up here, attending and graduating from DPS, and working in the district for over 20 years as qualifications, none of those advantages seemed to register with this School Board.

There was no one else who could do it. And, if they don’t realize that he’s in the drivers seat, not them, they may be in the same position next year if they don’t learn to respect the man who saved their bacon. Now, this isn’t to say that Lawrence walks on water or is perfect. Full disclosure, Lawrence and I had been friends for almost 25 years, up until he assumed the throne at DPS and seems to have changed from the person I knew, to someone I don’t.

The new contract has two indexed bonus performance metrics that seem really odd.

The first is enrollment growth: “$1,000 for every 100 student increase in student enrollment over the prior school year, which will be measured after each October 15” So if the district adds 1000 students, he’d pocket $10K. Hardly an incentive for someone making $195K a year base, and one that brings additional costs and challenges. The district just put out an RFP for a “Digital marketing campaign” to increase enrollment- and they are asking for the moon and the stars from bidders- on a contract which is asking bidders what they would do for $75K. (while they’ve been handing out no bid contracts for $50K left and right).

The second bonus schedule is downright scary: “a teacher-retention bonus, which will be measured based on teachers retained from the prior school year as of September1 in the following school year, based on the following schedule”

Before I tell you what the schedule is, let’s be clear, without teachers, you have no schools. While Lolli oversaw one of the largest exoduses of teachers in DPS history- the board did nothing. While she shuffled principals (one year she moved 24 principals of her 28) and destroyed morale in the district- no one said a peep on the board. The district is currently seriously short on teachers, and the importance of keeping every single one should be foremost on every administrator and the board. You’d think this is where the real bonus money should kick in, but, it doesn’t.

Number of Teachers Leaving DistrictBonus Amount
Less than 300 $1000
Less than 250$2,000
Less than 200$3,000
Less than 150 $4,000
Less than 100$5,000
The Retention bonus schedule

This is saying, they expect to lose 300. They’d have about 900 teachers if fully staffed. So losing 1 out of 3 is still bonus material? This is almost like a participation trophy prize.

I’m baffled. Losing less than 100 teachers should be worth about $1,000,000 to them, if you think about hiring and training costs. Of course, the people who really need the money, are the ones who choose to stay, or ones who buy in and come to work in a district that’s close to dead last in the State in all performance indicators.

The hardest thing to admit is that there are teachers in the district who’ve been here forever and probably need to leave. In fact, Dr. Lawrence may be suggesting they do. Had the board had half a clue when looking for things to measure and incentivize, maybe it should have been based on some employee survey/assessment data about culture and perceptual changes. The problem they’ve had with surveys of this type in the past is that many teachers refuse to participate based on the lack of trust in leadership. Even when promised anonymized data, they still wouldn’t complete the surveys- because retribution was Lolli’s standard operating procedure.

Adding the $15,000 in bonuses to his contract, just puts Lawrence at par with Lolli- and considering she was the cause of the enrollment drops and the loss of teachers, it’s not a bonus plan- it’s a confession of how little respect this board has for Lawrence.

There are zero incentives for some of the most critical measurements of a districts health: a functioning transportation system that delivers the kids on time, attendance of both students and staff, performance on standardized tests, reductions in violence, disciplinary issues, improved school safety. This board apparently doesn’t think those things are important.

It wouldn’t be hard for Lawrence to find another job, make more money, and have less headaches and here’s the most important one- work with a board that respects him, the community, the staff, the students- and doesn’t continue to waste our time on their grandstanding speeches and nit-picking stupidity.

The best indication of a district turnaround, where parents want to send their kids, and teachers want to work, is stability at the top, and this contract did nothing to guarantee us anything. Luckily, Lawrence has a love for this community and a passion for the actual process of education that’s not been seen in this district for decades. He’s obviously not in this for the money, but, the goals between the board and the superintendent need to be re-aligned pretty quickly if they hope to keep him past next year.

Here’s a little song about the situation:

Here’s the contract:

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