The letter I didn’t send Dr. Percy Mack at Dayton Public Schools

I wrote it, I signed it, I put it in an envelope- and then never delivered it. I was going to look at it one last time- and didn’t until today.

18 May 2007

Dr. Percy Mack
Superintendent Dayton Public Schools
VIA: Hand delivery

Dear Dr. Mack,
If you want to change the outcome of your next levy campaign- you need to change your message.
Ideally, this should have started two years ago.
Now, you have less than 6 months.
Your campaign message obviously didn’t work. We have a different way of approaching the problem- and you would do well to at least have a listen.
Bring your best and brightest to the meeting- and I’ll wow them with the strategy that will not only get your levy passed, but will increase fall enrollment.
Can you afford to ignore this request for an hour or two of your time and no money?
16% points says you can’t.

Sincerely,

David Esrati

Too cocky? Too antagonistic? Too honest? Too much chutzpah?

Damned if I’ll ever know- he didn’t respond to the first 12 letters I dropped off two years ago asking him to reconsider his branding to becoming one focused more on strengths than on empty statements like “a new day is dawning” and “moving ahead.”As we can see by the levy failure- yes indeed a new day is dawning, and it won’t be moving anywhere but backwards.

The realization hit me like a cicada on my helmet visor at 75mph, last week while attending the National Conference of the American Advertising Federation- people from outside Dayton look at me quite differently- and hear the knowledge I willingly share about the new realities in marketing, advertising and web 2.0. And best of all, they are willing to pay quite a bit more than what I’ve been charging locally.

Dayton may need my ideas, but other markets are willing to pay quite well for them.

C’est la vie.

Would you have responded to my letter?

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18 Responses

  1. Quixotic June 13, 2007 / 7:48 am
    Dave,

    Would I have responded to your letter? Well…

    The tone of your letter almost begs for no response. The underlying message is, “hey, loser, you need me to save you.” Even a six-year old would not respond well to such a message delivered in such an “in-your-face” manner.

    While your underlying message is probably the truth – that is, you do know more than they and could help them – I think there is a problem with the delivery. I would recommend a little diplomacy…

    “Diplomacy is the ability to tell a man to go to Hell in such a way that he’ll actually look forward to the trip.” Caskie Stinnett

  2. D. Greene June 13, 2007 / 8:47 am
    Look, Dr. Mack is a flippin’ football coach, not a businessman. What the hell does he really care if the brand of DPS is well understood and respected? Does he even get that concept? These people are ‘educators’ and bureaucrats, not business managers. I doubt Dr. Mack can even balance his own checkbook, if this quote is any indication:

    “These cuts were made from a budget that was not the Cadillac budget,” he said. “It was a good Chevrolet budget. When you take a good Chevrolet budget and cut it by $30 million, you know what you have.”

    So basically, in his view, a failed levy is a budget cut? Is there something I missed? This was not a replacement levy that failed. I am perplexed by Dr. Mack’s aggressive misrepresentation of reality.

  3. Teri Lussier June 13, 2007 / 8:51 am
    I would have to agree with Quixotic, and add that you wrote the letter from a business to a business. Chutzpah and honesty are welcome in the business world, but schools are not businesses- that is they don’t think and process information and respond the way a business would. And it does require diplomacy, enormous restraint, and you must change your language.

    When my kids started school (not DPS) I was given a handout (standard issue- you can find it online) from the g/t services with a list of words not to use with teachers. One example: don’t say “my kid’s bored” say “my child needs to be working at their challenge level”. Me, being me, the list screwed me to the ceiling so I threw it out, bad move but I digress.

    My point is that school administrators and teachers do not speak or respond to the same language the rest of the world does. Never tell school personnel that they are wrong. You begin by telling them all the positive things they are doing. Next, you have to use gentle and kind language to express to them you have their best interest at heart and that there might be a better way. Then they have to run your idea past their peers. If there is a consenus, they will get back to you with revisions to the original… then you kindly and gently explain why that won’t work but this other idea might, then…Well, welcome to our world.

    Meanwhile, Columbus is still sitting on their hands instead of helping us out.

  4. D. Greene June 13, 2007 / 8:59 am
    “My point is that school administrators and teachers do not speak or respond to the same language the rest of the world does. Never tell school personnel that they are wrong. You begin by telling them all the positive things they are doing. Next, you have to use gentle and kind language to express to them you have their best interest at heart and that there might be a better way.”

    Teri, this seems to me like a fundamental flaw in the psychology and composition of schools, if the people working in them can’t handle honesty and criticism. I suspect if most of these administrators and teachers tried to make it in the business world, they would have to change the way they deal with people, but as long as they rule over these little fiefdoms they can do what they want.

  5. gene June 13, 2007 / 12:11 pm
    Not many people (teachers, school adminiistrators or whoever)actually respond well to negative language. However, it is needed, and David hit the nail on the head – great letter. Who cares if Percy Mack responds? If he has a brain, and I am sure he is hearing things from other people, then maybe he will connect the dots and be a bit more proactive. If he isn’t, they need to find someone else. DPS has a lot of problems, and fixing them seems to make us all want to feel better about DPS. But throwing money at problems does not fix the problems. We need to address REAL issues – like having adults be responsible for their own kids and for themselves. Fixing DPS problems needs to start in the homes of these kids. Bill Gates could throw millions at this problem, but if unsupervised kids and taking any direction from crack smokin parents, it really does not matter. People don’t want to pay taxes for anything until THE REAL PROBLEM is addressed. Why do we insist at ignoring the problem. Money does not fix the problem, holding people responsible helps a helluva lot more. I am sick of paying for shit just to pay for it – get people to control their kids and hold EVERYONE accountable and maybe you would have a chance, but then again that idea is too mean.
  6. Drexel Dave June 13, 2007 / 12:22 pm
    I can’t believe there is nobody here that realizes that corporate America doesn’t have to faintest idea of how regular people speak, and hide behind a world of bullshit corporate/business/chamber of commerce terminology, and then have the audacity to bitch at others for not walking the walk or talking the talk.

    How many bullshit terms have emanated from the business world?

    Downsizing = firing your ass.

    Rightsizing = firing your ass.

    I’m sure we could go on, and on, and on…

    “Chutzpah and honesty are welcome in the business world”

    That has to be one of the funniest quotes I’ve heard all year.

    Sugar will get you a lot farther than vignegar folks.

    And while we’re at it, if folks out of town are quite willing to pay more for your services David, then why would it matter that people here aren’t? It’s a great cheap place to live, and work elsewhere.

    Later taters

  7. David Esrati June 13, 2007 / 12:52 pm

    I threw this out to stir things up. The reality today is that most messages don’t make it to the intended receiver- too much marketing noise. Writing “Dear Dr. Mack, You are a wonderful superintendent (which he is) and you’ve made great progress with the Dayton Public Schools (which he has) and I’d like to show you how to pass your levy” comes across as lame.
    Talking about “the threat” and how “a generation of our young people is at stake. We’ve got to save them!” didn’t work.
    Neither did pictures of the good Dr. and smiling kids.
    Trying to help them out of their mess would be a labor of love- they’ve made such a mess out of things. It’s getting to the point that everyone: from teachers, to doctors and lawyers and even social workers need to be taught the fundamentals of better marketing.
    I didn’t send the letter for many of the reasons above- I realize I have to be nice, sweet, and sugary to get work in this town. The problem is their problem isn’t a matter of Trix or Sugar Pops- it’s all the way down to how to rebuild an marketing emaciated body in need of life saving measures.
    Probably too late to help.

  8. Bruce Kettelle June 13, 2007 / 1:53 pm
    Too late to help? I can’t beleive you would suggest throwing in the towel. Brand rejuvination has worked for decades. Tide and Mr Clean still do the same thing but whenever sales start to stagnate they come back with fresh campaigns.

    New York City is a great urban example. Faced with falling tourism and convention revenue 30 some years ago they rolled out the ‘Big Apple’ campaign and overcame their image of a crime ridden metropolis and continues to be a fun place to visit.

    Too Late? No way. But maybe a little more challenging.

  9. gene June 13, 2007 / 2:20 pm
    NYC cleaned itself up, it’s image and in terms of crime. It works if you get to the root of the problem. DPS continue to produce below average students – mainly because the City of Dayton is home to a bunch of people who have little, if any, self respect, no parenting skills, view kids as a product of a drug filled night, and basically are losers who want someone else to take care of them. Paying taxes won’t do shit, you know it and I know it. You can spin your wheels and rejuvinate this brand, but it is still crap. You cant make chicken salad out of chicken shit (again, you can, but it tastes like shit.) Tax money only benefits those who will be hired from those taxes (who are now allowed to move out of the city.) You will still have the same lazy students with horrible parents. TAXES WILL NEVER CHANGE THIS FACT. Maybe people who can’t afford kids should stop having them.
  10. Drexel Dave June 13, 2007 / 2:41 pm
    Wow. As one who has lived in:

    Rural Appalachia
    The Big City
    Suburbia
    Small town America
    East Dayton (currently)

    That’s perhaps the most knuckle dragging and evil comment I’ve read on here in a long time.

    Not to even begin to mention complexities of the population and the current sociology going on in our urban centers, labeling entire populations of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of humans trash and garbage is just that, trash and garbage.

    Look down below. You, too, have a thing called a stinkhole and are not in the least superior over any other human being on the planet.

  11. gene June 13, 2007 / 3:13 pm
    So therefore responsible people like myself must pay for people who can’t keep their slong in their pants not to mention their mouth off the crack pipe. I dont mind paying my fair share, I DO!, I ALWAYS HAVE! it just gets old asking for money when a little RESPONSIBILITY would go a long long long way. Do you think a person should be responsible for him/her self and their kid(s)? Huh?? Novel idea??? I have lived in a lot of places as well, and urban areas breed crime, see a stats course for that. Call it knuckle draging, but I call it reality. I believe people need to be able to take care of themselves, and become a productive person for society, and not hope and wish for someone else to take care of them (unless they really need it) – and it isn’t the WHOLE population, rather a smaller % that ruins school for everyone else (I have at least 6 teachers in DPS who would vouch for this), making it a place where learning is secondary (to be honest, learning RARELY takes place) and babysitting is the norm. This isnt bullshit, it is the truth – and we should hold the Parents responsible for their kids actions. I dont think I am better than anyone, rather I have a little experience in the field of life that tells me a little responsibility and accountability go a long way. Look at most rural schools – way way way way way less money, but the kids arent smart asses and a lot more learing takes place. That is a fact. Look it up, put it in your pipe, smoke it. It is the truth. Begging for tax dollars while people cant take care off their own kids make NO SENSE. Like they said on the NEWS today, Doctors should tell people they are FAT if they are FAT. Not hand hold them for life. You don’t build a roof before you have a foundation and walls. Hard to do my friend. How about letting people know that they are BELOW expectations and maybe they will do something about it rather than ask for a money they will just piss away.
  12. Drexel Dave June 13, 2007 / 3:16 pm
    Wow, you just agreed with everything I said about how wrong it is to label an entire population. Thank you.
  13. D. Greene June 13, 2007 / 3:52 pm
    How much does DPS spend per student? $13,000? What percentage of the DPS budget goes to administrative overhead? 25% or more?
  14. gene June 13, 2007 / 4:50 pm
    In Springfield, according to this friend of mine who works in that system, 85% of taxes go to pay for the salaries of teachers. I don’t know if that is right, but that is what she told me Sunday night. I am sorry for going on a rant, but I just wish that we could solve “problems” without throwing money at it. It really works in a facets of life.
  15. Sara June 13, 2007 / 8:31 pm
    What is wrong with DPS can’t be fixed with any amount of money. When the DPS hires a woman from Oakwood to run their campaign (a very weathy one I might add…) who believes that Oakwood is “great” because of the tax/levy money pouring into its coffers- clueless doesn’t begin to describe what is wrong within the DPS system. There are too many DPS administrators (last count was over 100?), DPS bought the Reynolds building (the very reason I voted for Joe Lacey to the School Bd as he has been very vocal against the purchase which is about to become a “rental-unit” to Central State University), but above all when PARENTS – let me say that again – when PARENTS don’t care if their children earn the privilege of an education – the ticket to all that life has to offer – no amount of money shall ever make a difference. What makes the Oakwood system work is there is shame in failing. When I graduated only 2 of my classmates did not go to college. That is 2 out of 125. That shame was created by parents, administrators, teachers, and yes, self-imposed. We knew that success was not only expected but demanded. No, we did not all go to Harvard, but 123 of us did go to college. Most on financial aid or scholarship.

    Make the parents understand the importance. Hell, make the a
    parents go to school with their kids if they need to earn their degree. Teach them the importance of a hand up rather than a hand out and then you will see students that show up for school with homework completed and WITHOUT an attitude.

    In other words – “New Coke” got great marketing – I still didn’t buy it. I will NEVER vote in favor of any levy involving this goofy administration.

  16. gene June 15, 2007 / 1:16 pm
    You hit the nail of the head, Sara.

    Giving an alcoholic cash won’t lead him to stop drinking, rather he shall drink more expensive booze……..

    Paying teachers more doesn’t make people better teachers, nor does it attract the so-called “better” teachers b/c they still don’t want to put up with all the bullshit students and handout parents……

    I love it when Dayton Parents blame the teachers for the BS that happens on busses, as if teachers are on the bus…….

    FREE. HANDOUT. FREE. RIGHTS. RESPECT. WORDS. FEELINGS. FREE. RESPECT. WORKING TOGETHER. WORKING. JUST SHOWING UP. CARING. ACCOUNTABILITY. HANDOUT. FREE. RESPONSIBILITY. ME ME ME. FREE LOVE, NO PROTECTION, KIDS WE DON’T WANT, CAN’ AFFORD. LEADERSHIP. PARENTING. FREE. DAYTON – WORKIN’ HARD TO BE THE ONLY HANDOUT YOU’LL EVER NEED. TAXES.

    However, making parents understand their role may offend some people. Now, we dont want to hurt people feelings.

  17. Chris January 7, 2008 / 10:18 pm
    Downsizing = firing your ass. Love it…

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