There is good PR, there is logic, and then reason: DPS on old school buildings

Dr. Stanic barely has given up the “interim” title, and already PR issues are at the forefront. First was the no-bid PR contract to a Cleveland firm that was responsible for sending him to Dayton in the first place. Now, he’s running into a showdown with historic preservationists.

The problem with the highly charged preservation issue is that Stanic is fighting with a bunch of rules written by the construction lobby and dictated by Columbus, and his constituents are fighting to preserve romantic memories and their heritage. Mary McCarty describes Stanic’s frustration with the issue

Dayton’s interim superintendent, Kurt Stanic, could barely contain his impatience with opponents of the demolition of the old Julienne High School building.

About 90 minutes into the contentious meeting, Stanic asked for a show of hands: “How many of you voted for the bond levy in 2002?”

A significant number of hands went up.

“Well,” Stanic said, “if you voted for the levy, this is what you voted for. You voted to accept the rules of the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which earmarks the money for new construction.”

He didn’t actually say, “Gotcha!” but it sure felt as if he did.

I voted for the levy in 2002, and I certainly don’t remember any language that stated, “If you vote for this levy, we’ll tear down every last historic building in the district.” With the notable — and admittedly costly — exception of Stivers, that’s exactly what the district is proceeding to do.

Joe Lacey, a member of the Dayton Board of Education, said, “I don’t think anybody understood that. If they had, the levy would have failed in all the major cities, and the state would have to look at all the rules they have that favor new construction over renovation.”

Lacey said OSFC regulations are more negotiable than the superintendent indicated, “but the school district hasn’t tried to push them in terms of renovation. That said, they’re still stuck with the problem a lot of the state funding is based on square footage and the Julienne site is a lot bigger than what they need.”

Despite audience perceptions, Stanic said he didn’t feel angry or upset during the meeting. “I’m a very direct person,” he said Wednesday, “and maybe people aren’t used to that.” He added that the purpose of the meeting wasn’t to rehash the fate of Julienne, but to unveil the plans for the new building and solicit input. Stanic made strong points about the nature of his role: “My job isn’t historic preservation; it’s elevating the level of instruction.”

Missing from his comments, however, was any sense of real compassion for the feelings of the community that aren’t mere nostalgia; they stem from a passion for preservation. What lesson is here for our kids? That new is better than old in every case? That there’s no value in preserving the past?

Former Kettering Mayor Marilou Smith, president and valedictorian of the Julienne class of 1945, described the meeting “as kind of a downer.”

“The superintendent had some valid points, saying he took on a terrible job,” she said. “But I don’t think he was too sympathetic because he believes we need a new school right now.”

Stanic made it clear he would tear down the building the minute he got the go-ahead: “We’ve already waited a year, and that has cost the district at least a million dollars in the cost of new construction. I have to recommend what’s economically feasible and in the best interests of the school district.”

Perhaps sensing her cause was getting nowhere, Donna Martin, the head of Preservation Dayton, urged the more than 80 audience members to attend the meeting at the Dayton Plan Board at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20, where Julienne’s status as a local historic landmark will be debated.

via Mary McCarty: School chief voices no sympathy for efforts to save Julienne building.

It seems the preservationists missed a salient piece of ammunition in their favor: Dayton’s two top-performing schools, Stivers and DECA, are both housed in “old” buildings. If Stanic thinks there is any correlation between the quality of education and the age of the building, he’s doomed at improving student performance with his brand new set of buildings.

The Julienne/Dayton Christian building hasn’t suffered the maintenance neglect that has plagued other DPS buildings like Roosevelt. It’s also got an auditorium that can’t be matched. Granted, DPS isn’t planning on using the site for a High School, but, how about considering a combo-school, central office? Maybe it’s time for DPS to try to sell off the rest of the downtown palace- since they’ve recently managed to hand off the Training center across the street to Premier Health?

Is the battle over Julienne really where he wants to begin his relationship with the community? Considering that the “preservation lobby” in Dayton is one of the most consolidated power bases in the city- maybe compromise would be the smarter move. There is also the Julienne alumni that have ties back to the building. This may be an opportunity to build bridges into the greater Dayton community. Unfortunately, his PR consultants from Cleveland have no idea on how this all plays in Dayton.

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19 Responses

  1. Larkin January 16, 2009 / 12:22 am
    Julienne was the alma mater of Sister Dorothy Stang, the nun murdered in Brazil. Her killers were acquitted and now we’ll tear down the school as well. Why not just sell the building to someone who is more thoughtful and sensitive to the issues of preservation. I think DPS has more pressing needs for their money and their attention than making piles of rubble. Let’s see, there’s the pile of rubble where Roosevelt sat (and I tell you, even that broke my heart), there’s the pile of rubble where Patterson was, there’s an empty field where they’ve been “building” Edison elementary for two years (surely the slowest construction project anywhere.) Dr. Stanic, get your hands out of the cookie jar and get to work. So far, the comportment and accomplishments of the DPS since the departure of Percy Mack are nothing short of sickening.
  2. Jeff January 16, 2009 / 4:47 am
    This wouldnt be too bad if the architectural quality of the replacement schools was as good as the originals. Instead we get functional but somewhat dull buildings.
  3. Jeff January 16, 2009 / 5:06 am
    “Considering that the “preservation lobby” in Dayton is one of the most consolidated power bases in the city”

    You need to elaborate on this because I just dont see it. The presevationists are losing most of their battles. In fact, they are going to lose a lot of the city once that demolition/landbank concept goes forward.

    If one narrowly and parochially defines “presrvation” as just ones own hisotric district, well, OK, maybe . But preservation in a more general sense, as preserving and extending the life of the citys architectural patrimony and urban landscapes, no, not consolidated and not very sucessfull at all.

    Preservation and the large issue of appreciating and cherishing a citys urban environment and matrix of vernacular architecture, both residential and commercial, is far from a widespread or common attitude in Dayton and its suburbs.

  4. Jeff January 16, 2009 / 5:40 am
    I should qualify the above statement by saying groups of people DO get passionate about individual buildings (like the Arcade, or the codebreakers building, or, in this case, a school), but this doesn’t seem to translate into an across-the-board movement than is passionate about preservation. The passion seems to remain parochial.
  5. Joe Lacey January 16, 2009 / 1:28 pm
    The preservation interests in the city do have a lot of potential that has not been clearly tested at the ballot box to date.

    In 2002, when the district went to the ballot on its building plan, it had struck a deal with Preservation Dayton Inc, PDI, to preserve 4 older schools. The board received PDI’s annual award for preservation for that deal. It may have helped to pass the bond issue (or I may be remembering wrong and the deal happened after the election). Since then the board has changed plans.

    When I ran and won in 2005, I spoke often about my support for preservation and felt we should have more renovation in our building plan but it’s hard to say if that had a major roll in my win. I focused more on the board’s fiscal policy and my opposition to the decision to purchase the Reynolds & Reynolds buildings downtown in my campaign.

    In 2007, there were some clear choices among the candidates regarding their stands on renovating older schools but this wasn’t very well reported either in the news or the editorial pages. Mario and Lee Massoud, both of whom fought to demolish Roosevelt, lost but so did Shirley Crisp who worked to save Wilbur Wright.

  6. Drexel Dave Sparks January 16, 2009 / 1:57 pm
    The greatest generation (WWII) left us with a wonderful legacy.

    Now the worst generation ever (baby boomers) is making sure that none of it will be left for their grandkids.

    Only suburbanized architecture void of soul resembling a prison-industrial complex is good enough for our children. And yes, many of the new buildings could not be distinguished from an incarceration facility sans for the signs that say they are schools.

    Is this some kind of subconscious programming preparing kids for the future? It seems that the architecture of an educational establishment should reflect values of greatness.

    Instead, we reflect values of a strip mall jailhouse.

  7. ShortWest Rick January 16, 2009 / 11:21 pm
    I dunno guys, certainly historic preservation means reuse of the building for a practical purpose but it doesn’t necessarly mean retrofitting a fifty, seventy or hundred year old school building into an up to the minute educational center. David, you advocate laptops for every student, I’d be curious how well wifi would work in a building with two foot concrete & steel floors and walls? Would preservationists prefer exposed Cat cabling, half a million to drill channels through the walls or neither?

    Really it’s the every lane syndrome, I expect a cashier at every register when I check out but if they raise the prices I won’t shop here anymore. DPS definately needs a PR firm, one that will get releases to the news that heating dinosaur buildings is a bad investment for taxpayers and prime buildings/locations are available.

  8. pizzabill January 16, 2009 / 11:56 pm
    Historic preservationists have to pick battles carefully, balancing the value of preserving buildings vs. the benefits of updating with something new and more advanced. There’s a reason “Extreme Home Makeover” started tearing down people’s homes instead of trying to retro-fit them, and that certainly is related to ease of construction and how much more you can get for your money in starting from scratch.

    The hurdle to get over is detaching the sentimental value of the old building with the functional utility of the new, updated building. There’s a concept called the “museum fallacy” at work sometimes, where people want to see the historic structure still standing there, regardless of and at the expense of the benefits a new building could afford.

    I certainly agree though, that sometimes the old building is worth keeping. I’d hate to see Memorial Hall demolished given it’s War Memorial significance and the fact that I had my wedding reception there, but the opportunity costs of keeping such a building have to be considered carefully. (It would take a hell of a good argument to convince me that Memorial Hall should be torn down… it’s possible but unlikely, since my sentimental attachment is high.)

    With regards to school buildings, are we trading off too much of the potential benefit to future generations that modern buildings could provide– all for the sake of sentimental attachment to older buildings? Advances that benefit future generations is a hell of a good argument.

    I’ve heard it said that indoor plumbing would dramatically change the culture of most primitive tribes still left in the world, but you’d never hear them complain about the change. Sometimes change is simply progress.

  9. David Esrati January 17, 2009 / 1:49 am

    @SWR- Rooms are rooms-and running wires- and wifi isn’t that tough. WiFi goes through brick better than it goes through glass.
    I was in the last class at my elementary school before they moved to a “modern” building. The Junior high and high school stayed in the old style buildings.
    All these years later- the old buildings are still fine, while the “new buildings” circa 1973- are ready for rebuilds.
    @PizzaBill- sure sometimes new is good- however, we can’t build buildings like some of these old ones.
    The problem with most DPS schools- lack of maintenance.
    As to Memorial Hall- Mick Montgomery has tried to lease Memorial halls basement for a new Canal Street Tavern- and then he’d book the upstairs for big shows. He was ignored by the County.
    @Jeffrey- the preservation lobby- is one of the few coordinated groups in town- that crosses all districts- areas. They are vocal, they are involved, and while they may not “win”- they influence.

  10. Jeff January 17, 2009 / 9:55 am
    Looking at this as sentimental attachment and nostalgia completely, totally misses the point.

    Have a few “nostagic monuments” surrounded by parking lots, grassy lawns, and suburban style modern stuff like around Keowee & 5th and what do you have?

    You have a shit town that has lost its charcater.

  11. Joe Lacey January 17, 2009 / 11:53 am
    I agree it’s not so much sentimentality as it is about giving up buildings with architectural details and replacing them with cinderblock buildings. On one occasion, one of the architects of one of our new schools approached me and thanked me for my work to try to save some older buildings. He was happy to have the business but he knew that, with the budget he had, he wouldn’t be able to design and build anything near the architectural detail of what he was replacing.
  12. Gene January 17, 2009 / 12:24 pm
    Why were DPS in such bad shape to begin with? Not to bring up our favorite burb again, but Oakwood has 4 schools, 3 of which are original and will never be torn down. Is maintenance that much better in Oakwood, or are DPS a reflection of the community, always sh*tting on everything, never taking care of anything, letting building go to hell like their houses………. Why do 3 old buildings exist on the hill yet DPS need to rebuild every time the first snow fall of the season happens. POOR GD MANAGEMENT – loser frickin mentality, ITS NOT OUR MONEY THINKING. Maybe rich people are smarter and simply a better breed of human compared to “trash and leafs in yard” folks of Dayton. DPS rebuild all the time – I just don’t understand why.

    Anything that follows this is a bunch a GD excuses. Grow TF up and take care of sh*t you have, don’t let it go to hell. Heck, you would think with all the tradesman that live in Dayton they would want to fix schools where there kids go………. but then again you can’t get them to show up for parents night.

  13. Larkin January 17, 2009 / 12:58 pm
    Gene, take your meds. No one listens when you rant, dear.
  14. Joe Lacey January 17, 2009 / 2:17 pm
    The answer to Gene is that these buildings are not in bad shape. A lot of the cost is to bring them up in line with state standards for classroom sizes (this requires gutting a lot of the interior), wiring, windows, roofing, hvac, etc. The state’s standard’s are pretty high and pretty specific. I would doubt that Oakwood’s schools meet a lot of state standards, but they don’t have to. Those standards are only for schools that the state is spending money on. Dayton is partnering with the state to build its schools. Oakwood is paying for their schools themselves.

    If you read the Ohio School Facilities Commission’s reports on our older schools you’ll find repeatedly the conclusion that this feature or that feature is in good shape but not up to state standard.

  15. Gene January 17, 2009 / 3:56 pm
    Well, smuck. You can say I rant but it is MY money going down the GD toilet. You liberals think money grows on trees – let me tell you a lot of people work real hard to earn their money, and throwing it down the drain is an insult. State standards is another bs excuse for just wasting money. You people cry all the time about jobs and money and this and that pertaining to money yet you don’t get insulted when legislation treats your cash like toilet paper. I just don’t understand why we spend spend spend.
  16. Gene January 17, 2009 / 3:58 pm
    fyi, smuck is supposed to be F*CK and I am not trying to call anyone any names, I just want to say WELL F*CK but davey won’t let me.
  17. Larkin January 17, 2009 / 4:18 pm
    Gene, Gene, Gene. It is not only your money, it is the money of many of us. We all pay something for the collective good.

    It has always been folly to fund education with property taz– too much burden on too few, and too many people who don’t pay property taz (i.e. renters — though one can argue that the rent they pay enables the landlord to pay the property tax) who make use of the services funded on the backs of property owners.

    The real answer is that the tax code needs to be massively overhauled and restructured. That’s not likely to happen in the near future. (Imagine how we felt about it in Montana where property tax funds everything because the voters there won’t allow for a sales taz.) Sure there is waste. And when cuts are made, they are seemingly made without much intelligence or forethought. The only way to change it is from within, or with the help of a pro-active media that reports on what is spent and why and makes the government accountable. Until we get the latter, or more intelligent in the former, nothing will change. It isn’t a liberal vs. conservative argument (and God, how tired is that old riff) it is instead a matter of a thoughtful vs. thoughtless budget making process.

    And Gene, there are a few exchanges where using f*ck really adds something meaningful, but this probably isn’t it.

    The new parts of Stiver, btw, feel like a prison. The architects should be hanged. Why does a new school have to equal such uninspired and depressing environment? Joe Lacey is to be commended for showing an interest and engaging in a dialogue– rare and remarkable qualities for a member of any governmental body, let alone the school board. Many thanks, Joe.

  18. Gene January 17, 2009 / 6:26 pm
    I hate waste – and DPS has not shown us that they are good at their jobs. I say use old schools and get used to it. but laws have been made to say otherwise. f’ck.
  19. Joe Lacey January 19, 2009 / 9:05 am
    I’m not using state standards as an excuse to waste money. I’m criticizing state standards because they inflate the cost renovation projects over the cost of building newer, less substantial, buildings.

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