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.