DPS seeking plan to avoid state takeover

In a series of public meetings in coming weeks, Dayton Public Schools leaders intend to hash out a plan to raise the school system from ranking dead last in Ohio in state performance measures.

The DPS Board of Education will meet Saturday to discuss setting concrete goals to improve district performance. A town hall meeting will follow on Tuesday, where the community can provide more input.

A state takeover of the district got a step closer Sept. 13, when DPS received an F in overall performance in the school report card. Another F next year would mean the district goes under state control.

The urgency to get Dayton on a better path was apparent Wednesday, as multiple members of the district’s leadership attended an update of the City of Learners, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley’s DPS initiative to have city and school officials work together to create a better learning environment for kids. DPS officials were absent from the mayor’s update last year.

Speaking at the meeting, DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli challenged the idea that the school district is failing.

“The first thing that I will assure you here, as a City of Learners in Dayton, Ohio, is that Dayton Public Schools is only an F on paper,” she said. “We are not an F school district.”

The district’s performance has been a frustration for parents and others. At a community gathering at the DeSoto Bass housing complex last Friday, participants complained about buses not showing up on time and parents not getting involved in their childrens’ lives. Some residents said the district needs better teachers and communication.

“To turn it around, they need to get some teachers that actually listen to the students and they need to get some of these parents involved with the teachers,” Veronica Averette, whose daughter attends Westwood Elementary School, said at the event, dubbed an “after school rally.” Although Averette likes Westwood, she said the school should hold parent-teacher conferences in the community to make it easier for parents with limited transportation to attend.

School board members have long talked about a need for an updated, official plan laying out a direction for the district.

“Our hope is that we have a strategic plan that is measurable, that is attainable for the district focusing on what is most important - and that is academic achievement, graduation and preparing our kids for life after Dayton Public Schools,” said Board President William Harris.

Saturday’s meeting is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon at the normal board meeting room on Ludlow Street downtown. It is open to the public.

In an interview, Lolli laid out specific areas that will likely be discussed: academics and instruction, finance, culture, safety and security, and technology.

“We will set some short-term and long-term ideas out there,” she said.

Whaley on Wednesday said city and school leaders are moving in “lockstep” to close the achievement gap in the city.

Some measurements haven’t increased, but the work being done is building a foundation that will get results, she said.

One of the positives cited by Whaley was the city-funded Preschool Promise program, which offers preschool to all 4-year-old children in the city. More than 1,060 Dayton school district families joined Preschool Promise last year, Whaley said.

As part of its initiative, The Path Forward, the Dayton Daily News has been examining strategies for improving the performance of the school district. One critical need, many people have cited, is providing poor children with the resources they need to succeed. Data shows DPS has the third lowest median income of any district in Ohio.

The after-school rally last Friday showed many people are willing to do what they can to help. Numerous area agencies and nonprofits donated food, shoes, backpacks and school supplies to families around DeSoto Bass and the Hilltop neighborhood.

David Carter from Dacold est Cuts barber shop on West Third Street gave kids free haircuts. “So often you forget that a simple haircut can change somebody’s whole day,” he said.

Mingling with the crowd were Dayton Public Schools board members Mohamed Al-Hamdani and Karen Wick-Gagnet. This meant a lot to organizer Will Smith, regional director of For Ohio’s Future.

“When people are suffering and people have gone through a lot, they can’t just take you at face value,” he said. “You can have the best plans ever, but they still want to see that you care.”

Lolli hopes that Tuesday’s town hall will give leaders input on the district’s overall strategy and goals. The event will include a panel discussion followed by questions from the audience.

“We’re accountable to the community,” Harris said. “We want it to be an opportunity to listen and an opportunity (for parents) to tell us what they see what their needs are ... what they need to succeed.” Contact these reporters at 937-328-0374 or email Josh. Sweigart@coxinc.com and at 937-225-0749 or email Cornelius.Frolik@coxinc.com.


■ Saturday, Sept. 22: Dayton Public Schools planning session, DPS Main Office, 115 S. Ludlow St., Dayton, 9 a.m. to noon

■ Tuesday, Sept. 25: Dayton Public Schools town hall, Dayton Boys Preparatory Academy, 1923 W. Third St., Dayton, 5:30 to 7 p.m.