Dayton Public Schools interim superintendent focused on change

David Lawrence, interim DPS superintendent, says he wants to change the culture at DPS, starting at the top.

David Lawrence, the new interim superintendent of Dayton Public Schools, says he wants to use research and evidence to radically change Dayton Public Schools.

Lawrence was a former teacher and school principal at several DPS high schools and middle schools and spent most of his career in the school district.

Lawrence is still facing the same problems that DPS superintendents have faced in the last several decades: the district, which is the largest in the region, is a high-poverty district with low performance scores from the state, low test scores and low graduation rates.

He says he wants to bring evidence-based curriculum to Dayton Public, like moving to a model using two teachers to teach the same subject simultaneously in first through third grade classrooms, and getting back to the basics of teaching, like assigning homework for struggling students to practice.

“If we do some things radically different, we might get radically different outcomes,” Lawrence said. “And if nothing else, I think you try.”

The Dayton board of education is still working to figure out their next steps to find the next superintendent. The school board has been working to find a search firm but that hasn’t been finalized.

Lawrence, however, said he would “absolutely” apply to be the next permanent superintendent.

Lawrence has been in the district for decades. He graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, taught middle and high school in Dayton Public, and was a principal at Thurgood Marshall High School before working as a supervisor for principals in Dayton Public Schools. He also worked at the Dayton Regional STEM School, as a consultant for an education consultation agency, as a principal for one of Northmont’s elementary schools, and most recently, as the business manager for Dayton Public Schools.

Lawrence said he’s heard from several of his former students that say they’re excited for him to be in the top job in the Dayton district.

“I can’t go anywhere where somebody doesn’t stop me and say, it’s about time,” he said.

He left DPS in 2016 after he applied for the superintendent job and former superintendent Rhonda Corr was chosen. He said Corr, who left in 2018 after the district accused her of creating a hostile work environment, failing to communicate with the school board and behaving unprofessionally during teacher contract negotiations, saw him as a threat and pushed him out.

He was hired back in 2022 to be the district’s business manager. In July, he was picked to be the interim superintendent after previous superintendent Elizabeth Lolli abruptly left to be the interim superintendent at Lakota schools.



Busing, part of Lawrence’s job last year, has been an ongoing problem for the district. The district is now facing thousands of dollars in fines from the Ohio Department of Education for delivering students late to charter and private schools but are currently fighting the fine in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Lawrence said he is working on improving the culture at Dayton Public, and that starts at the central office on South Ludlow Street. That includes him getting out into the field, working with teachers and bus drivers in their regular jobs. He is in the process of getting his commercial driver’s license so he can drive the school buses too.

Lawrence said teachers have already bought in to that work. He has already spoken with Neil Mahoney, the union leader for DPS, who is a longtime friend of Lawrence’s and former coworker. Lawrence said there’s a narrative about central office workers in DPS that concludes the people who work at the Ludlow building take long lunches and don’t work as hard as those in the field.

“You will never get rid of that narrative unless you go out there and meet it head on,” Lawrence said. “As long as you stay cooped up in here, it’s going to continue.”

Lawrence has kept many people in the main office who have worked there for several years, but there are some changes being made on the curriculum team. For example, Judith Spurlock, Eastmont Elementary principal, is the interim curriculum director for elementary schools.

Many bus drivers have already bought into Lawrence’s vision thanks to his former role as business manager. At the July 11 board meeting where the board voted to name Lawrence as interim superintendent, several union bus drivers celebrated Lawrence’s appointment while morning the loss of someone they thought of as a hard worker.

At the July 11 meeting, four board members voted in favor of putting Lawrence in as the interim superintendent. Board member Gabriella Pickett voted no, and board president Chrisondra Goodwine abstained. Board member Jocelyn Rhynard was not present and apologized at the July 18 meeting for not being there but said she had been at a pre-scheduled conference.

“I wasn’t sure what was going to be happening at the meeting last week,” she said. “And I was willing to cancel my conference. At that point, we were not aware that there was going to be a vote. And so I decided to go ahead with my conference.”

Goodwine said at the July 18 meeting she abstained from the vote because several other internal candidates had applied and she felt from a policy and procedure perspective, everyone should be looked at before deciding on one candidate.

“I say all that, I’m very excited about Dr. Lawrence, because I’ve been working with him last year, and he is an amazing individual,” Goodwine said.

Dayton Public Schools is hosting four meetings for families and students to meet the interim superintendent: Aug. 10 at Wright Brothers Middle School, Aug. 17 at Belle Haven Elementary School, Aug. 24 at Stivers School for the Arts and Aug. 31 at Westwood Elementary. All events are from 6 to 7 p.m. For more information, visit the district’s Facebook page.

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