Hoodies for students, spending policy issue lead to Dayton schools tension

School board votes to approve $68,000 expense, which was incurred before all board members knew about it

EDITOR’S NOTE: A sentence was added to this story that clarifies the school district’s administration can make purchases over $25,000 without board approval first.

Members of the Dayton Public Schools board of education argued at their Dec. 20 meeting over a $68,000 order for school-branded hooded sweatshirts that the district had placed, apparently without the authorization of the full board.

Three members of the seven-member board — Will Smith, Chrisondra Goodwine, and Karen Wick-Gagnet — said they talked about the hoodies in an athletics meeting. The hoodies were meant for each student in the district’s high schools.

The athletics committee board members spoke to Elizabeth Lolli, the Dayton schools’ superintendent, about ordering hoodies with school-specific designs on them for students to wear. Lolli said she thought she had a directive from the board and moved ahead on ordering the hoodies.

When the rest of the board members found out about the plan last week, Goodwine, who had been in the original conversation, said she had not heard about a specific number until it had appeared on the board’s agenda to approve.

Goodwine said she’d heard of the schools getting designs and sizes for the students, but only heard of the total price the week prior.

“So the breakdown here, is the moment the team got a price, they should have not gone forward with it,” Goodwine said.

Goodwine said in the meeting that DPS policy requires any purchase over $25,000 to get board approval, but according to the school district’s purchasing manual there are exceptions that would not require approval. They include purchases for textbooks, educational equipment and supplies.

Jocelyn Rhynard, Dion Sampson and Joe Lacey, three board members who were not at the athletics meeting, expressed concerns about the way the process had been discussed. Board member Gabriella Pickett was not present at the Dec. 20 meeting.

“I wanted to make sure that it was an understanding of mine with my colleagues that we make sure we work collaboratively and it’s not appropriate for three people to make purchasing decisions,” Rhynard said. “I’m not saying that’s what happened, but I wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page that we work collaboratively as seven people.”

Lacey expressed similar concerns, and said at the beginning of the discussion he planned to vote no.

“It’s because of a purchase that was not authorized by the board and the explanation of it didn’t really sit well with me,” he said.

Sampson expressed concern the district was buying hoodies when hoodies can be considered against the dress code for the district.

“The only reason I’m going to vote yes to it is that they’ve been ordered already,” Sampson said. “We can’t send back thousands of hoodies with specific school designs on them.”

He added that this was an internal board issue and opposed putting the hoodies up for sale because school administrators had already told students the hoodies would be arriving.

The board of education ultimately voted 4-2 to approve the payment for the hoodies.

Dayton’s school board has argued publicly over multiple issues this year, with the board often split into factions. In July, the board had a public disagreement about the process of hiring now DPS business manager David Lawrence and also fought about adding a sexual harassment policy to the board policy in August.

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