Attendance, teaching, takeover law grab attention in Dayton schools

Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli cited progress on student attendance and classroom teaching as highlights for Dayton Public Schools last week as the district began a crucial 2019, during which DPS could face state takeover.

Lolli said the district’s attendance messaging to students and families — that good attendance will lead to success — is leading to improvements in some schools that have been struggling.

She also cited progress with teachers after a major initiative last semester that closed each school for a day so that its teaching staff had time for a full day of training.

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“I think we made progress on working with our teaching staff and having a clear understanding of what the expectations are in Dayton Public Schools classrooms,” Lolli said. “I think that we’ll be able to continue that as we roll out our high-yield strategies videos that the curriculum team is working on.”

Teachers union President David Romick said DPS teachers will keep “doing what we do – serving the kids of Dayton to the best of our abilities.” But as part of the Ohio 8 Coalition of large urban school districts, he also said he has a close eye on political developments in the state legislature.

There was a bill before the General Assembly last year that would have changed Ohio’s state takeover law, but it did not move forward. Romick said with a new governor and Speaker of the House, it’s possible the issue will be taken up again.

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In a September interview with this news organization, DeWine said he was open to discussion on changing the way Ohio’s school takeover law works. He suggested the possibility of an interim step short of full state takeover, but emphasized whatever decision is made, it must be focused on school improvements for children, not for adults.

“I think you will see some additional legislation to come that will have traction. The Youngstown Supreme Court case is worth watching, too,” Romick said, referring to that school district’s court challenge against the takeover law. “We need to look back to the original House Bill 70 intent about helping school districts rather than punishing them.”

If DPS students do not improve performance on state tests this spring, leading to improvements on the state report card scheduled for September, the district could be subject to state takeover this fall.

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Asked if that stress is a problem in the schools, Lolli said DPS employees need “to keep their nose to the grindstone, but stay calm about it” in doing their best from bell to bell every day.

“It’s an internal pressure that we have on ourselves, but it’s really not different from what we should expect every single day from everyone in the school district,” she said.

Individual schools are trying to get the same messages out to families. The RealBelmont Facebook page announced that 108 honor roll students and 62 students with perfect first-semester attendance were being rewarded with a luncheon at Golden Corral restaurant. But a separate post told parents that more than 60 students were tardy last Monday, and pleaded for families to help get kids on track.

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“We want to continue the work that has already been started,” school board President William Harris said. “We look forward to continued progress. We look forward to movement. We’re looking forward to an exciting continuation of the school year.”

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