The Dayton Daily News is inviting parents, students and community members to a town hall meeting Thursday to discuss ways to improve Dayton Public Schools.
The meeting, which is free, will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Omega Baptist Church, 1821 Emerson Ave. in Dayton.
The Daily News launched an initiative this year, The Path Forward, which seeks to find solutions to the area’s most pressing problems. The performance of Dayton Public Schools, many believe, is key to the region’s economic prosperity.
The school district currently ranks last in the state in student test scores and faces the prospect of a state takeover next year if that performance doesn’t improve.
Vanessa Ward, co-pastor at Omega Baptist Church — a partner in the town hall event — said she is pleased to see that the district appears willing to listen to, and partner with, the community. Ward is a member of the Dayton Daily News Community Advisory Board, which provides feedback and input to The Path Forward team.
“I think (Dayton Public Schools) matters to all of us, and I welcome the opportunity to be in the conversation,” she said. “We all have to be engaged and own it.”
The district has a new school board and a new superintendent, Elizabeth Lolli. The board and Lolli unveiled a turnaround plan at a recent public meeting.
Jo’El Thomas-Jones, an unsuccessful candidate for school board last year, said at that meeting teacher and student input is key to the district’s turnaround.
“Ask students what’s wrong with their education. Ask students what’s right with education. They have the answers you’re looking for,” she said. “If we really want to turn this thing around, the children have to be an integral part of the solution.”
Will Smith, parent and community organizer, said the public for too long hasn’t felt heard.
“We can’t get to the bottom of these issues without getting to the root of the problem, and I think the root of the problem for so long is the community hasn’t been listened to,” said Will Smith, parent and community activist. “We’ve been tolerated, we’ve been put up with, we’ve been placated at times, but we really haven’t been heard.”
The town hall will give those who rely on Dayton Public Schools a chance to share their views on the district’s strengths and challenges, and what stories about the district aren’t being told.
Samantha Sommer, editor of The Path Forward project, said feedback from the sessions will be included in future news stories.
“We care about the future of our community and want to lead conversations about solutions,” Sommer said. “The success of Dayton Public Schools is critical to the success of our entire region.”