Improving Dayton schools ‘takes a village,’ DDN town hall attendees say

The passion was pronounced among the dozens of parents and community members assembled Thursday night to discuss a path forward for improving the performance of Dayton Public Schools.

“It takes a village. It takes all of use to step into this thing and make this thing happen,” resident Ray Hollngsworth said to applause.

The Path Forward: Urgent turnaround needed as state takeover looms

He was one of roughly 60 people at a town hall meeting to discuss how the school district and community can work together to improve the performance of DPS, which for years has ranked among the lowest-performing districts in Ohio on state tests and is at risk of state takeover if its scores don’t improve.

The Dayton Daily News hosted the event as part of its Path Forward initiative, created to help the community find solutions to pressing problems: the addiction crisis, adding good-paying jobs in the region, and improving the performance and perception of DPS.

RELATED: What a state takeover would mean for Dayton schools

Thursday’s event was held at Omega Baptist Church on Emerson Avenue in partnership with the church.

School board member Jocelyn Rhynard attended and said she heard common themes the district is working to address such as busing, neighborhood schools, and community and parent engagement.

“We need to get parents involved in their kids’ education,” she said.

RELATED: How superintendent Lolli plans to save Dayton schools

Group discussion focused on several questions. One was what are the district’s strengths the district can build on? Answers included: diversity, expanded preschool, committed teachers, thriving students at some district schools, and community commitment as evidenced by Thursday’s event.

Another question sought to identify the most important action the district should take to improve performance. Answers included: decreasing class sizes, hiring more paraprofessionals, encouraging parent involvement (including holding parent-teacher conferences at more convenient times), looking at how the district spends its money, and relying less on substitute teachers.

People were also asked what the community can do to help DPS. Answers included having the city working to address areas of the city where residents have fewer opportunities, business-school partnerships, people volunteering to mentor students, and media and others focusing on the district's successes and not just on the setbacks.

RELATED: 5 kids who represent the best of Dayton Public Schools

Several people questioned the district's decision to spend $537,000 over two years to boost enrollment and attendance, saying that money would be better spent on teachers.

Another issue raised was the need for career-tech training at more than just Ponitz Career Technology Center. This is actually something DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said earlier the same day that the district is working on.

Karen Ross, another event attendee, said DPS was a great school system when she attended it and with community involvement like that seen Thursday night, it can be again.

“My hope is that DPS returns to where it used to be,” she said.

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