Dayton leader backs RTA busing plan for students, but it won’t be ready until October

Dayton school superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said Tuesday night that after some hesitation earlier this month, she will move ahead and recommend a new contract with RTA to provide limited-service busing to high school students.

But Lolli said the school board still has to approve the actual contract with RTA at a July meeting, and she said even with July approval, the busing program would not be ready for the first several weeks of the school year.

LAST WEEK: Dayton schools rethink high school busing plan

“I know that it will take us until October to get it started, but at least it’s before winter,” Lolli said. “If we can buy bus passes for kids in the meantime, we’ll do that while we wait for (RTA) to get the LS line going.”

On May 28, Dayton’s school board agreed in principle to spend the money for a limited-service RTA busing option for high school students, who have not had bus service for years, contributing to the district’s poor high school attendance levels. The cost estimate tied to that 5-1-1 board vote was $4.1 million this school year (including one-time money to prepare buses) and $3.2 million per year after that.

But in emails to RTA CEO Mark Donaghy earlier this month, Lolli said her board members were instead considering just buying bus passes for students. That came after board member John McManus said the limited-service RTA plan went against a commitment against outsourcing that he made to union leaders who he said helped him and other board members get elected.

But Donaghy warned that student passes for existing RTA routes would be much less efficient than the specially designed limited-service routes. Lolli said Tuesday night that was a big factor in her decision.

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“My recommendation is that we go with the original plan because it’s more comprehensive. It will serve the students better,” Lolli said. “Even RTA said there would be holes in the service (if we just bought passes). And everybody would go to the downtown terminal, which is way too many high school kids in one location at one time. … So this is my recommendation to the board, and what they do with that, we’ll see.”

The school board’s quarterly retreat meeting is this Saturday, with plans to talk about district finances. The next regular board meetings are July 16 (review session) and July 30 (business meeting).

Also Tuesday, the board also approved the purchase of 15 school buses. Two years ago, DPS bought 115 new buses for its aging 160-bus fleet. The district is trying to replace the remaining 45 buses 15 at a time.

Teacher contract

The school board approved a contract extension through June 2022 and a significant pay raise for members of its teachers union. The district’s new starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree will be $44,671, $4,000 more than last year and trailing only Oakwood and the Miami Valley Career Technology Center locally.

RELATED: New contract would raise DPS starting pay significantly

Lolli has said the new agreement is aimed at making salaries more competitive with other districts, as academically struggling Dayton schools have had trouble recruiting and retaining teachers in recent years.

This past year, the salary for a DPS teacher with a master’s degree topped out at $70,026. This coming year, that number will be $77,774, and by the last year of the contract in 2021-22, it will be $82,508.

Personnel moves

The school board also approved the changing of nine more school principals and 13 assistant principals. Lolli said the district needs to do something radical to break a years-long trend of poor academic performance.

Two of the three new high school principals – Gerry Griffith at Stivers and Melinda Clark at Ponitz – were introduced at Tuesday’s school board meeting, although only about five people were in the audience.

RELATED: DPS to see second year of huge principal turnover

The only five buildings on track to have the same principal from spring 2018 to fall 2019 are E.J. Brown (Channey Goode), Kemp (Stacy Maney), Horace Mann (Sheri Moss), Fairview (Caitlin Smith) and Belle Haven (Joy Stokes).

In other moves, DPS hired eight academic coordinators for special education. Lolli said that department was significantly understaffed last year after several departures. Those academic coordinators work with teachers on training and compliance issues, making sure students’ special education plans are implemented.

DPS laid off three staffers Tuesday, including two physical education teachers in areas where Lolli said the district was overstaffed.

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