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Dayton Public Schools try to solve school schedule woes

Belmont High School Principal Donetrus Hill monitors school hallways last August, urging students to get to their next class on time. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
Belmont High School Principal Donetrus Hill monitors school hallways last August, urging students to get to their next class on time. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Dayton Public Schools and its teachers union have taken a step toward solving a years-long student scheduling problem that affects the start of the school year at the high school level.

DPS has often struggled to finalize all high school students’ class schedules for the first day of the school year, making the first week disorganized for many students, teachers and staff. The worst example was in 2016, when Meadowdale’s principal resigned a month into the school year with student schedules still in disarray.

2016 STORY: Meadowdale principal resigns after one month

Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the administration and union worked together on a memorandum of understanding, restructuring high school counselors’ work year by front-loading seven work days in late July and early August just before school starts.

Chief of Secondary Schools Erin Dooley told the school board last week that DPS — a district with high student turnover — is often dealing with numerous students who enroll late in the summer.

“We have historically had some problems when opening (the school year) with some kids having incomplete schedules, and that needs to stop,” Dooley said. “That’s something we need for all of our kids — to start on Day 1 with a complete schedule.”

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The new memorandum of understanding between the district and the union says that high school counselors will work 10 days in addition to the 185 days in the base contract, and seven of those days will be the weekdays from July 26 to Aug. 5.

The existing contract has had high school counselors, except for “lead counselors,” working five extra days per year and left it up to each principal and counselor how to structure them.

School board President William Harris asked why the district wasn’t able to handle this issue properly in the past.

“The counselors have previously returned to work when the teachers returned (in early August),” Dooley answered. “Some of them were using their extended days at the tail end of the school year. We don’t need them at the tail end of the school year, generally, other than to send some final transcripts out.”

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Dooley said the change should help the 2019-20 school year open more smoothly, with classes more balanced after late sign-ups — “making sure everybody has a place to go on Day 1, not Day 5.”

School safety

At the same time counselors are working on schedules, DPS’ school resource officers will undergo significant training. The school board is set to vote April 30 on an $18,750 contract with the National Association of School Resource Officers. If approved, Dayton’s SROs will take the national agency’s 40-hour basic SRO course from July 29-Aug. 2. Associate Superintendent Shelia Burton said the funds will come from a safety grant DPS received.

Staffing shortage

Dayton Public Schools has five fewer school psychologists than it wants, according to Lolli, in large part because of a statewide shortage of those employees. This comes at a time when the state is urging schools to focus on social and emotional obstacles to learning. The DPS board will vote April 30 on an $86,000 contract with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center to provide “school psychology assistants” to help with needed services, Lolli said.

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