Dayton school leader proposes raises, more busing, $68M for facilities

Dayton’s school board heard Tuesday from Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli (third from left) and Treasurer Hiwot Abraha (far right). JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

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Dayton’s school board heard Tuesday from Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli (third from left) and Treasurer Hiwot Abraha (far right). JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli on Tuesday proposed millions of dollars in new investment in Dayton Public Schools, aimed at solving a series of issues the school board called its highest priorities.

The list includes $3.2 million per year to partner with RTA to bus high school students, $17 million each of the next four years to perform neglected building maintenance and about $900,000 per year to hire 10 new behavioral/mental health specialists to work with students.

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Lolli’s proposal also called for a “salary adjustment” for teachers, principals and assistant principals, and associate superintendents. She did not place a dollar figure on those raises, saying she wanted to discuss it privately with the school board first because it would involve labor negotiations.

The amount of any raise would be key, as salaries and benefits are the largest expense for all schools. DPS budget documents show current salary and benefit costs for all DPS employees combined are about $135 million per year. DPS pays teachers less, on average, than the majority of surrounding districts, and district leadership has said teacher recruitment has been a challenge.

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“These are items that are still for the board’s consideration and for the board to talk through (but) these are what the treasurer and I have been working on financially,” Lolli said. “When she does the five-year forecast, she can answer questions about what this looks like if everything here is done, or some things are done.”

Treasurer Hiwot Abraha said she has a draft version of that financial forecast, but did not present it at the meeting. DPS officials have said this year that the district has about $50 million in savings beyond the reserve balance that DPS policy requires.

The school board did not vote on Lolli’s recommendations Tuesday night. Board President William Harris said it is “possible” they will vote at their next meeting May 28.

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Lolli said some details of the RTA busing proposal, such as late-day service for students in extracurriculars, or the need for student passes, are still in flux. She said that recommendation would also include a one-time cost of $800,000 to restore 32 buses to operating condition and install cameras.

Lolli said she did not have data on how much the increased busing might increase troubled high school attendance rates, but she said principals are buying passes for some students, indicating a clear need.

Multiple board members asked why the district had such a large facilities cost for schools that all opened since 2005. Associate Superintendent Shelia Burton said the district had failed to do regular maintenance, adding that the largest needed costs were roofs, parking lots and HVAC systems.

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“I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, but you would assume that buildings were built in such a way that they would endure,” Burton said. After a pause, she was asked if that wasn’t the case in DPS’ building program from 2003-2011. “No comment,” Burton said.

Lolli’s proposal included numerous smaller items. She recommended $175,000 for each of the next two years to improve science, technology, engineering and math programs at the middle schools and Thurgood Marshall STEM High School.

She proposed a $100,000 budget for the district’s outreach/student activities director to pay for programming of increased after-school events. She called for $150,000 each of the next three years for staff training to bring River’s Edge elementary back to full Montessori status, plus $100,000 for the next two years for replacement of Montessori materials that are outdated or were discarded.

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Lolli also recommended setting aside $10 million for potential repairs to Welcome Stadium, saying DPS is working with the University of Dayton to develop a request for proposals for a contractor to tell them what work is needed to bring the stadium up to standard. She said the cost “will likely be substantial.”

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