DECA charter schools promote Taylor to superintendent

David Taylor, deputy superintendent of DECA charter schools
David Taylor, deputy superintendent of DECA charter schools

The Dayton Early College Academy charter school group is promoting Dave Taylor to superintendent this summer, to replace the retiring Judy Hennessey.

Taylor started his career at DECA 16 years ago as a language arts and social studies teacher. Since then he’s also been assistant principal, principal, and for the past five years deputy superintendent, overseeing the group’s day-to-day operations.

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“It’s humbling,” Taylor said. “When you understand the gravity of what our organization is and what I think it means … certainly it’s an honor to be chosen the superintendent of an organization I’ve loved since the day I started here.”

Close to 1,300 Dayton students attend the group’s three schools — DECA Prep elementary in Five Oaks, DECA Middle on the east side of downtown and the DECA high school on the University of Dayton campus. The schools have long focused on preparing students for college and beyond.

Taylor, 38, grew up outside Philadelphia and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Cedarville University. He completed the Program for Leadership Development at the Harvard Business School, and was named 2014 School Leader of the Year by the Ohio Alliance of Public Charter Schools.

“We are thrilled to have the caliber of an educational leader like Dave take DECA into the next decade,” Board Chairman Tom Bettcher said in a statement. “His vision for what is possible in public education, and unwavering belief in what our students can and will achieve is a true testament to his commitment to our district.”

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According to Ohio Department of Education data, about 70% of DECA’s students are economically disadvantaged and more than 90% are Black. State report card data shows those two demographic groups, as a whole, struggle more academically than their peers.

But DECA’s college-prep oriented schools have consistently posted strong state test scores and graduation rates compared with other urban schools. DECA got A’s and B’s in student progress on the most recent state report card.

Taylor said DECA’s immediate focus has to be on providing a high-quality education to its kids despite an ongoing pandemic. That includes getting students back into the school buildings as safely as possible, and keeping school staff safe and healthy.

DECA has grown significantly, opening its elementary school in 2012 and its middle school in 2016. Future growth isn’t clear at the moment, with Taylor saying it’s not his immediate goal to have the group double in size.

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“What I want to see is a school that is incredibly academically rigorous, where students are stretched every day to learn and grow,” Taylor said. “I want to see a school that honors and appreciates the full dignity of the students that it serves. And I want to see a school that is entirely community-minded, where we understand the importance of Dayton and of the community that we build.”

Taylor said he looks forward to building on the foundation set by Hennessey and others.

“Dave has grown into an outstanding school leader,” Hennessey said. “He has a deep sense of mission, strategic leadership skills and the support of the community behind him.”

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