Dayton school board member questions plan to hire WSU exec

Dayton Public Schools has offered its new business manager job to Gary Dickstein, interim Wright State University vice provost and husband of Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

The move caused some backlash at Tuesday night’s school board meeting as board member John McManus questioned the move — which is scheduled for vote next week — as well as transparency around the hire, which was not listed on the human resources agenda.

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“That huge, major hire that will be a controversial decision for this board, which will have to answer to its constituents, happens to be the one name not shown on this list of 572 people that we are being asked to hire,” McManus said. “I don’t like that, and it doesn’t smell right.”

McManus said the issue is important “in a town where a lot of people think the city and the school district are too close.”

Two years ago, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley endorsed a slate of candidates for school board that now lead a new board majority.

McManus and Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli had a tense exchange, with Lolli saying Dickstein’s name had been listed on the agenda document Friday. When McManus asked if someone had asked Lolli to remove the hire from the public agenda, she said no, and she didn’t know why Dickstein was not listed there Tuesday.

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“I don’t touch BoardDocs (the district’s agenda software),” Lolli said. “All I do is review it with staff. There is no conspiracy here.”

The business manager post is a new one for Dayton Public Schools. Lolli said the person would take over some of Assistant Superintendent Shelia Burton’s duties, after the school board had suggested in the spring that Burton had too much on her plate. Board member Sheila Taylor asked for clarification on Dickstein’s duties.

Lolli said the business manager would report to her and would oversee the transportation, purchasing, nutrition (school lunch) and operations departments, each of which has its own director. Burton would still be directly over human resources, student enrollment, safety and security, the assessment/accountability/IT department, and two other areas.

As Wright State’s vice provost, Gary Dickstein oversees multiple departments, according to the WSU website – campus recreation, community standards and student conduct, counseling and wellness services, pre-college programs, residence life and housing services, student activities, student support services and the student union.

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According to his biography, he has worked as a college administrator for 29 years, with a focus area on student conduct, after earning degrees in social work and higher education administration.

“I absolutely will accept the position if the school board approves my hire, as I am very excited to join the DPS team and work diligently to ‘make a difference’ in the lives of the students we serve,” Gary Dickstein said in an email late Wednesday.

Lolli said DPS has interviewed candidates for business manager for more than six months. The agenda says the salary range for the position will be $111,625 to $120,208.

When McManus asked if DPS had sought out Dickstein, Lolli said the WSU executive “came to us.” McManus called it odd that DPS couldn’t find a manager for six months, then “happened to hire the city manager’s husband.”

“The fact that he is married to the city manager had nothing to do with the decision that we made,” Lolli said after the meeting. “We interviewed a variety of people, a number of people, and we feel that (Dickstein) has the personality, the skills, the depth of knowledge that we need to have in this management position.”

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Most of the 500-plus “hires” listed on the agenda were the awarding of small supplemental contracts to teachers and others, to serve as student council advisors, science fair leaders and other roles, at pay of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

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