Eric Spina: The right leadership is now in place and getting to work
If we were talking a year ago, I would say the biggest challenge was leadership, but I’m not going to say that anymore because I think this superintendent and this school board are not only willing to do the hard things and the right things, but are doing the hard things and the right things. I think we now have the leadership.
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My sense is that one key problem beyond the previous lack of leadership has been and is attracting and retaining talent. At the administrative level, at the principal level, at the teacher level, at the aide level we lose too many of our best people for lack of resources, for lack of clear direction, for lack of any number of different things. This superintendent, with the support of her board, is laser-focused on trying to win some of these retention battles and to make sure from top to bottom we have the best people to go along with a solid strategy. We need to be able to pay these people and provide them with a work environment that is positive and optimistic.
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The third thing is some combination of perception, community morale, pride and confidence in the schools. You can mix that together. One of the big challenges that the Dayton Public Schools face is a lack of confidence from the populace. Again, I believe we now have the school board and the superintendent in place that if we listen carefully, if we engage, we should be able to develop confidence and I think in time will come improved perceptions and greater pride in our schools.
One of the great things about this superintendent is it’s very clear to me she’s not here trying to position herself for a better job, a bigger district or whatever. She sees Dayton Public Schools for what it is, both good and bad, and based upon really a long, successful career she understands what needs to be done to make it better.
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I am a believer that the urban core is the only way that the region can be successful; we need a strong city and suburbs to be successful and sustainable over the long term. And really the bellwether for the economic sustainability of a region is the quality of its public school system.
Spina is president of the University of Dayton.