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.
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.
Spina is president of the University of Dayton.
»THE PATH FORWARD: DAYTON SCHOOLS
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Rochonda Nenonene: Parents are a big part of the solution
Don’t negate the power of parents. Parents can give you insight on the needs of their child. Nobody else can tell you that better than the parents, right? Aside from the student.
I’ve seen so many schools where, when they let parents devise parent training programs that’s when they get greater buy-in because that’s when parents know they have a voice in that school — a regular time they can express their concern in developing programs to meet the needs of those particular students. That’s where I’ve seen it be most effective.
Nenonene is director of the Urban Teaching Academy at the University of Dayton.
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Jeffrey Mims: District has to re-earn the community’s trust
The biggest challenge, I think, facing DPS right now is a trust issue the community has in terms of where we are. … First of all, the unity has to come from within and we have a good core of leaders right now in the district in terms of board members and a superintendent who are working on that.
This is not an easy task; if it was that easy, everybody would do it. But when you see progress moving in that direction, I know the city leadership, the mayor and commissioners, we’re on board in supporting them as we see them moving in the right direction. As those things continue to progress, the support from the business community, and from the clergy, from the social organizations, etc., is going to cause us to move in the direction we want to, and it’s going to benefit kids.
Mims a Dayton city commissioner and former educator.
David Romick: Good things are happening, but the district needs to get the word out
I think we need to take a good hard look at ourselves, we need to take a good hard look at the great things that are going on in DPS. One of the steps we’ve taken recently is securing some consistency and solidity moving forward, especially in terms of our teaching and administrative staff. I think that needs to get out there into the community. I think that consistency is key. Community members want to see that. They want to see the churn and upset and chaos that’s been a part of this school district for the last 18 months, two years, stop. I think that message needs to be out there and some consistent messaging about DPS’s commitment to education, commitment to the children of Dayton needs to be consistently – again, consistently – messaged out to the community.
Romick is president of the Dayton Education Association, the teachers union.
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Alan Pippenger: Don’t give up on the school district
It’s not just the performance of the school board, but the fact we have so much poverty in Dayton. There are a lot of challenges that are all tied to economic challenges.
It’s important the community doesn’t just write it off. There’s still a lot of good happening, and it’s important to stay engaged. It’s what we have and it’s in everybody’s interest that we continue to improve and offer this opportunity for this population in Dayton to receive a quality education and the opportunities that come with that.
I think if you take the regional view it doesn’t help to have a weak school system that is responsible for the education of so many students, so there is an impact — but I don’t think people see it that way and I don’t expect them to. It’s removed from their day-to-day concerns.
Pippenger is owner of Requarth Lumber, headquartered in downtown Dayton.
Tim Kambitsch: Charters and suburbanization have had a big impact
I think a big challenge is that the Dayton Public School district and the city of Dayton are both relatively small, considering that it’s the largest city in Montgomery County. If you just compare it to Toledo, the city of Toledo takes up about 60 percent of Lucas County – if you had a city of equivalent size in Dayton, it would have a lot more capacity that it doesn’t now have.
Also, Dayton was kind of ground zero for the charter school movement, and it took a lot of the best students out of the public schools. And the parents who have been the most interested in the education of their kids are often the ones who are recruited to charters, and what you have left is the children who don’t have that village around them; you don’t have the variety of students that you have at suburban, charter and private schools. The schools have an incredibly uphill battle to face.
Kambitsch is executive director of the Dayton Metro Library system.
Hashim Jabar: If we don’t fix this, our society’s future is at risk
The greatest challenge is leadership – do we want to be a great public school system, or do we want the private schools, the charter schools and he privatization movement to take over? The culture has to change in the district, around the environment of how students and parents are treated. Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said something important, that when they sent out a survey to everyone who had left the district, everybody had a customer service issue. The culture needs to be one where parents are welcomed and supported, and where they are treated kindly despite the challenges that may be present.
Jabar is interim director of the Dayton civil rights organization Racial Justice Now!
Mohamed Al-Hamdani: Schools need to build stronger community relationships
We should work on improving the relationship with existing structures around our schools; there are a lot of opportunities for some of our schools to have better school partners. You’ve seen this working well already at some of our schools — Stivers, Ruskin, Fairview, Westwood. But I’d love to see those kinds of relationships built in all our schools, whether a religious organization, a community center, a business that adopts a nearby school and invests time, volunteers and effort to help close the gaps in some of our schools. That model has worked well in Cincinnati and some other cities.
Al-Hamdani is a member of the Dayton Board of Education.
Peggy Lehner: The problems start at home for many students
I think the biggest challenge is that far too many students are coming from dysfunctional, chaotic homes and they bring that baggage with them to school, which makes it very difficult for them to learn. I’m not sure what DPS can do about it, as much as it’s something for the community as a whole.
I think it’s really important that teachers be able to recognize when children are acting out because of trauma in their lives, and deal with that in the appropriate way. A 5-year old who can’t sit still, for example, may be acting out the fact that they were up all night the night before with something terrible going on their household. If the teacher does not realize child under stress, that child not going to be able to deal with whatever is going on his or her life. Unfortunately, too many kids coming to school with those kinds of problems.
Lehner represents northern, eastern and southern Montgomery County in the Ohio Senate and charis the Senate Education Committee.
Dr. William E. Harris Jr: The community can help with the district’s upswing
The community can do a number of things to help us. They can send their children to Dayton Public Schools, which will help us build our enrollment. They can volunteer to read to our students, work in the offices, assist in everyday activities, chaperone when our kids go on trips. Also, our business community can offer our students internships and mentorships, so that they can engage and explore opportunities to be successful.
Harris is president of the Dayton Board of Education.