New spokeswoman, team, to trumpet improvement of Dayton schools

Amid growing public dissatisfaction, Dayton Public Schools officials hope to improve the perception of the district with a newly-hired, three-person communications staff.

The DPS Board of education in December hired spokeswoman Tracey Hanlin at a salary of $85,000. She replaces former spokeswoman – and before that, well-known local broadcaster – Marsha Bonhart, who retired in October.

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They also hired two new communications specialists to produce printed and online informational material about the district. They will be paid $48,000 each.

DPS Board President Bill Harris said they replace a three-person staff that left last year.

“We want to get the message out that we are looking forward to continue communicating with the community, that we want to have the best school district that we possibly can, and we want the community to know that Dayton Public is available and we’re seeking students,” Harris said.

In September, the city of Dayton released a community survey that found dissatisfaction with DPS among city residents rose from 31 percent in 2017 to 39 percent in 2018. Nearly half of all residents said the quality of schools would make them less likely to raise a family in Dayton; among families with children, the number was 51 percent.

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Hanlin said her goal will be to address this narrative.

“There are a lot of amazing things that are happening, as you well know, with Dayton schools,” she said. “Sometimes these old, closely held beliefs stick with people, but it’s my job and my team’s job to make sure information gets out in a timely manner, in a correct manner, and puts Dayton schools back in a positive light.”

Hanlin was previously communications and marketing coordinator for The Abilities Connection in Springfield. Prior to that, she worked in marketing at the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority.

DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the new team will focus on improving morale for DPS staff, and communicating the changes being made by new district leadership and how they are going to improve not just the school’s perception, but its performance.

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“People still believe that Dayton Public Schools is where it was five years ago, and we need to change that image and talk about the things that are positive in our district and are happening every day in our schools,” Lolli said.

In addition to the communications team, DPS has a two-year, $537,000 contract with the Ohlmann Group for an advertising campaign focused on enrollment and attendance.

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