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State applauds Dayton’s plan to improve schools

Ohio Department of Education officials this week praised the Dayton Public Schools plan to address state concerns, but added that much work remains.

The state told DPS in January and May that it is at risk of state takeover in 2018 if academic performance doesn’t improve. Clairie Huff-Franklin, director of ODE’s Office of Distress Commissions and Education Reform, told district officials that their three-year plan that incorporates state recommendations is a good first step.

“If the district continues in the vein that it is in now, with fidelity and adherence to their plan, we do not foresee that more intensive supports will have to be placed upon the district,” Huff-Franklin said at Tuesday’s DPS board meeting.

“That’s good news, and it speaks to the collaboration that’s taken place.”

DPS’ detailed plan aims for better academic performance, as measured by test scores, and an improved culture/learning environment, as measured by attendance and discipline reports.

The plan includes numerous strategies for mastering new curriculum, training staff, evaluating feedback and more, with timelines and responsible parties identified for each step.

Huff-Franklin said the key now is to implement the plan consistently in all schools — an issue that ODE has said Dayton struggled with in the past.

Betsy Apolito, director of the State Support Team that has been assisting DPS, said 10 consultants have already spent nearly 4,000 hours providing training and coaching on curriculum, special education, leadership and more.

“We have flooded the district with services and support, to the total of 546 days of service from our staff,” Apolito said. “We’re very proud to be … welcomed by Superintendent (Lori) Ward, the district leadership team and the teachers and principals who are with us on a daily basis.”

Dayton school board member Adil Baguirov argued with ODE about its placement of Stivers, the highest-scoring school in the city, into the “watch schools” category. He cited a U.S. News and World Report ranking that called Stivers the 73rd-best high school in Ohio.

“I fundamentally disagree with this designation,” Baguirov said. “It’s independently certified that (Stivers) is better than Centerville or Springboro.”

Jo Hannah Ward, director of ODE’s Office of Improvement and Innovation, explained Ohio’s system — which is much different than the magazine’s — put Stivers in the watch group because its students with disabilities are not making sufficient progress.

Baguirov, who has pushed for more local control for school districts, also asked ODE officials why they only sent 10 consultants if they say DPS has 29 schools that need help.

Huff-Franklin said there’s not funding for unlimited consultants. And ODE’s Ward replied that the idea is not for the team to take over each school, but to help put procedures in place so DPS can run its own schools well.

School board member Nancy Nerny said she is encouraged by changes she has seen this year.

“The district leadership team’s process now is much more defined by the data they have,” she said. “I see teachers and administrators … listening to reports from the buildings and giving suggestions back — that’s that spiraling effect you’re talking about. This is really a good process, but we just have to keep our (focus) to get that done.”