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What you told us: Teachers should be top priority for Dayton schools

Teachers should be the number one priority of the Dayton Board of Education as it works on the turnaround of the Dayton Public Schools, according to an analysis of public feedback at a recent town hall meeting sponsored by the Dayton Daily News.

As part of the newspaper’s Path Forward project seeking solutions to some of the community’s most pressing issues, the Daily News assembled written and verbal feedback from more than 60 attendees at the October event at Dayton’s Omega Baptist Church. They were asked about the district’s strengths, what district leaders can do to improve, and what the community can do to help DPS.

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An analysis of their input found the word “teachers” was used more than any other term.

One wrote that “strong, committed, good teachers” were a DPS asset. Another wrote: “Some of the teacher are too lax with students.”

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Attendee Mark Donelson wrote “enhancing teacher training” and “improving teacher quality” should be focuses of district leadership.

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“We have got to get back to the basics of making sure our teachers are not just caring, but they are also trained properly in all things they are failing in,” he said in a follow-up interview.

He said it needs to start with teachers showing up: The Daily News has reported that some schools in the district struggle to get teachers to consistently come to work.

Donelson has children who graduated from DPS, and is currently a real estate agent with more than 100 properties in Dayton. He said the school district makes it hard to sell property to people in the city.

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“Whenever I look at my tax bill with the tremendous amount that’s going to Dayton Public Schools, I’m like ‘What are they doing with the money?’” he said.

Donelson said the district needs to aggressively recruit graduates from Central State University and Wright State University, and offer more training and incentives than one or two days of professional development at the Mandalay.

Behind “teachers” in the feedback from the town hall, people referenced “students.” Many of these people stressed the important of involving students in the decision-making process as adults look to improve the schools.

The third most common thing referenced in the feedback was “community.”

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This includes George Sherer, who asked: “What specific things does the DPS want from the community?”

The Daily News posed this question to Jocelyn Rhynard, a DPS board member who attended the town hall. She said the district has hired a new position specifically to identify the best ways volunteers and community groups can support the district without distracting from instruction.

“There’s a desire for the community to help,” she said. “But how can we make that help meaningful and productive?”

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The board’s main focuses, Rhynard said, are the same as those named at the forum: teachers and students showing up and doing their best work.

“We need to get test scores up,” she said, “so we need to focus on giving teachers every opportunity they have to teach, and we need to focus on parents getting their kids to school as long as they’re healthy.”

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