Archdeacon: Former UD hoops standout dedicates life to helping kids

Tobette Pleasant, an undersized post player for the Dayton Flyers in the late 1980s, was the team’s MVP as a junior and a senior and ended her career with 1,308 points and 783 rebounds. (University of Dayton Photo)

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Tobette Pleasant, an undersized post player for the Dayton Flyers in the late 1980s, was the team’s MVP as a junior and a senior and ended her career with 1,308 points and 783 rebounds. (University of Dayton Photo)

She wanted it to be about caps and gowns…not caskets.

“I got tired of going to funerals for my kids,” Tobette Pleasant-Brown said the other day. “During that time there was a lot of gang stuff going on and it seemed like every week there was another funeral for one of my kids.”

A former University of Dayton women’s basketball standout, Flyers’ assistant coach and then a longtime Dayton Public Schools girls basketball coach, Pleasant-Brown was talking about the decade she spent as a probation officer for the Montgomery County Juvenile Courts.

Sue Ramsey, who coached Pleasant at UD, then added her to her staff and has been her lifelong friend – “We call each other sisters now,” Ramsey said – remembers those probation officer days:

“Numerous times when I was visiting her, we’d be watching the news at night and there’d be a story about some young person being shot and she’d say ‘That’s one of my kids!’ “And after a while, I was like ‘Wow. How do you separate that in your life? How do you sleep?’”

Pleasant-Brown admits it took a toll on her: “I got tired of it and I knew I had to make a change and somehow catch these kids earlier in their lives.

“As a probation officer I dealt with a lot of kids involved in delinquent behavior and it turned out 90 percent of them were either skipping school or not going anymore at all when they were participating in those (negative) activities. I had to try to keep them in school before they got into real trouble.”

And so, in 2005, she became a truant officer for Dayton Public Schools.

Today that job is more important than ever.

A recent Ohio Department of Education study found chronic absenteeism – defined as a student missing at least 10 percent of the school days for any reason – was rising in schools across the state, just as it was across the nation.

In the 2020-21 school year – the last year for which statewide data has been collected – the chronic absenteeism rate jumped to 24 percent in Ohio. The DPS had the highest rate among local school districts at 53.1 percent.

While that towers over some surrounding suburban school districts – Bellbrook (4.2%), Kettering (5.1), Centerville (10.6) – it’s almost identical to Cleveland Public Schools (54 percent) and less than Springfield (58) and Columbus (74).

The absentee rates here spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic – and the quarantines and remote learning requirements that came with it – but now that the virus threat has lessened and students are back learning in person, absenteeism still has been a persistent problem.

And that can lead to myriad problems: poorer grades, lower test scores and lower graduation rates.

“At times Dayton Public Schools and kids in our (Dayton) community are looked at differently than kids in other schools,” Pleasant-Brown said. “And that bothers me.”

Being a product of the Dayton Public Schools – she was a four-time All City hoops standout at Colonel White High and later coached at her alma mater and then Thurgood Marshall, where she also was the athletics director – Pleasant Brown knows the city schools and the people in them:

“I know there are a large number of teachers who care about their kids and want to make sure they are being educated. And my job is to help make that happen.”

Ramsey, who would go on to great success at Ashland University – her teams won 367 games in her 20 seasons, the NCAA Division II national championship in 2013, finished as runners-up the year prior and she won National Coach of the Year honors, was enshrined in Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame and Miami University Cradle of Coaches and now tours the nation as a sought-after motivational speaker – knows Pleasant-Brown well.

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Tobette Pleasant-Brown on her 1993 wedding day at UD Arena with her mother Betty. She was married at midcourt. Head coach Sue Ramsey was her maid of honor and her bridesmaids included assistant coach Tammy Stritenberger, former Flyers teammates Lisa Green and Kaihra Goodman and Trona Logan, the Central State star who had played at Dunbar and later coached at CSU. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Tobette Pleasant-Brown on her 1993 wedding day at UD Arena with her mother Betty. She was married at midcourt. Head coach Sue Ramsey was her maid of honor and her bridesmaids included assistant coach Tammy Stritenberger, former Flyers teammates Lisa Green and Kaihra Goodman and Trona Logan, the Central State star who had played at Dunbar and later coached at CSU. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

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Tobette Pleasant-Brown on her 1993 wedding day at UD Arena with her mother Betty. She was married at midcourt. Head coach Sue Ramsey was her maid of honor and her bridesmaids included assistant coach Tammy Stritenberger, former Flyers teammates Lisa Green and Kaihra Goodman and Trona Logan, the Central State star who had played at Dunbar and later coached at CSU. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

She was her maid of honor when her then assistant coach was married at midcourt in UD Arena and she’s the godmother of Pleasant-Brown son’s DeVaughn.

“I can sum Tobette up in one word,” she said. “Heart.

“She has an incredible capacity for love and compassion She just has a beautiful heart that looks out for the best interests of others.

“And Dayton truly is her passion. She has an attitude of wanting to give back to a place where she grew up and learned so much. She’s become just such a powerful and great influence in people’s lives.”

Pleasant-Brown, who deals with absenteeism in area grade schools and middle schools – some of which recently have soared to 90 percent attendance rates – said:

“The plus for me is seeing the younger kids I’m working with move on to high school and be a success.

“I normally try to attend as many graduations as possible and when those kids’ names are called, it’s a tremendous reward to see how they’ve turned things around and are getting their diplomas and moving on to be successful adults in the community.”

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Tobette Pleasant, the Dayton Flyers’ 5-foot-10 post player, scores against DePaul. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Tobette Pleasant, the Dayton Flyers’ 5-foot-10 post player, scores against DePaul. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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Tobette Pleasant, the Dayton Flyers’ 5-foot-10 post player, scores against DePaul. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

From Colonel White to UD

Growing up on Vernon Drive in West Dayton, she was the youngest of Herbert and Betty Pleasant’s seven kids.

Princeton Park was nearby, and she used to follow two of her older brothers there. One played basketball at Colonel White and the other was a Cougars’ football player.

“I was kind of tomboy and whatever they did, I wanted to do, too,” she said. “And back then, my brother-in-law – he played pro football – he was dating my sister and used to take me to play basketball, too.”

She played for Carolyn Woodley at Colonel White, won first team All-Ohio honors in 1985 and drew interest from several colleges.

She chose UD, in part, because she wanted to say close to home so her dad – who she said had suffered a partially-paralyzing spinal cord injury while working at DPL – could come see her play.

“I was the first in my family to go to college,” she said.

Linda Makowski recruited her to UD and coached her as a freshman. A year later Ramsey took over the Flyers’ program and Pleasant’s career blossomed.

A 5-foot-10 post player, she was the MVP of the team as a junior and a senior and won All Midwestern Collegiate Conference honors her final season.

She ended her career with 1,308 points and 783 rebounds.

After playing a year of professional basketball in Oberhausen, Germany, she returned to Dayton and joined Ramsey’s staff as grad assistant for two years. She has a master’s degree in social agency counseling.

After that she was hired fulltime to the UD staff until Ramsey was replaced by Clemette Haskins following the 1993-94 season.

A year later Ramsey launched her stellar second act at Ashland, but Pleasant-Brown stayed in Dayton.

In 1993, she had married Greg Brown in the gala affair at the Arena that not only included Ramsey in the bridal party, but also assistant coach Tammy Stritenberger, former Flyers teammates Lisa Green and Kaihra Goodman and Trona Logan, the Central State star who had played at Dunbar and later coached at CSU.

Although she and Brown eventually would split up, they remained friends and committed parents and DeVaughn went on to graduate from Wittenberg University.

While working as a probation officer, Pleasant Brown became a volunteer coach with the Colonel White girls’ basketball team. After four years she became an assistant and then took over as the Cougars’ head coach in 2004.

In just her second season she was named the City League Coach of the Year.

That same year she became a truant officer.

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Head coach Tobette Pleasant-Brown with her Thurgood Marshall team. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Head coach Tobette Pleasant-Brown with her Thurgood Marshall team. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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Head coach Tobette Pleasant-Brown with her Thurgood Marshall team. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Finding solutions

Pleasant Brown remains ninth on the Flyers all-time rebounds list.

Her senior season she averaged 10.3 boards (and 16.9 points) per game. She closed out her Flyers’ career scoring 30 points and grabbing 18 rebounds against Marquette.

“At 5-foot-10, she was an undersized post player,” Ramsey said. “But she was extremely competitive and very strong and she loved to battle on the boards.”

That little glory, roll up your sleeves and work approach carries over to her current job.

There’s not a lot of fanfare when you tromp around neighborhoods across Dayton, knocking on doors, trying to find out from parents and students what’s needed to get the kids back in school.

There are numerous reasons why children don’t go to school: Unstable housing, transportation issues, negative influences from the neighborhood, language barriers, bullying, teen pregnancy, a need to work, poor academic performance, parents who are younger than ever and have had no time to build their own stable foundation, aging grandparents who are forced to raise kids sometimes 60 and 70 years younger than them. The list goes on and on.

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Tobette Pleasant-Brown, a truant officer for Dayton Public Schools, visiting a student’s home. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Tobette Pleasant-Brown, a truant officer for Dayton Public Schools, visiting a student’s home. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

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Tobette Pleasant-Brown, a truant officer for Dayton Public Schools, visiting a student’s home. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Pleasant Brown said her approach is not about placing blame, but instead finding solutions to the problems.

It’s beneficial that she grew up in Dayton, coached here and remains active in the community.

“It’s helpful that they see me out and about,” said the 56-year-old Pleasant Brown. “They’ll see me at events or maybe in the grocery store and go, ‘That’s the lady who knocked on my door and was looking for my kid.” And many have seen firsthand that she cares.

“Since I’ve become a truant officer, it’s amazing how many families I’ve come across where I once dealt with the parents when they were juveniles,” she said.

“They’re very receptive of me coming to check on their kids. They know I didn’t stand for any (foolishness) when I was a probation officer and I’m not gonna stand for it now.

“I had success stories back then, too, and those kids – they’re adults now – they appreciate it.

“They say, ‘Miss Brown, I just want to thank you for sticking with me and forcing me to change. I don’t know where I’d be if you hadn’t stayed on me.’”

She hopes those successes from the past continue into her future, as well.

“I feel this is where I need to be,” she said. “It’s my job, my goal, to make sure that kids are educated in this community.”

She wants to keep going to graduations…not funerals.

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