School, city officials call for collaboration

New Dayton Public Schools superintendent Rhonda Corr and Dayton City Commissioner Jeff Mims both told a crowd Thursday that the fates of the city and the school district are tightly tied together, and they need to work together toward success.

Dozens of people gathered at Central State’s Dayton Campus for the Miami Valley Organizing Collaborative’s meet-and-greet with Corr.

“We have two years to quickly turn around Dayton Public Schools and we have to work together with the community,” Corr said. “The schools cannot operate in silos away from the community. I truly believe that as the community goes, so go the schools, and as the schools go, so goes the community.”

There has been tension in recent days because both city and school district officials said they were unaware of each other’s plans for overlapping levies in November.

Corr, who has been superintendent for a few weeks, said that she was “not privy to comment on what options are available” concerning DPS’ levy. The school district had planned a 5-mill property tax levy to fund expanded preschool, summer and after-school programs.

But the city has placed a 0.25 percent income tax increase on the November ballot, and says that measure also would pay to expand preschool access in Dayton.

School board member Joe Lacey said he’s not sure whether the school board will delay its levy, move forward with it, or adjust it.

Board member Robert Walker said some school board and city commission members met in late June after the city’s levy announcement. Walker said he wasn’t sure how DPS would move forward, but he remained optimistic.

“We had, I thought, a real productive meeting,” he said. “We’re scheduling to meet again soon to pick up on that. I’m hopeful that we will be able to look at ways that we can serve this community together, and work to make this a win-win.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley confirmed that city and school officials are trying to schedule a follow-up meeting.

School Board President Adil Baguirov says DPS has been open and transparent about its levy process. This newspaper reported this week that it had heard no board discussion of a school levy before June 25. Baguirov pointed out that the school board had a “levy update” from Lacey at its May 5 strategic planning meeting.

Lacey said he briefly informed the board that day of an upcoming poll to measure community support for potential levies, depending on whether they would fund computers for students, preschool/afterschool programs or increased teacher salaries.

Mims, a former Dayton school board president, agreed that DPS should be the clear leader for K-12 education, but he emphasized that the city and schools could work together on preschool, summer school and after-school programs. He pushed for the schools’ athletic director to work with the city’s recreation department, and for both entities to collaborate on their “males of color” initiatives.

“As we’ve seen changes over the decades, this community and school system are not in the position to offer to kids what they offered to my children years ago,” Mims said. “It’s our job as adults to work together more to make sure we’re creating better opportunities.”

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