Dayton’s new, old school board members discuss change

Dec 06, 2017
During a team-building exercise Tuesday, (from left) incoming Dayton school board member Mohamed Al-Hamdani talks to new acting superintendent Elizabeth Lolli. Director of Strategic Communication Venita Kelley, four months into her job, talks to incoming school board member Karen Wick-Gagnet. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Dayton’s current and incoming school board members met Tuesday night to discuss the upcoming transition, balancing a desire to honor the good of the past with making the board more efficient in the future.

For one night, there was no discussion of Superintendent Rhonda Corr’s Dec. 13 discipline hearing.

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At the end of the meeting, newly elected board members raised several concerns.

Karen Wick-Gagnet cited a need for more organized, well-functioning meetings. Mohamed Al-Hamdani pushed for work on a long-term strategic plan. William Harris sought guidance on how best to pursue information on district issues. Jocelyn Rhynard said board members need to have more interaction with schools and families.

“I think it’s important if we truly want to put our kids first, we need to know what’s going on in the schools on a regular basis,” she said. “We need to interact with the children, interact with the teachers, so that we can ask questions and get feedback.”

Rhynard’s suggestion is a frequent fine line for school board members, who want to be well-informed, but also try to be aware of the “chain of command.” Dayton school board policy says the basic line of communication between board members and staff is through the superintendent.

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“Board members must recognize that their presence in school buildings could be subject to a variety of interpretations by school employees,” DPS board policy reads.

Multiple current and incoming school board members talked about the learning curve new board members face. Board President Robert Walker said the biggest challenge is understanding Ohio school law and numerous other regulations.

“You have to integrate all that information and apply it at appropriate times,” Walker said. “And as soon as you learn what the rules are, they change them.”

The school board may schedule an extra meeting next week to discuss who will serve as board president and vice president for 2018, plus who will take roles on committees covering academics, finance, technology, athletics and more.

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Those roles will be made official at the board’s organizational meeting Jan. 9.

Outgoing member Ron Lee, who did not run for re-election after 10 years on the board, said he was glad to see a new group coming in. He encouraged them to look at existing plans to see where the district has been. But he said in going through 18 years of school documents in his home recently, he realized a problem.

“As I looked over what I was throwing away … I realized we haven’t changed greatly enough,” Lee said. “The same issues are still on the table. The same perspectives are on the table in how we’re going forward. I just looked at that in disbelief. … Education today is not the education of yesterday. If we don’t get out of yesterday, then we’re not teaching for our children.”

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