Dayton Public Schools administrators say they’ll begin the second half of the school year focused on student academics, while the new school board said it will try to put together a long-term vision for the district.
But they’ll be managing those tasks while two other significant issues hang in the balance – Superintendent Rhonda Corr is still on paid administrative leave six weeks after the school board spelled out allegations of mismanagement against her.
And DPS is considering closing multiple under-enrolled schools next fall, with a new task force formed Thursday and community meetings planned in March.
But when asked her most important goal for the coming months, Acting Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said student learning remains No. 1.
“The focus for Dayton Public Schools is still on academic achievement. We need to move the report card indicators in a positive direction,” Lolli said, months after DPS posted the second-lowest test index of Ohio’s 608 school districts. “So we’re continuing to focus on high-quality instruction. We still are working with teachers and principals, so the data … is informing our instructional practices each and every day.”
School board member William Harris is expected to be named board president at Tuesday’s DPS meeting. He said the board wants to work as a team to establish a vision that is comprehensive and understandable. But he understands there’s a lot on the school board’s plate right now.
“I think you get to it bit by bit,” Harris said. “I’m looking forward to us doing that strong work that needs to be done between the board, the teachers union and the community to establish that vision, and bit by bit look to implement that vision. It does take time. It’s not overnight.”
Harris said the vision will be a team effort, but he said it has to focus on what’s best for all students, with an eye to “the whole person.”
“We want to make sure all of our students are equipped for this technological age that we live in,” he said.
Lolli said she’s “very confident” that the academic direction built in the past 18 months is the right one to help those students, with improved core instruction, student technology, career tech options, and an articulated course of study.
She said DPS will continue to make tweaks where needed, saying some instructional materials that haven’t produced results will likely be changed this year.
“We also want to reconnect with the business community, the city and the county to create those strong positive relationships that will only enhance the work we’re trying to do in the district,” Lolli said.
Lolli said the central office leadership and school principals started discussing in early December, “what else is needed, what is missing, what has a potential impact … to make sure we’re ready to go no matter what for fall.”
In the meantime, they’ll tackle issues such as the school closures, or “right-sizing” the district. Harris called that issue disheartening, but said it’s critical that DPS does what’s best fiscally for the district.
Lolli said DPS has a strong leadership team that is preparing for spring state testing, looking ahead to teacher and staff recruitment, and addressing busing after the surprise death of transportation director Michael Rosenberger in December after a short illness. She said all major changes will be done together with the school board.
“I think it’s a partnership, but I think this board is expecting leadership,” Lolli said. “And I think whenever a board expects leadership, that the leaders of the district should offer their ideas and recommendations.”