Dayton schools task force halts tour of buildings


The task force commissioned to study the potential closure of some Dayton Public Schools buildings cut short its planned tours of three schools Tuesday because of a pending legal challenge.

Dayton resident David Esrati on Tuesday morning sought a temporary restraining order preventing the task force from holding what he later called “private, illegal meetings.” Esrati’s legal challenge claims the task force is a “public body” as defined by statute, and that a gathering of members to tour buildings legally constitutes a meeting of that body.

A hearing on his legal filing is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

FIRST REPORT: Media questions prompt joint task force on Dayton schools to cancel meeting

Cox Media Group Ohio, parent company of WHIO and the Dayton Daily News, previously had fought for public access to the task force’s meetings, which were slated to be closed to the public and media. The task force responded by opening its primary meetings.

CMG Ohio also sought and received access to Tuesday’s task force tours of school buildings, agreeing to the school district’s request not to videotape inside schools because of privacy concerns for children, but intending to report about what happened on the tours.

Task force leaders appeared to be in communication with attorneys while the school bus carrying 14 of the 18 task force members and media was en route to the first school, Valerie Elementary.

EARLIER: Task force meets; Lolli says DPS is not closing 9 schools

When the bus arrived, acting DPS superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said any members of the group who were tied to Dayton city government should not take part in the tour. City Commissioner Jeff Mims said that was because of “legal issues we’re dealing with.”

The remaining members of the task force briefly toured Valerie Elementary’s kitchen, gym/cafeteria, mechanical rooms and one classroom that was not in use. At 52 years old, Valerie is one of the few schools that pre-dates DPS’ building boom of last decade.

Lolli and associate superintendent Sheila Burton gave task force members detailed data on where the students attending each DPS school live, to show population concentrations, and how many students are traveling across the city each day.

RELATED: Dayton mayor was at center of task force’s formation

As the task force headed back to the bus, Lolli told the group that legal counsel for the school district had advised the task force to stop the remaining school tours.

The group’s bus then drove to the two remaining schools, Meadowdale and Wogaman, stopping in each parking lot for a few minutes to hear information about enrollment numbers and each school’s physical condition. At each stop, one or two task force members asked questions seeking clarity on the data. But the task force members did not leave the bus, and eventually returned to DPS headquarters.

“The tour is not the issue. … The question is meeting in private,” Esrati said. “I was denied access while members of the conventional media were allowed. I said I’ll put away my equipment. They didn’t give me a response and they didn’t give me the right to participate.”

HISTORY: How did DPS reach this point on school buildings?

Asked why Esrati was not allowed into Valerie Elementary after he offered to put away his recording equipment, Lolli said to reporters, “We permitted task force members to participate as well as those identified news sources – the agencies you here represent – those were the members of the news that we permitted.”

Lolli repeated the group’s original claim that all of the task force’s meetings could legally be held privately if they chose. The group is not going that route and has a public meeting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Feb. 20 at DPS headquarters.

“We just didn’t want to have cameras inside the buildings disrupting education today,” Lolli said. “(Media) were permitted inside the building to tour with us. It wasn’t anything that was done in secret or against the law. But others believe it was, and we’ll wait and talk in front of the judge and hear what he has to say.”

RELATED: Dayton schools seek leadership, stability with Corr out

Lolli said the task force will move forward, with goals of serving students well and “right-sizing” the district’s facilities. Task force co-chair Mohamed Al-Hamdani said he’s confident in members’ continuing commitment.

“I haven’t seen the community this engaged in DPS in maybe 20 or 30 years,” Al-Hamdani said. “We can agree or disagree about certain issues, but the fact of the matter is parents are engaged, the community is engaged, and everybody’s voice being out there is a positive.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Meghan Markle’s coat of arms released: what does the emblem mean?
Meghan Markle’s coat of arms released: what does the emblem mean?

Less than a week after becoming the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle has received an official coat of arms approved by Queen Elizabeth II. According to Kensington Palace, the Duchess of Sussex is represented in the emblem by a songbird, with its wings elevated as if it is flying. The bird also has an open beak, with three quills that represent communication...
94-year-old pastor plans regional youth center in Fairborn
94-year-old pastor plans regional youth center in Fairborn

Plans are underway to reopen a former church in Fairborn as a youth and family center to serve residents in Greene, Clark and Montgomery counties. A rent-to-purchase contract has been signed with California-based CDF Holdings LLC, the owners of the former Emanuel Ministries property, 206 W. Dayton-Yellow Springs Road, according to the buyer, Pastor...
Apartments evacuated after air conditioner catches fire in Riverside
Apartments evacuated after air conditioner catches fire in Riverside

A Riverside apartment building has been evacuated after smoke from an air conditioner filled up a unit, according to firefighters. Crews were dispatched to the complex in the 4600 block of Penn Avenue around 3:10 p.m. after an air conditioner unit caught fire.  Officials said they are working to determine if the fire has spread to other parts...
License plates could cost drivers more in Miami County
License plates could cost drivers more in Miami County

A new $5 license tax may be coming to Miami County soon. The Miami County commissioners agreed this week to hold public hearings June 19 and 26 on a request by the county engineer to implement a $5 supplemental license tax to generate more money for county road maintenance. The hearings will be held at 9:10 a.m. both days in the commissioners hearing...
FREE CONCERT TICKETS: If you live in Huber Heights, the Rose is offering a special deal
FREE CONCERT TICKETS: If you live in Huber Heights, the Rose is offering a special deal

As part of their appreciation week, Rose Music Center will be giving away two tickets for two concerts this summer.  Beginning Tuesday, May 29, at 11 a.m. through Saturday, June 2 at 2 p.m. residents will have access to two free tickets to each of these shows:  JUNE 7 — Postmodern Jukebox JUNE 28 — Kenny G...
More Stories