Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Rhonda Corr was placed on administrative leave late Tuesday night — the latest development in her 17-month tenure that has seen controversy amid some bright spots.
Dayton school board members promoted Elizabeth Lolli, associate superintendent, to acting superintendent.
Few details are known about why Corr has been placed on leave. She could not immediately be reached by phone or at her residence for comment.
She was an award-winning principal and administrator in Cleveland. But Corr was laid off as an area superintendent for Chicago Public Schools in 2015 after CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who hired her, was ousted and convicted of wire fraud. Corr has said she had nothing to do with Byrd-Bennett’s wrongdoing.
“I am here because I’ve done the work in Chicago. I built my own central office team, and we turned around the schools quickly,” Corr said as a Dayton finalist.
She took a circuitous route to Dayton after Chicago, first pausing as an academic improvement officer with Indianapolis Public Schools in 2015.
DPS hired Corr in June 2016 after voting not to renew a contract with former Superintendent Lori Ward.
Days after Corr was hired, DPS faced strife with the city of Dayton over dueling levy plans to address preschool funding. That was followed in August by problems with student busing, then a month-long controversy over layoffs Corr proposed, many of which were eventually postponed.
Then in February the board, by 6-0 vote, gave her a three-year contract extension.
“We feel very confident based on her vision and based on some of the things that we’ve already begun to address,” school board President Robert Walker said of Corr at the time. “We’re really excited about some reports you’re going to receive, and feel that this community will become even more confident in us moving ahead with Superintendent Corr.”
But year since has seen several issues:
• In April, the Ohio High School Athletic Association put the district on probation for trying to rig a football game. OHSAA issued DPS what is believed to be its stiffest penalty in more than a century, citing “a serious lack of administrative responsibility and institutional control” in handing the district an immediate three-year probation for all boys and girls sports for all six high schools and a $10,000 fine. It’s believed to be the first time in OHSAA history that an entire school district was found in violation of its bylaws.
• The district had a long, painful contract fight over the summer with teachers that nearly led to a strike. After the teachers’ contract fight was resolved, the teachers union issued a vote of no confidence in both Corr and the school board. Corr said the vote surprised her, saying the vote ignored “work the Board, my team, the teachers and I have done to resolve long-standing challenges that occurred before my arrival to DPS.”
• After some positive momentum on the 2015-16 state report card, Dayton Public Schools’ placement on state test scores slid backward in 2016-17. While some overall proficiency rates increased, DPS ranked 607th out of 608 Ohio school districts in “performance index,” the most complete measure of test achievement.
After her first year, the board gave her a positive evaluation. Early drafts of her evaluation graded her lower in the areas of personnel management and accepting responsibility, the Dayton Daily News found through an examination of public records.
The official evaluation credited Corr for improvements in student busing, rollout of student technology and educational software, launching new career tech and online school opportunities, winning state grants for school improvement, as well as less tangible things such as “her willingness to propose bold change” and “her tenacity in facing institutional hurdles in place for many years.”
Corr has maintained that change takes time.
“It is a shame that so much attention is given to negativity and it tries to take us away from this urgently important work of student achievement, academically and social-emotionally,” Corr said after her evaluation. “… we truly appreciate the greater Dayton community for their support and encouragement.”
Staff Writer Marc Pendelton contributed reporting.