‘It takes all of us to step into this thing’

Par­ents, com­mu­nity mem­bers of­fer ideas for im­prov­ing Day­ton Pub­lic School per­for­mance.

Dayton Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By Josh Sweigart | Staff Writer

ozens of par­ents and com­mu­nity mem­bers — dis­play­ing a com­bi­na­tion of pas­sion, pride and re­solve to fix prob­lems in the Day­ton Pub­lic Schools — as­sem­bled Thurs­day night to dis­cuss a path for­ward for a dis­trict that faces a pos­si­ble state takeover af­ter post­ing the worst re­port card in Ohio this year.

“It takes a vil­lage. It takes all of us to step into this thing and make this thing hap­pen,” res­i­dent Ray Hollingsworth said to ap­plause.

He was one of roughly 60 peo­ple at a town hall meet­ing to dis­cuss how the school dis­trict and com­mu­nity can work to­gether to im­prove the per­for­mance of DPS.

The Day­ton Daily News hosted the event as part of its ini­tia­tive,

The Path For­ward, which was cre­ated to help the com­mu­nity find so­lu­tions to press­ing prob­lems: the ad­dic­tion cri­sis, adding good-pay­ing jobs in the re­gion and im­prov­ing the per­for­mance and per­cep­tion of DPS.

The event was de­signed to get com­mu­nity in­put on pos­si­ble so­lu­tions to is­sues that hurt stu­dent per­for­mance. The per­for­mance of Day­ton Pub­lic Schools, many be­lieve, is key to the re­gion’s eco­nomic pros­per­ity.

Thurs­day’s event was held at Omega Bap­tist Church on Emer­son Av­enue in part­ner­ship with the church. Vanessa Ward, co-pas­tor of Omega, is a mem­ber of the com­mu­nity ad­vi­sory board that pro­vides feed­back and in­put to The Path For­ward team.

School board mem­ber Jo­ce­lyn Rhy­nard at­tended and said she heard com­mon themes the dis­trict is work­ing to ad­dress, such as bus­ing, neigh­bor­hood schools and com­mu­nity and par­ent en­gage­ment.

“We need to get par­ents in­volved in their kids’ ed­u­ca­tion,” she said.

Group dis­cus­sion fo­cused on sev­eral ques­tions. One asked what strengths the dis­trict can build on. An­swers in­cluded: di­ver­sity, ex­panded preschool, com­mit­ted teach­ers, thriv­ing stu­dents at some dis­trict schools and com­mu­nity com­mit­ment as ev­i­denced by Thurs­day’s event.

An­other ques­tion sought to iden­tify the most im­por­tant ac­tion the dis­trict should take to im­prove per­for­mance. An­swers in­cluded: de­creas­ing class sizes, hir­ing more para­pro­fes­sion­als, en­cour­ag­ing par­ent in­volve­ment (in­clud­ing hold­ing par­ent-teacher con­fer­ences at more con­ve­nient times), look­ing at how the dis­trict spends its money and re­ly­ing less on sub­sti­tute teach­ers.

Peo­ple were also asked what the com­mu­nity can do to help DPS. An­swers in­cluded hav­ing the city work­ing to ad­dress ar­eas of the city where res­i­dents have fewer op­por­tu­ni­ties, busi­ness-school part­ner­ships, peo­ple vol­un­teer­ing to men­tor stu­dents and me­dia and oth­ers fo­cus­ing on the dis­trict’s suc­cesses and not just on its set­backs.

Sev­eral peo­ple ques­tioned the dis­trict’s de­ci­sion to spend $537,000 over two years to boost en­roll­ment and at­ten­dance, say­ing that money would be bet­ter spent on teach­ers.

DPS Su­per­in­ten­dent El­iz­a­beth Lolli has said the spend­ing will pay for ev­ery­thing from bill­boards and RTA bus ads to ra­dio spots and di­rect mail.

“We want the word to get out to every­one that Day­ton Pub­lic Schools are chang­ing for the bet­ter, and we want them to un­der­stand the changes that are hap­pen­ing,” Lolli said. “Our par­ents need to have their stu­dents in school ev­ery day. Stu­dents need to know that school mat­ters, and we want every­one to be there.”

An­other is­sue raised was the need for ca­reer-tech train­ing at more than just Ponitz Ca­reer Tech­nol­ogy Cen­ter. This is some­thing Lolli said ear­lier Thurs­day that the dis­trict is work­ing on.

The news­pa­per will sift through the com­ments from the meet­ing, talk with DPS of­fi­cials and write sto­ries over the next sev­eral weeks on the best ideas for spear­head­ing a DPS turn­around.

Karen Ross, an­other event at­tendee, said DPS was a great school sys­tem when she was a stu­dent and can be again with com­mu­nity in­volve­ment.

“My hope is that DPS re­turns to where it used to be,” she said.

Con­tact this re­porter at 937328-0374 or email Josh. Sweigart@cox­inc.com.

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