‘It takes all of us to step into this thing’
Parents, community members offer ideas for improving Dayton Public School performance.
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.