This morning in Fordham's hometown of Dayton, four education leaders and advocates working for change in the city of Dayton spoke on a panel. Among those in the audience included district leaders, parochial and charter school principals, and legislators. The panel included Fordham's Terry Ryan, the Superintendent of Dayton Public Schools Lori Ward, President of Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School Dan Meixner, and Kevin Kelly, Dean of the School of Education and Allied Professions at the University of Dayton.
The panel spoke to the different challenges facing the Dayton community and the desperate need for education reform in the city. While the panelists disagreed about certain things there were two big areas of agreement that stood out.
The need for a supportive community
The moderator, Ellen Belcher from the Dayton Daily News, asked a question about what was needed of the Dayton community to foster reforms in education and move the city in the right direction. The panelists agreed that community support and involvement is crucial for education reform; however, they noted that it is extremely difficult to build in Dayton because of a variety of factors. They noted that obstacles, such as children coming to school hungry or who have even seen a parent been shot before their eyes, bring challenges to the classroom that are difficult to overcome. It is also no secret to anyone in the Dayton community or the state for that matter that the city is struggling economically. ?With the recent departure of major corporations such as NCR the Dayton community has had the wind knocked out of its sails. These setbacks not only impact those who lost their jobs, but the community at large. Talented and influential leaders that could be a crucial part of solving the problem are becoming less and less available, and Dayton needs to stem their loss.
Good teachers matter
This sentiment is one that the panelists seemed to agree on wholeheartedly. Everyone agreed that teachers are the most important component of a child's success in the classroom. In order for students to gain the best education possible they must be taught by the best and brightest teachers, and for this to happen a meaningful evaluation system must be put in place that allows for the best and worst teachers to be identified. Lori Ward, DPS Superintendent said it best when she said ?when you have a weak link, they have to go, plain and simple.? Ohio districts must work towards a fair and objective evaluation system that meaningfully evaluates teachers based on student data, peer reviews, and their commitment to the school and its overall growth.
As a Dayton native and someone who cares about the future of the city very much, I left the event both with a sense of sadness for a city that was once thriving and now barely breathing,?yet optimistic?because of the sense of urgency and provocative ideas for reform that were present among the panelists and audience today. Increasing community involvement and creating a teacher evaluation system are just two tools for reforming the condition of education in the Gem City. There are many more that must be utilized. At the end of the day Dayton must find a way to pick itself up and attract talented and young individuals who can educate the youth of the city. Dayton must find and inject talented people into schools if they want to see results. This is easier said than done, but we must find a way to persevere for the future of the children of Dayton.