Gadfly Bites 4/18/18 - There's no business like shoe business

  1. Can you stand hearing more about A-to-F grading for Ohio’s schools? Me too! This piece posits two factions competing to redesign report cards before the overall A-to-F grading of schools and districts is implemented. One is the General Assembly via HB 591. The other is the State Board of Education via a lot of review panels. Both of these factions are against the idea of a single overall grade and want it stopped before it goes into effect, even if a replacement isn’t at hand by then. Added to the discussion are “outside” perspectives: a former state board member (who also doesn’t seem to care for overall A-to-F grades) and Fordham (whose detailed report card redesign—including overall A-to-F grades—is discussed and quoted here). I can just feel the love. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4/17/18)
  2. At last! The Ohio State University has finally closed a deal with Columbus City Schools to buy up a long-vacant former school building. Last we heard, back in November, the two titanic bureaucracies were unable to finalize a deal despite preferential consideration for the university and a bargain-basement price offered to them. At that time, it was said that the labyrinthine nature of decision making within these two giant red tape machines led to the breakdown. But the two sides clearly persevered—absent any other interest in the building, it seems—and came to an agreement this week. I can’t imagine that the situation has changed in regard to the bureaucratic nature of the entities, and it seems that only two substantive facets of the deal appear to have changed since November. First, the building is now described as a huge, distressed money pit. And second, the university has agreed to put in writing that it won’t allow the building to be used as a K-12 school that would “compete” with the district. Wonder which of those changes finally sealed the deal? (Columbus Dispatch, 4/17/18)
  3. Speaking of money, how about a trio of $$$-related stories from Dayton? First up, Dayton City Schools this week agreed to a settlement with an architecture firm regarding what it documented as 2,314 “design errors and omissions” in plans for two school renovation projects from several years ago that caused, I imagine, quite the headache at the time. Kudos, I guess, for both the settlement and for the fact that both buildings are still standing. The final settlement? $1.6 million and no admission of fault. It is unclear how much of this money will go to the district and how much will go to the state’s school facilities commission, so hopefully no one in Dayton is spending the windfall just yet. (Dayton Daily News, 4/17/18). Next we have some deets on the new contract between the district and its bus drivers – you know, the one that narrowly avoided a crippling strike last week? The two-year deal includes raises ranging from 7 to 14 percent, all of which are retroactive to the beginning of this school year. Now THAT’S a chunk of change. There is also a new attendance bonus system for drivers. But it’s not all giveaways. No sirree. The hardened negotiators extracted a bitter (one suspects) concession from drivers that they all must wear a uniform shirt. And just as soon as the “dress code committee” figures out what that shirt will be, and the district shells out to buy those shirts, everybody will HAVE to wear them. So much for that architect settlement money, I guess. (Dayton Daily News, 4/18/18) Finally, there’s some great fiscal discipline/internal controls/procedural compliance news for Dayton City Schools. And who doesn’t love that? It’s so great that I want you to hear it from the source—the district’s internal auditor: “We were able to confirm that 100 percent of athletic deposits at the school buildings had been deposited to the treasurer and are accounted for.” I know what you’re thinking—that this is perhaps not “news”; but simply a confirmation that business operations are functioning in the way they are supposed to. But it is in fact the first time in at least four school years that Dayton City Schools has been able to say this and have it actually be true. But hold your applause because unfortunately, says the DDN, “issues remain”. (Dayton Daily News, 4/17/18)
  4. We’ll title this one Mr. Brenner Goes to Youngstown. As in, State Representative Andy Brenner, one of the sponsors of HB 70 which—among other things—created the CEO-style Academic Distress Commission for low-performing Ohio school districts, visited the site of the first such ADC earlier this week. He said his mission was to try and find out why the effort was “never fully accepted by the full education community” in Youngstown. Simple, right? This brief piece doesn’t inspire much confidence that he found his answer, but if he does manage to do so, hopefully he will next turn his prodigious gifts to figuring out the truth behind Area 51 and why boxes of saltines on store shelves are always crushed on that one corner. (Youngstown Vindicator, 4/17/18)
  5. Two stories from Akron to end the day. As my loyal Gadfly Bites subscribers will recall, there are big changes coming to Akron City Schools next year. At this week’s board meeting, we learned some important details on how the district’s new College and Career Academies will operate as well as all of the contract changes that teachers in LeBron James’ new I Promise School had to agree to based on its revolutionary new structure. (Akron Beacon Journal, 4/17/18) Speaking of LeBron, will he and Nike team up to publicly release a shoe honoring his alma mater St. Vincent-St. Mary High School? If I’m reading this correctly, the answer seems to be probably not, but that doesn’t stop the sneakerverse—and the ABJ—from speculating. (Akron Beacon Journal, 4/17/18)
Jeff Murray
Jeff Murray is the Ohio Operations Manager of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute,