DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Dayton Public Schools will hold a special meeting Tuesday night, and the future of Superintendent Rhonda Corr is on the agenda. Corr has been on paid administrative leave since November for allegations of misconduct and unprofessional behavior after getting a three-year contract extension last February.
After Dayton Public School Superintendent Lori Ward left in June 2016, parents were hopeful a new leader could turn around DPS. In the last 27 years, DPS has struggled with failing grades and has had six superintendents come through the district.
“To me, leadership with the school system is somebody who has a mission and a vision,” stated Danielle Sloane who has a daughter in kindergarten at Eastmont PreK-6.
“I don’t feel they’re being educated as well as they could be,” said Aubrey Groh, whose daughter is in fourth grade at Eastmont.
According to district documents, DPS budgeted $9,200 to find a new superintendent. Some Miami Valley districts, like Dayton and Trotwood-Madison contract with the Ohio School Boards Association and consultants to hire district leaders, therefore increasing the search cost. Other districts, like Piqua, and Centerville perform search work internally and therefore there is no cost associated with the search.
|2016||Beavercreek City Schools||$18,643|
|2000||Brookville Local Schools||$0|
|2009||Centerville City Schools||$0|
|2016||Dayton Public Schools||$9,200|
|2012||Huber Heights City Schools||$0|
|2014||Kettering City Schools||$0|
|2016||Piqua City Schools||$0|
|2016||Springboro Community Schools||$7,031|
|2015||Tipp City Schools||$0|
|2018||Trotwood-Madison City Schools||$4,700|
Adil Baguirov was president of the school board at the time.
“Our process was much longer and let’s say more complex than pretty much any other school district here in the area,” admitted Baguirov. “We had this heavy burden of making a decision for the best of thousands of people.”
Baguirov said they started with roughly two dozen candidates. After applications were vetted, candidates were weeded out, and the pool was narrowed down during three formal interview stages.
“The third stage was a public stage where we allowed the public to actually grade and give us their feedback about the candidates,” said Baguirov. He said the board met with several DPS principals who were adamant a new superintendent had to have principal experience, which Corr did.
The third stage came down to Gregory Roberson, Ed.D. – a district employee, Dan Schroer – who is now Springboro Schools superintendent, and Rhonda Corr.
“I would like to take the work I did in Chicago and quickly turn around the Dayton Public Schools. I have the skill-set. I have the plan,” said Corr in June 2016 during the public interview forum.
“What also made her a very strong candidate is that she had a lot of experience in different parts of education, which is something as superintendent, as a manager, has to be able to oversee,” said Baguirov. “You have to be able to select someone who is overall very well-versed in those different things.”
In June 2016, the district announced Corr would be taking over as superintendent on a one-year contract for $140,000. She started with DPS in July bringing with her extensive urban school experience. Corr held top positions in Cleveland, Chicago, and Indianapolis. Prior to working for DPS, she was the Academic Instructional Officer with Indianapolis Public Schools. Before that, she was the Chief of Schools for Chicago Public School District from August 2013 until July 2015.
But now, the woman entrusted to lead DPS is on paid administrative leave, embroiled in a legal battle. Corr is facing a number of allegations of unprofessional behavior including falling asleep during a meeting, not showing up for district events like the Math Olympics and the 2017 DPS convocation, canceling scheduled meetings, and creating a hostile work environment. A pre-disciplinary hearing notice outlines the allegations and also accuses her of essentially committing insurance fraud.
2 NEWS has been in contact with her attorney Jon Paul Rion. He says because of her status with the district right now, he can’t comment. 2 NEWS also reached out to DPS. A spokeswoman for the district says when they hire a superintendent, they follow the policies as outlined by the Ohio School Board Association. She says currently, they are not commenting on Corr.
2 NEWS found the Chicago Public School district laid off Corr in the summer of 2015 after a federal investigation into a bribery scandal. A judge sentenced the CPS district’s chief executive officer, Barbara Byrd-Bennett – who hired Corr – to prison for corruption.
“Well you know, when you’re looking at trying to hire a superintendent, you certainly want to consider all of the evidence,” said Baguirov. “We saw all that. But that didn’t really sway anybody.” He said her experience outweighed her past. “A DUI from many years ago, you know, it’s an indiscretion of youth. We’re not going to be holding that against, quite frankly.”
Although the current DPS school board is tight-lipped now, they fully backed her when she was hired.
“She’s someone who is not going to need a lot of hand-holding. She really knows what she is doing and I am so confident about that,” said DPS Board of Education member John McManus in June 2016.
The teachers’ union was also initially satisfied with the district’s choice to hire Corr.
“I think she left us with a good impression,” David Romick, President of the Dayton Education Association. “I think that with the public input that was sought, and the time that the application process and the interview process took, I think initially we were satisfied with the choice.”
The Dayton Education Association is not part of the search in any official way, but they had a conversation with Corr.
“We invited her in to meet with our leadership. We sat down and talked about all of those things – you know, what her outlook at labor was, what her experiences were, how she felt about curriculum, what needed to happen in this district, what her goals and aspirations here in Dayton were,” described Romick.
Romick said feelings turned sour starting in January 2017 when during bitter contract negotiations ensued for months. She was given a vote of ‘no confidence’ in August 2017 after the teachers’ union and the district reached an agreement.
“There’s no reason that should’ve taken eight months. There’s no reason we had to go – what was it – 15 hours before a strike deadline,” said Romick.
Romick said Corr was not a good fit for the district. “I think that’s obvious to everybody who works in the school district. She was not a good match for Dayton.”
Baguirov disagrees: “This is not some Miss America competition. This is academics. That’s what’s most important.”
Baguirov is quick to point out Corr’s accomplishments, as she inherited a slew of problems when she came aboard.
“There was virtually no department that didn’t have a problem,” admitted Baguirov. “She came in at a very difficult time.”
When Corr was hired in 2016, DPS faced a state takeover after years of failing grades. During the time, busing problems also plagued the district. After a few months on the job, DPS was no longer in danger of a takeover.
“In 2016 school year, DPS made pretty much history by getting its first ever ‘A’ on the state report card for value added. That averted take over from the state,” touted Baguirov.
Corr also implemented a call center to help eliminate many of the busing problems.
In February 2017, the board extended her contract for three years. In October 2017, she was given a glowing performance review signed off on by the board, noting that she exceeded expectations in categories like operations and educational programs.
“I don’t need Mr. Clean who is not going to deliver a single result,” said Baguirov. “Dayton has hired squeaky individuals in the past. DPS had superintendents in the past who are squeaky clean – They didn’t drink; they didn’t drive; they didn’t do this; they didn’t do that. They were Mr. Perfect. And what did that get DPS in all of these decades? Nothing.”
As Corr awaits a decision, people in the district hope DPS can find some stability. Some say it comes down to the hiring process.
“I would say initially that probably there’s no harm in more public input, particularly in a district like Dayton. Transparency is key now,” said Romick. “We’re going to need a leader now who’s interested in rebuilding trust because that was heavily damaged.”
Interim Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said in November 2017: “I just want to assure the parents and the community that the teachers continue to teach every day and we continue to focus on the students and their education.”
“Whatever turmoil happens, certainly sets it back,” said Baguirov. “What we can say is that DPS today, as a result of all these efforts, including by Superintendent Rhonda Corr, is much stronger, much better than it has been in decades. And that is a fact that no one can dispute because it’s all coming from government data.”