Union leader: Dayton has to be careful not to rush school closures

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 4:42 PM

Dayton Public considering closing multiple schools

Dayton Public Schools may close three or more of its 28 school buildings next fall because of lower enrollment, a move that would save the district money but also uproot hundreds of students and dozens of teachers.

Acting Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli told the school board Tuesday night that DPS will hold multiple community meetings in January as it develops a strategy on which schools to close, with a goal of making a recommendation to the board that same month.

Teachers union President David Romick said Wednesday that he understands and agrees with the need to close some under-enrolled schools to be fiscally responsible. But he expressed concern about the district’s ability to do it right on what he called “an extremely accelerated timeline.”

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“In light of the all the unfortunate things that have gone on here in the last 12 months, they have to be careful to get community input into these decisions,” Romick said. “To show that we’re restoring trust, this can’t be: go out in the community, ask what their opinion is and do what you’re going to do anyway.”

Lolli and Associate Superintendent Shelia Burton said the majority of Dayton schools are well under capacity, pushing the cost of operating those buildings higher. Under-enrolled buildings cost up to $14,000 per student for staffing, utilities, maintenance and more, according to the district, while other schools cost less than $7,000 per student.

Wogaman, Rosa Parks and Dayton Boys Prep schools all have less than 30 percent of their classroom space occupied, according to a document presented by Burton, while Meadowdale Elementary, EJ Brown and World of Wonder schools are below 40 percent capacity. Those schools have hundreds of open classroom seats each.

“We don’t necessarily want buildings to be at 100 percent so that the rooms are crowded, but we think that we should at least get up to about 70 percent occupancy,” Burton said. “It’s cost-efficient if we get up to 70 percent.”

Without naming any specific schools, Lolli said her team’s recommendation could call for closure of more than three or less than three schools.

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New school board member William Harris expressed concern about community impact because the 13 lowest-enrolled schools are all on the west side of Dayton. There was no specific mention of consolidating any of those schools.

Lolli pointed out that there are more schools in West Dayton than East Dayton (18 to 10), and most of the East Dayton schools are closer to that 70 percent capacity figure. Belmont (79 percent) and Stivers (73) are the only schools in the district over that number, while Kiser is at 69 percent, and Ruskin and Wright Brothers at 67 percent.

“The students will still be on the west side, and we still need to serve the students on the west side,” Lolli said.

She added that there are important issues of equity beyond enrollment of those schools.

“We need to try and make sure that we equalize the educational opportunities for both the west side and the east side,” Lolli said. “I think that we still have quite a number of open teaching spots on the west side, and we need to make sure that we don’t always have (substitute) teachers for our students who live in those neighborhoods.”

Dayton built almost all new schools after voters approved a $245 million bond issue in 2002, to leverage state funding. From Kiser in summer of 2006 to Wright Brothers in January 2012, the district opened 25 new school buildings.

Besides the renovated and expanded Stivers, the only DPS schools currently in use that pre-date 2006 are Valerie Elementary and the Gorman/Jackson Center site.

2014 STORY: DPS to close two schools, restructure another

RELATED: Longfellow school closing after roof problems ignored

The bond issue was a 28-year tax, meaning residents could be paying it for another 13 years, whether all the schools are open or not.

Dayton’s student enrollment dropped from about 20,000 in 2002 to 14,000 in 2010. Since then, it has stayed fairly steady, although the current number of 13,168 is a low point, according to Ohio Department of Education data.

Burton confirmed that 2002 enrollment projections had predicted roughly the enrollment drop DPS has experienced since. But the new schools have not lured back the 2,600 students DPS loses to private schools via voucher or the 6,800 students it loses to charter schools.

As the district weighs reconfiguring schools, geographic issues may come up again. Dayton Public Schools does not require students to attend the school closest to their home. While considering new busing plans last spring, the district considered requiring most students to attend a school within their geographic quadrant, but then pulled back on that idea. Burton said this fall that the issue may be reconsidered.

Romick said some recent DPS decisions have been rushed and not well-thought-out, pointing to the aborted 2016 layoffs based on bad financial data as an example. He said once these moves are finished, the district should aim to let educators stay in positions, learn the curriculum and get meaningful training, “to create some damn stability.”

Lolli said because the issue is underused buildings, not overstaffing, job cuts for classroom employees are not expected.

“This will be a very difficult couple of months ahead of us,” school board member John McManus said.

STATE FOCUS: Softer graduation rules may be extended two years

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World War II veteran awarded Prisoner of War medal after 73 years 

Published: Saturday, July 21, 2018 @ 5:50 PM

Ralph G. Rumsey (middle) was presented with a Prisoner of War Medal by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, on right, as his wife Ruby and other family and friends looked on. (Photo: U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson’s Office)
Ralph G. Rumsey (middle) was presented with a Prisoner of War Medal by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, on right, as his wife Ruby and other family and friends looked on. (Photo: U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson’s Office)

During World War II, Ralph G. Rumsey of Woodstock was a prisoner of war in Germany for six months. After struggling with his wartime experiences for 73 years, he’s been awarded a Prisoner of War Medal, gaining the recognition he thought might never come. 

At 96, Rumsey said he’s finally feeling some sense of closure.

He’s not satisfied yet, however; now, he wants to put the focus on other veterans.

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“I always wanted to be able to help veterans,” Rumsey said. He hopes to support other veterans in tackling the issues they face, particularly psychological issues.

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Rumsey himself has struggled for decades with feeling a horrible itching sensation that he believes was caused by his time as a prisoner, when his bed and clothes were filled with bugs.

Despite his vivid memories of the war, his family said he never talks about it. Until two years ago, no one in his family knew that Rumsey had been a prisoner of war, according to his wife Ruby.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson helped Rumsey secure the medal, and Isakson presented it to him at a special ceremony for his friends and family.

One of Rumsey’s friends, Christine Maza, was crucial in helping Rumsey get the medal. She met him when she was a hospice volunteer several years ago, and one day while taking him to the VA, she noticed a poster advertising the medal.

“He was so excited,” she recalled. Maza helped him submit the paperwork, but when it stalled at the VA, she called Isakson’s office, remembering how he had helped her father, also a veteran. Isakson made it happen, she said.

“I’m just happy that Ralph is finally getting what is long overdue,” Maza continued. “He’s just been sinking. This really revived him.”

Rumsey’s stepdaughter, Jean Thomas, also believes that the medal will help Rumsey psychologically. “I’m so happy for him and pleased,” she commented.

At the ceremony, Rumsey was in high spirits, eager to share stories of his experiences in the war, both good and bad. Though he remembers the bug infestation in the prison clearly, he also recalled the way Paris lit up at night in; the days he spent there after he was released.

When Isakson walked into the room, Rumsey joked that Isakson was a “youngster” compared to him. 

With a laugh, Isakson agreed. “I’ve only been here 73 years, you’re 96!”

As Rumsey received the medal, many of his friends and family shed tears.

“Thank you for putting up with the Germans for a couple of months in captivity, but in the end, you won and they lost, and that’s all that matters,” Isakson told Rumsey.

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Georgia inmates in solitary confinement at 'grave risk of harm,' expert says

Published: Saturday, July 21, 2018 @ 5:47 PM

April 27, 2016 Jackson: The Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Jackson is where the execution chamber is located. (Photo: Ben Gray/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
April 27, 2016 Jackson: The Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Jackson is where the execution chamber is located. (Photo: Ben Gray/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Craig Haney, hired to assess conditions in the solitary confinement unit at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, has visited some of the nation’s most dangerous prisons, but nothing could prepare him for what he witnessed on the E Wing.

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The atmosphere was “as chaotic and out-of-control as any such unit I have seen in decades of conducting such evaluations,” he wrote. “When I entered this housing unit I was met with a cacophony of prisoner screams and cries for help. The noise was deafening and there was the smell of smoke in the air, as if someone had set a fire sometime earlier in the day.”

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Such “draconian”conditions at the Jackson prison’s special management unit, which houses up to 192 prisoners, have created some of the most “psychologically traumatized” inmates he’s ever assessed, Haney wrote in a blistering report, released this week in its entirety.

“They are at grave risk of harm,” he said. “That psychological harm may be irreversible and even fatal.”

A spokeswoman with the Department of Corrections declined comment, citing pending litigation.

Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, specializes in the psychological effects of imprisonment and consequences of solitary confinement. He was hired by the Southern Center for Human Rights, a leading advocate for criminal justice reform, after a prisoner filed a federal lawsuit claiming inhumane treatment within the GDC isolation unit. Similar suits from three other prisoners followed.

At every turn, the solitary unit — created to house the prison’s most dangerous and destructive inmates— exceeds the deprivation seen in similar solitary or “Supermax” facilities, Haney said. They are not only deprived of physical contact, but verbal communication is virtually impossible, the report found. Even visual contact is fleeting, as prisoners are confined by solid metal doors instead of bars. Even the small “windows,” on the cell doors and in the rear of the cell, are covered by thick metal sheets.

Prisoners can’t see out; natural air and sunlight can’t seep in.

“The prisoners are in essence hermetically sealed inside their cells for the extended periods in which they are confined there,” Haney reported.

Conditions throughout the unit were “unusually severe,” said Haney. Prisoners are locked in their 7 x 13.5-feet cells for all but five hours a week, when they are allowed outside exercise time.

Those five hours are divided into two sessions and spent within a caged outdoor cell, paved with concrete and surrounded by institutional facilities — more industrial than natural, Haney notes.

“Dangerously” high level of mentally ill prisoners in isolation

Housing just one mentally ill prisoner within the solitary unit would be problematic, Haney said.

At GDC, 70 of the 180 prisoners currently in isolation qualify as mentally ill.

“I do not believe there is any possible justification for housing such a high number of mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement, especially not in a unit as harsh and severe as the Georgia SMU.”

And that’s not including prisoners in the unit who Haney, after reviewing the medical records of all 180 inmates, said exhibited serious mental problems. Two such prisoners committed suicide in 2017, he concludes. (Specific information about the prisoners is redacted.)

One, incarcerated since 2002, had an unstable childhood and was in need of mental help, his father wrote on a social history questionnaire. A mental health referral form from 2009 stated the prisoner had reported hearing voices for more than a year and had a history of treatment for anxiety, depression and multiple personalities. In 2015, he was moved to the special management unit.

He eventually hung himself with a sheet tied to a lighting fixture. His body was “stiff and cold … suggesting that officers had not checked on him in some time,” Haney wrote.

Prisoners with such pre-existing conditions “are likely to suffer greatly and deteriorate badly in solitary confinement,” the report states. “When their suffering and deterioration is ignored and they are retained in these dangerously harsh and deprived conditions, the consequences can be fatal.”

The solitary trap

The isolation unit is supposed to operate within an incentive system; getting out is dependent on the prisoners’ behavior.

But Haney’s report found that malfunctions in the Tier III program used at GDC are often just as responsible for keeping prisoners in solitary for exceedingly long periods. The requirements for advancement out of the unit are often unrealistic and dispensed arbitrarily, Haney said.

A lack of bed space is another persistent problem, according to the report. The unit’s chief of security, Dwain Williams, corroborated this in a deposition, testifying that prisoners are often held in more restrictive quarters because the facility can’t find room elsewhere.

“Thus, prisoners often languish at the lowest and most deprived level in the system (and the levels at which they are at most risk of harm) not because of their behavior but because the prison cannot house them where they are supposed to be,” Haney wrote.

Prisoners told Haney they often did not know what they needed to do to advance out of solitary confinement.

“I’ve been here almost two years,” said one prisoner, whose name was redacted. “I don’t know how to get out. It’s supposed to be a six-month program but nobody has a release date. You only have a start date.”

Typically prisoners spend a staggering three to four years in isolation at GDC; nearly 20 percent of the inmates had been retained for six years or more.

Haney said since 2010 it’s become increasingly difficult to win transfer out of solitary.

“Instead, once there, it looks as if prisoners are hard-pressed to secure their release,” he said.

Nowhere is it worse than the E Wing, the most restrictive portion of the special management unit. Most suffer from poor mental health.

Prisoners told Haney they are kept in their cells virtually around the clock, for weeks or months on end.

“We never get out of our cells,” one prisoner said. “We are caged in. They don’t even want to take us to shower.”

Haney described a palpable sense of hopelessness pervading through the E wing.

“We are just desperate, so we yell and scream for help,” another prisoner told him. “They ignore us or they beat us up.”

The report detailed four cases in which prisoners were battling serious mental health issues.

“Each man reported suffering greatly in this environment and manifested symptoms associated with psychological trauma and stress and the psychopathological effects of isolation,” Haney wrote. “None appear to have received the kind of in-depth mental health treatment that their serious psychiatric histories and conditions appeared to require.”

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Statewide amber alert cancelled, four children found safely

Published: Saturday, July 21, 2018 @ 4:47 PM
Updated: Saturday, July 21, 2018 @ 5:55 PM

2003 blue Toyota Corolla (not actual suspect car)
2003 blue Toyota Corolla (not actual suspect car)

UPDATE @ 5:55 p.m.:

According to the Cleveland Police Department, the four children have been located safely and are in the process of being evaluated.

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UPDATE @ 5:45 p.m.:

According to Fox 8 News Ed Gallek, the vehicle connected to the amber alert has been found, but the mother and children were not found with the vehicle.

FIRST REPORT:

A statewide Ohio amber alert has been issued as of 4:30 p.m. for one suspect and four children in a blue 2003 Toyota Corolla, dealer place 0157330.

Four children were taken by their non-custodial mother in the city of Euclid in Cuyahoga County on E. 193 Street.

The suspect, Brianna A. Harris, is age 23, 5 feet 7, 195 pounds, brown eyes and brown hair. She is bi-polar and schizophrenic, and currently off her medication.

Brianna A. Harris, 23, suspect

The children missing are:

  • Savannah Harris, female, age 2, brown hair and brown eyes, 2 feet, and 50 pounds. She had a tracheotomy in the last 24 hours and needs oxygen;
  • Zayanna Harris, female, age 2, brown hair and brown eyes, 2 feet, and 50 pounds;
  • Kylee Harris, female, age 4, black hair and brown eyes, 3 feet, and 75 pounds; and
  • Tayveon Harris, male, age 7, brown hair and brown eyes, 4 feet, and 74 pounds.
Savannah Harris, 2 - top left; Tayveon Harris, 7, top right; Zayanna Harris, 2, botton left; Kylee Harris, 4, bottom right

The clothing for all children is unknown. 

Call or dial 9-1-1 if you see the children, the suspect, or the vehicle.

You can also call 1-877-AMBER-OH (1-877-262-3764) or 911 to be transferred directly to the investigating law enforcement agency or the hear the alert information. 

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Captain said not to worry about life jackets before deadly duck boat crash, survivor says

Published: Saturday, July 21, 2018 @ 11:04 AM

9 Members of Same Family Among 17 Killed in Duck Boat Accident

A woman who lost nine family members when a duck boat capsized in Missouri’s Table Rock Lake on Thursday said the captain of the boat told passengers not to worry about life jackets before the accident.

>> Read more trending news

Tia Coleman was one of the 11 members of the Coleman family to board the duck boat Thursday, according to WXIN-TV. She told the TV station that she and her nephew were the only survivors of their group.

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“My heart is very heavy,” Coleman told WXIN-TV. “I lost all my children, my brother-in-law.”

>> 9 members of one family among 17 killed in duck boat accident on lake in Branson, Missouri

She said that her family members didn’t bother to grab life jackets because they were told by the boat’s captain that they wouldn’t need them.

“When it was time to grab them, it was too late,” she told WXIN-TV. “I believe that a lot of people could have been spared.”

Authorities said 17 people were killed and 14 others injured in the incident, including Coleman’s family members. The family had traveled to Branson for their annual road trip, according to The New York Times. Carolyn Coleman told the newspaper that the victims came from three generations of the Coleman family and included four young children.

>> Deadly duck tour boat crashes date back nearly two decades

The president of the company that owns Ride The Ducks Branson, Ripley Entertainment, told “CBS This Morning” that the boats have life jackets onboard but he added that passengers aren’t required by law to wear them. Jim Pattison said that, given the weather conditions, the boat “shouldn’t have been in the water.”

"Usually the lake is very placid and it's not a long tour, they go in and kind of around an island and back,” Pattison told “CBS This Morning” on Friday. “To the best of our knowledge – and we don't have a lot of information now – but it was a fast-moving storm that came out of basically nowhere.”

Authorities continue to investigate the circumstances leading to Thursday’s deadly incident.

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