Dayton Public Schools superintendent Lolli moving on
Elizabeth Lolli is stepping down as superintendent of Dayton Public Schools.
She is taking a new position in the education field, but she’s not sharing details until they’re finalized. Lolli also has led two other school districts. Additionally, she is a published author, has a host of awards and has taught at the Ph.D. level.
Recently, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators named her the 2023 Ohio Superintendent of the Year. WYSO’s Kathryn Mobley spoke with Lolli. She says after 45 years as an educator, the students at Dayton Public have transformed her view of public education.
Elizabeth Lolli: I think the way that I have transformed in public is as a younger administrator. I was very certain that you needed to follow the research. And I think throughout my time as a superintendent, I found that experience also matters along with the research. It matters along with the best practices. Some great experiences with student voices has really helped me have a broader sense of what education should look like today. We really need to take a look at how to restructure middle level education. You know, middle schools are really a tough time for students. Students go through a lot of changes. Students go through a curriculum process that they don't really want to go through. You know, they don't like English, they don't like math. So what are those things that can really entice a middle school student to really want to come to school and to learn and grow? That would have been something that I would have liked to have gotten more done on.
WYSO Kathryn Mobley: Dr. Lolli, you spend a lot of time going throughout the district talking with students. What do they say they want in terms of an education?
Lolli: Practically, students want to have courses that teach them how to cook, teach them how to sign a rental agreement, to read a rental agreement. So to know how to manage their checkbooks, they want to know the basics about life. They want to know, you know, "How do I do my laundry without ruining things?" I'd learned that in home economics whenever I was in high school. But we don't have that anymore. We don't teach home economics anymore because the state doesn't certify anybody to do that. So how do kids learn to do that? Overall, though, I think most of the students are interested in their careers. What do I need to do in order to be able to go to college? What can I do if I want to really be in the medical field? And then they also have some very, very astute opinions and comments about how the world is right now. Such as why are we seeing so much gun violence? Why are we seeing so much social media action and not just in public, but all around? So they're very astute and they're watching the world around them, which I find interesting because I don't think as a high school student that I was watching that much around me. But today, our students watch, our students listen and hopefully they learn the good stuff and not some of the some of the other things that are happening. I've loved my time here. It's been a difficult time here with COVID in the middle of it, but it's been well worth the time. And like I said, the students have my heart. They are the best. And I will always remember Dayton.
Mobley: What else are you proud of?
Lolli: When I arrived here, for example, there was a very small curriculum department, and curriculum and instruction drive all of your professional development and they actually need to be subject based. That department is fully staffed at this moment in time. We've been able to actually implement curriculums that are appropriate instructional practices. That was a big goal for me, too, to make sure that we had the instructional support system in place for our principals and for our teachers.
Mobley: What other accomplishments?
Lolli: There were 28 students in a classroom...29 students in a classroom. In many cases, in our early primary classrooms, there were 15 students in a classroom or ten students in a classroom. So making sure that we evened that out as much as possible. We evened out all of those buildings across the district to make sure that it was equitable and make sure that it was fair for the classroom teachers and for the students that were being taught.
Mobley: Across the district a lot of teachers have voiced a very similar concern, needing more help in the classroom, having someone who comes in a couple of days a week and they can work with a small group of students while the primary teacher continues on with the lesson for that period. How have you been able to address that concern?
Lolli: What we did after COVID with our Esser money is we put in place for every two kindergarten teachers, we put a paraprofessional in place. That paraprofessional can pull off small groups and really focus in and help those students while the teacher works with another group. And that has been really helpful for our kindergarten teachers. For first, second and third grade, 100 teachers were hired, and in every first grade, second grade and third grade classroom, we have two teachers. One teacher focuses solely on math. The other teacher focuses solely on language arts, and they teach math or language arts. At the same time, we call it a double teaching model, and it has improved our scores significantly. That's how we caught back up from the COVID downfall and then built into that schedule for those double teachers in first, second and third grade. There are two blocks of time where they have small group time, and they can just work with a small group instruction while the students are doing independent work. That has been significant for us, and it's proven to work.
Mobley: To your successor, what advice do you have for whoever takes over the seat?
Lolli: Watch, listen, learn, evaluate, and then make the decisions. And that's what I try to do any time I move into a new position. The other thing that I would say — students need to be first, the adults are important, but students first. Any decision that's being made, consider how it affects the student. Consider why it would affect the students, and make sure that it's a positive effect. Because if a decision is made and the student isn't first in that decision, it's the wrong decision.