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Grassroots Group Wants 'Radical Change' In West Dayton Public Schools

The West Dayton Youth Task Force is pushing for major improvements for the public schools located in West Dayton.
West Dayton Youth Task Force

Schools in West Dayton are among the lowest-performing in the Dayton Public School District. And DPS as a whole is ranked toward the bottom of the list for Ohio.

A grassroots group called The West Dayton Youth Task Force wants improvements now.

A recent visit from a department of education district review team means DPS is considered “at risk” by the state. And that pushed HashimJabar with the recently-formed West Dayton Youth Task Force over the edge. Jabar works with a lot of job-seeking DPS grads and says the district is downplaying the possibility of state intervention.

“If the board and the administration won’t at least admit that there’s some major problems going on. They say if you’re an alcoholic, that’s the first step, to just admit it. If they won’t admit it, how can they actually fix it? No everything is fine. Is that how you operate day-to-day? That everything is fine?”

The group, which consists of parents and community members, has been attending school board meetings and talking with administrators. Jabar says the schools need radical changes in curriculum and classroom lessons tailored to students in this urban setting. The advocacy group Racial Justice Now is also getting involved. The organization focuses on the “school-to-prison pipeline” in DPS. It’s been pushing for reforms in the district’s discipline policies.

One of the group’s founding members, Prof. Vernellia Randall, says reworking curriculum will be essential moving forward.

Hashim Jabar (right), Prof. Vernellia Randall (center) and Zakiya Sankara-Jabar (left) during a January community meeting of the West Dayton Youth Task Force.
Credit West Dayton Youth Task Force
Hashim Jabar (right), Prof. Vernellia Randall (center) and Zakiya Sankara-Jabar (left) during a January community meeting of the West Dayton Youth Task Force.

“It starts in kindergarten and then they just pass them along. So what happens… based on the statistics they gave us, a large percentage of their students come in not kindergarten ready. Yet their curriculum doesn’t reflect that problem,” Randall said. “If a child comes in not kindergarten ready, there’s only so much a teacher can do.”

According to a 2012-2013 report from the Ohio Department of Education, only 24 percent of DPS' students were considered kindergarten ready. Randall says she’s worried many of the schools in West Dayton could close if the state’s district review teams recommends shutting down the most troubled schools.

“To me as a parent, and as a community member who really cares about the students, particularly in West Dayton, black students in this district, this, to me, feels like benign neglect,” Racial Justice Now founding member ZakiyaSankara-Jabar said.

Sankara-Jara says she is disappointed in the current leadership. The West Dayton Youth Task Force has formed school-board-watch committee and also plans to be vocal about the next school board elections in November.

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