“City of Dayton” and “Educational Excellence” are not the most likely phrases to be heard in the same sentence in much of the region. In fact, it is reasonable to say that the city’s poor public school performance is one of the top two reasons that families do not consider living in the city (with crime – perceived and real – being the other). Of course, statistics can’t be ignored and the fact that Dayton Public Schools are at or near the bottom of state rankings every year is a very real statistic. But just like most statistical findings, these do not tell the complete story. A look at the Greater Downtown Dayton area offers a different view of education in the City of Dayton.
First, it is important to look at the entire Downtown Dayton area and not just the few square blocks that make up the Central Business District. This broader definition of downtown is not that new to those of us who live here and already consider downtown to include the adjacent downtown neighborhoods. Now, when looking at the urban core and the current and future educational institutions that anchor the downtown area, I do not see a failing educational system at all, but rather a center of educational excellence that includes:
- The University of Dayton – a high-quality private university with over 10,000 students and a campus area that continues to thrive and grow.
- Holy Angels Elementary School (K-8) and Chaminade Julienne (9-12) that are both high-quality private Catholic schools – not just for the city but the entire region.
- Sinclair Community College – considered among the top community colleges in the country with over 24,000 students.
- Miami Jacobs Career College – a solid trade school that provides valuable administrative training in the medical field as well as massage therapy training.
- Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) – a joint effort initiated by Dayton Public Schools and the University of Dayton (now a charter school) that has earned the top state designation of Excellent with scores at or above 94% in all state indicators and recently earned a bronze award from U.S. News & World Report in its list of best public schools in the country.
- Stivers School for the Arts – also a bronze award winner in U.S. News & World Report list, Stivers has been designated Excellent by the Ohio Department of Education. This Dayton Public School is not just known for strong academic scores but has some of the best arts, music and theater programs in the state. The Stivers Jazz Band won first place among 220 schools across the country last year in the Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival in Boston.
- Ponitz Career Technology Center – This Dayton Public School will open this August and is a partnership with Sinclair Community College. Its early college credit program will be similar to DECA’s but with a technology focus. While it is too early to tell how successful the Ponitz Center will be, state-of-the-art technology and equipment, a brand new building and a focus on college prep make strong ingredients for another successful Dayton Public School.
- Dayton Montessori School – Ground has not yet broke yet on this planned elementary school at Emmet St. and Riverside Drive (across the river from Riverscape), but when it is completed in a couple of years it will potentially be a strong school option for parents who live or work in downtown.
- Grandview Hospital (UPDATE) – one of the oldest and best known osteopathic training hospitals in the country, Grandview has 112 residents and fellows that are graduates of osteopathic medical schools across the country. While a hospital is not usually something people think of when talking about education, this is yet another example of high-quality learning that is happening in Downtown Dayton.
While most of the Dayton Public Schools have much work to do before suburban families will feel comfortable moving back into the city, the list above is something the city should be proud of and start marketing in a way that shows Downtown Dayton as a center of educational excellence unmatched anywhere in this region. If you were skeptical before reading this, has this given you any reason to pause ? What are some ideas to help grow this synergy into something bigger than the sum of its parts?