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Middletown school leader talks state report card with business leaders

Published: Friday, September 22, 2017 @ 4:10 PM
Updated: Friday, September 22, 2017 @ 6:00 PM

            Middletown City Schools Superintendent Marlon Styles, Jr. speaks to local community and business leaders about state report card scores and strategic plans for the district during a luncheon hosted by the school district Friday, Sept. 22, in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Middletown City Schools Superintendent Marlon Styles, Jr. speaks to local community and business leaders about state report card scores and strategic plans for the district during a luncheon hosted by the school district Friday, Sept. 22, in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

While last week’s state report card on Middletown Schools left some in the district disappointed, the school system is making significant progress in some areas, Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. told business and community leaders.

The quarterly community outreach forum was the first for Styles and is part of his proactive campaign to engage the Butler County city’s various segments as stakeholders in improving local schools.

Styles, who started in August, told the invited audience of more than 60 at the school system’s downtown office, “we want you at the table” as the district reforms toward improvement.

MORE: School report cards: Here’s how Butler County districts performed

“If you are willing to sit in on the game, then please know the door will always be open,” he told the audience after a presentation highlighting some of the better parts of the district’s latest state report card.

Weaving closer ties with the city’s business community is a critical part of any improvement in the city schools, said Styles, who described it as a “big stitch in our fabric.”

“It’s something we really want to just not talk about it, but also invest in as well,” he said.

The Ohio Department of Education’s annual report card on the state’s 609 public school systems — based on the 2016-2017 school year student testing — showed Middletown earning three Fs, a D, C and B.

MORE: Middletown school leader wins national award

Styles hour-long presentation, which included taking questions from the audience, highlighted some areas of improvement behind the major category grades.

The district’s four-year graduation rate improved from a C to a B, and since earning a 78.6 percent rate in 2012, improved to a 90 percent last year.

“That is huge and the (student) data indicates the investment we are making as a community is paying off,” said Styles, who previously was a top district official with the Lakota School system.

MORE: Top 5 things to know about state report cards

He also pointed to the district’s kindergarten through 3rd grade literacy rate improvement from a D to C grade as another area of progress to build on and a source of optimism for the future of the 6,400-student school system. Moreover, the state measurement of “performance index” improved from 67.4 to 71.4 percent in the last school year.

Rick Pearce, president of the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton, said Styles was impressive and his message persuasive.

“This was Marlon’s opportunity to share with us and the community what the test scores are but also … show we’re improving in these other areas as we dive deep down into it (report card),” said Pearce.

MORE: 5 questions with Middletown’s new school leader

Pearce said his group will now try to get the business community involved in the local schools “to see how we can be part of that solution.”

Marc Bellisario, president and CEO of Primary Health Solutions, said “it was great meeting and important to reach out to the community and let everyone know what is going on.”

“The new superintendent is really trying to get the word out and I was very impressed because there are a lot of good things happening for Middletown schools,” said Bellisario.

Trotwood-Madison Schools superintendent to retire

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 5:09 PM

Kevin Bell, Trotwood-Madison superintendent
Kevin Bell, Trotwood-Madison superintendent

After nearly 30 years in public education, Trotwood-Madison City Schools Superintendent Kevin Bell has announced his retirement, effective Dec. 31, 2018.

Board of Education President Adrienne Heard said the top priority is to conduct an extensive search for the next top leader in the district. Bell will continue his role until a replacement is found, according to a release sent this afternoon from the district.

“Mr. Bell leaves quite a legacy. He has devoted his time, wisdom and soul to this district,” Heard said. 

Bell -- a Trotwood-Madison graduate -- started his tenure at the district as a custodian. He later served as a teacher, principal, curriculum director and assistant superintendent. He became superintendent in 2011.

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Wright State contract suspended pending probe

Published: Saturday, January 23, 2016 @ 1:00 PM
Updated: Saturday, January 23, 2016 @ 1:00 PM

Wright State University has suspended payments to economic development consultant Ron Wine while state authorities investigate whether the school’s contract with Wine violated state lobbying laws.

“Wright State asked my firm to stand down during that time so there was no appearance of conflicts of interest,” Wine said in an exclusive interview with the Dayton Daily News.

The contract with Wine came under scrutiny from the Ohio Attorney General’s office after the newspaper revealed that the university had paid him nearly $2 million since 2009. Lobbying contracts that exceed $50,000 during a calendar year require prior approval from the State Controlling Board.

The university and Wine maintain that he is not a lobbyist, though Wine acknowledges he has been present in meetings with legislators and when legislative strategy has been discussed. He says the amount of lobbying work he does is small and falls under the legal threshold that would require him to register with the state.

In addition to any written contract, Wine said he and WSU President David Hopkins had an “informal agreement” that called for Wine’s firm, Ron Wine Consulting Group, to receive a 5 percent cut of contract work he helped land for the university.

Both Wine and Wright State say he was never paid a commission, which is not allowed in certain state and federal contracts.

In a statement released Friday, Wright State said, “At first, Wright State retained the Ron Wine Consulting (RWCG) group at a flat monthly rate. As the scope of the work clearly began to expand, the parties agreed to an hourly rate contract. Ron Wine did propose a payment guide based on a 5% workload level. Subsequent contracts have been based solely on hourly compensation. The firm was not compensated based on percentage commission, nor did President Hopkins authorize it in an informal agreement.”

A July 24, 2015, email from Wine to Hopkins’ personal email account referenced the 5 percent guideline and argued for continuing the arrangement, saying, “It’s worked well for all of us.”

“If we need to discuss doing anything differently with this guideline going forward, please let me know,” Wine wrote in an email the newspaper obtained from the university following a public records request. “I have no desire to put you in a difficult position, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it? It’s worked well for all of us so far and creates an ‘incentive’ for growth and performance that you rarely have in outside consultant relationships.”

Wine’s interview with the newspaper is the first since controversy first arose over his contract. He said the newspaper’s reporting prompted the investigation, and that he has turned over records to investigators from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.

Wright State records show that on Jan. 11 the university informed Wine in writing that he was to cease all work and billing, “effectively immediately.”

Asked why the university suspended the contract, Wine said, “Quite frankly, there is a lot of work to be done and I don’t think they wanted the distraction. So that has been a hardship to me and my company.”

Wine said he will do “whatever I have to do to comply with the investigation.”

Greg Lawson, policy director for the conservative Buckeye Institute, expressed concern about WSU entering into non-written agreements with contractors. This creates a liability for the school if there’s a disagreement about terms, he said.

“The whole point in having a contract is so things are very clear,” he said. “You’re dealing in a situation here where you’re dealing with a good deal of public funds. I think it makes sense if all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted.”

$1 million contract

A former director of the Dayton Development Coalition, Wine started his consulting company in 2004 and began advising Wright State in 2009 on economic development issues. Under Wine’s current contract he is expected to garner at least $10 million in state funding each year for the next two years, secure $140 million in federal contracts over the next three years and help the school sustain $100 million in annual research by mid-2018.

Initially, Wright State paid him $6,000 a month but increased the payments as Wine was more successful attracting state, federal and private money to the university. In 2014, a year in which he didn’t have a written contract, the university paid him nearly $1 million.

Last May Wine signed a multi-year agreement that runs through 2019 and allows him to bill Wright State more than $1 million a year.

Wine said the 5 percent was created early on as an incentive to allow his firm to grow along with the success of the university.

“President Hopkins and I sort of generally agreed that he wasn’t going to be able to pay my firm very much money up front,” Wine said. “As the business grew and as the workload grew, it would be reasonable for my firm to expect — if we were doing a good job and meeting their expectations — to get about 5 percent of the workload. So it’s kind of like a workshare.”

In an interview last October, Hopkins said Wine’s compensation was not based on the amount of funding he brought to the university.

“Read the contract. It does not say that,” Hopkins said. “I’m confident it doesn’t say that because that’s not the way we work.”

Wine said he has helped bring in $150 million to the university and created 500 new jobs in the region.

“My understanding with President Hopkins was my firm could expect to get about 5 percent of the business that we generated from the work we were doing as time went on,” he said. “Obviously that 5 percent grew over time. You know when the pie gets bigger, your piece gets bigger.”

WSU Trustee Chairman Michael Bridges said he was not aware of any commission or incentive-based payments in the university’s agreement with Wine.

“There is no place for anything incentive-related in contracts like that,” he said.

‘We’ve been pretty successful’

Wine said his job was to develop a strategy for the university to become a bigger economic driver in the region. Over the years he said he worked on matching university researchers to new initiatives at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, principally in human performance research where he felt the two institutions could work together.

“It’s been a very busy time. It’s been a very productive time and without patting myself on the back I think we’ve been pretty successful at what we set out to do in terms of making Wright State a more viable economic asset in the Dayton region and, for that matter, in the state of Ohio in the last year or two,” Wine said.

Wine played a key role last year in landing state funding and collaboration from other Ohio universities for the Federal Research Network. The network’s aim is to match Ohio university research to the future initiatives at Wright-Patt and NASA Glenn in Cleveland so that more federal military contracts and jobs come to Ohio.

“I don’t think this has ever been done before, but we went through and got all the universities to map their research capabilities to Wright-Patt research priorities in the future and to NASA Glenn’s research priorities in the future,” Wine said. “And that did not happen from just, you know, sending out an email and a hope and a prayer. There were a lot of meetings and conversations, a lot of research.”

The state budget bill included $25 million in funding for the network over two years.

Wine said launching the Federal Research Network required his firm to work more hours for Wright State than in previous years.

“That’s why the work went from where it was to where it is now,” he said. “There is just a lot of work to be done. And I’m really proud of it, not just personally. I think Wright State has done a great job. I think universities have tried to strap on the challenge of doing more in the economy.”

In its statement Friday, Wright State also touted its success, saying Wine and others helped “create hundreds of new high tech jobs, and dramatically increased human-performance research funding across the region and the state.”

‘Never any quid pro quo’

DeWine’s office is examining whether Wine’s contracts required approval from the state Controlling Board, a bipartisan panel that oversees state spending. Investigators also are looking into whether Wine should have been registered as a Wright State lobbyist because of his work advocating on the university’s behalf with state lawmakers and other officials.

Wine and the university, though, say his interaction with state officials fell below the thresholds that require lobbying registration.

Wine and the university are the focus of a second inquiry ordered this month by Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger. The Clarksville Republican, a Wright State graduate, asked the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee to examine emails Wine sent to WSU President David Hopkins.

In two messages from Wine to Hopkins in preparation for meetings with Rosenberger, Wine advised Hopkins to both advocate for state funding and offer to organize a political fundraiser.

The Dayton Daily News obtained the emails through a public records request.

“I didn’t expect all of my emails to President Hopkins to become a topic of public conversation,” Wine said. “So there is always that Monday-morning quarterbacking. If you know someone is going to read something, you might write it differently. I was writing something for his personal consumption that was based on a lot of meetings and conversations that we had prior to that. So the context of those emails are sometimes not well understood.”

He added, “There was never any quid pro quo. Listen, Cliff has been great to Wright State. A check one way or another is going to mean absolutely nothing to him. I mean, he is a good legislator. He is well thought of in the Wright State community.”

Former Kettering principal named Mason superintendent

Published: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 1:08 PM
Updated: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 5:05 PM

Jonathan Cooper, a former elementary teacher in Centerville City Schools and principal in Kettering City Schools, was named next year’s superintendent of the Mason City Schools in Warren County.
Jonathan Cooper, a former elementary teacher in Centerville City Schools and principal in Kettering City Schools, was named next year’s superintendent of the Mason City Schools in Warren County.

A former Kettering and Centerville educator is to be the next superintendent of the Mason City Schools.

This morning, Jonathan Cooper was named next year’s superintendent of the Mason district, the largest in Warren County.

According to a press release issued by the Mason school district, Cooper was an award-winning elementary teacher in Centerville City Schools and a successful school principal in Kettering City Schools.

MORE: Kettering News

A Martha Holden Jennings Scholar and former Ohio Teacher of the Year nominee, Cooper was able to successfully merge two diverse elementary school staffs and communities into a strong, thriving and unified Southdale Elementary in Kettering in 2010.

MORE: Centerville and Washington Twp. News

In Mason, Cooper will replace Superintendent Gail Kist-Kline, who is retiring at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

“To keep us moving forward, we want a values-driven leader who will support our world-class teachers and staff while continuing to cultivate innovation and guide us through a constantly evolving financial and regulatory landscape,” said Matt Steele, president of the Mason school board said in the press release. “The great news for our students, staff and community is that we already have a visionary, humble, community-oriented leader who has built deep relationships with district partners and business leaders and helped make Mason a leader in innovation and professional development - our current Chief Innovation Officer, Jonathan Cooper - who we are thrilled to appoint as Dr. Kist-Kline’s successor.”

MORE: Springboro superintendent leaving for Mason

The Mason City Schools Board of Education is to appoint Cooper as superintendent, effective July 1, 2018, at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

“I am honored that the School Board has entrusted me with this great responsibility. It is such a joy to be able to serve Mason’s students, staff, families and community in an even deeper way. I have been fortunate to work closely with Dr. Kist-Kline and learn from her courageous leadership, and I’m excited to build on the foundation that she and our school board and dedicated staff have firmly established,” said Cooper in the release. “As a second generation educator, learning is my family’s passion, and it is our mission as a family to serve our community’s schools.”

Cooper was named deputy superintendent beginning Jan. 1. In that expanded role, he will oversee key personnel and master facilities plan decisions, in addition to his current duties.

RELATED: Watch the announcement

He joined the district in 2014 as chief innovation officer. He led the development of the Mason Experiential Learning Program.

Also this fall, Cooper was awarded the 2017 Excellence in Education Award and the 2017 Rising Star Award from the Mason Deerfield Chamber of Commerce.

Cooper earned his bachelor’s of education with a concentration in science from Ball State University, his master’s of science in educational leadership from the University of Dayton.

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Jonathan and his wife, Michelle, are parents of Henry, age 12, Wyatt, age 9, Myles, age 7, and Tessa, age 5.

“This is a big move for our family because one of our core family values is living an integrated life where we are able to live out our mission by serving our local community and authentically connecting with our neighbors. We look forward to moving to Mason and already have stock in a lot of Mason green,” Cooper said.

Waynesville moving forward with $26M in community development

Published: Friday, December 01, 2017 @ 7:25 AM

            Funds from a bond issue and the Ohio School Facilities Commission will be used to turn the 1915 Building, a former school building, into a community center.
Funds from a bond issue and the Ohio School Facilities Commission will be used to turn the 1915 Building, a former school building, into a community center.

The Wayne Local Schools plan to begin issuing bonds in December financing more than $26.5 million in community development.

Funds from a bond issue and the Ohio School Facilities Commission will be used to build a new Waynesville Elementary School, turn the 1915 Building, a former school building, into a community center and improve parking and other infrastructure on the Wayne Local Schools’ complex off Dayton Road.

Voters passed a 4.68-mill, 37-year bond issue by eight votes, according to final results tallied in Warren and Greene counties.

“The results of this ballot were very close. We appreciate our supporters and respect those who chose to vote no. In the end, we are a community which is a vital part of a truly successful school. We will work together to make this vision a reality and one that everyone can be proud of,” Superintendent Patt Dubbs said in a statement.

The school district can move forward, now that results of the Nov. 7 election are official.

RELATED: 2-vote margin: Waynesville anxiously awaits decision on $26 million bond issue

The results were 1,241-1,234 result in Warren County and 11-10 in Green County, according to the county election boards.

MORE: Races too close to call in area counties

Election night tallies were 1,226 to 1,225 in Warren County, 11 to 10 in the small piece of the district in Green County- leaving only a two-vote margin.

Recounts were also held in races for Deerfield Twp. trustee and Franklin Board of Education.

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The results showed Lonnie Vestal defeating Bill Lantry 2,224-2,197 in the race for a seat on the Deerfield Twp. Board of Trustees.

And in a race for the Franklin school board, Bob Knipper was elected over Dennis G. Dwyer, 1,371-1,363.