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Oakwood schools introduce virtual reality in science classes

Published: Thursday, November 16, 2017 @ 12:51 PM

Oakwood students and virtual reality class

Teachers at Oakwood City Schools are taking a new approach to learning that allows them to reach the corners of the earth from the comfort of a classroom. 

The seventh and eighth grade science classes at Oakwood Junior High School recently started using Virtual Reality goggles as part of their curriculum. The goggle, which work with Google Expeditions, allows teachers to create lessons taking their students anywhere in the world. 

Growing concern about 'juuling' among teens in schools 

Prior to introducing the new virtual reality sets to her students, teacher Rachel Keyes tested it on her own children. 

"I made them put the goggles on and got to see their reactions and I was like, ‘oh yeah, this is going to work,’” she said. 

When Keyes tested the devices on her students Thursday morning, they were just as excited.

“The students, as they're getting to look around at the sky and getting that full 360 panoramic kind of experience, it's huge," Keyes said. “It's different than a book. It's something you can interact with. You can feel it there. You can feel yourself being in that place."

This UD program was named Ohio’s best; it’s good news for business

Th virtual classroom experience was made possible by a grant from The Oakwood Schools Foundation. It was initially introduced to teachers during a staff meeting.

"Across the board in science, we always try to make things more interactive," Keyes said. 

Hamilton coach accused of sexual contact worked for other schools

Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 3:57 PM

A Hamilton High School teacher is charged with sex crimes involving a student.

The teacher and volleyball coach accused of having sexual contact with a Hamilton Schools student worked less than a year with the Butler County district and previously worked in a Hamilton County high school and for a religious community center.

That’s according to documents obtained through an Ohio Public Records request by this news organization.

MORE: Hamilton teacher faces sex charges involving student

Suspended Hamilton High School teacher and coach Hilary Dattilo was hired for the current 2017-18 school year last spring and started her job teaching science and working as a girls volleyball coach in August 2017.

The alleged crimes involve a female student, and the alleged encounters occurred off school property, according to Hamilton police.

Previously, the Mason High School and Walsh University graduate worked as a long-term substitute science teacher at Colerain High School — in northern Hamilton County’s Northwest Schools — from September 2016 until the end of last school year.


» DETAILS: Teacher’s ‘lynch’ comment to black student earns reprimand

» School board member resigns over controversial jersey names with racial slurs

Prior, the 30-year-old Dattilo worked as a substitute instructor at Cincinnati Hebrew Day School from 2014 to 2016 and was employed at the Mayerson Jewish Community Center’s (JCC) aquatics program.

Marc Fisher, chief executive officer for center, recently sent a notice to members stating: “Ms. Dattilo is a former employee of the JCC who more recently taught swim lessons at the Mayerson JCC while employed by our third-party service provider …. and she is no longer permitted on the Mayerson JCC’s premises.”

Fisher wrote: “During her employment, the Mayerson JCC conducted a criminal background check on Ms. Dattilo, most recently in the spring of 2016, which did not reveal any problem. We are not aware of any inappropriate conduct that occurred in connection with Ms. Dattilo during her employment with either the Mayerson JCC or in connection with the Mayerson JCC.”

Dattilo was arraigned earlier this week in Butler County Common Pleas Court on one count of sexual battery, a third-degree felony, and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a first-degree misdemeanor.

Police said parents reported a possible inappropriate relationship between Dattilo and a student.

Dattilo did not respond to phone messages seeking her comments.

A review of her personnel file at Hamilton Schools showed no entries of violations of school district policy, though she is now on unpaid administrative leave, and the Hamilton Board of Education is scheduled to vote on her possible job termination next month.

Hamilton School officials have declined to comment regarding Dattilo’s pending case beyond an initial statement from district Spokeswoman Joni Copas, who said: “As a result of an ongoing investigation conducted collaboratively with the Hamilton City Police Department, the Hamilton City School District has placed a teacher at Hamilton High School on administrative leave pending termination proceedings.

“Simply put, we will not tolerate behavior that places our children in jeopardy.”

Contained in Dattilo’s personnel file is a Dec. 19 letter to her from the Hamilton school board ordering her to stay off Hamilton School properties, away from district events and to have no contact with students, school parents or school staffers.

The sexual battery charge is alleged to have occurred between Nov. 1 and Nov. 22 and the contributing charge between Oct. 1 and Dec. 18, according to the direct indictment handed down by a Butler County grand jury on Monday.

Dattilo, of Monroe, turned herself into police. At arraignment Tuesday she pleaded not guilty and was given a $5,000 bond with the ability to post 10 percent. She was taken into custody by order of Magistrate Harold Reed.

A pre-trial hearing for Dattilo is scheduled for Feb. 8 before Judge Noah Powers.

DETAILS: Teacher’s ‘lynch’ comment to black student earns reprimand

Published: Thursday, January 11, 2018 @ 7:20 PM

            A white Mason Middle School teacher has been reprimanded by district officials for telling an African-American boy in her class last month that he would be “lynched” by his classmates if he didn’t finish his school work. The teacher has also been ordered to attend cultural sensitivity training classes provided by Mason Schools.(Provided photo)
A white Mason Middle School teacher has been reprimanded by district officials for telling an African-American boy in her class last month that he would be “lynched” by his classmates if he didn’t finish his school work. The teacher has also been ordered to attend cultural sensitivity training classes provided by Mason Schools.(Provided photo)

The white Mason Middle School teacher who told an African-American student his classmates would “lynch” him if he didn’t do his school work was reprimanded Thursday, ordered into cultural sensitivity training and may be fired if it happens again.

According to documents released by Mason Schools, middle school teacher Renee Thole was told in a letter from district officials that “comments that make reference to harming a student are not appropriate even in jest.”

“Especially when they make reference to lynching an African-American male student. Regardless of the context this is especially insensitive given the context of race in our American history,” wrote Principal Tonya McCall in the Jan. 11 letter.

MORE: Mason, Kings schools scramble after racist incidents

“Be advised that future instances of problems in the areas we have discussed may warrant further disciplinary action to be taken against you that may lead to termination of your employment,” McCall wrote.

The student told his mother about the classroom exchange last month, and the story has since drawn national attention.

The teacher’s class was studying early American history, and McCall’s reprimand letter further states Thole – a veteran teacher with the Warren County district – later told district officials her choice of words was insensitive “and understood why they were not appropriate even if they were in context of what you had been studying in class.”

According to statements made to Mason school officials, Thole said she told the boy he was “off task” and told him to get to work.

“Approximately 10 minutes later, he still was off task … Your classmates are tired of you costing them points,” she stated.

“When you come in tomorrow without your homework completed, you (sic) classmates are going to be angry and then become a mob who will want to lynch you,” according to the teacher’s statement.

The boy then said such a statement was racist, according to Thole.

“I immediately stopped working with my small group … and said ‘I’m so sorry. I did not mean that the way it came out,’” she wrote.

Thole then said the black student said “It’s okay. I know you were joking.”

The next day Thole said she received a phone call from the boy’s mother, Tanisha Agee-Bell.

“She was very disappointed because I do not understand my impact on the culture toward African-American students,” according to her written account. “I replied that I understand and deeply apologize for my hurtful comment. It was a statement I said without thinking and there is not a good reason for my statement.”

The 13-year-old boy’s mother told Thole she should also apologize to the entire class. The boy has since been moved into another history class.

According to Thole’s statement to district officials, her apology to the class included telling her students “I made a comment the other day where I didn’t stop and think before I spoke.”

“As a result of that I deeply hurt a student and I regret that. Just because I never meant to hun (sic) anyone, doesn’t mean that didn’t happen, so —I’m sorry. If I had just taken two seconds to think before I used the word lynch, I would have not hurt a student. I didn’t think about all of the ugliness and horrible history surrounding that word before I used it. (I) am deeply sorry and I hope that you can forgive me.”

Both Thole and Agee-Bell were unavailable for comment.

According to the reprimand letter, Thole was ordered to: “Refrain from using remarks that make references to harming a student; contact parent(s) immediately when there is an issue in your classroom and participate in district directed culturally responsive practices training.”

Mason school officials have publicly promised – in a message sent to school parents Thursday – to further the district’s efforts in promoting racial and cultural sensitivity among staffers and students.

Mason Schools’ leader warns community of ‘uptick’ in racist comments

Published: Thursday, January 11, 2018 @ 11:47 AM
Updated: Thursday, January 11, 2018 @ 7:07 PM

            Jerseys worn by Kings schools students playing on a recreational basketball team have drawn national attention for their racist nature. Tony Rue took photos of jerseys at a recreational league basketball game held Sunday at West Clermont Middle School. Photo courtesy of WCPO-TV
Jerseys worn by Kings schools students playing on a recreational basketball team have drawn national attention for their racist nature. Tony Rue took photos of jerseys at a recreational league basketball game held Sunday at West Clermont Middle School. Photo courtesy of WCPO-TV

UPDATED at 2 p.m.:

The leader of Mason Schools cites “uptick” of racist remarks in schools and community and warns they will not be tolerated.

Superintendent Gail Kist-Kline sent an email message Thursday to school parents in Warren County’s largest school system in the aftermath of a district teacher using an insensitive and historically deadly racial remark with an African-American student.

“We have seen an uptick in the number of racially and culturally insensitive comments in our schools and community,” wrote Kist-Kline.

“Sometimes these are said out of genuine ignorance. As a district, we want to be very clear, racial slurs or any behavior that discriminates against others are NOT(sic) acceptable.

“When adults act in a way that is not in line with our values, we lose trust. In our district we take corrective action to address these situations, but we need to do more. We will continue to invest in training and resources on culturally proficient practices for administrators, educators and classified staff members that lift up our district’s values. We must ensure that ALL(sic) Mason City Schools’ students are welcomed, valued and cared for while at school,” she wrote.

“Now is the time for us to be courageous and have explicit conversations about racism, sexism, and other discrimination that threaten our greatness. Everyone has the responsibility to act when we see issues in our schools and community.

We will continue to engage our community so that we are all working to enhance the climate in our schools. We are best when we bring out the best in each other. Let’s work together, hold each other accountable, and lift up our values,” said Kist-Kline.


They are neighboring Warren County school districts, share the same township and are among the top academic performers among all Southwest Ohio schools.

But this week finds officials at both Kings and Mason schools scrambling in the wake of incidents that involve race that have drawn national attention.

Kings this week saw a school board member announce his pending resignation after his son was among a non-school, recreational basketball team – using a Kings gym – to be seen wearing jerseys with racist slurs printed as their backs.

MORE: Kings school board member resigns in wake of racist incident

And days later, Mason Schools officials are apologizing for a white teacher’s “lynching” remark to an African-America middle school student and promising changes.

“We’re going to work hard on this,” said Kings Spokeswoman Dawn Gould, referencing the multiple efforts by district officials in the 4,300-student district to address concerns of the community regarding the incident.

On Friday, Kings officials were planning to address students from Kings High School about the racist jerseys as part of a regularly scheduled group meetings.

Both districts are largely within the Deerfield Twp. borders and are among the most affluent communities in Greater Cincinnati’s northern suburbs.

Kings’ enrollment is 2.3 percent African-American, while black students comprise 4 percent of Mason’s 10,400 students.

Both districts are regularly cited by national publications as being among the academically highest quality performers of Ohio’s 608 public school systems.

“Kings is a high-performing district with great students. Like many other schools around the country, this recent issue is an area we need to work on,” Gould said.

Mason Schools officials said the December classroom incident at Mason Middle School was a clear violation of proper behavior by one of their teachers. The district has acknowledged that a teacher made a mistake after a black student reported that he was told he might be lynched if he didn’t get back to work, according to the Associated Press.

Tanisha Agee-Bell said a white teacher at Mason Middle School made the comment to her 13-year-old son during class in December.

“Sometimes we mess up. Clearly that was the case here,” said Mason schools spokeswoman Tracey Carson. “And even though this teacher did not set out to hurt a child – clearly that happened too.”

The teacher - Renee Thole – faces district disciplinary action but district officials would not comment further on what job actions she may face.

“Our district will continue to invest in training and resources on culturally proficient practices for administrators, educators and classified (non-teaching) staff members that lift up our district’s values,” said Carson.

On Tuesday, Kings school board member Kerry McKiernan announced his intention to retire during an emotional exchange at a board meeting, saying he needed to do so to be accountable for his son’s role the basketball team’s wearing of the racist jerseys.

McKiernan did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Kings officials said as of Thursday he has yet to submit a written resignation letter to the board, which next meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Kings Education Center at 1797 King Ave.

WCPO-TV and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ohio school board wants lawmakers to extend softer graduation rules

Published: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 @ 4:51 PM

            Trotwood-Madison High School staff members prepare students for their commencement ceremony last year. FILE
Trotwood-Madison High School staff members prepare students for their commencement ceremony last year. FILE

If Ohio lawmakers approve a recommendation made Tuesday by the state school board, softer graduation requirements that aren’t test-based will be extended for two more years.

The board voted 16-1 to recommend the rules — already in place for this school year — be added for the Classes of 2019 and 2020.

RELATED: 9 ways Ohio students would be allowed to graduate

Rules require students to receive 20 course credits, but they no longer would have to pass state tests. Instead, they could graduate by completing any two of nine alternate standards. Those include senior-year attendance and grades, a project or community service.

If state legislators approve the policy, it still would need the governor’s signature to become law.

Some state board members think districts and students needed stability regarding the rules.

Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Fordham Institute, argued for higher standards, saying too many high school graduates don’t have the skills necessary for college or the workforce.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Top Ohio, Dayton education stories of 2017

The state school board’s resolution also set a timeline for establishing long-term graduation standards, calling for a recommendation from state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria in October, a state board committee vote in November, and a vote by the full state board in December 2018.