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Published: Thursday, February 08, 2018 @ 3:34 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 08, 2018 @ 10:15 PM
HAMILTON — The letter placing Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr on administrative leave this week uses different language for its reason than the board’s public communication, according to an exclusive review of internal district records by this news outlet.
Documents obtained through an Ohio public records request reveal the Hamilton Board of Education’s note to Orr on Feb. 5 cites a “pending investigation into allegations of misconduct.”
The board’s statement released to the public on Tuesday, Feb. 6 — and signed by Board President Steve Isgro — states the board “is investigating allegations that Orr may have violated board policies.”
Orr released his own comments a few hours after the board released its Tuesday statement saying that he was “unaware of what the allegation is, (and) I am confident that I will be exonerated at the conclusion of this investigation.”
The board said it would not comment further on the matter, and aside from Orr’s statement, he also has not responded to requests to comment.
Under the Ohio Revised Code, the term “misconduct” has many definitions and distinctions.
The board will not go into details while the investigation is active, Isgro said, but he said that students are not involved.
A review of Orr’s personnel file also revealed he did not sign the Ohio Ethics Law acknowledgment form, which details the ethical and legal requirements of holding public office, when hired in 2015.
Robert Hancock, Hamilton schools treasurer, said Orr “would have received it with his original employment information. It appears that we do not have a signed acknowledgement in his file.”
Larry Knapp, the school district’s business manager, is now serving as interim superintendent.
In the board’s notice to Orr, it stated: “you are hereby being placed on paid administrative leave, effective immediately, pending investigation into allegations of misconduct.
“This administrative leave will be for an indefinite period of time. During your administrative leave, you are not to be on district property or to attend district-sponsored events without written permission from me (Isgro). You are not to speak with district personnel regarding this or any other matter during this time.
“You are to turn in your keys/badge and any other items of board-owned property in your possession. If necessary, arrangements will be made with you at a later date for securing any of your personal items located on school district property.”
Hamilton school board member Tom Alf, who was the lone board vote last year against extending Orr’s contract to 2020, told this news outlet that, “I’m pleased there is going to be an independent look at this” but did not elaborate further as to the nature of the allegations.
“I feel very confident in Mr. Knapp and the decisions we have made as a board in moving on this, and that’s all I really have to say,” Alf said.
Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 4:32 PM
— Finding substitute teachers is harder than usual, Northmont City Schools leaders said.
The district is currently accepting applications for substitutes for all grades, pre-Kindergarten through grade 12, with a bachelor’s degree in any subject.
Northmont serves the Clayton area and has seven schools total, with a learning center.
The district is trying to be proactive in finding additional substitutes. Officials noted a lack of education majors graduating college, making it difficult to find subs.
Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 4:14 PM
BUTLER/WARREN COUNTIES — Just days after a horrific mass school shooting in Florida, three Butler County school systems faced their own threats of violence.
A Hamilton High School student was arrested Thursday for an alleged social media threat, and a Middletown High School student was questioned by city police Friday after allegedly fighting with another student and then, according to fellow students, saying he would go home and return with a gun. Multiple Middletown schools went on lockdown after the report of the threat on Friday.
On Thursday, a Ross High School student, who allegedly posted on social media he could “beat” the casualty toll of the shootings at the Florida high school, which left 17 dead, was arrested and remains in custody. That Ross teen now faces felony charges of inducing panic.
The alleged threats were part of an extraordinarily tense week of school security concerns as the nation remains shaken by the Parkland, Fla. school killings.
“We take all threats seriously and will continue to work together with the Hamilton Police Department to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” Hamilton High School Principal John Wilhelm said in a statement.
“Simply put, we will show zero tolerance for any threatening behavior.”
The scene outside of Middletown High School was emotionally tense after the threat became known to school parents, who were alerted by their children ordered to stay in their classrooms during Friday’s lockdown.
Police rushed to the school and closed down the school’s doors, keeping anyone from leaving or coming in, said Middletown Police Major Scott Reeve.
Reeve said parents were “very sensitive” about concerns of deadly school violence after a former student gunned down students and staff members at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones predicted on Thursday the school shooting would produce “copy cats” during a Facebook video he posted.
Jones also renewed his call from years ago, lobbying Butler County school officials to allow armed personnel – perhaps retired military veterans or retired police officers – to patrol local schools to deter attacks.
In Warren County, the Kings Schools has been a leader in school security measures by using a simple metal device currently employed by only a handful of southwest Ohio school systems. Portable door wedges that secure heavy classroom doors from being pushed or blasted by gunfire into opening hang by each classroom in the 4,500-student, suburban district in Deerfield Township.
Dubbed “Bearacades” and made by an Ohio company of the same name, the door stop, which is quickly and easily secured by a sturdy metal pin inserted into a hole drilled into a school’s cement under flooring, transforms classrooms into safer havens from active shooters loose in a school building, officials said.
“The Bearacade gives us that tool and that option to make sure we can lock down and keep our kids safe, and it’s going to buy us a lot of time to get those (police) authorities here to help us against an armed, active shooter,” said Dustin Goldie, a veteran Kings High School teacher.
But, said Bill Cushwa, Founder/CEO of Bearacade, “there is no magic solution. Bearacade units are one added layer of safety.”
“Getting out and away is always the ideal situation. That is why all response protocols lead with run, avoid or get out,” said Cushwa. “But, as demonstrated in Florida, if there isn’t enough information, the way out is too dangerous, or you are on an upper floor, locking and blocking the entry into your space is the next best option.”
Kings senior Chris Lane said he and his classmates – many of whom are trained in how to install the door devices - appreciate the school district’s extra security efforts.
“It (door device) is really appreciated around here, especially after what happened (in Florida) because it shows us that the teachers want to keep us safe,” said Lane.
Staff Writers Rick McCrabb and Wayne Baker contributed to this story
VIDEO: See an active shooter drill where a Kings teacher uses a special security door device @journal-news.com
Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 1:52 PM
FAIRBORN — Wright State University’s Board of Trustees voted 7-1 to enact a mandatory furlough policy Friday, even as frustrated professors confronted the university’s leaders about proposed “draconian” cuts they say will erode the institution’s educational quality.
Wright State faces declining enrollment and higher health care costs while it grapples with the outlines of millions of dollars in cuts to avoid deficit spending and being put on a state fiscal watch, officials said.
“We must continue to be realists together while we maintain our passion for this university,” Douglas A. Fecher, chairman of the Board of Trustees, told dozens of faculty members and others gathered for the board meeting Friday. “We simply do not have access to the same level of resources that we once had in the past.”
Fecher said ignoring the economic situation will not make it go away.
“It will demand more hard choices and hard sacrifice,” he said. “Terrible decisions remain and they must be made.”
Last June, Wright State cut nearly $31 million out of its fiscal year 2018 budget in response to years of overspending, and to raise its reserve fund to $6 million. WSU needs to cut an additional $10.5 million because of enrollment issues, and to cover additional scholarship and fellowship costs, this newspaper has reported.
Members of the American Association of University Professors and faculty members rallied against the cuts Friday, saying they have diminished Wright State’s core mission of education by reducing instructors and classes and creating uncertainty and anxiety among faculty, staff and students.
Senate Faculty President Travis E. Doom told the board he and other faculty members have had questions from students about whether they would be able to complete their degree programs and how the cuts would impact their studies.
“This term, the university remarked in a prepared statement that there is no chance that Wright State University is going to close,” he said. “The fact that the university felt the need to make this statement is chilling. The fact that our community thought this was newsworthy is horrifying.”
The AAUP has said the administration has offered a three-year contract with no raises, reduced benefits and higher health care costs amounting to a pay cut.
Nearly 90 percent of AAUP members eligible to vote have voted yes on a strike authorization if a deal is not reached, according to the union. Unresolved bargaining issues include employment security and furloughs, teaching workloads, maintaining summer teaching opportunities, and proposals that would cut pay and health benefits, the labor organization says.
Dan Slilaty, a WSU mathematics professor and AAUP member, said Wright State had gone on a “budget-cutting spree” that protects administration and trustee priorities and “slashes” the university’s core mission.
He said about 580 faculty members who teach at the university account for about 17 percent of its budget.
“What we the faculty demand is that all future cuts to the university’s budget be made in the irresponsible, multi-million dollar athletic budget and the extreme salaries and bloat of the upper administration and in risky side ventures,” he said to audience applause.
“If a strike is the only way in which meaningful shared governance is going to happen, if a strike is the only way to stop this reckless disregard for the core mission of the university, then I will vote for a strike, and I believe my colleagues will as well,” he added.
Wright State has made no decision on furloughing employees, but the policy enacted Friday allows the university to impose unpaid days off work for non-union employees should they become necessary.
Any furloughs of AAUP members would have to be contractually negotiated, said Marty Kich, president of the Wright State chapter of the labor organization.
The university and the AAUP are headed to fact-finding in April, he said.
RELATED: Wright State swimming, diving supporters hire consultant to try to save teams Wright State Trustee Bruce Langos, the sole no vote on enacting the policy on mandatory furloughs, said non-bargaining unit support staff have taken enough cuts.
He added the university should spend more time finding new revenue sources.
“I think we have a high probability that we’re going to end up on fiscal watch and we need to make sure that we’re focused on that revenue growth,” he said in an interview. “We can’t put the entire problem on the backs of the employees. We need to be generating revenue.”
David M. Butkovinsky, a long-time WSU accounting professor and AAUP member, told trustees the cuts would hurt both students’ education and the retention and recruitment of faculty.
Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 1:47 PM
MIDDLETOWN — UPDATE @ 2:05 p.m.
Lockdowns at four Middletown Schools are now lifted by school officials, and a student is being questioned by police.
According to Middletown Police a fight at Middletown High School led one male student to say he would go home and return with a gun.
That alleged comment was reported by students to school officials, who immediately informed police who rushed to the school.
Police then closed down the school’s doors, keeping anyone from leaving or coming in, said Middletown Police Major Scott Reeve.
Some school parents rushed to the school and were distraught in the Middletown High School parking lot because they could not enter the building to pick up their children.
Reeve said parents were “very sensitive” about concerns of deadly school violence in the wake of this week’s mass shooting at a Florida High School that left 17 dead.
Once the lockdown was lifted at 1:45 p.m., several parents took their children out of the school and drove off.
School officials said the investigation into the threat is continuing.
Middletown High School and three elementaries are on lockdowns after students at the high school reported a threat of violence.
There is no active shooter, weapons or injuries reported at any of the schools, though Elizabeth Beadle, spokeswoman for the city schools, said school and police are continuing to investigate the threat.
Beadle declined to detail the nature of the threat made to the four Middletown schools. She said the threat was not made via social media.
The high school is on a “hard lockdown,” which means students and staff are ordered to stay in classrooms and other school areas until released by authorities.
The three Middletown elementaries - Creekview, Wildwood and Mayfield - are on “soft lockdowns,” which allow students and staff to continue their regular school day activities inside the building, but they are prohibited from leaving the school building.
In a alert posted on the Middletown Schools webpage, officials stated “this message is to inform you that at approximately 12:20 PM today, the Middletown High School received a tip that an individual threatened an act of violence against the school. The Middletown High School went on a lock down and Local Law Enforcement officials were notified immediately.”
“We implemented our crisis response plan, which places the highest priority on the health and safety of our staff, students, and community. Everyone responded quickly and followed prescribed police and school safety procedures. We are still on a lock down at this time. We will update with more details.”