Springboro school levy group late in registering with election board

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 7:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 2:53 PM


            Less than a month before the election, the campaign to promote a substitute levy in the Springboro school district registered with the local board of elections. LAWRENCE BUDD/STAFF
            Lawrence Budd
Less than a month before the election, the campaign to promote a substitute levy in the Springboro school district registered with the local board of elections. LAWRENCE BUDD/STAFF(Lawrence Budd)

The Springboro schools’ substitute levy campaign established a committee with the local elections board on Tuesday, about two months after supporters began work to promote passage of a continuing substitute 7.4-mill levy.

The levy, Issue 18 on the Nov. 7 ballot, is expected to raise more than $7.9 million for Springboro school district expenses, if approved.

RELATED: Springboro schools to seek substitute levy

Before accepting or spending money promoting an issue or candidate, a campaign committee needs to be set up and a treasurer designated with the county election board, according to Brian Sleeth, director of the Warren County Board of Elections.

District Treasurer Terrah Floyd said other steps had been taken by campaign committee volunteers to establish the committee before it was formed late Tuesday at the local election office.

Sleeth said Wednesday the group filed paperwork with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

“They went to the wrong office and did the wrong form,” Sleeth said. “They set themselves up as a business.”

The committee has made no expenditures, but has had some donations, Sleeth said.

The committee is in compliance now because they filed the proper forms with the county office Tuesday, Sleeth said.

A group can establish a campaign committee through the Secretary of State’s office on state issues, but must set up the committee with the county election board on local issues, according to Sleeth.

The committee’s records will be reviewed after filing campaign finance reports following the election, a legal requirement for campaign committees. If there appears to be any violations, the case will be turned over to the Ohio Elections Commission, Sleeth said.

“We’ve never had this happen before,” Sleeth said.

Floyd and Superintendent Dan Schroer formed the committee in August with more than 40 people from the community.

“They had to start over from scratch,” Floyd said of supporters, noting she and Schroer were limited in their levy involvement during work hours. “Nobody else knew to tell them what to do.”

MORE: Springboro to seek new money after five consecutive defeats

A website has been set up, www.keepspringborostrong.org, social media and other duties distributed. Schroer is expected to speak to groups throughout the district in support of the levy.

The committee took the place of Neighbors for Springboro Schools, the committee through which recent levy campaigns have accepted contributions and spent money promoting issues.

Neighbors for Springboro Schools initially committed $1,600 to the substitute levy campaign.

“There needs be something substantial for them to start with,” board member Lisa Babb said during a Sept. 28 school board meeting.

Babb was responding to questions about the status of the campaign and why Neighbors for Springboro Schools (NFSS) had held onto more than $7,000.

Babb and resident Tiffany Carlisle then indicated NFSS decided to hold onto some of the money still in its treasury from past campaigns for future levies seeking new operating money for the district.

Voters here have rejected five consecutive levies for new money, but approved a renewal with a reduced levy in 2013.

MORE: Schools raise more money from new development with substitute levy

Substitute levies are still relatively uncommon.

School officials in districts like Springboro and Beavercreek trying to find a way to keep up with growing student populations and the costs of providing a public education are turning more to this option, added in Ohio in 2008.

People already paying property taxes on emergency levies like the one that would be replaced by the substitute levy shouldn’t see their bills go up after passage of the substitute measure.

Unlike other levies, substitutes enable districts to collect full taxes on residential and commercial properties improved after passage, unless they are exempted through tax abatements or other incentives.

Districts can actually reduce the millage levied, once the continuing substitute levy has been approved and money from new development can be counted.

Last week, Carlisle said NFSS “stands ready to assist the new campaign with any funding they request, whether it be for signs, mailings, or other campaign materials for community events.”

On Tuesday, Carlisle said, “We are currently working on finding out how to legally transfer PAC funds and plan to transfer all NFSS funds to the new campaign as soon as we can.”

Clark County students might return to schools in wake of ECOT closure

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 3:00 PM

Springfield City Schools offer an Oncourse curriculum for students.

About 150 students in Clark County will need a new school after one of the largest online schools shut down on Friday.

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is being closed effective immediately by its sponsor, according to Ohio Department of Education officials.

MORE: ECOT, Ohio’s largest online charter school, may close by next week

“The Ohio Department of Education was informed this evening that the ESC of Lake Erie West has suspended the operations of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow,” state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said Thursday night. “We are beginning the implementation of a plan to support students and families in identifying new educational opportunities to meet their needs.”

About 80 ECOT students — including about 50 in high school — live in the Springfield City School District, Springfield Superintendent Bob Hill said. The school has the capability to handle about 25 openings at its local online school, OnCourse. Those students must meet with a teacher for an hour about four times per week, he said, and complete the rest of their schooling online.

“We’ve already looked at some preliminary things in terms of reaching back out to those families, letting them know about (OnCourse),” Hill said. “We’ll see how that falls.”

The remainder of the students could return to a brick-and-mortar school, Hill said. The students may also have the option to attend other online schools similar to ECOT, he said.

RELATED: Charter school failure could be largest in state history

“I’ve always maintained the Springfield City School District provides a much higher-quality education than what they’re receiving in community and online schools,” Hill said.

Students must begin looking for a new school as soon as possible, the ODE said. The Springfield ECOT students range from kindergarteners through high schoolers.

Financially, if every student returns, the district would see about $6,000 per student more or about $500,000.

“I’ll be curious to see how it all shakes out and if we’ll get some of those dollars ECOT falsely claimed over the years,” Hill said.

ECOT claimed an enrollment of more than 15,000 students just two years ago, including more than 1,000 in the Dayton area. But state officials eventually challenged that figure, suggesting it had closer to 6,000 full-time students.

MORE LOCAL: Springfield, Clark County commissioners to hold joint work sessions

ECOT argued that it merely had to “present” 920 hours of “learning opportunities” for students, while ODE said students had to be logged on and engaged in school activities. ECOT fought and lost multiple court challenges, and the state began clawing back $60 million that it paid the school in 2015-2016 based on the higher enrollment figure.

ECOT consistently ranked near the bottom on state test scores, earning five Fs and a D on the 2016-17 state report card components.

“Districts and schools have already taken actions to streamline and accelerate their enrollment processes (for ECOT students),” DeMaria said. “We know the entire education community will come together with care and compassion in the best interest of these students.”

The Ohio Department of Education posted information on its web site to help families seeking new schools.

3 QUICK NEWS-SUN READS

Clark County plan includes entertainment district, youth programs

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Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow

Clark County enrollment

• Clark-Shawnee: 3.0

• Greenon: 11.87

• Northeastern: 7.41

• Northwestern: 3.72

• Southeastern: 2.0

• Springfield: 79.48

• Tecumseh: 19.32

Total: 150.8

* Full-time equivalents as of Jan. 12

Source: Ohio Department of Education

After racist basketball jerseys shocked the region, the community responded

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 11:00 AM

Racist jerseys worn by Kings students in a non-school basketball league prompts school officials to launch racial awareness programs.

Names on white teen basketball player jerseys have caused nationwide controversy but shouldn’t also label this suburban community, some African-American parents from the Kings school system say.

But they — and other residents — say a key question continues to hover over one of Southwest Ohio’s top academic school systems: How did it happen?

MORE: Kings and neighboring Mason schools battle separate racial incidents

For multiple games, the teens – Kings students playing in a youth league not affiliated with the school district but using local school gyms – wore jerseys seen by dozens if not hundreds of parents, fans, friends and others.

They all saw a player whose jersey name on the back was “Knee Grow” play next to a teammate identified by his uniform as “Coon.”

And they played on a squad they – along with their adult coaches – dubbed “Wet Dream Team.”

But it took those multiple games before anyone spoke up about the thinly veiled racist terms.

Here in this southern Warren County community – and many more across the nation – people are talking about what happened and what needs to be done about it.

Dora Bronston, president of the Middletown unit of the NAACP, said the incident left her “shocked that any parent, leader in our school districts or in our cities would allow any child to wear shirts that have words on them that would purposely bring up slang language to put down a race. That language is not tolerable and we should not tolerate it. These kids and their parents need to go to counseling.”

Bronston said that all of the jersey controversy unfolding so near the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday was a coincidence that could continue the conversation.

“We need to keep discussing these issues and not cringe when the topic of race comes up,” she explained. “It should be put in our spirit that prejudice is not okay.”

Fallout and promises of change

Tonya Hampton is the coordinator of International Programs at the University of Cincinnati, and she has been outspoken on the issue of the jerseys.

“I can’t believe that this happened and that the adults and coaches thought for a second this was okay and that no one reported it until after (games were) played with these racist and sexualized jerseys,” Hampton said. “Shameful. It’s just unbelievable. So many ‘good’ people doing nothing.”

The aftermath of last week’s revelations also forced the resignation Tuesday of Kings Board of Education Vice President Kerry McKiernan, who in an earlier, emotional confession announced his intention to resign a few days after the jerseys came to light.

MORE: Kings school board vice president announces resignation in wake of jersey scandal

A father of one of the boys on the team, McKiernan said he failed in his responsibilities by not objecting to the jerseys when they were first unveiled.

The make-up of the five-member governing board for Kings Schools, which over the years has been among the region’s top school districts, will now shift as remaining members must appoint someone to fill McKiernan’s seat by Feb. 9.

And Kings Superintendent Tim Ackermann – who oversees a district whose student enrollment is 2.3 percent African American, 5.4 percent Hispanic and 3.6 percent Asian – promises additional changes.

Though he won’t detail what’s coming, he said new racial and other diversity awareness programs and activities will show those outside of the Kings community the seriousness of the schools’ commitment to making sure everyone knows they are welcomed in the largely white school system.

‘How do we fix it?’

Kings parent Adrian Williams said the lingering question of “how did this happen” has to quickly become secondary to a more important query: “How do we fix it?”

It’s been painful, said Williams, who is African-American and a volunteer member of an existing Kings committee on diversity.

“It’s important to educate the kids and the parents, but the actions of the school district since have been spot on,” Williams said.

Kings parent Jen Alge, whose children “have disabilities,” stepped to the mic at the recent school board meeting to address the “national scandal that happened.”

“I really care about inclusion and diversity,” for special needs students as well as minorities, she said.

“It’s something I want our schools to be really good at,” she told the board.

Parent Todd Cain said he isn’t optimistic, saying he is concerned by “the very lackadaisical nature of the board in general” and said the all-white board of three women and one man is a prime place to start with change.

“I would certainly like to see some additional diversity on the board,” said Cain, referencing the new member who will soon be chosen.

His wife Julie Cain, who is also on the district’s diversity committee, said, “I am not convinced that they (board members) really understand the problem.”

“It’s going to be hard to identify how to change it when you don’t know what you are solving for. I don’t believe that when you live in such (an isolation) bubble you can really comprehend the impact of things that happen, the consequences and the ripple effects,” she said.

But Williams predicted Kings officials will change things for the better.

“I’m quite optimistic about the future of race relations here,” Williams said. “This brought about awareness. And when you know better, you do better.”

SERIES OF EVENTS

January 2018 timeline detailing jersey saga involving Kings students:

Jan. 7: Team including Kings students removed from non-school-affiliated recreation league for wearing “Team Wet Dream” jerseys featuring racial epitaphs ‘Knee Grown” and “Coon” after opposing parent from West Clermont, Tony Rue, alerts league.

Jan. 9: Kings Board of Education Vice President Kerry McKiernan announces he will resign and states that his son was on the team.

Jan. 16: Kings school board formally accpets McKiernan’s resignation. Community members voice concerns at a school board meeting over how the team was able to wear the jerseys for four games before the situation was reported.

Jan. 17: Kings officials begin accepting applications for candidates to fill McKiernan’s board seat.

Logan Cole remembers West Liberty school shooting one year later

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 6:00 AM

Logan Cole talks about the day he was shot.

West Liberty-Salem High School student Logan Cole was shot one year ago today in the chest in a school restroom.

Logan remembers much of that day and the shooting.

“I remember that I was going to a mock trial competition in the morning and I remember going to school and we were about to leave on the bus and I remember walking into the bathroom,” Logan said in an exclusive interview with the Springfield News-Sun. “And there Ely was with the gun.”

RELATED: West Liberty-Salem still healing 1 year after school shooting

Ely Serna faces multiple felony charges in adult court for his alleged role in the shooting, including two counts of attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and is due back in court on Feb. 13.

Logan also recalls how the suspect was apprehended by school administrators and school staff members tended to his wounds and prayed for him.

Logan was hit by two shotgun blasts that put about 100 pellets in to his body, including one in his heart. After several surgeries and about two weeks in the hospital, he’s now mostly recovered physically, even playing a season of soccer.

“The prayers really helped a lot in that moment,” Logan said.

All for a reason

Logan carries the weight of the day with him all the time. He still wrestles with emotions.

“One thing I really learned through all of this is forgiveness and that’s kind of weird to say considering what was done to me … I don’t know when I forgave,” Logan said. “I’d say I’ve probably forgiven Ely but I mean that also doesn’t mean I don’t still get angry about it.”

MORE: West Liberty school shooting victim has 100 pellets in his body

Forgiveness is a continuing struggle, he said.

“I go back and get angry about it again and I have to forgive him again,” Logan said. “And it’s kind of a process. But I feel like looking back on the day, it’s kind of a bummer what happened. It’s definitely not fun but I think that it was all — I think that was all for a reason.”

Logan believes more people would have been hurt if he hadn’t run into the suspect in the restroom. Logan said he talked to Serna but declined to talk about what was said because of the ongoing legal case.

“I’m not thankful that the situation happened but I’m thankful that I went in there at the same time for the outcome that there was,” he said.

MORE: West Liberty school shooting victim to be honored

His actions earned him noticed by the U.S. Security Service in Dayton. They arranged a meeting with Logan and Vice President Mike Pence during a visit to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in May.

“Logan’s heroic actions were deserving of the honor,” resident agent in charge Kevin Dye said.

Community support

After the shooting, Logan said the community embraced him.

“It was huge,” he said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting all that to happen but from the first moment — so many people came to visit me in the hospital and the fundraisers that were done for us and it was — it was all pretty overwhelming,” he said.

But as much as the community support affected Logan, his actions following the shooting also affected the community.

RELATED: West Liberty school shooting victim Logan Cole returns to school

“Logan is definitely a Christian young man,” resident Janet Mally said. “I don’t know him personally but he is an exceptional young man.”

“He’s been very forgiving,” resident Jack King said. “Most people would say, ‘Yes, it’s tough to forgive, but I can tell he believes in God. His faith is what did it. It’s the way he was taught and he comes from a good family.”

Logan has shown his appreciation to the community by donating $22,000 from fundraisers held in his honor to the school district toward a new field house.

Inspired many

Logan said the events of Jan. 20, 2017, should be remembered.

READ: West Liberty seeks mental health help after school shooting

“I definitely believe it should not be forgotten,” Logan said. “I think that forgetting it won’t do us any good. Like a lot of the things that happened in our past, we can learn from it.”

Logan’s actions and perspective of the shooting has inspired many, West Liberty-Salem Superintendent Kraig Hissong said.

“Logan is an amazing individual who has handled this whole situation far better than anyone expected,” he said. “He has been strong the whole time.

Many people can learn how to deal with adversity by watching Logan, Hissong said.

“He is an amazing example of how to handle a situation like this,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of anger or him asking, ‘Why me?’ It’s perseverance.”

Northeastern adjusts bus driver’s reprimand, rebuts safety allegations

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 7:14 PM


            The Northeastern Board of Education voted to adjust a reprimand against a bus driver this week. JEFF GUERINI/ STAFF
The Northeastern Board of Education voted to adjust a reprimand against a bus driver this week. JEFF GUERINI/ STAFF

The Northeastern Local Board of Education voted to adjust a reprimand against a school bus driver who reported to the state that the district allegedly violated state and federal bus safety rules.

Cindy Ladig was reprimanded last year and faced possible reassignment after she filed a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education regarding the district’s handling of the transportation of a student who uses a wheelchair.

Northeastern board members decided unanimously Thursday night that Ladig wasn’t insubordinate when she filed the complaint with the state but didn’t completely remove the reprimand from her personnel record.

RELATED: State says Northeastern violated federal, state bus safety rules

Northeastern Superintendent John Kronour told the Springfield News-Sun the district maintains it followed all bus safety laws at all times and was addressing the wheelchair issue before a complaint was filed.

A current bus driver and a former transportation department administrator said at the school board meeting Thursday they have concerns about how the district’s transportation department is run. Northeastern is the second largest school district in Clark County.

The Northeastern board members met in executive session for about three hours Thursday night for a grievance hearing regarding the reprimand filed against Ladig.

In the original written reprimand, Ladig was accused of making “baseless allegations” when she filed the complaint accusing the district of not doing enough to stabilize an 18-year-old student’s wheelchair while riding a school bus. It swayed and allegedly caused the student to hit his head on the window, a letter from Ohio Department of Education Assistant Director for the Office of Exceptional Children Monica Drvota says.

The vote removes the insubordination part of the reprimand but it still alleges she broke policy by disclosing student records and health information without authorization.

Ladig declined to comment Thursday night and her attorney, John Concannon, didn’t return phone calls Friday. Kronour said he supports the school board’s decision.

DETAILS: Training for school bus drivers

Northeastern allegedly violated an Ohio administrative code because no district transportation department staff members attended a team meeting to review an individualized education program for the student involved and no documentation was submitted to the transportation department, the state’s letter says.

The school district rebutted those allegations in a Aug. 31, 2017, letter recently obtained by the Springfield News-Sun.

The district says in that letter they worked extensively to fix the problem and didn’t violate any laws.

“Several efforts were made to check and re-check the student’s wheelchair as secured to the bus, different methods to secure the wheelchair to the bus were attempted and complainant was given explicit instructions regarding the same, contacts were made to NuMotion (wheelchair company) to assist in checking the student’s wheelchair for defects/stability, etc.,” the letters says.

READ MORE: Graham schools to invest $600K on new transportation facility

The rebuttal letter also says the transportation department was constantly involved in discussions regarding the wheelchair malfunction.

“Transportation personnel was consulted on numerous occasions, including but not limited to the meeting on March 21 and that information from the transportation personnel was taken into consideration both before and during the IEP team meeting on April 21,” the letter says.

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The letter goes on to say, “Transportation personnel was in fact consulted in preparation to the student’s IEP and that the consultation with transportation personnel was discussed at the student’s IEP team meeting on April 21.”

A separate letter addressed to the Ohio Department of Education on Jan. 5, 2018, recommends the state look into adding an appeal process. It’s not fair that Northeastern cannot appeal the findings, the letter claims.

“This left the board with no means of redressing the findings in the state complaint,” the letters says. “The board believes this is a serious void in the conflict resolution process codified in (Ohio administrative code).”

The Ohio Department of Education hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment. The Springfield News-Sun also has submitted public records requests to the Ohio Department of Education for more information on the allegations but hasn’t received them.

MORE COVERAGE: Clark DD to privatize transportation for disabled

Transportation concerns

At the school board meeting Thursday, former and current employees also asked questions about the Northeastern transportation department.

Current bus driver Jodie Childs, who’s worked at the district for 38 years, said the operations aren’t running smoothly.

“We have lost communication in our transportation department,” Childs said. “It’s critical. We need help there and I am asking the board to look into it.”

She supports Ladig, she said.

“Addressing the issues of safety on our school buses is a critical, critical thing,” Childs said. “I don’t really feel like they are listening to our concerns about transporting students in general, not just (students with disabilities). It’s across the board.”

Bob Skelton, who served as Northeastern transportation director before retiring several years ago, said he still monitors the bus radios and is concerned about what he’s heard.

“It’s shameful, what’s going on,” Skelton said.

He said he heard on the monitor buses breaking down often and a lack of good communication.

MORE ABOUT NORTHEASTERN: Student of the Week Northeastern High School

“It is getting really, really dangerous,” Skelton said.

He said the board needs to focus on its transportation department.

“I live in this district and I am very concerned about it,” Skelton said. “I hope somebody gets on it and someone listens and pays attention.”

Most school board members didn’t respond to the concerns during the meeting but school board member Steve Schwitzgable did.

“I can assure you we will have conversations about what’s going on in bus transportation,” Schwitzgable said.

Kronour said in an email that he will look into the concerns, too.

“I will be investigating concerns raised last evening over the course of the next few days,” Kronour said.

By the numbers

3,300: Students in Northeastern Local School District

2: Codes, one federal and one state, the Ohio Department of Education says Northeastern violated when transporting a student who uses a wheelchair

3: Corrective steps the state says Northeastern should take to remedy the situation

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun first broke the news about state allegations against Northeastern Local Schools and will continue to follow the story.