5 things to know about the ongoing Hamilton superintendent leave story

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 2:51 PM


            Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr remains on leave but the reasons why are also still absent from the public.
Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr remains on leave but the reasons why are also still absent from the public.

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr remains on leave but the reasons why are also still absent from the public.

The board has issued general statements but few details regarding the rare action it took in placing Orr on leave.

MORE: Board hears supporters of Hamilton school leader urge his return

Here are five things to know about where things stand:

1. Orr isn’t talking. After an initial statement released last week – hours after the school board’s first statement about his being placed on leave — Orr has not responded to requests to comment.

MORE: Hamilton school leader says he doesn’t know why he was placed on leave

In his only statement to date, Orr said he did not know the nature of the allegations against him and expressed confidence he will be exonerated and returned to his superintendent’s job.

2. The school board isn’t talking. Board President Steve Isgro has issued statements on behalf of the board – including noting an independent investigation is looking into whatever alleged allegations – and spoken only general terms about Orr’s status. Board members have not revealed who is conducting the investigation.

3. To date the school board has issued three written statements regarding Orr’s leave. One, an internal notice placed in Orr’s personal file, which this news outlet obtained through an Ohio Records request, and two released publicly. Two of the three board statements allude to allegations of violation of school board policy. The internal memo in Orr’s file referenced “allegations of misconduct.”

MORE: Communications between school board and Tony revealed

4. Parents have said they want him back. At the first meeting of the school board since it announced Orr’s leave, held on Tuesday, about a half-dozen supporters of the superintendent spoke on his behalf, urging the board to return him to office.

5. The board said allegations do not involve students. This news outlet has checked repeatedly with Hamilton police to see if they are conducting any investigation involving Orr in any manner and officials there said no. Isgro has stressed the allegations do not involve any accusations of misconduct with students.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Teen accused in Springfield school threat makes court appearance

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 2:33 PM
Updated: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 5:22 PM

A Springfield High School student was in Clark County Juvenile Court because of alleged threats posted on social media

The Springfield High School student charged in connection with a school threat that caused local schools and schools across the country to take safety precautions made her first court appearance Friday.

The 17-year-old junior stood before Clark County Juvenile Court Judge Robert Vaughn and cried as the judge told her she was being charged with inducing panic, a felony in the second degree.

READ: Springfield-Clark CTC investigates social media threat

“(The threat) was tracked to the phone of the suspect,” Vaughn said, reading her charging document.

The potential penalty, if she is convicted, is between one year to until she is 21 years old in the Ohio Department of Youth Services, Vaughn said.

The student’s next court date will be Wednesday.

“The court finds given the seriousness of the offense that the defendant be held at this time,” Vaughn said.

The defendant will make her way through the juvenile court system and not be moved to adult court, Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson said.

The juvenile court system can handle incidents like these, he said.

MORE: Springfield student arrested in Facebook threat: 4 things to know

“This case will remain in juvenile court for adjudication and the State of Ohio will not seek to have this defendant bound over to adult court,” Wilson said.

What the suspect allegedly did was serious, Wilson said, and it will be prosecuted.

“The actions of this defendant caused serious public inconvenience and alarm,” Wilson said. “This defendant and any other person who posts or issues these kinds of threats will have to answer for their actions in front of a judge.”

He said no one should make threats against a school.

RELATED: Attendance ‘light’ at schools across Clark County after threat

“Local law enforcement will continue to take these threats seriously and anyone caught making these types of threats will be arrested and charged,” he said.

Clark County had a strenuous week with school threats and security. On Tuesday, an unloaded gun was found in an 8-year-old Simon Kenton student’s backpack. And there had been rumors that a gun was found at Springfield High School on Wednesday. Superintendent Bob Hill said the rumors, which concerned many parents and community members on social media, was not true.

Also on Friday, Clark County deputies investigated a supposed threat towards Northwestern Local Schools.

The Northwestern student was arrested at the start of school Friday morning, according to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and a one-call sent to parents by the district.

“There was another threat and another arrest was made,” Clark County Chief Deputy Travis Russell told the Springfield News-Sun.

Northwestern School Superintendent Jesse Steiner said a student made an online post that was perceived by some to have threatened the school, but that student did not mean to.

READ: Springfield student arrested in Facebook threat: 4 things to know

Steiner said the online post was taken out of context, and the student did not intend to harm anyone.

“At no point was anybody in danger,” Steiner said. “People could have misinterpreted the post. The kid did not threaten anyone.”

The post is a reason why it might be a good idea to talk to kids about what they post online, Steiner said.

“This is a great time to talk about what they post online and how they say it,” he said. “Have that conversation so they can keep their kids safe.”

The status of the student’s case was unknown Friday afternoon.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Role of police in school questioned

Published: Friday, November 27, 2015 @ 3:00 PM

Video of a police officer violently arresting a student who wouldn’t leave her desk last month in South Carolina has intensified the debate over the role of police in schools — with at least one local group seeking their removal.

A survey of 22 local school districts found that most large districts have local police regularly serving as School Resource Officers in their buildings. Several other districts without SROs cite an open-door policy with their police departments.

NEW DETAILS: What is a school resource officer?

Local police and national safety experts say the key to avoiding confrontations like the South Carolina case is choosing the right officers to work in schools and specifically training them how to de-escalate tense situations with teenagers.

But Racial Justice NOW!, a local parent organization that has worked closely with Dayton Public Schools on a variety of issues in the past year, argues that role is better filled by non-police intervention workers, suggesting that students would be more open with them than with police.

Zakiya Sankara Jabar, director of the group, cites trust barriers between police and black communities stemming from shootings in Ferguson, Mo.; Chicago, Cleveland and Beavercreek. She said the national Dignity in Schools campaign is currently crafting a letter to federal education officials, calling for the removal of police from schools.

“There seems to be an (out-sized) need to have security measures in urban schools, instead of a more holistic positive school climate,” Jabar said. “Things are too punitive and younger children internalize that. That’s a big reason why a lot of children become disengaged in schools.”

National flashpoint

South Carolina sheriff’s deputy Ben Fields was fired in October after throwing a non-cooperative student and her desk to the ground, then forcefully dragging her across a classroom floor.

Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, said Fields wasn’t trained by his organization, adding that the brief video shows the importance of training and technique.

“There really is not a national standard and there needs to be to some degree. This is probably the most unique assignment in law enforcement and it’s not for just anybody,” Canady said. “We train officers that if they’re in a setting like that where there are other students, you need to remove the audience. In many cases, that opens communication, and the student feels less motivated to act out without their peers present. You can get them talking to you and de-escalate the situation.”

School by school

Dayton-area schools take a variety of approaches, largely depending on the size of the district. The 10 largest districts in the area all have school resource officer or security officer programs, according to district officials.

Kettering and Huber Heights schools each have two SROs, supported by private security guards at the high school. Centerville and Northmont have three SROs, in part because their school districts straddle multiple police jurisdictions. Springboro, Miamisburg and Xenia each have one SRO. Beavercreek has an SRO program but was the only district to refuse to answer questions about it, citing “security protocols.”

Huber Heights Superintendent Susan Gunnell said the goal at her district is for SROs to help provide a safe school environment, but also to build positive relationships with students and teach safety-related classes.

“Our SRO’s have conducted classes on women’s self-defense for both staff and students,” Gunnell said. “They have provided information in classes on internet safety, anti-bullying and teen violence. And they have conducted parent meetings on internet safety.”

Mid-sized and smaller districts are less likely to have a formal SRO program, with Bellbrook and Trotwood-Madison among the exceptions. (Trotwood just restarted its program this fall.) Many districts, including Vandalia-Butler, Tipp City, Northridge and New Lebanon, have no contracted agreement but refer to an “open door policy” with their local police departments.

“They can come into the buildings anytime they want,” Vandalia-Butler Superintendent Brad Neavin said of local police. “They check in with the office, and they may want to walk the halls or come in during lunchtime and interact with the kids in a positive way.”

Dayton’s approach

While most school districts contract with local police, Dayton Public Schools hires its own security officers, with 26 currently on staff, including two full-time at each high school.

Those officers must complete the 143-hour Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy’s private security basic training course and pass the test. That training — much less than what’s needed to become a police officer — earns them the city of Dayton’s Special Institutional Police License, which gives them arrest powers. They carry handcuffs but not firearms.

Richard Wright, associate director of safety and security for DPS, said none of his officers has made an arrest at school in the past few years. He said the approach is “hands-off” unless a student is harming himself, a classmate or a staff member.

“Our main objective is to discourage disruption to the educational process,” Wright said. “We’re not there to make arrests. Nobody’s there who’s gung-ho on trying to get a child in trouble.”There are hiccups, but I try to call the police as little as possible. If we can’t handle it, let’s ask what’s really going on? What’s the root problem, and let’s try to rectify that.”

DPS students interviewed about school security had few complaints other than questioning some morning metal detector procedures. Ponitz CTC senior Virginia Nsabimana said she hasn’t seen any DPS officers step over the line.

Thurgood Marshall High freshman Christian Peoples said the security officers are respectful, even when students don’t return the favor. Thurgood junior Justice Sheppard said officers get involved when there are fights, drug issues or students roaming the halls.

“They don’t try to use force — they just try to talk to us first, like with a warning or something,” Sheppard said.

David Johnson is in his 20th year as a DPS security officer, currently at Thurgood, and he said Wright and safety director Jamie Bullens, both former local police officers, require significant ongoing training even for veteran officers. But he agreed with Canady that it takes the right kind of person, with patience.

“When you go into a classroom to get a student — and I’ve gone in hundreds of times — you have to have a rapport,” Johnson said. “I don’t embarrass a student. I say, ‘Come on with me; whatever happened is over with.’ I’ve never had to drag a student out, and I’ve never felt unsafe. The students have to really trust you … that you’re not just trying to get them suspended.”

But Jabar said her Racial Justice NOW! group is concerned over how often students are suspended at DPS, and she pointed to a significant rise in August and September of this year, compared to the same period in 2014.

DPS officials said suspension decisions are made by principals and other administrators, not security officers, and have declined since 2012-13.

Kettering’s model

Two Kettering police officers serve as School Resource Officers, and SRO Wendy Miller said the officers take a three-tiered approach — investigating crime and enforcing the law when necessary, educating students on topics like drugs and alcohol or internet safety, and also serving as mentors.

“You’re dealing with children and some of them are very young, so you take that into consideration,” said Miller, who works primarily with middle school and elementary school students. “Just because something’s happened doesn’t mean we have to charge them and send them to court. We try to use other options besides arresting.”

Miller supports having designated SROs because they develop knowledge and trust with students and staff that other officers just visiting the building may not have.

“We’re also more up-to-date on training and legal standards relating to schools and juveniles,” Miller said. “A detective might have special training in violent crimes, so they’re the appropriate specialists there. We’re the specialists in schools.”

Kettering’s two SROs are traditional armed officers funded by the city, and Lt. Dan Gangwer said the police department hopes to have Miller and SRO Carla Sacher train more officers so they can fill in effectively when needed. A third position previously funded by the schools was discontinued.

The expense of staffing SROs has led to cutbacks in some districts. Valley View eliminated its SRO position because of cost, and Huber Heights temporarily cut one position in 2012-13 due to budget cuts. Fairborn hopes to be able to add a second SRO, and Trotwood’s city and schools are splitting the cost of their newly assigned SRO.

Kettering senior Erika Brandenburg said she appreciated the presence of SROs in the high school, and junior Dominic Moore called them “very respectful of the students.”

He credited resource officers with helping calm a potentially explosive situation earlier this year after controversy erupted when a group of students were flying Confederate flags from their trucks.

“The police have enforced those rules, but (students) respectfully said OK and took the flags down,” Moore said. “It could have gotten a little out of hand, but we ended up working it all out with them without too much tension.”

Junior Travis Malone said he’s talked to a few SROs, and he said the officers don’t intimidate students, adding that it gives him a “protected feeling. That’s nice to have around school, given all that goes on these days,” he said.

Suspensions a concern

Jabar said data is difficult to find on school-based arrests, but Racial Justice NOW and others worry about zero-tolerance policies and high rates of discipline in general in urban public schools.

From 2009-13, Dayton Public Schools averaged 6,634 suspensions per year in a district with roughly 14,000 students.

Jabar also pointed to federal data from the Schott Foundation report for 2015, which found that black male students in Ohio are suspended almost four times as often as white male students — a gap that is slightly above the national average.

The foundation, which advocates for equity in education, argues that schools continue to use out-of-school suspensions as a disciplinary tool even though research suggests they serve only to reinforce negative student behavior.

Canady, of NASRO, countered with Department of Justice data showing that juvenile arrests on the whole dropped almost 50 percent in the 1990s and 2000s.

Local School Resource Officers said the key is building relationships and being proactive so a situation doesn’t escalate and a suspension or arrest isn’t necessary.

Johnson said those efforts at Thurgood Marshall mean students will often confide in him if they hear a fight is brewing.

And Miller told the story of a middle schooler in Kettering who endured serious family turmoil and “could have gone either way.” After getting support from her and others at school, the girl is getting good grades, made a school team and now emails Miller regularly.

“It’s important that kids see you not as the bad guy, so to speak,” said Sacher, Kettering’s other SRO. “If you come into a situation where you’ve built a relationship and can communicate with them, anything that goes wrong is easier to work through.”

Trending - Most Read Stories

Troy lays out plans for finding new school superintendent

Published: Thursday, February 22, 2018 @ 6:00 AM


            Troy City Schools Board of Education is accepting applications for a new superintendent and will begin interviewing candidates in March. Superintendent Eric Herman is retiring July 31.
Troy City Schools Board of Education is accepting applications for a new superintendent and will begin interviewing candidates in March. Superintendent Eric Herman is retiring July 31.

TROY - The Troy City Schools Board of Education will begin interviewing superintendent candidates March 19 following an application and recruiting process that included a community meeting last week for input on characteristics desired in the next district leader.

K-12 Business Consulting Inc. of New Albany is working with the board of education in the search to replace Eric Herman, who is retiring July 31. Herman has been with the district 20 years, serving as interim superintendent in summer 2010 and superintendent in March 2011. He served as an assistant principal; principal; director of curriculum and technology; and assistant superintendent over the years.

The deadline for applicants is March 9.

The process of reviewing candidates and making recommendations to the board was outlined by consultants Dennis Leone and Lawrence Butler, both former school leaders. The company is being paid $17,900 for its services through hiring of a new superintendent, said Jeff Price, district treasurer.

“We’ve learned a lot here,” Leone told around 20 people, including three former board of education members, attending the community meeting.

The consultants spent the day in the district, including meeting with students and administrators, before the community meeting. Among topics of discussion in the community was the district bond issue for new elementary schools that failed in November.

Several meeting participants said a major issue with the failed proposal was lack of communication. Others discussed the proposal to move from neighborhood elementary schools to two buildings at one location. The offerings of different opportunities at the various school locations today was pointed to as a concern by some participants.

Among questions discussed were district strengths. Participants pointed to tradition, community involvement, fiscal responsibility, a strong community foundation, neighborhood schools, a wide range of opportunities for community involvement and a great draw for staff.

“The hiring of a new superintendent is also an opportunity. It is an important time, a transition,” Leone said.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Want to be a substitute teacher? Northmont seeking help

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 4:32 PM

Northmont City Schools logo. CONTRIBUTED.
Northmont City Schools logo. CONTRIBUTED.

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.

TRENDING: La Niña unleashes threat for flooding across Ohio Valley, Midwest

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.

If you are interested, visit the school district’s website for the application and requirements from the Ohio State Board of Education. For additional information, contact Northmont City Schools at (937) 832-5011.

Trending - Most Read Stories