Vandalia-Butler to close elementary school

Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 6:54 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 6:54 PM

Vandalia-Butler City School District officials announced Tuesday they will close Murlin Heights Elementary School regardless of whether voters approve an additional 6.99-mill levy on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The earliest the 60-year-old school on North Dixie Drive would close would be next school year. It is part of the second phase of the district’s two-year, $7 million cost reduction plan, spokeswoman Bethany Reiff said.

This latest phase cutting $3.5 million follows early cuts totalling that amount announced in April.

Officials called the planned closure a “financial necessity” due to the high cost of operating the school for grades K-4 as well as additional planned cuts to teachers, support staff and administrators.

A second school that has not been identified also “could be closed” if the levy fails, Reiff said.

Superintendent Christy Donnelly could not be reached for comment.

Meegan Brady, who has three children in the district, including a 9-year-old son at Murlin Heights, was saddened to learn the news.

“To take it away completely, it shocked people,” said Brady, who volunteers at the school. She worries about the jobs of the staff and how the 406 students will be impacted. “Where are all those kids going to go?” she asked.

The district, which has about 3,300 students, plans to reconfigure district grade levels as part of the reductions aimed at balancing the budget. It provided a bullet-point list of what would happen depending on election results.

If the levy passes: $3.5 million would be cut and up to 15 positions of teachers, support staff and administrators eliminated. Busing that already has been reduced to the state minimum would be reassessed for 2013-14. There would be additional cuts to extracurricular activities.

If the levy fails: An additional $3.9 million would be cut and up to 60 positions eliminated. Student programs would be eliminated, compensation and benefits reduced and there would be $800,000 more cut from co-curriculars and athletics.

This is the third straight attempt by the district to get voters to approve a 6.99-mill operating and permanent improvement levy, which would generate about $3.9 million annually. Two earlier levies were defeated in November 2011 and last month.

District officials first warned voters last November that failure would result in $7 million in cuts. The first wave, identified in April, involved eliminating 32 positions, including 13 teaching positions. The district laid off 22 people.

Administrators said at that time the cost reductions were necessitated by a budget deficit of $18.3 million that resulted from $10.5 million in state funding cuts and a $7.8 million loss in property taxes.

This latest phase of reductions calls for reconfiguring district grade levels, likely next school year, in an effort to manage large class sizes.

Reiff said the reconfiguring “will definitely occur whether or not the levy passes” but said officials will not make a decision on what it would look like until there is more certainty about the budget.

Today, the district has 33 fewer teachers, 6.5 fewer administrators and 19 fewer support staff than it did in 2009, officials said. Remaining employees have taken a pay freeze and pay more for insurance.

Murlin Heights Principal Connie Strehle said it was sad receiving the news that the school she has led for a decade will be closing its doors for good after this school year.

“We were sad but we also realize we have a job to do this year,” she said. “We are going to provide our students with the best education we can.”

Miami U. student sues, claims unfair suspension for sex assault claim

Published: Monday, July 24, 2017 @ 3:34 PM


            Miami University officials have been named in a federal lawsuit filed by a male student who claims accusations of sexual misconduct against him were untrue. The sophomore, who has been suspended for two years, also claims Miami officials did not provide him due process in school hearings and appeals. FILE
Miami University officials have been named in a federal lawsuit filed by a male student who claims accusations of sexual misconduct against him were untrue. The sophomore, who has been suspended for two years, also claims Miami officials did not provide him due process in school hearings and appeals. FILE

A Miami University student is suing the Butler County school, accusing officials of punishing him unfairly after a female student accused him of a sexual assault he contends was consensual sex.

The male student — identified in the federal court lawsuit only as “John Doe” — contends it was a mutually-agreed-to sexual encounter that took place after drinking in Oxford bars last fall.

MORE: Three men charged with Oxford rape

The case is the latest local example of a growing legal pushback seen on some college campuses nationally as men sue – and in some cases win – against their colleges after being accused of committing sexual assaults they maintain were actually sexual encounters with willing female students.

Some accused male students say they are wrongly presumed guilty by their universities and forced to prove their innocence – sometimes while suffering quick disciplinary actions prior to or during any college hearing process — in what they claim is a reversal of American criminal and civil law’s presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Women’s advocates, backed by officials at the U.S. Department of Education monitoring Title IX violations on campuses, contend a higher level of vigilance – and quick disciplinary action - are needed at American colleges, with some citing what they describe as a culture of rape that has threatened female students and left male perpetrators unpunished.

MORE: Miami’s handling of sexual assaults under federal review

The Miami student was suspended from the school for two years and banned from the campus, according to court records.

In the suit, he claims the woman later reported it as a sexual assault after months had passed and when she filed a complaint to school officials.

The lawsuit contains alleged text messages between the two.

Further, he argues in his lawsuit, he was denied a fair student disciplinary hearing by Miami officials due to gender bias by officials whom he also claimed were frightened of negative publicity and punishement from federal education officials.

RELATED: More male students filing lawsuits alleging unfair sexual assault claims

The male student’s attorney – Josh Engel – said the Miami student is “sad and frustrated.”

“He expected he would be given a full and fair opportunity to defend himself and was not given that opportunity by the school,” said Engel.

Miami University officials told the Journal-News they deny the student’s claims.

“Miami denies any bias in in its judicial process,” said Miami spokeswoman Claire Wagner.

“Alleged Title IX violations involving accused students are investigated in a prompt, fair and impartial manner by trained staff through Miami’s Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution,” said Wagner.

MORE: Ex-UD football player sues school over sexual misconduct claims

“Disciplinary hearings for Title IX violations are held before an Administrative Hearing Panel (two faculty and one staff member.) Panel members receive annual training on issues related to Title IX violations and on conducting a fair hearing process,” she said, adding, “the federal court has dismissed two previous claims alleging gender bias in Miami’s judicial system.”

The male Miami University student contends in his lawsuit that on a November 2016 evening he and the female student – referred to as “Jane Roe” in the filing — were among a group of students who met in two near-campus bars to celebrate a mutual friend’s birthday.

The two of them left the bar shortly after midnight, according to John Doe, and talked about “hooking up,” but he claims she declined intercourse but suggested “we can do other things.”

MORE: Miami student died of alcohol complications

They moved into some nearby bushes near a campus residence hall and began kissing and John Doe asked if he could perform oral sex on her and “she responded by moving forward and indicated consent by continuing to kiss John Doe.”

“John Doe then performed oral sex on Jane Roe: she did not object,” states the lawsuit.

Soon after, they agreed to go a bathroom near John Doe’s dorm room. The two decided against having sexual intercourse because they did not have a condom and – according to the male student – Jane Roe then “voluntarily performed oral sex” on him, the filing states.

Following the sexual activity, John Doe walked Jane back to her dorm.

At about 1 a.m. John Doe texted Jane Roe asking “Are you OK?” and she is alleged to have responded “No, I’m gonna be sick.”

“Jane Roe never stated that John Doe had sexually assaulted her,” contends the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, two days later Jane Roe texted John Doe:

“That was (expletive) up. I’m absolutely disgusted … I was so so drunk … You need to understand the gravity of your actions.”

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John Doe responded, “I’m so sorry – I was hammered too and feel absolutely horrible…”

He added, “Neither of us were thinking clearly.” He also texted, “Drunk people made horrible decisions and we made a horrible decision and I know apologizes [sic] can’t do anything ….”

“John Doe explained that he sent these texts because he was upset that he had engaged in sexual activity with Jane Roe because Jane Roe had been in a relationship with one of his friends. He believed it was a mistake to risk that relationship,” the lawsuit alleged.

“Jane Roe never reported any alleged sexual misconduct to the police,” states the lawsuit, and “almost five months after the incident reported to Miami that she had been sexually assaulted by John Doe.”

On April 5, Miami officials delivered a “notice of alleged violation of student conduct regulation” to John Doe that stated the female student contended she was an unwilling participant in the sexual activity and that she had been forced – in the residence hall bathroom — to perform oral sex.

MORE: Police crack down on scavengers as Miami students move

The subsequent “summary suspension hearing” by the school, according to the lawsuit, found the male student “presented no threat to the student body” and “was permitted to remain on campus during the disciplinary process.”

On May 1 a school hearing panel ruled John Doe was “responsible for committing sexual assault in violation … of the code of student conduct.”

John Doe was informed he was suspended until May 15, 2019, and “during this time, he is unable to earn credits from another institution and is prohibited from entering the campus. He also received additional sanctions, including probation for his remainder of his time at Miami.”

The male student appealed on May 9, arguing in part he was denied an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses at the hearing cited by the female student because they had submitted only written statements rather than testify in person.

Miami denied the appeal on May 31.

MORE: Police want Oxford bars to require 2 forms of ID for Miami students

The plaintiff’s lawsuit claims Miami officials favored the female student’s version of events because of they were “sensitive to criticisms by students and the media (including the Internet) about the manner in which Miami resolved allegations of sexual misconduct.”

“As a result, Miami’s decision-makers were motivated to favor the accusing female over the accused male, so as to protect themselves and Miami from accusations that they had failed to protect female students from sexual assaults. Miami was heavily invested in protecting female accusers even when there is no evidence of wrongdoing by males in order to avoid scrutiny from the (U.S.) Department of Education,” states the lawsuit.

The student is seeking re-instatement of his status as a Miami student and a judge’s ruling that his due process rights were violated by the school.

“He wants to get back to school and finish his education,” said Engel.

Miami U. president to Congress: All students need entrepreneurial skills

Published: Sunday, July 23, 2017 @ 11:38 AM

Miami University President Gregory Crawford recently testified before a U.S. Congressional Committee on Small Business on the programs and emphasis the Butler County school places on cultivating entrepreneurial skills among all its students. Miami is regularly lauded by national publications and studies as one of the top producers of business executives in America.
Miami University President Gregory Crawford recently testified before a U.S. Congressional Committee on Small Business on the programs and emphasis the Butler County school places on cultivating entrepreneurial skills among all its students. Miami is regularly lauded by national publications and studies as one of the top producers of business executives in America.

In many ways all Miami University students are also students of entrepreneurial skills, the president of the Butler County university told Congressional leaders recently.

Miami University President Gregory Crawford traveled to the nation’s capital last week to testify to members of the U.S. House Small Business Committee to discuss the role his school – and others across the nation – must play in expanding entrepreneurship in America.

Miami has much to offer in this burgeoning arena, Crawford told lawmakers, with officials at the school estimating close to 1,500 alumni are founders or co-founders of business.

RELATED: Miami produces top fund raising year thanks to business leaders

“The entrepreneurial mindset is as vital for success in the 21st century as the pioneering mindset in the 19th century and the manufacturing mindset in the 20th,” Crawford testified.

MORE: Miami business executives alumni are among top in nation

“Miami’s universal approach to entrepreneurship exceeds the conventional higher education mindset on experiential learning. We believe there is no substitute for the messy, complex, sometimes risky, tension-filled aspect of the compromise-driven world of real business and value creation,” Crawford told the committee, whose Chairman is U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati.

“No classroom can replicate real projects, with real stakes that require real results. This approach has transformed our traditional internships into interactive apprenticeships where students make quantifiable contributions to the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” he said.

Miami’s Redhawk Ventures (RV) is one of the few student-run venture capital funds in the nation, he said.

It invests up to $25,000 of university assets into selected student and alumni businesses. Members of RV have the opportunity to work through the entire venture funding process, ranging from business plan presentations to term sheets to growing new and innovative businesses.

Crawford said $2.1 billion in venture funding has been raised by Miami-affiliated high-growth companies since 2011. And 94 Miami-affiliated high-growth companies have exited through acquisition since 2011.

The university, which is Butler County’s largest employer, is regularly cited among the nation’s top institutions of higher learning when it comes to producing business leaders.

Besides its main Oxford campus, Miami also has regional campuses in Hamilton and Middletown and a Learning Center at the Voice of America Park in West Chester Township.

There are intangible benefits beyond making money for students and recent graduates in adopting an entrepreneurial mindset, regardless of their college major, Crawford told legislators.

“There is also a certain intangible beauty about the entrepreneurial mindset. No matter what your major, whether you become a doctor, congresswomen, social worker, scientist, teacher, that mindset empowers you with the capacity to accept failure with optimism rather than discouragement; the intellectual courage to try something no one else in the world has tried; the unity to gather a team and translate an idea from concept to product,” he said.

“No matter what field you choose to pursue after graduation, optimism, courage, and unity are personal virtues all employers and industries value,” said Crawford.

Butler Tech moves ahead with rapid expansion plan

Published: Friday, July 21, 2017 @ 5:55 PM

Butler Tech, one of Ohio's largest career school systems, is getting bigger.

The big changes at one of Ohio’s largest career school systems keep coming.

Though it’s less than two years old, Butler Tech’s leading edge Bioscience Center in West Chester Township is already expanding its classroom space for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year.

And school officials are moving on additional plans to add to the two-story building and adjacent class buildings to the high-profile campus overlooking Interstate 75, said school officials.

RELATED: Butler Tech expands by buying part of old Americana Amusement Park

A new wing is planned by 2019 for the $16 million center, which opened in 2015, but Butler Tech officials say they are also planning additional school buildings to the 23-acre campus, which sits atop a hill just west of the I-75 and Cincinnati-Dayton Road interchange.

David Plotts, executive director of business operations for Butler Tech, stands of the roof of the Bioscience Center, from where on most days you can see the tops of downtown Cincinnati’s buildings 20 miles south, and within his gaze also envisions the school’s future.

“One of our strategic goals is to reach the greatest number of students in our community,” said Plotts. “It allows us to better serve our students and our community.”

RELATED: Historic 1st: Butler Tech to enroll sophomores

The changes at the Bioscience Center campus – which include converting conference rooms into two new classrooms and additional classroom space at partner West Chester Medical Center - are the latest for the career school that serves nine Butler County school systems and Northwest Schools in northern Hamilton County.

The school system, which serves more than 27,000 high school – juniors and seniors - and adult students who study there on a full or part-time basis annually, is half-way through one of the busiest years in its 42-year history.

Earlier this year the Journal-News was the first to report Butler Tech’s $2.75-million purchase of a part of the old Americana Amusement Park property in Monroe to serve as an adult education campus.

Soon after Butler Tech announced for the first time in its history it will allow high school sophomores to enroll for the coming school year, adding about 80 to its classes.

Added one of the region’s first drone piloting summer camps and school-year classes to take advantage of the exploding job market in that career area.

STORY & VIDEO: Sky is the limit for youth drone camp at Butler Tech

The career school continues to add to its growing roster of corporate partners, which now number 152.

And it’s scrambling to add a new parking lot at the Bioscience campus to handle the center’s 30 percent enrollment jump.

Butler Tech Superintendent Jon Graft said the sweeping changes are by rapid by design and needed for the local economy.

“Local businesses are desperate to find these students. Manufacturers are struggling to fill great-paying jobs with advancement opportunities. In some cases, they’re even offering to pay for their college as an incentive,” said Graft. “There are more tracks out there than college “or” career, so Butler Tech is a great solution to preparing for both.”

Graft has been in office for 18 months and in that time Butler Tech has taken a more aggressive and public approach to its corporate recruitment and marketing efforts.

“Students and parents want a menu of options. They want it immediately. They want it relevant to their world. They want it to be user-friendly and capable of providing them with their desired outcome,” said Graft.

RELATED: Butler Tech has to turn away students for coming school year

“Butler Tech positions itself very well to meet that need. That’s why we’re trying things like Drone Camp and looking for a business partner for our Bioscience Campus. It’s why we purchased land in Monroe to give our adult students a better experience,” he said.

“Local businesses are desperate to find these students. Manufacturers are struggling to fill great-paying jobs with advancement opportunities. In some cases, they’re even offering to pay for their college as an incentive. There are more tracks out there than college or career, so Butler Tech is a great solution to preparing for both,” said Graft.

Carlisle schools once explored selling aquifer water to fund district

Published: Wednesday, July 19, 2017 @ 11:40 AM


            Carlisle Schools in Warren County explored the idea of bottling and selling Great Miami Aquifer water drawn from below the school system. The district is currently offering bonds to build a new K-12 school but in 2012 the district asked state officials if they could sell water from three wells on their campuses for a profit. State officials, however, said that was not allowed for non-profit organizations such as schools.
Carlisle Schools in Warren County explored the idea of bottling and selling Great Miami Aquifer water drawn from below the school system. The district is currently offering bonds to build a new K-12 school but in 2012 the district asked state officials if they could sell water from three wells on their campuses for a profit. State officials, however, said that was not allowed for non-profit organizations such as schools.

Years before Carlisle Schools tried the current strategy of selling bonds to residents to raise money for schools, they considered selling bottled water.

RELATED: Carlisle Schools host investment public meeting

And not just any bottled water, but the fresh, healthy fluids of the Great Miami Aquifer below the Warren County school system’s surface.

RELATED: 5 things to know about the Great Miami Aquifer

School district officials hosted a bond investment seminar Monday for community members interested in investing or purchasing bonds that will be sold for the district’s upcoming new building construction project.

The school system has three, 75-feet deep wells tapping into the giant underground water source that stretches from West Central Ohio down to the Ohio River.

The aquifer’s water, which is pumped to the surface and used by businesses, farms and is even bottled and sold by the city of Hamilton, is estimated to supply about 360,000 residents in Butler and Warren counties and northern Hamilton County.

RELATED: Hamilton’s award-winning bottled water draws fans

The meeting Monday at Carlisle High School was hosted by Superintendent Larry Hook.

In May, district voters approved a 6.2-mill, $20 million bond issue to build a new single K-12 building that will include the demolition of the four buildings that are on the school campus.

But in 2012 district officials asked the Ohio Attorney General’s office if they could legally bottle the aquifer’s award-winning water and sell it for a profit to help offset school district operating and facility costs.

Dan Bassler, treasurer for Carlisle Schools, recently told the Journal-News the bottled water profit idea quickly evaporated.

State law does not allow non-profits such as schools, to profit from selling water, he said.

“Because of that we have not moved forward in any way or shape or form of bottling the water or selling it,” said Bassler.