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West Carrollton superintendent search resumes tonight

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 12:49 PM

            The West Carrollton City Schools Board of Education is interviewing several candidates with area ties for the superintendent’s job being vacated this summer by Rusty Clifford. NICK BLIZZARD

The West Carrollton City Schools superintendent’s job is scheduled to be discussed tonight.

The board of education is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. in executive session to discuss the post for which 10 people have been identified as candidates. Board President Roberta Phillips has said the district wants to make a decision by early May on a successor for longtime Superintendent Rusty Clifford, whose resignation is effective July 31.

RELATED: Sixteen administrators applied for post

It’s not clear if tonight’s session will involve candidate interviews or discussion. It is the fifth special meeting called this month involving superintendent candidates. The board also met Saturday regarding the job after holding executive sessions on March 8, 11 and 13.

Sixteen Ohio school administrators applied for the job and the board opted to interview 10, including a handful with area ties.

MORE: Fairborn hires Lebanon superintendent

Those selected for interviews with the district for the job held since 1999 by Clifford include:

-Amy Baldridge, Greene County Educational Service Center director of educational programs;

-Kimberly Hall, Walter Shade Early Childhood Center principal in West Carrollton;

-Shelley Hilderbrand, Huber Heights City Schools assistant superintendent;

-Matthew McCorkle, former Washington Court House Schools superintendent;

-Jeff Patrick, Franklin-Monroe Local Schools superintendent.


The other five include: Thomas Bailey, assistant superintendent of Three Rivers Local Schools in Cleves near Cincinnati; Martha Hasselbusch, superintendent of South Central in Greenwich; Robert Humble, superintendent of Fairbanks Local Schools in Milford Center; Michael McCoy, superintendent of Oak Hill Union Local Schools in Jackson County; and Andrea Townsend, superintendent of New Bremen Local Schools in Auglaize County.

Tonight’s session is scheduled to be at the board of education office, 430 E. Pease Ave.

Former Springboro school employee claims law violated in board dispute

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 11:00 AM

            The letter read by Dave Stuckey, at left, the president of the Springboro school board, accused member Lisa Babb, at center, of colluding with a former employee.

A former Springboro school district employee is accusing the school board of violating the law in obtaining an email cited as evidence one of the members “colluded” with her and parents against the board.

“This was a private email illegally obtained by the district. It is not a public record,” Karen DeRosa said in an email on Friday.

DeRosa, the district’s former communications coordinator, also accused the board of violating Ohio public meetings law when they talked to Boardmember Lisa Babb about resigning.

“The Board members met outside of Sunshine Laws and made no efforts to verify the email, which I had not seen until it was distributed at the meeting,” DeRosa added.

On Wednesday, the Springboro school board accused Babb of “colluding” with DeRosa in creation of the letter and petition bearing 130 signatures presented to the board at the meeting that night.

“Lisa… your partner in crime!!!” Babb concluded a May 12 email sent to the account set up by parents presenting the letter and petition.

At the meeting, Board President Dave Stuckey read the statement criticizing Babb as the board, including Babb, sat in anticipation of comments about issues raised in the letter and petition circulated online in the days leading to the meeting.

RELATED: Parents group pressing Springboro school board

Stuckey referred to the email:

“It shows that Lisa Babb has been an active participant, undermining the board, compromising the board and administration integrity. She has abused her powers as a board member and she has made a coordinated effort to collude with former employee Karen DeRosa, the district’s former communication coordinator.”

MORE: Election could end divisive era on Springboro school board

About two hours later, during the board comments portion of the meeting, Babb said she agreed with the letter and petition calling for better communication, but was not “behind” the efforts.

“These are some things I have been bringing up for months,” she said.

Stuckey also said the email was the latest example of behavior by Babb “overstepping” board conduct rules and Ohio ethics law, revealing confidential conversations from executive sessions and forwarding emails with confidential information to her personal email, violating student and parent confidentiality regulations.

“The district has no way to protect the privacy of families once that has occurred,” Stuckey said.

MORE: Conflict shadows Springboro schools success

The board has completed two training sessions related to this issue, Stuckey said.

“Yet, Mrs. Babb has continued to step beyond appropriate boundaries and taken this to a new level,” he added, distracting the board and costing taxpayers money.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow Lawrence Budd on Twitter

Babb said she had stopped sending district email to her home account after being advised by Treasurer Terrah Floyd and described other parts of Stuckey’s statement as “very misleading.”

Although Babb said she had been asked to resign before the meeting, “I’m not stepping down from the board.”

In the May 12 email to the parents group account, obtained by this newspaper through a public-records request, Babb responds to on a draft of the letter presented at the meeting.

“I think this is outstanding. Not offensive but strong!” she said.

She asks about turn-out for a gathering at Dorothy Lane Market and pledges her support.

On Thursday, DeRosa acknowledged that she helped set up the email account through which the group was formed and names gathered on the petition.

“My heart really went out to these families,” she said on Thursday, while supporting the call for improved communications.

“I simply helped a group of parents set up the account to be able to post online. I do not even know the names of all of the parents who contributed to the letter or could access the email account,” she added in a email sent Friday.

Also Friday, Terrah Floyd, treasurer for the district, declined to provide other communications related to Stuckey’s claims that the mail was the latest example of Babb’s board misconduct.

“The topic, sensitivity, and legal implications of most of the incidents qualified them for executive session discussion. Therefore, they were discussed there, and I am legally prohibited from sharing information I learned in executive session,” she said via electronic message.

Stuckey issued the board statement before “prearranged” speakers addressed the board during the meeting.

MORE: New superintendent hired in Springboro

A parents group submitted the letter and petition, urging the board and administration to respond to questions raised at past board meetings and be transparent in their actions.

“Unfortunately, when parents have spoken up or asked questions throughout this school year, they often were marginalized. On numerous occasions, school administrators have dismissed parent concerns stating the questions are only coming from ‘a small group of parents.’ In fact, many parents are still waiting for an answer to questions asked weeks and even months ago,” the group said in a letter posted online as a Google Doc.

Two parents complained about problems at Cleacreek Elementary School.

“Please give the fantastic teachers the administrative support they deserve,” parent Heather Bauer said.

But staff and residents also spoke in support of the board and administration.

“Are we perfect, no? Is it better, my god yes,” said Dave Bowman, in reference to the divisive era about four years ago that preceded election of Stuckey and two other new board members.

Parents shut out of Middletown High School graduation

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 1:25 PM
Updated: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 2:39 PM

Some parents were locked out of their child’s Middletown High School graduation Tuesday because someone let family members without tickets into a side door of the ceremony site, according to school officials, who issued an apology today.

“Middletown High School wishes to apologize to anyone who had a ticket for graduation and was denied access after the ceremony began at 7:00 p.m. Tickets for the exact number of seats available in the auditorium were issued. Each main door had security supplied by Princeton Pike (Church Of God),” Middletown High School Principal Carmela Cotter wrote in a released statement posted on social media.

STORY & VIDEO: Middletown grad and best selling author speaks at graduation

“Following graduation, the management of Princeton Pike alerted us that someone inside the building had gone to a door and let in several people without tickets. The result was capacity was reached. Thus, the (Butler County) sheriff (deputies) closed the access doors at 7:15 p.m.”

“Graduation is a very special time for every student and parent. We are very sorry if any ticketed parent or family member was denied entrance and will take into account this security challenge when organizing future events,” wrote Cotter.

MORE: Middletown picks top Lakota official as new superintendent

The Butler County school graduated 375 seniors during the ceremony Tuesday night. Families were issued a limited number of tickets and had to show those to gain entrance to the Liberty Twp. church.

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office said it was called by church officials to the event, but there were no incidents reported nor arrests from the scene.

Officials at Princeton Pike Church Of God did not respond to a request for comment.

In a Facebook post, a parent claimed: “Omg what a horrible graduation ceremony… So you treat the families to these kids like we were criminals why?”

The writer said her husband, who had a ticket but did not enter with his family because he was parking the family car, was not allowed in.

“They locked him out and I had already given them his ticket. Wow very sad that this happened and he wasn’t the only one locked out.” said the Facebook post.

Badin, Fenwick consider drug testing students

Published: Friday, May 26, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 5:07 PM

            Student drug testing “is not something we are planning to implement in this coming school year, but we have discussed it and are considering our options,” said Badin Principal Brian Pendergest. STAFF FILE/2015
            STAFF FILE/2015

As local and statewide Ohio leaders are grasping at ways to attack the rising drug epidemic, some Catholic high schools are ensuring their students aren’t part of the problem.

Drug testing students has been debated for the past 15 years, since the Ohio Supreme Court said public schools can drug test students participating in extracurricular activities, and roughly 20 percent of public high schools test for drugs, according to national studies.

Ohio prohibits public schools from drug testing students outside of extracurricular activities, but that law does not apply for private schools.

MORE: Dayton Catholic high schools to begin drug testing all students

Middletown’s Fenwick High School and Hamilton’s Badin High Schools both told the Journal-News they have discussed the idea of implementing some level of drug testing students, and not just for sports or activities. However, neither school has plans to implement a policy anytime soon.

Badin High School Principal Brian Pendergest said it’s been talked about it internally.

“It is not something we are planning to implement in this coming school year, but we have discussed it and are considering our options,” he said.

Fenwick Assistant Principal Jason Umberg, whose alma mater LaSalle High School began drug testing students a few years ago, said they’re at the point of just evaluating policies that other schools have in place.

“We don’t want to do something that’s punitive in nature, but we do want to do something that’s educational,” said Umberg, who said the earliest any policy could be in place would be for 2018-19 school year. “We have good kids, and these good kids are still surrounded by a lot of bad options. We want to help them keep making the right decisions.”

Two Dayton area Catholic schools announced plans earlier this week to begin drug testing students.

Carroll High School will begin drug testing its students beginning with the 2017-18 school year, and Chaminade-Julienne is set to begin in the 2018-19 school year. Carroll is operated under the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and Chaminade-Julienne is operated under by the Sisters of Notre Dame and Society of Mary.

But the effectiveness of drug testing polices is questionable, according to some studies.

RELATED: 30 seek treatment in Middletown drug center’s first week

An American Academy of Pediatrics study said, “Although any reduction in student drug use is beneficial, it is questionable whether school-based drug testing is the best use of limited school resources.” A January 2014 academic study indicated drug testing “was not associated with changes in substance use.”

The National Institutes on Drug Abuse indicates more research is needed as there is “conflicting findings between past-month and past-year substance use.”

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which has a 19-county territory that stretches from Hamilton and Clermont counties north to Mercer, Auglaize and Logan counties, gives its high schools a high level of autonomy when it comes to implementing policies, said Cincinnati Archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco.

“We support whatever steps by an administration and board they think is necessary for the safety of students for a great educational experience,” he said. “One of our strengths is that most of our decision-making is made at the level closest to the students.”

LaSalle High School on Cincinnati’s west side has tested its students for the past few years, and Moeller High School will begin drug testing students in the 2017-18 school year.

“We debated it back and forth because we don’t have a drug problem, and because of societal issues we wanted to have a good ground game,” said Moeller spokeswoman Teresa Meyer. “We want (students) to be well-equipped.”

Moeller administrators, including incoming Fenwick principal Blane Collison who previously was Moeller’s principal, understand the epidemic knows no socio-economic bounds, and the students may be impacted when they graduate, Meyer said.

RELATED: More schools testing students for drugs

Purcell Marian, in the Cincinnati neighborhood of East Walnut Hills, implemented a volunteer drug prevention program for the 2016-17 school year and around 10 percent of families of the school’s 400-student population signed up for drug testing. The program will be mandatory for the 2017-18 school year, said Purcell Marian school spokeswoman Tammy Reasoner.

“There’s no denying that there’s a nationwide drug crisis, but we’re empowering our students if they ever have exposure to it. Pressure’s tough (for teenagers),” Reasoner said.

Initially making the drug testing program voluntary “was a good way to introduce it,” she said.

“We’ve had very positive feedback from the families who did participate, and gave wider acceptance the program with parents who were skeptical of it,” she said.

Dayton school aide fired over abuse allegations

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 11:42 AM
Updated: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 12:34 PM

File photo

Dayton’s school board voted Wednesday to fire a classroom aide who was accused by a former Dayton Public Schools student of sexually abusing him aback in 1990.

Ajilon “Bobo” Harmon, whose most recent district job was a paraprofessional at Longfellow School, had been on administrative leave since January 2016. That’s when the former Dunbar High School student repeated allegations he first made in 2007, that Harmon supplied him alcohol, photographed him nude, then sexually assaulted him at his home in 1990.

RELATED: DPS teachers rally, cite some progress in talks

Harmon has not been charged with any crime in connection with this complaint. The former student reported the alleged abuse to Dayton Police in 2007, but their records show only an original report and an assignment to a detective.

However, DPS’ internal investigation, run by the district’s executive director of safety and security, found that the former student was “credible and truthful” about the abuse claim, a copy of the report shows.

According to DPS records, Harmon argued in his April 12 hearing that the former student had never been to his house. His attorney said if the allegations were true, the former student wouldn’t have waited 17 years to come forward.

But DPS attorney Jyllian Bradshaw wrote that the evidence at the hearing confirmed that Harmon violated school board policy on engaging in immoral conduct, and recommended that he be fired.

RELATED: Former coach/aide had sex with student

School board members did not comment on the case at Wednesday’s board meeting. Superintendent Rhonda Corr also did not comment, but said earlier this year that DPS should have done more to address the complaint in 2007.

Reached by phone Wednesday night, Harmon declined comment and referred questions to his attorney.

This newspaper has asked Dayton Police repeatedly what the outcome of their investigation was. A police spokeswoman said Wednesday that she has not yet received an answer from department officials.

RELATED: Dayton school extend contract of superintendent

Bradshaw said Harmon has a few appeal options. She added that DPS is not in regular contact with Dayton Police about the case, saying the school district is not constrained by a statute of limitations like police are.

“As an employer we have a little more flexibility, and because we work with students, we take these allegations very seriously,” she said.