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Ohio may change the way teachers are evaluated

Published: Sunday, December 24, 2017 @ 2:44 PM
Updated: Sunday, December 24, 2017 @ 2:44 PM


            Ohio may change the way teachers are evaluated
Ohio may change the way teachers are evaluated

The Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) could see significant changes if a bill recently introduced by State Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) becomes law.

Lehner, chair of the Senate Education Committee, spotlighted several changes proposed in Senate Bill 240:

APRIL: State board supports changes to evaluations

** Lehner said the bill would change the data used to measure teacher performance, “placing specific emphasis on ensuring a teacher’s success is not primarily determined by student test scores.”

** She said the bill would improve the timing of teacher observations and evaluations and update the current rubric by which teachers are graded.

** Lehner’s office said the bill provides a professional growth process for teachers who are rated as “accomplished” and “skilled.”

RELATED: Schools rate almost no teachers ineffective

“We should always be trying to improve efficiency, transparency and accountability in our public school system, and this bill gives us an opportunity to do that,” Lehner said in a press statement. “It is important to understand the goals of teacher evaluations. Ensuring that they provide more substantive, timely feedback will help us better reach those goals.”

The bill comes out of work done by the state’s Educator Standards Board, representing numerous education stakeholders. Dayton teachers union President David Romick touted the work of the that board, saying it had been an excellent process.

“I don’t see anything negative out of this bill – I’ve been behind the Educator Standards Board’s recommendations since they came out almost a year ago,” Romick said. “I think the big thing is that the student growth measures would be embedded in rest of evaluation.”

OLDER: Teacher pay varies wildly in local districts

Romick said he also applauded the end of the “shared attribution” system, in which all teachers in a group got the same growth score.

Lehner said she hopes the changes will be phased in over the next two school years if the bill passes.

Kucinich launches governor bid; is in area today

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 11:36 AM

Former U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich is joining the race for Ohio governor. He will run in the Democratic primary.
Jim Otte
Former U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich is joining the race for Ohio governor. He will run in the Democratic primary.(Jim Otte)

The Democratic field for Ohio governor will grow by one today when former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich formally announces he is in the race.

Kucinich, former mayor of Cleveland, will make it official at noon today at a rally in Middleburg Heights in Cuyahoga County, according to his campaign.

He will then travel to Columbus and Miami Twp. in southern Montgomery County to meet with the media.

He’ll continue the launch tour Thursday with stops in Cincinnati and Toledo.

Kucinich, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 and 2008, appeared this morning on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” and said he believes he can attract people who voted for President Donald Trump.

RELATED: Ex-Congressman Dennis Kucinich to launch bid for governor

“I can reach out to the people who voted for President Trump,” he said. “I can show them that there are Democrats who stand solidly for economic progress, who want to protect our markets, who want to stand up for everyday Americans.”

Kucinich, 71, lost his congressional seat in 2012 to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, after the Republican redistricting of 2011 put the two Democrats in the same district. He enters the governor’s race relatively late but has been traveling the state over the last year denouncing public funding for charter schools and in support of state Issue 2, the prescription drug ballot issue that failed in November.

RELATED: Kucinich goes after charter schools in Dayton area visit

With the Feb. 7 filing deadline for the May 8 primary approaching, the Democratic and Republican fields are solidifying. Last week Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley withdrew from the Democratic primary and threw her support behind Richard Cordray, former director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a former Ohio treasurer and attorney general. Cordray’s running mate is former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Akron.

RELATED: Dayton Mayor Whaley drops out of governor’s race

Also in the race are former state representative Connie Pillich of Cincinnati, who has not picked a running mate; state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, who is running with Ohio Board of Education member Stephanie Dodd; and Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, whose running mate is Chantelle E. Lewis, a Lorain elementary school principal.

RELATED: O’Neill’s boast of sexual liaisons brings calls for his resignation

The ballot is less crowded on the Republican side where Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and his running mate, Secretary of State Jon Husted, are opposed by Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and running mate Nathan Estruth, a Cincinnati businessman.

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Jordan: Clinton, not Trump, sought Russia help to influence election

Published: Monday, January 15, 2018 @ 11:50 AM
Updated: Monday, January 15, 2018 @ 11:50 AM

Jim Jordan on WHIO

Rep. Jim Jordan has emerged as a top defender of President Donald Trump as the Justice Department’s Russia investigation continues, leading some to wonder if the GOP insurgent known for causing heartburn to the party establishment has become a surrogate for the president.

For Jordan, it’s very straightforward: He says it was the Hillary Clinton campaign — not the Trump campaign — that worked with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, namely by paying for the compilation of a dossier meant to embarrass Trump. Former FBI director James Comey testified in June that some of the information in that dossier was “salacious and unverified,” but Jordan argues that the FBI nonetheless used it to obtain warrants to spy on Trump campaign officials.

RELATED: Jordan, Davidson at odds with GOP over spy bill

He began questioning the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller last month, spurring headlines when he told Fox News that “everything points to the fact that there was an orchestrated plan to try to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the next president of the United States.”

He amplified those comments in January, publishing a piece with Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., in the Washington Examiner that urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to step down because of Justice Department leaks regarding the case.

Jordan has been so upfront with his criticism of the Russia investigation that CNN host John Berman, in a recent interview with Jordan, asked him if he was coordinating talking points with the White House.

“Of course not,” Jordan said.

‘Key moment in history’

Whether Jordan is motivated by the dedication of a dogged true believer or whether he’s doing it to get in good graces with the Trump administration has stirred plenty of debate.

A Capitol Hill Republican who declined to be named so he could speak candidly said Jordan’s criticism of the investigation is part of a larger effort aimed at positioning the Freedom Caucus, led by Jordan, for a leadership role in the next Congress.

“This whole mop-up duty for the president is jockeying for the next Congress and leadership,” he said.

REALTED: Ex Speaker Boehner goes off on Jordan

But others say Jordan’s full-throated criticism of the investigation comes from sincerity.

“If I know anything about Jim Jordan, it’s that he sticks to his guns, sticks to his principles,” said former Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges, who has been a critic of Trump. “I think he says that stuff because he believes it.”

Democrats accuse Jordan of serving as a surrogate for Trump.

“This will be his legacy,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said. “This is a key moment in history. We know another government interfered with our election and he was one of the congressmen working to stop the American people from knowing what happened…we all should want answers to what happened.”

Jordan: ‘You cannot do that in America’

In an interview, Jordan defending his recent statements, saying the Russia investigation was started under flawed circumstances. He has worked to point out problems with the investigation, including the fact that the FBI began its investigation based on a dossier compiled out of research paid for by the Clinton campaign.

“If the FBI took an opposition research document that was unsubstantiated, that was paid for by the Clinton campaign and dressed it up like legitimate intelligence — you cannot do that in America,” he said.

Jordan said he is also concerned about text messages exchanged by two top FBI officers who were having an extramarital affair. One of the officers, Peter Strzock, ran both the investigation of whether Clinton downloaded classified information on her personal email server as well as the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the campaign.

Strzock last year was removed from the Russia probe over the text messages, one of which called the possibility of a Trump victory “terrifying” and another referring to an “insurance policy” in case he was elected.

Jordan said he thinks the “insurance policy” Strzock referred to was the dossier.

Sounding much like Trump himself, who accused Strzock of treason last week, Jordan said: “To date, we have not one bit of evidence that shows there was coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election. But we have hard facts that say the Clinton campaign paid Russia to do what? Influence the election — to gather material to influence the election” in Clinton’s favor.

Frequent critic

This is far from the first time Jordan has become entrenched in a controversial congressional investigation, or fired spears at the opposition party. He was a key critic of accusations that the IRS unfairly denied tax-exempt status to tea party organizations, and he was among the most vocal on the 2015 House investigation of 2012 attacks on an embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Rep. Warren Davidson, a Troy Republican who is a close ally of Jordan’s, dismisses the notion that Jordan’s investigations are partisan, saying he has been equally hard on GOP Attorney General Jeff Sessions as he was on Obama attorney generals Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder.

“It seems like that this is an investigation about Trump, and in reality, the purpose of this investigation is to understand how Russia tried to influence our elections,” Davidson said.

Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which Jordan helped found, said Jordan “believes the government should be there to serve the people but not pick winners and losers…he’s been consistent with trying to make sure he holds the government accountable.”

But Pepper described a different Jordan, one who “is literally buying into the most extreme of the conspiracy theories.”

“It’s one thing just to have that opinion,” he said. “But that’s not just his opinion. He’s actively involved in very concrete ways to being a roadblock to an investigation of something serious.”

Local Republicans Jordan, Davidson at odds with party over spy bill

Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 7:05 PM
Updated: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 7:05 PM

Congressmen Warren Davidson and Jim Jordan
Congressmen Warren Davidson and Jim Jordan

When the Republican-controlled U.S. House this week approved an extension of a National Security Agency program that permits the agency to monitor phone calls and e-mails between foreigners abroad and Americans, local Republicans Warren Davidson of Troy and Jim Jordan of Urbana were among the 164 lawmakers to vote no.

RELATED: House OKs spy program after conflicting Trump tweets

They were also the only two Ohio Republicans to oppose the measure. That put Jordan and Davidson in unusual company, aligned with liberal Democrats.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate where passage is expected..

Opponents say the measure risks the civil liberties of Americans while backers insist the NSA needs the authority to prevent future terrorist attacks. The bill extends a law originally approved in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and suburban Washington.

In a floor speech during the debate, Davidson said “the foreign enemies of our country are not subject to the protections of our Constitution. American citizens, however are.”

He accused the bill’s backers of ignoring the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures. “It is your data that is at subject here,” Davidson said. “The Fourth Amendment does not change when communications shift from postal service … to a data base.”

The two Ohio Republicans supported an amendment that would have forced the federal government to seek a warrant before searching data for information on Americans. Fifty-six other Republicans joined Jordan and Davidson, but a coalition of 178 Republicans and 55 Democrats defeated the amendment.

The House then voted 256-to-164 to pass the overall bill.

More public officials dinged for ethics violations

Published: Monday, January 15, 2018 @ 12:00 AM


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The Greene County developmental disabilities superintendent, a Harveysburg village council member and two state government administrators were among 26 public officials the Ohio Ethics Commission entered into settlement agreements with last year to resolve alleged ethics violations.

This is an increase from 2016, when the state agency reprimanded 14 public officials.

RELATED: 14 public officials reprimanded by the Ohio Ethics Commission

Settlement agreements are public record but are not publicized, though many of them include a “public reprimand.” The I-Team obtained all of the agreements from last year using Ohio public records law.

Most of the settlements and reprimands were issued in lieu of the matter being referred to a local prosecuting attorney.

This was the case with John LaRock, superintendent of Greene County Developmental Disabilities.

LaRock’s wife Jill worked as a department director for the agency he runs. Before she retired in October 2016, the two frequently both ranked among Greene County’s highest paid employees, pulling in a combined $258,959 last year, according to the I-Team Payroll Project.

Payroll Project: Greene County’s highest paid employees

The LaRocks met on the job and got married. They have worked under a county prosecutor’s opinion that says she can report to him as long as the developmental disabilities board evaluates her performance and approves her salary and leave time.

But ethics commission investigators found that no one had approved Jill LaRock’s evaluations between 2010 and 2012. This became a problem when the agency sought re-accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation and Rehabilitation, which requires annual performance evaluations for all personnel.

“Rather than bring the issue to the Board, (John) LaRock completed the required performance evaluations,” the settlement agreement says.

A public reprimand was issued in January.

Reached for comment, LaRock admits he made a mistake.

“I completed those documents and I shouldn’t have,” he said. “I supported their findings and we have moved on.”

The ethics commission said the performance evaluations had no impact on his wife’s compensation.

158 cases reviewed

Some cases involved a personal benefit, such as steering work to a company they or a family member owned. In others the mere appearance of a conflict was enough for the board to take action, regardless of whether the act was intentional or not.

Ohio Ethics Commission Director Paul Nick Director Paul Nick said these were among 158 cases they handled last year, some leading to settlements, some to prosecution and others dismissed.

He said his agency has increasingly relied on its settlement authority in cases where it appears a clear violation of the law occurred, but it’s not as clear that the official knew they were doing something wrong; or in cases where the official was removed from his or her ability to abuse authority.

“Sometimes you need to right the wrong, and righting the wrong doesn’t always mean criminal court,” he said.

Harveysburg Council

Charles Camp stepped down from the Harveysburg Village Council after the ethics commission found he voted on payments to an auto-mechanic company owned by his son to repair village vehicles. He accepted a public reprimand in lieu of the issue being referred to a local prosecutor.

Camp said he abstained on discussion when it was clear they were talking about working with his son’s company. But he voted on some repair payments.

“I voted on repairs to the trucks not knowing where he was going to take it and he ended up bringing it to my son,” he said.

Ethics officials wrote that the village was contracting with the company before Camp took office and found no evidence that the company received special treatment.

“We got bids from everybody, (and) we ended up getting better bids from him than other people, so we put the work there,” Village Mayor Richard Verga said. “This was a non-problem that got elevated somehow.”

Agency director aided daughter

Two ethics cases involved high-level state employees.

Investigators found Timothy Gorrell, executive director at the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority, contacted an agency vendor and asked an account supervisor to meet with and mentor his daughter.

Officials for the vendor, SBC Advertising, suggested the daughter apply for a job and interviewed her.

Gorrell contacted his agency’s legal counsel when it became apparent that his daughter, who was interested in a career in advertising, was being considered for a job. The company did not hire her.

Gorrell accepted a reprimand and agreed that his daughter can’t be employed by any agency vendor, client or regulated party.

Through an agency spokeswoman, Gorrell’s said his only comment is: “The record of self-reporting is on file and there’s nothing else to say.”

In the other state employee case, a former Ohio Department of Transportation official was reprimanded for violating Ohio’s revolving door laws.

Jeff Wigdahl resigned as head of ODOT’s Aggregate Section of the Office of Materials Management in December 2014 and started work with the company National Lime and Stone in January 2015. National Lime and Stone is an ODOT vendor.

State law prohibits former public officials or employees from representing a private employer on a matter he or she participated in as a public employee for 12 months after leaving office.

Investigators found that Wigdahl represented NLS when he attended a meeting at ODOT on behalf of his new employer in May 2015.

Calls to Wigdahl for comment were returned by Thomas Palmer, an attorney for NLS.

Palmer said that Wigdahl attended the conference as a member of a trade association.

Wigdahl accepted a reprimand to resolve the case, Palmer said.

Other cases

Ethics actions were taken against officials at eight school districts, including three where sports coaches had players buy uniforms, materials and services from companies the coaches worked for or owned.

Another settlement agreement involved four officials from Sycamore Twp. in Hamilton County.

Investigators found three Sycamore Twp. trustees were officers of a club that had a beer concession at a festival. The trustees contributed money to their political campaigns that was raised through the beer sales.

The trustees — as well as the township parks and recreation director — resigned their posts with the club, which also agreed to donate to charity any future festival beer proceeds.

Nick said it’s important to investigate cases even when they don’t involve a lot of money.

“It’s helpful and important for people to know that if you don’t act properly there is a consequence,” he said.