Dayton schools task force halts tour of buildings

Published: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 @ 10:39 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 @ 4:12 PM


            Members of a combined city-Dayton Public Schools task force studying school facilities tour Valerie Elementary School on Tuesday, Feb. 6. The tours ended before scheduled because of a legal challenge. SEAN CUDAHY/STAFF
Members of a combined city-Dayton Public Schools task force studying school facilities tour Valerie Elementary School on Tuesday, Feb. 6. The tours ended before scheduled because of a legal challenge. SEAN CUDAHY/STAFF

The task force commissioned to study the potential closure of some Dayton Public Schools buildings cut short its planned tours of three schools Tuesday because of a pending legal challenge.

Dayton resident David Esrati on Tuesday morning sought a temporary restraining order preventing the task force from holding what he later called “private, illegal meetings.” Esrati’s legal challenge claims the task force is a “public body” as defined by statute, and that a gathering of members to tour buildings legally constitutes a meeting of that body.

A hearing on his legal filing is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

FIRST REPORT: Media questions prompt joint task force on Dayton schools to cancel meeting

Cox Media Group Ohio, parent company of WHIO and the Dayton Daily News, previously had fought for public access to the task force’s meetings, which were slated to be closed to the public and media. The task force responded by opening its primary meetings.

CMG Ohio also sought and received access to Tuesday’s task force tours of school buildings, agreeing to the school district’s request not to videotape inside schools because of privacy concerns for children, but intending to report about what happened on the tours.

Task force leaders appeared to be in communication with attorneys while the school bus carrying 14 of the 18 task force members and media was en route to the first school, Valerie Elementary.

EARLIER: Task force meets; Lolli says DPS is not closing 9 schools

When the bus arrived, acting DPS superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said any members of the group who were tied to Dayton city government should not take part in the tour. City Commissioner Jeff Mims said that was because of “legal issues we’re dealing with.”

The remaining members of the task force briefly toured Valerie Elementary’s kitchen, gym/cafeteria, mechanical rooms and one classroom that was not in use. At 52 years old, Valerie is one of the few schools that pre-dates DPS’ building boom of last decade.

Lolli and associate superintendent Sheila Burton gave task force members detailed data on where the students attending each DPS school live, to show population concentrations, and how many students are traveling across the city each day.

RELATED: Dayton mayor was at center of task force’s formation

As the task force headed back to the bus, Lolli told the group that legal counsel for the school district had advised the task force to stop the remaining school tours.

The group’s bus then drove to the two remaining schools, Meadowdale and Wogaman, stopping in each parking lot for a few minutes to hear information about enrollment numbers and each school’s physical condition. At each stop, one or two task force members asked questions seeking clarity on the data. But the task force members did not leave the bus, and eventually returned to DPS headquarters.

“The tour is not the issue. … The question is meeting in private,” Esrati said. “I was denied access while members of the conventional media were allowed. I said I’ll put away my equipment. They didn’t give me a response and they didn’t give me the right to participate.”

HISTORY: How did DPS reach this point on school buildings?

Asked why Esrati was not allowed into Valerie Elementary after he offered to put away his recording equipment, Lolli said to reporters, “We permitted task force members to participate as well as those identified news sources – the agencies you here represent – those were the members of the news that we permitted.”

Lolli repeated the group’s original claim that all of the task force’s meetings could legally be held privately if they chose. The group is not going that route and has a public meeting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Feb. 20 at DPS headquarters.

“We just didn’t want to have cameras inside the buildings disrupting education today,” Lolli said. “(Media) were permitted inside the building to tour with us. It wasn’t anything that was done in secret or against the law. But others believe it was, and we’ll wait and talk in front of the judge and hear what he has to say.”

RELATED: Dayton schools seek leadership, stability with Corr out

Lolli said the task force will move forward, with goals of serving students well and “right-sizing” the district’s facilities. Task force co-chair Mohamed Al-Hamdani said he’s confident in members’ continuing commitment.

“I haven’t seen the community this engaged in DPS in maybe 20 or 30 years,” Al-Hamdani said. “We can agree or disagree about certain issues, but the fact of the matter is parents are engaged, the community is engaged, and everybody’s voice being out there is a positive.”

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Former Warren County school board member now district’s assistant superintendent

Published: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

Robyn Donisi
Robyn Donisi

A Franklin school board member who stepped down in January was hired as the district’s new assistant superintendent.

MORE: Monroe student battling cancer gets her wish: A high school graduation

Robyn Donisi, a veteran educator and currently the assistant superintendent of Clinton-Massie Local Schools, was selected from a field of 50 applicants for the position, according to Superintendent Michael Sander.

Donisi will be replacing Douglas Cozad, who will become the superintendent of Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools on July 1.

Sander said he was “excited” to have Donisi working on his leadership team. He said Donisi will begin her new duties in Franklin on Aug. 1.

MORE: ‘See something, say something’ working for Warren County school

The Franklin school board awarded Donisi a two-year contract with an annual salary of $100,000.

Donisi resigned her school board seat on Jan. 22 citing increased duties at work. She was elected in 2015 to her first term on the school board.

A lifelong resident of Franklin and a 1978 graduate of Franklin High School, Donisi earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Miami University and a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Dayton.

Donisi worked in Franklin City Schools for 21 years as a math and science teacher in grades four, seven and eight; as assistant principal at Franklin Junior High School; and as principal at Hunter Elementary School before moving to Clinton-Massie Local Schools as assistant superintendent.

She and her family reside in Franklin.

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Centerville mom claims autistic son held in a ‘detention room’ size of a closet

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 5:43 PM

Centerville mom troubled with way school disciplined son

The mother of a Centerville student has filed a sheriff’s report claiming that her autistic son was placed in a room with no windows on Tuesday as a form of punishment for not meeting acceptable behavior standards.

The school district said the room has a window but would not talk about the specifics of the woman’s complaints.

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Monique Williams, the mother of 11-year-old Michael Dixon, a special needs student at Watts Middle School said her son was locked in a “small room similar to a closet as a form of punishment” instead of being allowed to attend the “Jazz on the Lawn” event with other students in his class, according to the sheriff’s report.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office had a deputy go to the school to investigate the incident.

Williams alleges in the police report that a teaching aide told her that her son, who also has ADHD and asthma, “did not acquire enough points on his good behavior to attend” the event, so he had to spend time in the room.

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She said she was told other students had been placed in the room for bad behavior and that her son was not injured. Her son told her that this was not the first time he had been placed in the room.

Sarah Swan, community relations specialist for the school district, said the district would not comment on the specifics of the allegation, but provided a statement on the issue.

“We cannot go into the specifics of the situation due to student confidentiality,” she said in a statement. “There is a room located in the office area at Watts Middle School that has traditionally been used when students lose privileges. The door to the room is kept open, and it also has a window.”

The investigation is ongoing, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

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Hamilton Schools to undergo security changes this summer

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 10:11 AM

Kings Schools are 1 of a few area districts using an anti-shooter device to keep students safer in classrooms.

It will be one of the busiest summer breaks in years for Hamilton City Schools as new security measures and procedures are installed for next school year, said district officials during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Larry Knapp presented an update on a variety of school security efforts and programs all designed to enhance the safety of students and staff in the 10,000-student city school system.

MORE: Middletown High School closes on last day due to threat

School parents will receive information brochures on school emergency procedures, teachers will receive training in treating attack wounds, fire drills will be changed, and school officials are further coordinating with first responder police and fire departments.

And there will be more in-school counseling available for Hamilton students next school year.

But the most important changes are still to come, said Knapp.

These may include more armed officers in schools, bullet-proof film on school windows and classroom door barricades similar to those already in use in the Talawanda and Kings school districts.

MORE: ‘What are you waiting for?’, sheriff asks school boards

“All 13 buildings will undergo safety assessments with trained personnel,” he said in reference to school building evaluations done by local police and fire officials along with federal and Ohio Homeland Security personnel.

These security experts “know a lot more about what we can do as a school district to make our buildings safer,” said Knapp.

The new security measures will augment the current procedures already in place, many of which are staffed by armed Hamilton Police officers who patrol in the city schools.

“The Hamilton City School district will continue to share safety and security updates with our community as we improve our protocols and programs,” said Hamilton Schools Superintendent Larry Knapp.

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“We appreciate the partnership that we have developed with the Hamilton City Police Department and look forward to working with them to keep our students, and staff safe each and every day we are in session,” said Knapp.

“You are going to see more coming out of this and more personnel devoted towards this,” he said.

The 2017-2018 school year ended for Hamilton students last week.

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Threat cancels Middletown High School’s last day of classes

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 5:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 4:00 AM

Middletown High School modernized.

A threat of deadly violence will close Middletown High School today, prematurely ending the school year.

A student tip about a possibly deadly threat appeared serious enough to cancel classes for the high school on what was to be the last day of the school year, Middletown School officials told this news outlet Tuesday.

MORE: Sheriff to school boards on security: What are you waiting for?

Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. declined to reveal the nature of the threat but said Middletown Police, which provides officers in the city school district, was immediately notified and is now investigating the threat to determine who is responsible.

“The threat is specific enough that we believe the safest option for our students and staff is to close the high school (Wednesday),” Styles said.

The threat does not change tonight’s scheduled Middletown High School graduation ceremony at Barnitz Stadium, he said, adding that extra police protection will be in place for ceremony.

MORE: Middletown graduation moves after parents shut out of last year’s ceremony

All other Middletown schools will hold final day classes and activities today as planned.

“Our School Resource Police Officers (SRO) and staff reviewed videotapes and interviewed students and staff. The Butler County School Safety Director and Emergency Management Agency (EMA) are using their resources to scan social media. At Middletown City Schools, we take all threats seriously and we will press charges,” Styles said.

“We have been shown a sign of violence and we will act to keep our schools safe for all students and staff. We are encouraging parents to talk with their sons and daughters and report anything they might know (about the threat) to the Middletown Police Dispatch at 513-425-7700. That call will be kept confidential. As always, the safety and security of our students and staff is our number one priority,” he said.

“While we are saddened this is happening on the eve of our graduation celebration, we must keep our Middie family safe. We will have an increased police presence at graduation. Our focus tonight is celebrating our seniors and their successes,” Styles said.

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