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Former Kettering principal named Mason superintendent

Published: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 1:08 PM
Updated: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 5:05 PM

Jonathan Cooper, a former elementary teacher in Centerville City Schools and principal in Kettering City Schools, was named next year’s superintendent of the Mason City Schools in Warren County.
Jonathan Cooper, a former elementary teacher in Centerville City Schools and principal in Kettering City Schools, was named next year’s superintendent of the Mason City Schools in Warren County.

A former Kettering and Centerville educator is to be the next superintendent of the Mason City Schools.

This morning, Jonathan Cooper was named next year’s superintendent of the Mason district, the largest in Warren County.

According to a press release issued by the Mason school district, Cooper was an award-winning elementary teacher in Centerville City Schools and a successful school principal in Kettering City Schools.

MORE: Kettering News

A Martha Holden Jennings Scholar and former Ohio Teacher of the Year nominee, Cooper was able to successfully merge two diverse elementary school staffs and communities into a strong, thriving and unified Southdale Elementary in Kettering in 2010.

MORE: Centerville and Washington Twp. News

In Mason, Cooper will replace Superintendent Gail Kist-Kline, who is retiring at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

“To keep us moving forward, we want a values-driven leader who will support our world-class teachers and staff while continuing to cultivate innovation and guide us through a constantly evolving financial and regulatory landscape,” said Matt Steele, president of the Mason school board said in the press release. “The great news for our students, staff and community is that we already have a visionary, humble, community-oriented leader who has built deep relationships with district partners and business leaders and helped make Mason a leader in innovation and professional development - our current Chief Innovation Officer, Jonathan Cooper - who we are thrilled to appoint as Dr. Kist-Kline’s successor.”

MORE: Springboro superintendent leaving for Mason

The Mason City Schools Board of Education is to appoint Cooper as superintendent, effective July 1, 2018, at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

“I am honored that the School Board has entrusted me with this great responsibility. It is such a joy to be able to serve Mason’s students, staff, families and community in an even deeper way. I have been fortunate to work closely with Dr. Kist-Kline and learn from her courageous leadership, and I’m excited to build on the foundation that she and our school board and dedicated staff have firmly established,” said Cooper in the release. “As a second generation educator, learning is my family’s passion, and it is our mission as a family to serve our community’s schools.”

Cooper was named deputy superintendent beginning Jan. 1. In that expanded role, he will oversee key personnel and master facilities plan decisions, in addition to his current duties.

RELATED: Watch the announcement

He joined the district in 2014 as chief innovation officer. He led the development of the Mason Experiential Learning Program.

Also this fall, Cooper was awarded the 2017 Excellence in Education Award and the 2017 Rising Star Award from the Mason Deerfield Chamber of Commerce.

Cooper earned his bachelor’s of education with a concentration in science from Ball State University, his master’s of science in educational leadership from the University of Dayton.

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Jonathan and his wife, Michelle, are parents of Henry, age 12, Wyatt, age 9, Myles, age 7, and Tessa, age 5.

“This is a big move for our family because one of our core family values is living an integrated life where we are able to live out our mission by serving our local community and authentically connecting with our neighbors. We look forward to moving to Mason and already have stock in a lot of Mason green,” Cooper said.

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Inspiring Middletown student ‘sees with her ears’

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2018 @ 6:00 AM

Blind Middletown Elementary student Breanah McNutt inspires classmates while she learns.

Amanda Elementary student Breanah McNutt’s ears perked up, sizing up the empty classroom she had just entered.

The third-grader then made her way gingerly, taking a comfortable seat.

Soon after, a visitor walked into the Middletown school classroom.

MORE: Middletown’s new middle school taking shape

The woman wore jewelry bands on one wrist and they tinkled in barely audible fashion.

“Are you wearing a bracelet?” Breanah asked.

The woman confirmed what Breanah already knew but could not see since the 9-year-old has been blind from birth.

“I like charm bracelets,” she said reaching out to meet the woman’s extended arm.

The seemingly ordinary exchange took place during another extraordinary school day for the Middletown Schools student who inspires many by doing what is normal to her.

Despite being blind since birth, Middletown Amanda Elementary 3rd grader Breanah McNutt maneuvers around her school - and through her class work - with a determination fired by curiosity undeterred by her challenge. Here she examines with her hands the charm bracelet of Middletown central office staffer Gracie Gregory. (MICHAEL D. CLARK/STAFF)

“She sees with her ears,” said her grandmother Gail McNutt, who stopped in at Amanda to visit Breanah.

And by touch.

The visitor’s charm bracelet is quickly enveloped by the girl’s hands, her fingers deftly caressing the jewelry’s engravings and shapes.

Blind from birth, Breanah also handles her school day challenges as efficiently.

She can make her way around the sprawling Amanda school’s many building wings with a walking cane. And, if needed, a helpful adult or classmate are always nearby.

Friday found her with third-grade teacher Kirby Leitschuh going over a personalized lesson done on a work sheet in braille. Breanah’s fingers eagerly press down on the lesson as she spells out words.

MORE: Fresh bottled water comes to Middletown school

“Breanah is such an amazing student,” said Leitschuh. “She is so energetic and creative and just all around amazing.”

Despite being blind since birth, Middletown Amanda Elementary 3rd grader Breanah McNutt maneuvers around her school - and through her class work - with a determination fired by curiosity undeterred by her challenge. (MICHAEL D. CLARK/STAFF)

“She is such a hard worker and will never give up. No matter what obstacles are in her way, she will overcome them. And to her classmates she is a role model,” she said.

“They (classmates) are all aware of her disability and she is definitely an inspiration to them,” she said.

Breanah describes maneuvering through school as “not very bad.”

“My cane goes in front of me and I sweep it (back and forth) so if I run into somebody, my cane might hurt them a little but not me, I’m not going to run into them,” she said.

“I started when I was in kindergarten here and it took me about a year to learn,” she said smiling. “This school is not very big.”

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Centerville student wins spelling bee, heads to nationals

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 10:37 AM


            Centerville eighth-grader student Madeline Thomas won the Dayton Area Spelling Bee this month and qualified for an all-expense-paid trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., at the end of May. CONTRIBUTED
Centerville eighth-grader student Madeline Thomas won the Dayton Area Spelling Bee this month and qualified for an all-expense-paid trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., at the end of May. CONTRIBUTED

A Centerville eighth grader, Madeline Thomas, was victorious in the Dayton Area Spelling Bee this month and qualified for an all-expense-paid trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., at the end of May.

Thomas,an eighth-grader at Centerville’s Tower Heights Middle School, correctly spelled Afghan, a type of blanket many people have around the house, and that turned out to be the word that earned her a trip to the nation’s capital after finishing ahead of 14 other students at the spelling be held at Sinclair Community College.

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“She won other competitions on her road to regional success,” according to Sarah Swan of Centerville City Schools. “The top two spellers from each of the sixth through eighth grade English Language Arts (ELA) classes at Tower Heights competed in a school-wide bee, which she won. She also won the school bee last year but was eliminated during the regional bee.”

To prepare for the spelling bees, Thomas said she studied the school spelling list and then practiced spelling words from Merriam-Webster’s Spell It! website, which has more than 700 words organized by language of origin.

“Learning the words obviously helps me write essays and do well in my ELA class, especially when we study word stems,” she said. “It has also helped me be more consistent in studying for other things.”

RELATED: Centerville grad Sydney Pence named Fulbright Scholar

Thomas, who wants to be a professor someday, stays involved in her school and community. She is a member of the Tower Heights Science Olympiad team, band and jazz band and volunteers at her church.

Kristen Raisch, Thomas’ ELA teacher for the past three years, is excited to see her compete on the national stage.

“I appreciate many things about Madeline, but the qualities that stand out to me the most are her intellectual curiosity and her internal motivation,” Raisch said. “She is a self-starter that will actively seek out opportunities to challenge herself. Despite her many innate talents, Madeline is also very receptive to feedback. She is not shy about asking for book recommendations or suggestions on how to improve a piece of writing. She is an engaged learner that consistently strives to make her work the best it can be.”

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Centerville grad Sydney Pence named Fulbright Scholar

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 9:53 AM


            Centerville graduate Sydney Pence named a Fulbright Scholar
Centerville graduate Sydney Pence named a Fulbright Scholar

Calling the honor both “exciting and a surprise,” Sydney Pence, a 2014 Centerville High School graduate and May 2018 graduate from the Honors Tutorial College at Ohio University was named a Fulbright Scholar.

MORE: Breaking: Former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce dies

According to school officials at Centerville, Pence has been working since 2015 on her senior research project: Novel regulation of BAT thermogenesis induced by hypothalamic Apolipoprotein A-IV. She received the 2018 Fulbright award to continue research on Amylin’s mechanisms in weight maintenance with Dr. Thomas Lutz at the University of Zurich.

Pence explained that she has been working hard to achieve the goal and is looking forward to going to Zurich.

“It’s a pretty rigorous program, and I have a year to complete it,” she said. “But the program puts an emphasis on learning about the culture, so I will have time to immerse myself and explore Zurich and get involved with organizations.”

The Fulbright Program, is a national award of competitive, merit-based grants for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientist and artists, founded by United States Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946.

MORE: Warren County corrects ID of pilot in double-fatal plane crash

Pence will return in the summer of 2019 to attend medical school at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine where she has been a member of the Early Assurance Program since her graduation from Centerville in 2014.

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New details: Ousted teacher let student spend night at her home

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 6:41 PM

Trotwood teacher finds job in jeopardy after unapproved field trip

Khalilah Forte, the Trotwood-Madison High School teacher whose contract was non-renewed Thursday night by the school board, had been reprimanded in March for allowing a student to spend the night at her home, according to documents in her personnel file obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

An April 4 letter from district Treasurer Janice Allen says high school Principal David White wouldn’t recommend renewing Forte’s contract for next school year. White based his decision on, “concerns regarding your professionalism. This includes conflicts with peers as well as concerns regarding your relationships with students outside the classroom,” the letter says.

EARLIER: Trotwood board votes not to renew teacher’s contract

The March 7 reprimand letter from White addresses a female student spending the night at Forte’s home. It suggests the issue has come up before.

“I have spoken to you prior to this incident about students being at your home when school is out for the day or on weekends,” White’s letter reads. “This is a violation of district policy.”

Forte signed that reprimand but wrote in at the bottom, “I’m signing this statement and I am not in agreement with the reprimand …”

Also in Forte’s file is a six-page letter marked received April 3, in which Forte describes her efforts to help the struggling 18-year-old female student in question, who she said had been left alone in Trotwood when her mother and siblings moved to Indiana.

RELATED: Trotwood names Olverson interim superintendent 

Forte wrote that she told multiple school officials that she was considering taking the girl in, saying some of them encouraged it and none of them said it would be a violation.

Forte, who has taught business classes at Trotwood-Madison High School the past two years, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. Her personnel file doesn’t include any district discipline for “conflicts with peers” as mentioned in the non-renewal letter.

At Thursday’s school board meeting, Forte repeated claims that she was being disciplined for taking a few dozen students on a college visit trip last month that the district didn’t sponsor. The personnel file doesn’t include any mention from the district about the trip.

RELATED: State test results key factor in Trotwood schools’ future

“I’m guilty of loving kids. I’m guilty of wanting education for each one of my kids in the district,” Forte said at the school board meeting. “I’m guilty of feeding kids. I’m guilty of wanting to expose them to a world of possibilities.”

Several students and community members spoke up on Forte’s behalf at the meeting.

School district officials have said they won’t discuss the details of personnel decisions, with school board President Denise Moore repeating that statement Thursday night.

Staff Writer Sean Cudahy also contributed to this report.

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