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Hamilton coach accused of sexual contact worked for other schools

Published: Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 3:57 PM

A Hamilton High School teacher is charged with sex crimes involving a student.

The teacher and volleyball coach accused of having sexual contact with a Hamilton Schools student worked less than a year with the Butler County district and previously worked in a Hamilton County high school and for a religious community center.

That’s according to documents obtained through an Ohio Public Records request by this news organization.

MORE: Hamilton teacher faces sex charges involving student

Suspended Hamilton High School teacher and coach Hilary Dattilo was hired for the current 2017-18 school year last spring and started her job teaching science and working as a girls volleyball coach in August 2017.

The alleged crimes involve a female student, and the alleged encounters occurred off school property, according to Hamilton police.

Previously, the Mason High School and Walsh University graduate worked as a long-term substitute science teacher at Colerain High School — in northern Hamilton County’s Northwest Schools — from September 2016 until the end of last school year.

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Prior, the 30-year-old Dattilo worked as a substitute instructor at Cincinnati Hebrew Day School from 2014 to 2016 and was employed at the Mayerson Jewish Community Center’s (JCC) aquatics program.

Marc Fisher, chief executive officer for center, recently sent a notice to members stating: “Ms. Dattilo is a former employee of the JCC who more recently taught swim lessons at the Mayerson JCC while employed by our third-party service provider …. and she is no longer permitted on the Mayerson JCC’s premises.”

Fisher wrote: “During her employment, the Mayerson JCC conducted a criminal background check on Ms. Dattilo, most recently in the spring of 2016, which did not reveal any problem. We are not aware of any inappropriate conduct that occurred in connection with Ms. Dattilo during her employment with either the Mayerson JCC or in connection with the Mayerson JCC.”

Dattilo was arraigned earlier this week in Butler County Common Pleas Court on one count of sexual battery, a third-degree felony, and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a first-degree misdemeanor.

Police said parents reported a possible inappropriate relationship between Dattilo and a student.

Dattilo did not respond to phone messages seeking her comments.

A review of her personnel file at Hamilton Schools showed no entries of violations of school district policy, though she is now on unpaid administrative leave, and the Hamilton Board of Education is scheduled to vote on her possible job termination next month.

Hamilton School officials have declined to comment regarding Dattilo’s pending case beyond an initial statement from district Spokeswoman Joni Copas, who said: “As a result of an ongoing investigation conducted collaboratively with the Hamilton City Police Department, the Hamilton City School District has placed a teacher at Hamilton High School on administrative leave pending termination proceedings.

“Simply put, we will not tolerate behavior that places our children in jeopardy.”

Contained in Dattilo’s personnel file is a Dec. 19 letter to her from the Hamilton school board ordering her to stay off Hamilton School properties, away from district events and to have no contact with students, school parents or school staffers.

The sexual battery charge is alleged to have occurred between Nov. 1 and Nov. 22 and the contributing charge between Oct. 1 and Dec. 18, according to the direct indictment handed down by a Butler County grand jury on Monday.

Dattilo, of Monroe, turned herself into police. At arraignment Tuesday she pleaded not guilty and was given a $5,000 bond with the ability to post 10 percent. She was taken into custody by order of Magistrate Harold Reed.

A pre-trial hearing for Dattilo is scheduled for Feb. 8 before Judge Noah Powers.

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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.

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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.

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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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Veteran school leader now Hamilton’s new boss

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 8:00 AM

Hamilton Schools’ Business Director will continue to be schools’ leader through 2018-2019 school year

When a school district needs to unexpectedly fill its top job, it’s rare to already have someone within its ranks who has done the job.

But that’s what Hamilton school officials had at their disposal when the city school board ordered now-former Superintendent Tony Orr on leave in February as the board launched an independent investigation into allegations Orr violated district policies.

MORE: Both sides stay quiet on reason behind Tony Orr’s resignation

Orr resigned last week under circumstances still largely unexplained by him or the school board that hired him.

Waiting on the school system’s bench was Hamilton Schools Business Director Larry Knapp, who most importantly had the titles of “superintendent” and “interim superintendent” on his resume.

Hamilton Schools leader Tony Orr resigned Thursday after being on paid leave for more than 2 months.(MICHAEL D. CLARK/STAFF)

Last week, after the Hamilton Board of Education accepted Orr’s resignation, board members announced at the same meeting that Knapp would continue as superintendent for the 10,000-student school system for the 2018-2019 school year.

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“Because he was a superintendent at one time the board felt he would be the right person to put in that position,” said Board President Steve Isgro, when asked about the move.

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“He brings 38 years of experience to this full-time role and has been in our district for the past three years,” said Isgro.

Knapp, who was Edgewood Schools superintendent from 2008 to 2010, later served as interim superintendent in Warren County’s Kings Schools.

Hamilton Schools’ leader for next school year will be the district’s business director, Larry Knapp. Knapp was appointed as interim superintendent on Feb. 5 when Hamilton school board ordered now former superintendent Tony Orr on leave as the board investigated allegations he violated board policies. Knapp is a former superintendent with Edgewood and Kings school systems.(MICHAEL D. CLARK/STAFF)

Knapp, said Isgro, will help in preparing the next full-time superintendent — starting in the 2019-2020 school year — Michael Holbrook, assistant superintendent of instructional services.

Holbrook is also an education veteran, a former school principal and district-level curriculum administrator for Hamilton County’s Mount Healthy and Northwest school districts.

“Mr. Holbrook and his instructional staff have been very instrumental in overseeing the strides that have been made with the progress of our schools,” Isgro said. “We’re excited we can move on like this and not lose any steps.”

Under Orr’s leadership since he was hired in 2015 the district showed improvement in 18 of 23 academic areas measured by the annual state report card compiled by the Ohio Department of Education.

PHOTOS: Barbara Bush's 2000 visit to Butler County school

Knapp said he is glad to serve as a bridge leader for Hamilton Schools until Holbrook takes over after the 2018-2019 school year.

“Our whole direction with this process we have been going through is to keep the momentum going for all the good things we have going on here at Hamilton City Schools,” said Knapp, who will also continue to serve as the district’s business director through next school year.

“Our state test scores have gone up and I am very confident those scores are going to continue to climb again next year as well. Our whole push has been to continue the momentum that has been started here the last three years and keep that going,” said Knapp.

“We have a lot of dedicated individuals in our schools … we’ve been able to come together as a group and continue to keep things moving forward for the Hamilton community,” he said.

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