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Published: Friday, January 27, 2017 @ 4:32 PM
LIBERTY TWP. — The pool of 16 candidates revealed earlier this week as vying to be Lakota Schools’ next superintendent has already been cut in half.
In the wake of a Thursday executive session that included discussions of the pending hire, the Lakota Board of Education today announced there are now eight candidates being considered for the district’s top job.
The eight remaining candidates are:
All eight have superintendent experience, and all but Skalka are from Ohio schools.
Lakota Superintendent Karen Mantia was granted medical leave from the job in late August. She was in the final year of her contract and the board replaced her with Acting Superintendent Robb Vogelmann, who is not among the remaining candidates.
Applications — first obtained Wednesday by the Journal-News through an Ohio Public Records request — revealed an original pool of 16 candidates competing to be the next leader of 16,500-student Lakota Schools.
Lakota School Board President Ben Dibble said the remaining dozen candidates will be invited “to participate in the first round of interviews, scheduled for Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.”
“Every step of this process has involved careful and thorough consideration of what Lakota needs most in its next leader to continue providing the highest quality education to our students and our community,” said Dibble.
“The role of superintendent is very demanding,” he said. “We are one of the largest school districts in Ohio and we have a very diverse group of students all with varying levels of needs. The board felt strongly that prior experience with this position would help our district continue to make progress and lead to better opportunities for our students and our community.”
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 10:11 AM
HAMILTON — 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.
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.
“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.
“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.
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 5:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 4:00 AM
MIDDLETOWN — 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.
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.
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.
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 3:54 PM
SPRINGBORO — An 11-year-old Springboro student accused of threatening to use a gun on a school bus last Friday — the same day 10 people were fatally shot at a school in Texas — was released from detention on Tuesday.
On Friday, the Clearcreek Twp. boy is alleged to have said he had a gun in his backpack while riding the bus home from Springboro Intermediate School and “asked if he should use it,” then “reached into his bag and used his fingers to simulate guns,” according to court records.
On Tuesday, he was charged in Warren County Juvenile Court with making false alarms and disorderly conduct, according to court records. He spent two hours in detention before being released to his parents, according to court officials.
Judge Joe Kirby ordered a lawyer be appointed to represent the boy, who denied the allegations and was ordered to attend an educational and monitoring program at the detention center in Lebanon until school lets out in Springboro. Kirby also placed the boy on house arrest, pending a hearing on June 13.
It was the latest of about 15 school threat cases in Warren County since the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Florida and first since the school shooting on Friday at Sante Fe High School in Texas.
On Monday, an 11-year-old Kings Mills student admitted to an aggravated menacing charge in a case stemming from an April 24 incident in which the boy threatened “to shoot up the school ” at Columbia Intermediate School and make a teacher “his first target,” according to court records.
Kirby barred the boy from having access to weapons and continued a no-contact order, but suspended a 45-day detention sentence, provided the boy complies with probation conditions.
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 3:42 PM
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 3:45 PM
BUTLER COUNTY — Butler County’s top law officer continued his public pressure campaign against some local school boards Tuesday by calling for them to install metal detectors, reduce fire drills and add armed officers to schools.
Sheriff Richard Jones released a letter on social media — prompted in part by last week’s shooting massacre at Santa Fe High School in Texas — that he said had been sent to the publicly-elected school boards of all of Butler County’s school districts.
“What are you waiting for?” asked Jones in his letter to school officials.
“I find it disturbing every time I hear of another child shot or injured or another teacher killed or wounded; and that our own local schools are not doing enough to curb this from happening here in this county again,” wrote Jones.
“Take action before one of your schools is attacked and many of your students and teachers are taken away by an active shooter. You need to revise the fire alarms procedures in your schools. In many cases, the shooter has attended your school system and is aware that children are taught to exit the building immediately upon hearing the fire alarm. Setting off that fire alarm provides the shooter with more targets,” wrote Jones in reference to a deadly technique used by some school shooters.
Jones has praised some Butler County school districts for adding to their range of security measures and personnel employed in recent months, but said other districts are lagging.
“Your immediate action is required to stop schools from being a ‘soft target.’ I understand that a School Resource Officer or armed school employee may not stop the determined shooter from arriving — but they will be equipped to defend themselves and their students, until law enforcement can respond and end the situation,” he said.
In a Facebook video he posted Tuesday, Jones said “we need to look at metal detectors” for school buildings.
In the past, Jones has praised Lakota Schools, which is the largest district in the county.
Lakota’s 22 schools enroll 16,500 students in two townships — West Chester and Liberty.
Lakota officials recently added to their security measures an anonymous tip line phone number and website.
Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for Lakota, said, “we introduced the 24 hour SaferOH tip line in April. Parents, students and community members are able to call or text 844-SaferOH with anonymous tips about potential threats to student safety. The tip line is available through Lakota’s partnership with the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Public Safety.”
Jones’ department patrols a handful of non-city school systems in Butler County. City schools, such as Hamilton, Middletown, Fairfield coordinate their school security through their local police departments.
He urged such districts to “please reach out to local law enforcement asking how you can make safety changes in your schools.”
Officials at the rural Edgewood Schools system recently announced they will have armed guards at each of the district’s five school buildings.
The school board for the similarly rural Madison Schools voted last month to allow staff who volunteer be trained and armed as part of a wider, extensive school safety training.
“The sheriff obviously has strong feelings about school safety, as does the Madison Local School District and we consider ourselves one of the leaders in our county in terms of the safety additions and changes we’ve made in the last two years,” said A.J. Huff, spokeswoman for the district.
In 2016 a Madison Middle School student used a handgun in school to injure three classmates.
“Moving forward we will continue to make safety and security an ongoing priority and no topic is ever off the table for discussion when considering making our schools more safe,” said Huff.
The latest move by Jones — who has grabbed national attention for offering free Conceal Carry Weapon (CCW) training to teachers and school staffers — is an escalation of an accountability campaign the veteran sheriff has tried for years to enforce on local school systems.
After the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that left 26 students and staffers slain, Jones urged schools to hire retired police and military personnel trained in firearm use to work as substitute teachers in Butler County schools.