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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After two decades with his district, this area superintendent is retiring. Here’s his story.

Published: Saturday, May 19, 2018 @ 12:37 PM

            Eric Herman, retiring superintendent of the Troy City Schools, said students’ needs haven’t change over the years.
Eric Herman, retiring superintendent of the Troy City Schools, said students’ needs haven’t change over the years.

Eric Herman has seen a lot of changes in his nearly 38 years in education, but he said one thing hasn’t changed: the kids.

Herman, who graduated from high school in West Carrollton, will retire this summer after 20 years with the Troy City Schools. He has been superintendent since spring 2011.

Herman attended college, played football and coached football in Kansas before returning home in the early 1980s to operate a print shop in West Carrollton.

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He had that business about eight years and was coaching when he was lured back into education by a former coach and educator Dean Pond, who asked him to teach driver’s education at West Carrollton.

That led to a football coach and physical education teaching job in Kettering, a year at Urbana schools and then a return to Kettering for an administration job as a unit principal.

Another former West Carrollton coach, David Dolph, introduced Herman to Troy schools as assistant junior high principal in 1998.

“I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Dolph and said, ‘Why not?’” he recalled.

Herman served as principal at Hook Elementary, junior high principal, high school principal, director of secondary curriculum, director of technology, director of K-12 curriculum and assistant superintendent under Superintendent Tom Dunn on his path to becoming superintendent.

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“This was the last place I thought I would have ended my career,” Herman said from the superintendent’s office at the Board of Education next to Troy High School.

He said the elementary school job was “a blast” and he liked being high school principal because he was around the students a lot.

“I got back into education to be around the kids,” he said. “I still believe kids are the same as when we were kids. They still want structure and discipline and want someone to care about them.”

Mark Barhorst, district business manager/director of human resources, praised Herman’s efforts during the Board of Education’s recognition of retirees at its May meeting.

“He’s worn a lot of hats and done a lot of things for the school district,” Barhorst said. “When I began the thought process of interviewing for a job here, I talked to Marion Stout. She told me Troy was the best school district in the state of Ohio. I would have to say a big part of that has been Eric Herman.”

The Board of Education hired Chris Piper, from Triad Local Schools, as the new superintendent this spring. Herman had the following advice for his successor: “Take time to learn the job. Don’t be quick to change a lot until you see how it operates. Every school is different.”

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‘Rookie year’ for Middletown Schools superintendent shows wins, losses

Published: Saturday, May 19, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

Middletown City Schools leader Marlon Styles Jr. reviews his first year at the helm of the district.

For the former high school baseball coach who is now Middletown’s school leader, school years are like sports seasons and his rookie stint as superintendent wasn’t great but overall had more wins than losses.

That’s solid progress when talking about Middletown Schools, which has a troubled past of only sporadic academic success in recent years.

But as the school year comes to a close this month, first-year Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. looks back on a district-wide revitalization he started in August and credits school staffers with pushing it forward.

MORE: Meet the new Middletown Schools Superintendent

The 39-year-old Styles launched the “Middie Modernization Movement” within days of taking his first superintendent’s job as head of the Butler County city school system. The new mantra has proven popular beyond school campuses, having energized community and business sector support for the district.

But turning around one of Southwest Ohio’s lowest performing school districts — and its 6,300 students — doesn’t happen in a single school season, said Styles.

“We had a good rookie season but definitely not rookie of the year,” said Styles, a former top official with Lakota Local Schools who used to coach baseball for Northwest High School in Hamilton County.

MORE: Middletown school leader wins national honor for digital learning

“But the rookie season we’ve had has been successful because of the amount of support we have received as a district both internally — from all our stakeholders — and our school and business community,” said Styles. “The city has been phenomenal in how they have supported everything we have done this year for our school kids.”

Those include sweeping and historic reforms in how Middletown approaches teaching and learning. More than a slogan, the modernization of the district under Styles’ leadership is fueled by increased attention to student data and academic performance.

The district is also undergoing a historical, $96 million physical transformation for students in grades 7-12 as construction wraps up on a new 135,000-square-foot middle school — adjacent to a renovated Middletown High School.

MORE: See video of drone flyover of new Middletown School construction

When classes open Sept. 4 for all schools, the Middletown Middle School will feature one of the most innovative learning spaces in the region, with grade-specific building wings and common learning areas between classrooms.

The annual Ohio Department of Education report cards on public school districts is scheduled to be released in early fall. Regardless of how Middletown Schools performed during the current school year — in recent years the district has been among the lowest scorers in the region — a foundation immeasurable by standardized student testing has been laid, said Styles.

There has been a “contagious belief across the organization that we can do it … and we can do it together.”

The Middie Modernization Movement, said Styles, “has provided us clarity, it has provided us direction, it’s motivated us and it has kept us focused on our priorities,” which includes having each high school graduate well-versed in academic training for college or trade school or immediate, work-place employment.

Middletown Board of Education President Chris Urso describes Styles at the end of his initial school year as “everything as advertised.”

“He is exciting and dynamic, and as a district we are in a good place. He has a good balance and he does well looking at data … but at the same time having the relationship and people building skills that people like to connect to,” said Urso.

“We have noticed that with our staff, people are getting inspired,” he said. “It’s been dramatic.”

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Butler County sheriff, school leaders react to Texas school shooting

Published: Friday, May 18, 2018 @ 2:32 PM

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones wants schools to improve security

Area school leaders pointed Friday to the Texas school shooting as another in a long list of reasons why they are working to improve school security.

But the top law enforcement officer in Butler County said some school districts aren’t moving fast enough and falling short.

MORE: Butler County Sheriff says schools have to do more for security

The shooting deaths of 10 — nine students, one teacher — and wounding of at least six others Friday morning at the Santa Fe High School grabbed the attention of local school leaders as did the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in February that left 17 dead.

Edgewood Schools Superintendent Russ Fussnecker said the horrific killings further reinforced his Butler County district’s decision to add armed school security officers to all its school buildings.

MORE: Edgewood Schools adds armed officers to all buildings

“This tragedy reaffirms our decision to add additional SROs (school resource officers) to our district,” said Fussnecker of Edgewood’s decision to add armed officers in all five schools of the rural district.

“This was the best investment we could make to protect our students and staff. We take seriously our responsibility to ensure the safety of our students and staff every day,” he said.

Earlier this week in Illinois at Dixon High School, a student fired shots at school resource officer Mark Dallas. Dallas returned fire and wounded the shooter.

In March in Maryland, an armed school officer at Great Mills High School fired on a student shooter who had wounded two, bringing him down.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones — a long-time advocate for adding armed personnel to schools — took to social media in the hours after the Santa Fe school shooting to repeat his earlier, public pressuring of local school officials to move faster to make sure every school has either armed officers, personnel or at least access to weapons for properly trained school staffers.

“When will it be clear what we need to do to protect our children?” Jones tweeted today on his social media account.

In a short, online video posted on Facebook, Jones also said “I’m telling you — and I’ve been saying all along — we have got to take care of our schools.”

“We got to make them a hard target (armed) not a soft target. And this is for the school boards, pay attention. Make these schools safe. We need school resource officers in every school and we need to arm the personnel in there,” said Jones, who in the wake of the Parkland school shooting deaths offered free concealed carry weapon (CCW) training for Butler County teachers.

“School boards, it’s on you. It’s your responsibility,” said Jones, who has promised to post billboard messages critical of elected school boards he believes are lagging in school security.

MORE: Sheriff blasts local school boards for lagging security - ‘I will be their worst enemy’

Matt Miller, superintendent of Lakota Schools — Butler County’s largest school system — said Friday the Texas school shooting was both heartbreakingly sad and further motivation to continue his district’s security improvements already in motion.

“It gives us pause and makes us reflect on the current practices and the direction we’ve been going with (school) safety,” said Miller, who oversees the 16,500-student district and its 22 school buildings.

MORE: Butler County school leaders explore new school security tax

“We have cameras and many other things in our buildings that we have increased” this school year, he said, in addition to armed security officers supplied by both the Butler County Sheriff, which patrols Liberty Twp. schools and West Chester Twp. Police, who patrol Lakota schools there.

“But it’s another sad day and we’ve had too many of these,” he said.

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Tipp school official disciplined for unapproved bank account

Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2018 @ 12:55 PM

            Galen Gingerich is shown when he was Broadway Elementary principal in Tipp City. The now assistant superintendent was disciplined by the superintendent this month for his handling of funds in an unapproved bank account. FILE
Galen Gingerich is shown when he was Broadway Elementary principal in Tipp City. The now assistant superintendent was disciplined by the superintendent this month for his handling of funds in an unapproved bank account. FILE

TIPP CITY – The Tipp City Exempted Village Schools’ assistant superintendent “engaged in serious misconduct” by keeping money in an unapproved bank account, according to a letter from his boss.

Assistant Superintendent Galen Gingerich received a 10-day suspension and was stripped of five vacation days. It came as a disciplinary measure imposed for keeping money in an unapproved bank account from 1999 to 2015 while previously serving as principal of a district elementary school, according to personnel documents obtained by this news organization.

District Superintendent Gretta Kumpf told Gingerich in a letter dated May 14 that she found he had “engaged in serious misconduct warranting discipline.”

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Gingerich was placed on paid administrative leave without explanation by Kumpf and district Treasurer Dave Stevens on April 11. He returned to work Monday when the district issued a statement saying an internal investigation was complete and the situation addressed appropriately.

In the letter, Kumpf said she found Gingerich collected public money through fundraising activities at Broadway Elementary School and failed, as required by the Ohio Revised Code and board policy, to turn the money into the treasurer’s office for deposit into an account approved by the board of education.

The account was discovered when a bank statement was inadvertently forwarded to Stevens’ office.

Kumpf said when Gingerich was asked by Stevens about the account, his response was “you were not supposed to know about this.” She wrote she found that statement “troubling.”

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An investigation by Stevens showed “much of the money” in the account was spent for school-related purposes such as food, beverages and supplies for staff meetings and school functions, when support organizations intended for the funds to be used to purchase technology and equipment to donate to the school library, Kumpf said.

“You are maintaining your employment with the school district because Mr. Stevens could not conclude the expenditures you made from this bank account were for personal or other illegitimate purposes,” Kumpf wrote. “However, you showed extremely poor judgment in your operation of this bank account in violation of the aforementioned board policies.”

Gingerich took control of the bank account in 1999 while principal after outside school support organizations disbanded, the letter said. Money was deposited from fundraisers and spent without knowledge of district treasurers, the letter said.

The account was not used after Gingerich left the school as principal and became the assistant superintendent in mid-2015, Stevens said. State auditors were notified about the account, he said.

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The 10-day suspension will be credited to the time when Gingerich was on leave. Arrangements were being made for repayment to the district of 10 days of pay Gingerich received, Stevens said.

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