Northeastern school board plans to keep high schools split

Published: Wednesday, April 19, 2017 @ 11:14 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 4:34 PM

The Northeastern Local School Board will ask voters to support a bond issue for two new schools in the district.

The Northeastern Local School Board likely will ask voters to support a bond issue to build two new pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools, keeping the district’s high schools split.

The board voted 4-1 Wednesday night to allow Superintendent John Kronour to ask the Ohio School Facilities Commission for money to build the two schools. The schools are projected to cost about $116 million.

READ MORE: Northeastern board members debate $100M new school plans

The school board has debated for several years whether Northeastern should consolidate the district’s two high schools. The district is the second largest in Clark County and the last here to have multiple high schools. The school board held several community forums on the issue, and last week said the feedback they got indicates that the best chance at new buildings is to keep the district divided.

“I can speak for every one of us that we read (emails) carefully and considered all aspects of every one of them,” board member Steve Schwitzable said. “There was nothing that caused me to change my mind. I am still of the opinion I think one high school building is the best educationally, financially. But I don’t think it will pass and I think we can do very well with two pre-k through 12th buildings.”

The plan would call for one school to be built in Northridge close to Kenton Ridge High School and the other will be built in South Vienna near Northeastern High School. That’s contingent on voters approving a $77.5 million bond issue this November.

The state likely will kick in $38.5 million if the bond issue passes.

RELATED: Northeastern to survey residents on $100M new schools plan

School Board President Chris James and board members Joel Augustus, Jill Parker and Schwitzable voted for the two new schools. James and Parker said they believed two schools were the best option for students in the district, while Augusts and Schwitzable said they believed one high school was likely better for education, but they didn’t think that voters would approve a bond issue asking to consolidate schools.

This option was supported over a second option to build three new school buildings in the district. That would have included two new pre-k through eighth-grade buildings and one new high school, costing the district about $123.8 million — about $83.8 million would have fallen to taxpayers to cover.

That plan was supported by board Vice President Jeff Caivano, who said he wants to consolidate the high schools to offer more opportunities for students. He called the decision to build two new buildings instead of the one high school an “awful mistake.”

EARLIER COVERAGE: Northeastern residents split on $100M plan for new schools

He said picking the two building option because voters would be more likely to support it wasn’t a good idea and that the board has a responsibility to choose the best option for the students regardless of public opinion.

“Neither one of these plans are going to be easy to pass,” he said. “I feel it is our job as a board not to sit back as a board and say, ‘We know it’s not best academically, financially, but we think this is going to pass.’”

Caivano said if the two schools combined, he believed it could be the crown jewel of Clark County offering students a competitive curriculum along with saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in staffing and services.

“Let’s build an academic powerhouse,” he said before the vote.

The vote doesn’t put the bond issue on the November ballot, it was only to prompt Kronour to start the process with the Ohio School Facilities Commission to get money for the schools. Board members will have to vote again later on a bond issue.

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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.

MORE: Butler County schools forced to scramble when Ohio testing system crashes

“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.

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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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Mason student, 8, abandoned on bus; driver fired

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 2:49 PM

An 8-year-old Mason boy was abandoned for hours on a parked school bus leading to the firing of the driver and an apology from school officials with promises to reform their absence reporting systems. 
FILE PHOTO
An 8-year-old Mason boy was abandoned for hours on a parked school bus leading to the firing of the driver and an apology from school officials with promises to reform their absence reporting systems. (FILE PHOTO)

An 8-year-old Mason boy was abandoned for hours on a parked school bus, leading to the firing of the driver and an apology from school officials with promises to reform their absence-reporting systems.

Earlier this month, a Mason school parent put her son on a school bus expecting him to be safely transported to Mason Early Childhood Center.

But Colleen Peters, who later posted about the incident on her Facebook page, wrote her boy “fell asleep on the way to Mason Early Childhood Center. Every child got off the bus but mine.”

MORE: Local school districts scramble after state testing system fails

“The bus driver was supposed to do 2 checks per protocol to make sure no one, or anything is left on the bus. That did not happen,” said Peters.

“Also, there is a system in place to inform parents if their child is absent. In usual cases, that includes a phone call, a text, as well as an email. We did not receive that phone call, or text, or email. As far as we knew our son was safe at school,” she said.

Peters told this news outlet Wednesday that the April 3 experience was “horrific,” and she now drives her son to and from school because he is scared to get on a school bus.

Mason schools “handled it very poorly,” she said.

MORE: Mason school officials apologize for racist incident

“I got a phone call from the principle at MECC at 2:14 (p.m.) that my son was left on the bus for the entire day. It was an unusually humid warm day temps reaching 77. My son got off the bus at 1:50pm by prying the door open that day. He didn’t know where he was, and was very scared (his words not mine),” Peters wrote on Facebook.

While trying to get an adult’s attention at the school bus parking lot, Peters wrote that her tearful boy was ignored by some adults working there as they walked past him into the garage office, she claimed.

Finally, she said, “there was a lady that went on a smoke break that found him and helped him inside (the office).”

Mason school officials apologized to Peters and said the substitute bus driver was fired and a new requirement of all student absences — unexcused and excused — will be confirmed with phone or other communications with school parents within two hours of the start of each school day.

The MECC attendance secretary responsible for confirming absences was reprimanded.

MORE: Mason’s new school leader is familiar face

Before the end of the school day, officials said they will place a second call to all families who have not provided a reason for their child’s absence

“We hate that this child was left on the bus. There were some very serious mistakes,” said Mason Schools spokeswoman Tracey Carson, who added that school officials have offered Peters’ child counseling after the incident.

“Our practice has been that teachers are required to accurately record their students’ attendance in our student information system in the first 15 minutes of school,” said Carson.

“We’re analyzing our systems and doing more to try to reduce the opportunity for human error,” said Carson, who said the new procedures will begin Monday in the 11,000-student district, which is the largest in Warren County.

Peters wrote: “I’m not telling this story to harm anyone or blast anyone, because everyone has seemingly been apologetic as much as they can be while covering for themselves. I don’t think anyone really wants anything like this to happen again. I’m telling you all as a mom, because my heart aches so hard since this happened. I haven’t slept, I’ve had the worst of days worrying about just dropping my kid off at school, being able to trust the (school) administration.”

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Expert: No one can help suicidal teens quicker than classmates

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 5:00 AM


            Dr. Greg Hudnall presented to the community a new anti-teen suicide program that will begin next school year at Lakota Schools. Hudnall spoke to Lakota parents, students and district officials Monday evening at Lakota East High School. Hudnall is a national champion for suicide prevention in schools and communities and Hope Squad founder. MICHAEL D. CLARK/STAFF
Dr. Greg Hudnall presented to the community a new anti-teen suicide program that will begin next school year at Lakota Schools. Hudnall spoke to Lakota parents, students and district officials Monday evening at Lakota East High School. Hudnall is a national champion for suicide prevention in schools and communities and Hope Squad founder. MICHAEL D. CLARK/STAFF

When teens think about killing themselves there is often one group that knows about it first — fellow teens.

A new program coming to Lakota Schools at the start of next school year plans to use that documented tendency as part of a nationally acclaimed anti-teen suicide strategy that is working where many others have failed.

MORE: Lakota to adopt new program to stop teen suicides

The plan calls for directly involving students for the first time in “Hope Squads” because — as founder Dr. Greg Hudnall, a national champion for suicide prevention in schools told 80 Lakota school parents, students and officials Monday — nobody knows teens like teens.

“We’re often afraid to talk about suicide because we’re afraid it will give someone the idea,” Hudnall told the audience at Lakota East High School.

“The reality and research shows it is actually the opposite,” said the former Utah school district official, who founded Hope Squads that have since been adopted by many school districts in Southwest Ohio and nationwide.

In schools where Hope Squads have been formed, recent data analysis show that over 25 percent of all referrals to counselors have been from Hope Squad members. Of those referrals, 14 percent have been hospitalized for successful treatment, Hudnall told the audience.

The squads will consist of students specially trained to identify at-risk students, provide friendship and seek help from adults.

The “critical piece” of the Hope Squad strategy, he said, is the peer-to-peer component.

Hudnall shared a story about a Utah high school teen who came to school one day and gave his best friend his watch — a cherished family heirloom — and said he wouldn’t be needing it anymore. The friend was perplexed and didn’t have any formal adult contacts at school to turn to and share his concerns about his friend’s strange behavior. Shortly after, the boy killed himself.

“Of the people who commit suicide, 7 out of 10 will tell a friend, but the friend will never tell an adult,” he said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates for adolescent boys and girls have been steadily rising since 2007.

And the problem is especially dangerous for teen girls, according to the center’s data, which shows the suicide rate for girls ages 15-19 doubled from 2007 to 2015, when it reached its highest point in 40 years.

The suicide rate for boys ages 15-19 increased by 30 percent over the same time period.

MORE: A Mason High School mother whose son killed him self offers warnings

Both Lakota East and Lakota West high schools will have Hope Squads in place when classes start in August.

But Hudnall cautioned the positives of the new program “will not happen overnight.”

He said his group’s research shows “it takes two to three years to change a school culture.”

“We can’t prevent every suicide, but we can prevent many,” he said.

Lakota East junior Alyssa Longworth is eager to start her work as a member of the school’s first Hope Squad.

“Our family recently had a suicide. Suicide is a big problem, especially for my generation and I just want to do as much as I can to prevent it from happening,” said Longworth.

“I want everyone (classmates) to feel welcomed in the community and feeling happy. It’s great to have this program and be trained in what to do,” she said.

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Madison Schools superintendent reveals new job

Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 @ 1:00 PM


            Madison Schools Superintendent Curtis Philpot has announced he will be the new Director of Campus Operations at Miami Valley Career Technical Center in Montgomery County.
Madison Schools Superintendent Curtis Philpot has announced he will be the new Director of Campus Operations at Miami Valley Career Technical Center in Montgomery County.

The leader of Madison Schools in Butler County will soon be the taking a new job as Director of Campus Operations at Miami Valley Career Technical Center in Montgomery County.

Madison Schools Superintendent Curtis Philpot announced last week the current school year will be his last at the Butler County school system.

FIRST REPORT: Madison Schools leader leaving the district

In a statement, however, Philpot did not reveal where his next position would be until announcing it Monday.

Philpot, who was appointed Madison’s superintendent in 2012, declined further comment about his new job other than identifying for the first time where it would be.

MORE: Tiny Madison Twp. is ‘Mohawk Strong’ for historic football team

A.J. Huff, spokeswoman for Madison Schools, said the school board is beginning the process of finding a new superintendent to take over for the coming 2018-2019 school year.

The Miami Valley Career Technical Center in Englewood, north of Dayton, serves high school and adult students in the region.

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