School bus safety is in the spotlight after recent crashes. What’s being done?

Published: Sunday, January 28, 2018 @ 11:00 AM

School bus rear ended by truck in Trenton

Recent school bus crashes have Butler County school officials redoubling their efforts to assure the thousands of students they transport each school day travel safely.

The crashes this month in Middletown and Edgewood school districts were caused by vehicles colliding into buses containing school children.

MORE: Middletown school bus crash leaves minor injuries

There were no serious injuries, but local school officials cite the accidents as reminders of possible worst-case scenarios they want to avoid.

Crashes draw much attention, but the daily schoolday ritual of safely transporting school children and teens along thousands of miles of Butler County roads is the overwhelming norm, said local school transportation officials.

“Riding a yellow school bus is still the safest way for students to get to and from school,” said Chris Passarge, chief operations officer for Lakota Schools.

“Lakota continues to keep safety at the forefront of everything we do, including transportation. All of our buses have GPS and camera systems that can be used for a variety of reasons to include safety.”

MORE: Budget cuts, state law keep busing from some high schools

In Ohio, between 2012 and 2016, there were 6,606 crashes involving school buses, leading to 16 deaths and 2,317 injuries, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Nationwide, more than 20 million K-12 students ride buses each school day, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

School bus accidents are more frequent in the winter season, when roads can be hazardous due to snow and ice.

VIDEO & STORY: School bus full of students slids out of control down icy hill

Technological advancements in school bus design, digital enhancements, new procedures and enhanced training of drivers has helped enssure safe travels, said Hamilton School officials.

“All of our buses are equipped with well-trained drivers, GPS tracking systems and cameras to help ensure a safe ride for all of our students,” said Larry Knapp, business manager for the 10,000-student Hamilton school system.

“We do have accidents from time to time, but thankfully, the majority of these are at slower speeds with few or no injuries. Similar to newer autos on the road, today’s bus interiors are better designed to help minimize injuries in these types of situations.”

Pam Pratt, spokeswoman for Edgewood Schools, said the rural Butler County district – almost entirely comprised of two-lane roads – has 25 buses transporting about 2,000 students.

“We perform daily inspections on our buses along with partnering with the Ohio State Highway Patrol for periodic inspections,” Pratt said. “Other activities include bus evacuation practice drills and conducting district safety meetings with our area first responders.”

What hasn’t been modernized, unfortunately, is the sometimes-careless behavior of the bad drivers around school buses, said Knapp.

“One of the biggest challenges we face are other drivers passing our buses when the bus is stopped on a street loading or unloading students,” he said.

“When our bus lights are flashing, people are supposed to stop. I don’t know if they are just in a hurry or don’t know the law, but going around the bus certainly puts kids at risk. The more space any driver can put between themselves and a school bus will help keep everyone safer.”

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Mason High School, Ohio’s largest, names new principal

Published: Saturday, May 26, 2018 @ 9:38 AM


            Bobby Dodd meets Mason High School teachers, Mason community leaders, parents and students on Friday, May 25. CONTRIBUTED
Bobby Dodd meets Mason High School teachers, Mason community leaders, parents and students on Friday, May 25. CONTRIBUTED

The Mason City Schools Board of Education this week unanimously approved hiring Robert “Bobby” Dodd as Mason High School principal beginning Aug. 1.

Dodd will replace Dave Hyatt, who is retiring at the end of the school year and moving to Vermont.

MORE: Former Kettering principal named Mason superintendent

“We love Mr. Dodd’s commitment to connection, his experience, and exciting vision — especially his mantra of working collaboratively to find ways to say ‘yes’ to students in order to honor their ideas, hopes, and dreams,” said Jonathan Cooper, Mason’s deputy superintendent who will become superintendent on July 1.

“He is a student-centered instructional leader who is excited to co-create the next iteration of MHS.”

Dodd has served as the principal of Gahanna Lincoln High School since 2014 and was the principal of New Lexington High School for three years prior to that.

RELATED: Mason principal stepping down

Dodd developed digital academies, college summer camps, a fabrication laboratory that includes a graphics design lab which manufactures and produces products for sale around the world, Early College High School and personalized learning environments, Mason said in a news release announcing his hiring.

Dodd has received awards for his contributions as a connected educator including the 2016 NASSP National Digital Principal of the Year award.

“As difficult as it is to leave Gahanna Lincoln, I am excited to be a part of the Mason City Schools team. I can’t wait to start building relationships and help our students, staff and community do amazing things. Mason High School is one of the finest schools in the state and I hope to work with all of our stakeholders to continue the tradition of excellence,” Dodd said in the release.

MORE: 40 percent absent after Mason High school threat

Dodd received a bachelor’s degree in history from John Carroll University in 1995, a law degree from St. Thomas University in Miami Lakes, Fla., in 1999, a bachelor’s degree in information technology from DeVry University in 2000 and a Master of Arts in educational leadership from the University of Cincinnati in 2009.

Dodd and his wife, Charity, have three children, Sydney, Kaitlyn, and Sophia.

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Former Warren County school board member now district’s assistant superintendent

Published: Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

Robyn Donisi
Robyn Donisi

A Franklin school board member who stepped down in January was hired as the district’s new assistant superintendent.

MORE: Monroe student battling cancer gets her wish: A high school graduation

Robyn Donisi, a veteran educator and currently the assistant superintendent of Clinton-Massie Local Schools, was selected from a field of 50 applicants for the position, according to Superintendent Michael Sander.

Donisi will be replacing Douglas Cozad, who will become the superintendent of Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools on July 1.

Sander said he was “excited” to have Donisi working on his leadership team. He said Donisi will begin her new duties in Franklin on Aug. 1.

MORE: ‘See something, say something’ working for Warren County school

The Franklin school board awarded Donisi a two-year contract with an annual salary of $100,000.

Donisi resigned her school board seat on Jan. 22 citing increased duties at work. She was elected in 2015 to her first term on the school board.

A lifelong resident of Franklin and a 1978 graduate of Franklin High School, Donisi earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Miami University and a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Dayton.

Donisi worked in Franklin City Schools for 21 years as a math and science teacher in grades four, seven and eight; as assistant principal at Franklin Junior High School; and as principal at Hunter Elementary School before moving to Clinton-Massie Local Schools as assistant superintendent.

She and her family reside in Franklin.

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Centerville mom claims autistic son held in a ‘detention room’ size of a closet

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 5:43 PM

Centerville mom troubled with way school disciplined son

The mother of a Centerville student has filed a sheriff’s report claiming that her autistic son was placed in a room with no windows on Tuesday as a form of punishment for not meeting acceptable behavior standards.

The school district said the room has a window but would not talk about the specifics of the woman’s complaints.

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Monique Williams, the mother of 11-year-old Michael Dixon, a special needs student at Watts Middle School said her son was locked in a “small room similar to a closet as a form of punishment” instead of being allowed to attend the “Jazz on the Lawn” event with other students in his class, according to the sheriff’s report.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office had a deputy go to the school to investigate the incident.

Williams alleges in the police report that a teaching aide told her that her son, who also has ADHD and asthma, “did not acquire enough points on his good behavior to attend” the event, so he had to spend time in the room.

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She said she was told other students had been placed in the room for bad behavior and that her son was not injured. Her son told her that this was not the first time he had been placed in the room.

Sarah Swan, community relations specialist for the school district, said the district would not comment on the specifics of the allegation, but provided a statement on the issue.

“We cannot go into the specifics of the situation due to student confidentiality,” she said in a statement. “There is a room located in the office area at Watts Middle School that has traditionally been used when students lose privileges. The door to the room is kept open, and it also has a window.”

The investigation is ongoing, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

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Hamilton Schools to undergo security changes this summer

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 10:11 AM

Kings Schools are 1 of a few area districts using an anti-shooter device to keep students safer in classrooms.

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.

MORE: Middletown High School closes on last day due to threat

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.

MORE: ‘What are you waiting for?’, sheriff asks school boards

“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.

MORE: Firearms stolen in Mason gun store break-in

“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.

The 2017-2018 school year ended for Hamilton students last week.

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