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UPDATE: Hamilton superintendent says he doesn’t know why he was placed on leave

Published: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 @ 2:30 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 @ 3:22 PM

Tony Orr has been superintendent of Hamilton schools since 2015.

The leader of Hamilton Schools has been placed on leave by its school board, this news organization has learned.

Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr has been placed on paid administrative leave, effective immediately, as the five-member school board for the Butler County city is “investigating allegations that Orr may have violated board policies,” according to a statement released Tuesday by district officials.

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Larry Knapp, the school district’s business manager, is now serving as interim superintendent.

“These allegations were brought to our attention and we immediately placed Mr. Orr on leave, following our own policies and procedures, and began an independent investigation,” said Board of Education President Steve Isgro in the statement.

Orr released a statement by email on Tuesday afternoon:

“I am proud to serve as Superintendent of Hamilton City Schools, and I respect the investigative process that occurs when a complaint is brought forward. This is standard operating procedure. Although I am unaware of what the allegation is, I am confident that I will be exonerated at the conclusion of this investigation. I look forward to continuing the great things we are doing for children in Hamilton for many years to come.”

Isgro said Orr will remain on administrative leave until completion of the investigation and a final resolution of the matter.

The board and school district will not go into details while the investigation is active, Isgro said, but he emphasized that students are not involved.

“This is a personnel matter. We have to be sensitive to that and we must respect the privacy of those involved, but we do want to emphasize that this situation does not involve our students in any way,” Isgro said. “We don’t want to minimize the situation under investigation but we do want to provide some clarity.”

It’s not the first time Orr has been placed on leave as an Ohio school superintendent.

As former Northwestern Schools (Clark County) Superintendent, Orr was told not to report to work starting in late May 2015 until his contract ended in July and he left to lead Hamilton City Schools. No public allegations of misconduct were made against Orr. He and the board came to a transition agreement, Orr said at the time.

“The Northwestern Board of Education and I agreed to a transition agreement that allowed me to begin the process to work for Hamilton City Schools while Northwestern began its search for its superintendent,” Orr said in an email at that time.

He then declined further comment on Northwestern.

Orr replaced longtime Hamilton school leader Janet Baker, who ran the 10,000-student school system for more than two decades, in 2015.

His original contract was extended last year, to 2020, by the school board. One member, Tom Alf, voted against the contract.

In 2015, Alf joined the board in a unanimous vote. He declined to explain his no vote.

Orr’s annual salary is $156,818.

Orr’s tenure as the city’s school leader has been marked by both incremental success in some academic areas but also contentiousness with state education officials, whom he has criticized frequently for mandating too many student tests and then unfairly using those to compile misrepresenting annual report cards on the city schools.

Orr also has clashed with officials from area Catholic schools. In 2017, this news outlet was the first to report Orr sent out a letter to school families in the city that touted his district in comparison to “some non-public schools” while contending — though not directly naming — that Cincinnati Archdiocese Schools and other private learning institutions lack the resources and expertise of the city’s public schools.

The letter was part of a new promotional campaign by Hamilton Schools to solicit private school families into considering enrolling their children instead in the city’s public schools.

The letter elicited a sharp response by some private school families from the city’s Catholic Badin High School.

Isgro said “the school district is in capable, experienced hands with Knapp,” as interim superintendent.

Knapp has been with Hamilton City Schools for three years and has been a professional educator for 38 years, with 34 years in administration, including experience as a superintendent.

“One promise I can make is that, while we work through this, providing a comprehensive education for all of our students will remain our mission,” Knapp said. “We won’t lose that focus.”

This new organization will report more as information becomes available.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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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Threat cancels Middletown High School’s last day of classes

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 5:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 4:00 AM

Middletown High School modernized.

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.

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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.

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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.

“While we are saddened this is happening on the eve of our graduation celebration, we must keep our Middie family safe. We will have an increased police presence at graduation. Our focus tonight is celebrating our seniors and their successes,” Styles said.

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11-year-old Springboro boy accused of making gun threat on school bus

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 3:54 PM


            Judge Joe Kirby allowed 11-year-old Springboro student to go home after an alleged gun threat on a Springboro bus.STAFF / LAWRENCE BUDD
Judge Joe Kirby allowed 11-year-old Springboro student to go home after an alleged gun threat on a Springboro bus.STAFF / LAWRENCE BUDD

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

RELATED: Warren County boy, 11, accused of threatening to shoot up school

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.

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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.

The boy is to complete 20 hours of community service, comply with any rules set out by the school and pay $65 in court costs.

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