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Wright State faculty contract negotiations stalled

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 12:35 PM


            Wright State University.
Wright State University.

Contract negotiations between Wright State University and its faculty have stalled and union leaders said they are being asked to make big concessions for talks to continue.

Wright State president Cheryl Schrader has declined to comment on ongoing talks between the administration and the WSU chapter of American Association of University professors. But, recently the chairman of Wright State’s board of trustees provided some insight into what might have stalled negotiations.

“The board is unanimous in its belief that the negotiations are about flexibility,” board chairman Doug Fecher said during a recent trustees meeting. “We truly hope that we can find a way to move forward…We do want to get this thing done.”

RELATED: Graffiti targeting minorities, women, Muslims, Jews found at Wright State

That “flexibility” is what Wright State’s AAUP leaders are most concerned about, said Martin Kich, president of the chapter and a professor at the school’s Lake Campus. Due to Wright State’s recent financial problems, Kich and others worry that the administration want to make it easier to lay off faculty and eliminate academic programs.

In June, Wright State’s board of trustees slashed more than $30.8 million from the university’s budget. Italian, Japanese and Russian language courses were the only academic programs that were to be scrapped by budget cuts.

The administration has asked the faculty union to consider having a “global discussion” about contract details, Kich said, which he interprets as the administration wanting to “change the ground rules” of negotiations.

“That language is there to ensure they don’t do anything impulsively,” Kich said. “It ensures that people don’t just start cutting programs because in the short term that saves them some kind of money without thinking of the long term implications.”

RELATED: Wright State again planning to cut swimming and diving teams after this season

Pay, which is often one of the more contentious factors for entities negotiating contracts, has not been a big one for Wright State’s faculty this time around, Kich said. With the university’s financial issues, Kich said faculty have no grand expectation of raises.

Although the faculty contracts expired in June, an agreement with the administration means the expired contracts will remain in place until a new one is reached, Kich said. Talks began in January and Kich said it first appeared that the administration and union would reach an agreement relatively easily.

“Most of it wasn’t that big of a deal,” Kich said. “There’s always some stuff each side puts down that is wish list stuff but from my perspective it was not particularly contentious in any way.”

Then in March, former Wright State president David Hopkins abruptly resigned and Curitis McCray was hired as interim president. The change in leadership briefly halted talks and then the administration brought in an attorney to handle the remainder of negotiations, Kich said.

RELATED: Ohio State to decide on white supremacist’s speaking request this week

At this point, Kich said he doesn’t expect a deal to be reached until next year. While Kich wouldn’t rule out a faculty strike, he said he’s not even sure how the union would handle one since it has never had to.

“We’ve never gotten to a point where this was a real possibility,” Kich said. “It would seem kind of stupid if we got to that point. But, we’ll see what happens.”

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Pike County murders: 8 deaths, 2 years, no answers

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 2:18 PM
Updated: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 2:18 PM

New family monument at gravesite the only real change in unsolved murder of eight family members

Two years after the eight-person massacre in Pike County, investigators are providing fewer details than ever before in the case, marking the second anniversary without the lengthy, emotional press conference and plea for tips that highlighted the first.

The unsolved murders took place April 22, 2016.

» Pike County murders: ‘There will always be a scar on this town’

» Pike County murder victims: A closer look at the 8 who died

This week the three sites where members of the Rhoden and Gilley families were killed appeared unchanged from the early days of the investigation. As if frozen in time, toys, trash, appliances and abandoned vehicles remain spread about the properties and front porches of trailers that are no longer there - having been hauled away and stored as part of the investigation.

A billboard seeking information remains posted 300 feet from the Pike County Sheriff's Office two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County. The crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Those trailers are now housed in a large pole barn built last year by the county for just shy of $100,000.

PHOTOS: Pike County crime scenes unchanged after two years

About 20 miles south — past the former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon and across the Scioto River from the state prison in Lucasville — rest five members of the Rhoden family. The grass on their plots has grown past the straw first placed over the newly dug earth. New grave stones share their names and poem on the back of the family’s headstone captures a community’s grief.

“You never said, ‘I’m leaving,’ you never said goodbye, you were gone before we knew it, and only God knows why.”

Dana Rhoden, her daughter Hanna and son Chris Rhoden, Jr. were killed in their mobile home at this location on Union Hill Rd. in 2016. Two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County, the crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Busy summer, quiet winter

Finding the killers remains the top priority of Attorney General Mike DeWine, a candidate for Ohio governor. This week, DeWine said he remains hopeful the case will be solved. If unsolved by the general Election Day, the case will become a daunting challenge for one of the two men seeking to become his successor.

One year ago, the investigation appeared active. DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader called reporters to DeWine’s high rise Columbus office in April 2017 for a long interview about the investigation. For a time, it seemed investigators were inching closer to solving the case. 

In May, authorities arrested James Manley, the brother of victim Dana Manley Rhoden, on charges of evidence tampering and vandalism after allegedly destroying a GPS tracker placed on his car during the investigation. 

Then, in June, “DeWine annouced he was “laser focused” on members of the Wagner family, a family in Kenai, Alaska who formerly lived near the Rhodens in Ohio. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation and other agencies executed search warrants at their former residence. 

And then, quiet.  

A Pike County judge dismissed the charges against Manley so that evidence could be presented to a grand jury. There have been no announcements since of any grand jury action. Manley’s attorney, James Boulger, and Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk did not respond to requests for comment.

“I have nothing I can say about that,” DeWine said when asked about Manley’s case.

Dana Rhoden, her daughter Hanna and son Chris Rhoden, Jr. were killed in their mobile home at this location on Union Hill Rd. in 2016. Two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County, the crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Meanwhile, the Wagners, appeared to still be in Alaska as of December, when, according to Alaska court records, Edward Jacob “Jake” Wagner, 25, pleaded no contest to a speeding ticket issued in Soldotna, about a three hour drive south of Anchorage. Wagner fathered a daughter with Hannah Rhoden, one of the victims, but DeWine has not named him or three other family members — George “Billy” Wagner, his wife, Angela, and their other son, George — as suspects.

» Who are the Wagners? Pike County murders investigators want to know

The Wagners “continue to be saddened by the loss of the Rhodens,” John Kearson Clark Jr., the family’s attorney, told this newspaper this month. “Especially with each passing year, and yet the case is not resolved.” 

Aside from Hannah Rhoden, 19, the dead included her father Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden, 37; their sons, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Frankie’s fiancee, Hannah Gilley, 20; and relatives Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and Gary Rhoden, 38.

“Despite what has been said and alleged, the Wagners were on friendly terms with the Rhodens,” Clark said by email. “Therefore, the Wagners had no reason to wish them harm. The Wagners wish the investigative authorities would expend their efforts in finding and holding the true killer(s) accountable. Only then will the Rhodens’ deaths be vindicated.”

Two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County, the crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

In other media interviews Clark implied that DeWine was targeting the Wagner’s in order to make it appear progress was being made in the case.  Asked this month if DeWine is still “laser focused” on the family, his spokesman said “the AG’s comments from last year stand.”

But DeWine himself, in an interview, declined to say. 

“I’m really not going to talk about who we’re focused on,” DeWine said. “I can just saw we’re moving on the case and we’ve made progress, but I don’t think it would be beneficial to resolving the case to say who we’re focused on and who we’re not focused on.”

DeWine, sheriff still hopeful

Investigators across several agencies have spent an untold number of hours on the case since relatives discovered their slain family members. DeWine, the state’s top law enforcement official, emerged quickly alongside Sheriff Reader as the public faces of the investigation. The pair offered press conferences and interviews in hopes of encouraging someone to come forward with the information that would lead to solving the crimes.

Reader did not agree to a request for an interview this month.

“I have decided that out of respect for the victims, the family, friends, and for the integrity of the ongoing and active criminal investigation, I will not be doing any interviews or taking any questions concerning the multiple homicide that occurred in Pike County, Ohio on April 22, 2016,” Reader emailed the newspaper. “I remain very confident in the investigative staff.”

DeWine last year told this newspaper he hoped to solve the case before leaving the attorney general’s office.

“It’s a hypothetical, I certainly would hope we would have the case solved by then, but we have professionals that are working on this case,” DeWine said. “We have professionals that will remain with the attorney general’s office and that will remain with BCI. We hope we don’t get to that point. We hope we solve it before then.”

Pike County Sheriff's Office in Waverly. Two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County, the crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

AG candidates face major task

Because officials have characterized the case as the largest criminal inquiry in Ohio history, the two candidates to become Ohio’s next attorney general - DeWine leaves office in January - face the decision of whether they would continue to consider solving the Pike County murders as the office’s number one priority.

“Anyone who would predict this nine months before taking office, without seeing the evidence and understanding the posture of the investigation at that time, is a fool, or a poltroon, or both — and not fit for the office of attorney general,” said Dave Yost, the Ohio auditor and Republican candidate for attorney general, in an email.

“Of the publicly available information, the only thing I can say I would have done differently is that I would have released the coroner’s report without litigation,” Yost said, referencing lawsuits that were filed by the news media to obtain the unredacted reports.

Yost’s Democratic opponent, Steve Dettelbach, held his cards even closer.

“I’ve spent two decades as a prosecutor,” Dettelbach, the former U.S. attorney for the northern district of Ohio, said by text message. “I don’t and won’t politicize an important murder investigation.”

Pike County murders: 8 deaths, 2 years, no answers

Taylor: ‘Unconscionable’ case unsolved

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, DeWine’s Republican primary opponent in Ohio’s governor race, criticized the former Greene County prosecutor’s handling of the case, which she called “a terrible tragedy for an entire family and community.”

Taylor said BCI “is failing on many fronts,” citing a Dayton Daily News investigation last month examining the drug testing backlog at the agency’s lab, an issue unrelated to the Pike County deaths. A spokesman for BCI defended DeWine’s leadership at the agency, calling Taylor’s criticisms “another mistruth.”

“While I’m certain that law enforcement officers on the ground are working hard to solve this case, I’m concerned about the leadership coming out of the Attorney General’s office,” Taylor said in an email. “When this horrific crime was committed in Pike County, there was Mike DeWine in front of the cameras acting like real police, but two years in it is unconscionable that justice has yet to be served.”

DeWine campaign spokesman Ryan Stubenrauch said Taylor “should be ashamed.”

“Attempting to use one of the worst mass murders in Ohio’s history as a political attack while the case remains under investigation is horribly disrespectful to the victims, their families and to the law enforcement officers who are working hard to bring those responsible for this heinous crime to justice,” he said.

CONTINUING COVERAGE

In more than a dozen trips to Pike County during the past two years, Dayton Daily News reporters and photographers have followed the murders from the crime scenes, courthouse and Statehouse. The newspaper’s coverage of Ohio’s largest criminal investigation in history is made possible by your subscription.

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Swedish musician Avicii dead at 28

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 1:40 PM

Avicii Dead at 28

Swedish DJ Avicii was found dead Friday in Oman, his publicist confirmed. He was 28.

>> Read more trending news

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Boy's wallet lost in 1972 found behind lockers at Wenatchee pool

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 6:17 PM

(KIRO7.com)
(KIRO7.com)

A wallet lost in 1972 has been found by a work crew in Wenatchee who is updating part of the Wentachee, Washington, pool facility.

>> Read more trending news

Wenatchee World says the wallet, owned by Harry LaRue, contains some family pictures, and a Boy Scout Card. The World says it estimates that LaRue was about 10 when he lost the wallet and that he lived in East Wenatchee.

The wallet was found behind the boys’ lockers at the city pool by a city crew who was updating the changing room.

A reporter from the World tried to find LaRue, but has been unable to.

After seeing the World's Facebook post, someone who knows a man by the same name said she contacted him and he was calling the city, who has the wallet. 

KIRO 7 is asking the Wenatchee World to verify if the man is the same person who lost the wallet years ago.

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Trotwood picks interim schools chief who has dealt with state takeover

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 6:12 PM


            Tyrone Olverson
Tyrone Olverson

Trotwood-Madison City Schools will hire an interim superintendent for the rest of the calendar year, choosing a man who has experience with the state takeover system that is looming over Trotwood schools right now.

Trotwood’s board of education will hire Tyrone Olverson at their board meeting tonight, according to a district press release, with Olverson slated to start work on Monday.

For the past two years, Olverson has been Chief Academic Officer of the Youngstown City School District, which was taken over by a state Academic Distress Commission in 2010, before Olverson arrived.

RELATED: State test results key factor in Trotwood schools’ future

Trotwood schools are at risk of the same takeover process if student scores from ongoing state tests do not move the needle on the district’s state report card this summer.

“Mr. Olverson’s work as a former superintendent and as a former principal in grades K-12, and his current experience with the new Academic Distress Commission and CEO at Youngstown City, make him the right person at the right time for Trotwood-Madison,” said Denise Moore, Trotwood school board president. “He’s had experience with turning districts around, changing the culture to a sustainable culture of high performance.”

Current Trotwood Superintendent Kevin Bell told district leaders late last year that he planned to retire Dec. 31, 2018, and the board has been searching for a superintendent since then. Moore said Bell will remain with the district in a support role for the rest of 2018.

RELATED: Trotwood swears in new school board member

Olverson’s contract will run only through Dec. 31, because of the uncertainty of the possible state takeover process after state report cards are released in September. Moore said the board did talk to Olverson about his potential role after 2018, but on Wednesday, she would only say that his role is interim superintendent.

If Trotwood has a third straight year of bad state report card grades based on state tests, the Ohio Department of Education will appoint an Academic Distress Commission to run the district. That will happen if one of two things happens — if Trotwood receives an “F” in the new overall grade that will be added to schools’ report card this year, or if the district receives an “F” in performance index and a “D” or “F” in student growth.

In Trotwood, state testing began last week and will wrap up May 3. Preliminary results are delivered to schools in June, and the state report card is released in mid-September.

PREVIOUS: Trotwood superintendent will retire

“We’re looking at a lot of different scenarios based on the outcome of our state testing,” Moore said. “First and foremost, we’re very, very optimistic about that outcome. We have put interventions and strategic planning in place for our kids. … We feel very confident that the state takeover is not going to be an issue.

Before taking his current Youngstown post, Olverson was superintendent of Finneytown Local Schools near Cincinnati from 2013-16. He has also worked as an administrator in Licking Heights schools, and as a principal in Reynoldsburg (2006-09) and Princeton (2003-06), where he began his career in 1991 as a social studies teacher.

“I am extremely honored to have been selected for this position,” Mr. Olverson said in the district’s news release. “I am excited about getting to work and helping the district focus on doing what is best for children.”

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