BLANCHESTER — At Tuesday’s Blanchester school board meeting, one citizen questioned the board’s use of executive session and accused the board of making decisions ranging from “highly questionable” to “unethical and maybe even illegal.”
GlenRay Vestal began by welcoming back Principal Rick Hosler to Blanchester High School and questioned why the board placed him on leave from late November to mid-January.
“Usually if an employee is placed on administrative leave, they are dismissed,” Vestal said, reading prepared comments. “The fact that this investigation took almost two months and several members of this community wondering what the true issue was.
“Or is it something that can only be discussed in executive session?” Vestal continued.
As previously reported, Hosler was placed on leave while the board investigated him for an unspecified complaint filed against him. Hosler was back in school Jan. 14, upon completion of the school’s investigation. Attorneys for both sides said final details are being worked out.
Board president Chuck Shonkwiler didn’t respond directly to Vestal’s statements, but told the News Journal, “Whenever we go into executive session, we state very clearly why we’re going into executive session that night.”
Shonkwiler said he specifically hasn’t been concerned that the board might be sued, but could see where a board would be if it discussed publicly some of the things discussed in executive sessions.
Previously, Shonkwiler and the board’s attorney has maintained that the board doesn’t generally discuss personnel issues in public.
Vestal said the board members are employees of the community but won’t answer those questions in open forum and later said the board’s actions create “an appearance of impropriety.”
Vestal also criticized Shonkwiler’s comment that those who protested were speaking for themselves and weren’t a large group or indicative of the community, saying instead that many attended the board’s last meeting.
However, Vestal didn’t mention that Shonkwiler’s comment, featured in the News Journal, was about the dozens of people who stormed out of the meeting when Lynch’s contract was renewed in September.
Shonkwiler said his comment only referred to those dozens, not the hundreds who attended the board’s meeting in December.
Shonkwiler also questioned Vestal’s estimate of how many people attended the December meeting.
Vestal estimated that a fourth of the village, more than 1,000 people, attended. Shonkwiler estimated 350 and said, “We didn’t have nearly that many signatures” on the board’s sign in sheets.
The News Journal was unable to contact Vestal for follow up comments, including whether he meant to refer to those dozens or the hundreds who attended the December board meeting.
While many were there to support Hosler, Shonkwiler said, “People were there for different reasons.”
Shonkwiler said he wished people would ask questions at board meetings instead of making statements and accusations.
“I know he’s angry,” Shonkwiler said. “I know a few other folks who are very angry. … There’s nothing really to say in response to those things.
“We are doing our best to provide a quality education setting for our students, and I will always stand by that,” Shonkwiler also said.
Recently elected school board candidate Todd Bandow asked Vestal to email his questions.
At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, the board met in executive session to consider, according to Shonkwiler, “the appointment, employment, promotion, compensation and/or complaint against public employees.”
Shonkwiler had previously told the News Journal that Hosler’s reinstatement would not be discussed during the Tuesday board meeting.
The board also:
• Discussed its search for a head football coach. Superintendent Dean Lynch said 40 candidates applied for the position and 10 were interviewed. Lynch expects two more to be interviewed again and for a recommendation to be made during the February board meeting. When questioned, Lynch said both came from winning programs.
• Discussed the 2015 state report card for the school district. Lynch said the Ohio Department of Education released the graduation rates, Prepared for Success and K-3 literacy portions of the report card. Lynch said graduation rates remain constant and the K-3 literacy grade improved from a “D” to “B.” Lynch said Prepared for Success was new and comes with no grade. Lynch said other indicators will be released in late February, and he said preliminary data suggests the Blanchester school district has done well in the county and the region.
• Received a legislative report from Bandow, who said the reauthorized, federal Every Student Succeeds Act would give more power to local boards of education. Among other features, he said the law would allow states to put a cap on hours spent testing. Bandow said it still needed to be passed by the state.
• Accepted the resignation of Erin Bright as Middle School Art Teacher effective Jan. 29.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.