From left, Hillsboro City Schools superintendent Tim Davis and school board members Tom Milbery, Beverly Rhoads, Bill Myers, Jerry Walker and Larry Lyons are pictured Wednesday. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
From left, Hillsboro City Schools superintendent Tim Davis and school board members Tom Milbery, Beverly Rhoads, Bill Myers, Jerry Walker and Larry Lyons are pictured Wednesday. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
Almost four months after a three-and-a-half-hour meeting in which the Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education voted in a split decision to consider terminating longtime music teacher David White, the board voted unanimously to approve White’s resignation and a settlement agreement Wednesday morning.

The board voted before 8 a.m. Wednesday to approve “the settlement agreement and resignation on Aug. 7 of David White, grades seven through 12 vocal music teacher, effective June 30, 2019.”

Under the terms of the settlement, the district will be paying White $11,600 for lost wages as well as $5,000 for attorney fees (White hired his own attorney, not the Hillsboro Education Association's legal representative).

According to terms of the settlement, the agreement between White, the Hillsboro school board and the Hillsboro Education Association (HEA) included an agreement to “fully, equitably and completely settle all matters in dispute between the parties.” Through this agreement, White issued an “irrevocable letter of resignation” effective June 30. The HEA “waives the right to pursue a grievance and/or arbitration or court/administrative action,” and White also “waives, releases and forever discharges” the district from “any and all claims, liabilities, suits, charges, grievances and complaints.”

Also under the agreement, if the district is contacted by “a future prospective employer” for White, they will “provide the dates of Mr. White’s employment, earnings and positions held … but will provide no other information.”

Counsel for White declined to comment to The Highland County Press Wednesday.

As previously reported, on April 15, the board voted 3-2 to approve a resolution of intention to consider termination of White’s employment contract, despite numerous comments from past and present students, teachers and members of the community all in support of White.

During that meeting, Hillsboro City Schools superintendent Tim Davis said “there is good and just cause” for the board’s vote. According to Davis, that “good and just cause” was due to an incident that occurred on a field trip with choir members to New York City. On March 28, Davis said that White “permitted and oversaw the efforts” of a group of Hillsboro students who moved “an automobile that appeared to be parked” in New York City. The incident was filmed by other students and posted to Facebook, the superintendent said.

Davis said that after seeing the video on social media, he called White, who “acknowledged the actions of students and the supervisory role in the effort to move the automobile and added that it was his intent to assist the bus in which the Hillsboro students group was traveling to maneuver on the street.” According to Davis, White agreed it was “poor judgment on his part.”

“Mr. White’s conduct exposed him and the high school students attempting to move the automobile to potential criminal charges,” Davis said.

Davis said that he met with White during a “pre-termination conference,” where White was represented by members of the Hillsboro Education Association. During that conference, Davis said, “Mr. White did not refute the factual allegations against him.”

Davis also alleged “seven separate incidents” on White’s “disciplinary record” dating back to 2014. The superintendent added that the incident in New York “violated a number of school policies and administrative guidelines,” citing several examples.

“I have serious reservations about Mr. White’s ability to actively carry out his duties as a teacher,” Davis said April 15. “Mr. White’s most recent disciplinary record demonstrates continued examples of poor judgment and unprofessional conduct that negatively impacts the school and the student environment.”

In June, a two-day contract termination hearing was held, with attorney John Butz appointed referee for the hearing by the Ohio Department of Education. The Highland County Press has also requested a copy of Butz’s recommendation to the district. Davis told The Highland County Press Wednesday the report “has not been completed yet, and with today’s resignation I don't see it being completed.”

According to the Ohio Revised Code: “After consideration of the referee's report, the board, by a majority vote, may accept or reject the referee's recommendation on the termination of the teacher's contract. Any order of termination of a contract shall state the grounds for termination. If the decision, after hearing, is against termination of the contract, the charges and the record of the hearing shall be physically expunged from the minutes, and if the teacher has suffered any loss of salary by reason of being suspended, the teacher shall be paid the teacher's full salary for the period of such suspension.”

The incident in New York that sparked contract termination discussions, along with disciplinary hearings that followed, were outlined in detail throughout the contract termination hearing. In their opening statements, the school district’s attorney Frederick Compton said that Davis felt White’s actions were “of such an egregious nature” that he recommended the intent to terminate White’s contract. David Duwel, counsel for White, argued that the action of moving the car was actually permissible under New York law and that many in the community support White.

Along with the district presenting witnesses who testified regarding White’s actions in New York as well as other alleged disciplinary issues, White had several witnesses who spoke in support of his character and his tenure as an educator. White declined to comment to The Highland County Press following the contract termination hearing.

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Also during Wednesday morning’s special board meeting, the board voted 5-0 to accept bids for early site work on the $6 million high school auditorium project.

As previously reported, Hillsboro City Schools has contracted with Woolpert to provide full design services for its $6 million high school auditorium. The new auditorium will be 23,000 square feet, seat 800 and include flexible space for changing rooms and/or locker rooms.

Davis told the board that they received two bids, with Woolpert recommending that they accept the bid from Ford Excavating. (Editor’s note: Ford Excavating is owned by members of Woolpert project manager Todd Ford’s family.)

Board president Bill Myers asked when construction would begin.

“Within the next week, probably,” Davis said. “This bid information deals with utilities, power, sewer — getting all that stuff moved so when we start construction, they’re not doing site work for all those utilities.”

An addendum to the bid was included for working on the utilities at the Sam Barnhouse Center “either on a weekend or during the fair break when we don’t have classes in there,” Davis said. “That was a big piece that was put in there, so we don’t interrupt any classes,” he told the board.

Myers also asked if the construction work would affect busing at the beginning of the school year.

“The high school/middle school is starting the year as if there’s going to be under construction there, so they don’t have to change in the middle of the year,” Davis said. “In meeting with Woolpert yesterday, we talked about how we’re going to put a fence up there for the safety and also dealing with some exits.”