Northwestern board investigation: No sex or criminal allegations

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Northwestern board statement

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Northwestern Board of Education placed its superintendent on paid administrative leave Thursday night following an initial investigation that one parent called a “witch hunt.”

Board members voted 3-1 to place Superintendent Jesse Steiner on leave and appoint high school Principal Lori Swafford as acting superintendent. Board member Russell Steele voted against it.

READ: Northwestern superintendent supporter: Investigation unfair

Northwestern board member Andy Gundolf read a statement on behalf of the board to a room that included many supporters of Steiner. The investigation doesn’t involve sexual or criminal accusations, Gundolf said, but the board wouldn’t elaborate further until Steiner was made aware of the allegations.

“The Northwestern Local School board engaged an attorney in late November to conduct a comprehensive investigation into allegations of unprofessional conduct received by the board by Superintendent Jesse Steiner,” Gundolf said.

The statement gave little details about the allegations against Steiner but says the board is looking into his conduct with other employees.

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“The board focused on Mr. Steiner’s alleged misconduct when interacting with others on the job and whether or not he was maintaining the high standards of professional conduct we expect from staff and especially our superintendent,” Gundolf said.

Steiner and his attorney were told “the nature of the investigation and the approximate time frame for the investigation,” Gundolf said.

Friends and family of Steiner said the superintendent hasn’t been told what the specific allegations are.

PREVIOUSLY: No action taken in Northwestern superintendent investigation

Steiner makes more than $125,000 a year, according to his personnel file obtained by the Springfield News-Sun. He last reported to work Nov. 27, when he was told to stay off district property.

Many people attended the regular board meeting Thursday, including Steiner’s wife and two daughters. His wife said they haven’t heard anything from the board during its investigation and that once they hear from the board’s attorney, they may speak about the incident. The News-Sun hasn’t been able to reach Steiner for comment.

“If they made a decision, let our superintendent know so we as a community can move on,” said David Bischoff, a community member and a parent of a Northwestern student.

Jay Skrabacz, a district parent and friend of Steiner’s, told the board during the public comment part of the meeting that he believed they were being unfair and called the investigation a “witch hunt.”

“When you look at Mr. Steiner, he has done amazing things for this district,” Skrabacz said. “The kids love him. He reads to grade school kids on a weekly basis. He’s here all the time.”

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Steiner received a positive evaluation in August from the board of education. But it also included comment that the board expects interactions with staff to be professional at all times.

His August 2017 evaluation says he communicates with the board and was leading the district in a good direction.

“You have collaborated well with the board of education to develop a vision and improvement plan for achieving district goals and direction,” it says.

Steiner did a good job executing the district’s strategic plan, the review says.

“We feel that you have engaged well with the board in an open and consistent manner while working toward district initiatives,” it says.

That same review also reminded Steiner to keep interactions with staff professional.

“It is our expectation that all communications and interactions with teachers and staff are handled in a way that is professional and respectful at all times,” the evaluation says. “Disagreements with staff always need to be handled in a professional and private manner.”

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun first broke the news on that the Northwestern Local School Board of Education was investigating its superintendent on Dec. 9 and has published relevant articles surrounding that investigation. The Springfield News-Sun will continue to dig into the facts to make sure the community knows as much as possible about what’s going on in their schools.

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