Two mothers upset with the Hillsboro Board of Education’s decision last month to consider the termination of suspended Hillsboro Choral Director David White’s contract addressed the board during its monthly meeting Monday.
The board voted 3-2 on April 15 in favor of Superintendent Tim Davis’ recommendation to consider the termination of White’s contract. Board President Bill Myers, Larry Lyons and Beverly Rhoads voted in favor of the recommendation, while Tom Milbery and Jerry Walker voted against it.
White, who has been the choral director for 17 years, was placed on non-paid leave April 3 by Davis after a March 28 incident when, during a board-approved outing in New York City, White and several male passengers on a tour bus moved a smart car that had been blocking their path. White admitted that the group moved the car about 12 inches, as it had been causing a large traffic jam due to its location.
Laura Pickering-Polstra told the board that of her two sons were on the bus in New York City.
She said that on Sept. 17, 2018, the school board voted unanimously to approve the vocal music trip to New York City, headed by White, after Davis recommended the trip be approved.
”That Mr. Davis trusted Mr. White with the safety of our students is implicit, otherwise, why would a competent superintendent allow a teacher to supervise an out-of-state field trip?” Pickering-Polstra asked.
She said that seven months later, Davis said White’s “most recent disciplinary record demonstrates continued examples of poor judgment and unprofessional conduct.”
Pickering-Polstra said that at the April 15 board meeting, Davis cited seven incidents of poor judgment on White’s part that were added to his file during a previous administration, and that in the two years since, White has not been disciplined. She further said Davis said at the same meeting that he had serious reservations about White’s ability to adequately carry out his duties.
”When did these serious reservations develop? Immediately upon viewing the NYC video, or a few days later, after he had a chance to consult the school district’s legal counsel about liability?” Pickering-Polstra asked. “How are we to trust the judgment of Mr. Davis? The superintendent led the school board to believe that Mr. White could be trusted, then after what happened in NYC, Mr. Davis insists he be fired, in part, due to incidents that were in his record last September. It doesn’t make sense. Why didn’t the superintendent express his concern about Mr. White’s poor judgment and unprofessional conduct before the kids left on March 31st?”
She also said she wanted to know why she was not informed of the March 28 events immediately if the superintendent believed her children were exposed to possible harm.
“I get a phone call from the school if my kid Googles ‘euthanasia,’” Pickering-Polstra said. “The incident in New York City, according to the administration, would surely be more serious than my daughter looking up the definition of a word, so why wasn’t I called?”
She also questioned a 2018 incident where seniors created a prank at the high school. She said the students tied string to doorknobs, stacked chairs and desks to the ceiling in classrooms and wrapped them in plastic, and filled red cups with water and covered hallway floors with them.
“These actions created countless potentially hazardous situations at the high school, as the video I previously emailed to all of you shows,” Pickering-Polstra told the board. “Principal Joe Turner permitted and oversaw the efforts of this prank. Surely Mr. Turner failed to exercise professional judgment by allowing these students to create a potentially hazardous situation.”
Pickering-Polstra said White has had a positive influence on her children’s lives and asked the board to reconsider its decision.
Stephanie Hensley spoke to the board next, saying she is a 2009 HHS graduate and an alumni of White’s choral program.
“During my time in his choirs I went through some of the hardest times in my life personally,” she said. “The person I am today is partially due to David White. He was there for me through my mother’s cancer. He supported me, prayed for me when I asked, and understood more than most. Not only his support, but his teaching has guided me [through] my life thus far.”
One of her biggest concerns seemed to be that the Hillsboro administration decided to drop its choral programs for the final six weeks of the school once White was suspended, and that her daughter was sent to a study hall rather than receiving choral instruction. She claimed that was a violation of school policy.
“I’m curious as to why a substitute choir teacher was not found to at least prepare these children for their spring concerts,” Hensley said. “Did anyone reach out to the Ohio Music Education Association? If not, why not? We keep hearing that this board and administration is and has done everything that is in the best interest of the students. How is taking a music education class and turning it into a study hall what is best for my child?”
Davis previously told The Times-Gazette it was difficult to find a qualified instructor with the proper certification to fill in for White in his absence at the point in the school year.
Following typical policy, the board and superintendent did not respond during the meeting.
The board has set dates for a public hearing on White’s case to be held June 25, 26 and 27 at 9:30 a.m. at the board offices located at 39 Willetsville Pk., the former site of the high school/middle school.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.