Nearly 100 supporters of an embattled teacher crowded the offices of the Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education Tuesday as a public hearing began in a termination appeal case of suspended Hillsboro High School Choral Director David White.
According to testimony from Hillsboro High School Principal Joseph Turner and Superintendent Tim Davis, White put students “in a huge safety risk, violated ethics and ignored issues of safety” during a recent symphonic choir trip to New York City when he allowed 12 students on the trip to move a car that was blocking the path of their Croswell Bus Lines tour bus.
The board had budgeted three days for testimony to be heard by referee John Butz on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Representing the board of education was attorney Frederick Compton, with attorney David Duwel representing White.
As previously reported in The Times-Gazette, White said that the bus he and the students were on, along with five chaperones, was coming off the Lincoln Tunnel, turned onto a one-way side street, and an illegally parked smart car was on the right curb with other vehicles on the left.
The bus driver tried to maneuver around the vehicle, but was unable to, with White saying the bus driver remarked “if I only had 6 inches I could move around that car.”
White said that he and others onthe bus said they could move the car, and then at that point, he along with some male students, with help from a taxi driver who was blocked behind the bus, moved the Smart car no more than 12 inches.
The incident took place on Thursday, March 28 with video footage from a student’s phone uploaded to Facebook, which came to the attention of Turner, who then informed Davis, who in testimony said he had been previously dealing with a separate social media matter and wasn’t aware of the New York video.
He said he was “scared, nervous and upset” when he viewed the video and that immediately a call was placed to White in New York, who he said returned the call about a minute later, assuring his superiors that everything was alright, there were no problems with or injuries to the students, and that they were en route to their next stop on the field trip.
Turner commented in testimony that he heard White say “Oh no, I think I’m in trouble” before ending the call.
He described White as a great motivator and teacher, despite some circumstances that he described as “unstable in some dealings with students and parents,” and at the same time calling his teaching methods “creative” with a somewhat “eccentric personality.”
Like Davis, Turner said he had serious concerns that the video would be picked up by the media and taken out of context, with Davis testifying that his concern was defending the events to the school board, the public, and the Ohio Department of Education.
Davis said that his recommendation for termination came from information gathered by Turner and Assistant Principal Kyle Haines, and that he personally delivered a letter on Sunday, March 31 to White’s residence that detailed a predisciplinary hearing scheduled for April 3.
White was placed on paid leave from April 1-3, Davis said, and in his report to the board of education dated April 15, he recommended termination of White’s employment contract to be effective April 4. The school board agreed to the recommendation by a 3-2 vote after nearly two hours of executive session deliberations on April 22.
In Tuesday’s testimony, Davis said his five main concerns for recommending White’s termination centered on the safety and well-being of students, lack of monitoring during the field trip, failure to contact a supervisor regarding the incident of March 28, compelling students to perform work when involved in a field trip, and in general violation of field trip guidelines.
Under cross examination, Davis told those in attendance that even if there were no previous incidents in White’s personnel file, he would stand by his decision, and that in his report to the Ohio Department of Education Office of Professional Conduct he listed “conduct unbecoming to an educator” as a reason for termination.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.