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Hamilton City Schools investigating Superintendent Tony Orr

Leader says he doesn't know why
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Posted at 2:56 PM, Feb 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-06 16:30:38-05

HAMILTON, Ohio - The Hamilton City Schools superintendent says he doesn't know why he is being investigated but he's confident he will be exonerated.

Superintendent Tony Orr has been placed on paid administrative leave as the Board of Education investigates allegations that do not involve a student, Board President Steve Isgro said Tuesday.

Isgro said there have been allegations that Orr may have violated board policies.

Orr released a statement by email on Tuesday afternoon:

“I am proud to serve as Superintendent of Hamilton City Schools, and I respect the investigative process that occurs when a complaint is brought forward. This is standard operating procedure. Although I am unaware of what the allegation is, I am confident that I will be exonerated at the conclusion of this investigation. I look forward to continuing the great things we are doing for children in Hamilton for many years to come.”

Larry Knapp, the school district’s business manager, is serving as interim superintendent.

The board and school district will not go into details while the investigation is active, Isgro said, but he emphasized that students are not involved.

“These allegations were brought to our attention and we immediately placed Mr. Orr on leave, following our own policies and procedures, and began an independent investigation,” Isgro said in a statement released by the school district.

“This is a personnel matter. We have to be sensitive to that and we must respect the privacy of those involved, but we do want to emphasize that this situation does not involve our students in any way,” Isgro said. “We don’t want to minimize the situation under investigation but we do want to provide some clarity.”

Orr replaced longtime Hamilton school leader Janet Baker, who ran the 10,000-student school system for more than two decades, in 2015. Last year, the school board extended his contract to 2020.

Orr’s annual salary is $156,818.

According to the Journal-News, Orr’s tenure as the city’s school leader has been marked by incremental success in some academic areas but also contentiousness with state education officials. Orr has frequently criticized state officials for mandating too many student tests and accused them of unfairly using test results to compile misrepresenting annual report cards on the city schools.

Orr also has clashed with officials from area Catholic schools. In 2017, the Journal-News reported that Orr sent a letter to city school families that touted his district in comparison to “some non-public schools” while contending that private schools lack the resources and expertise of the city’s public schools.

Isgro said “the school district is in capable, experienced hands with Knapp” as interim superintendent

Knapp has been with Hamilton City Schools for three years and has been a professional educator for 38 years, with 34 years in administration, including experience as a superintendent.

“One promise I can make is that, while we work through this, providing a comprehensive education for all of our students will remain our mission,” Knapp said. “We won’t lose that focus.”

The Journal-News, news partner of WCPO, contributed to this report.