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Hamilton Schools superintendent resigns with $130K, no explanation from school board

Tony Orr was ordered to take paid leave Feb. 5
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Posted at 4:01 PM, Apr 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-13 16:01:39-04

HAMILTON, Ohio – School superintendent Tony Orr resigned Thursday with a $130,000 separation package but without the school board explaining why it ordered him to go on paid leave Feb. 5, the Journal-News reported.

At the time, the board had said Orr might have violated board policies, adding only that they didn’t involve students in any way. School board President Steve Isgro said Thursday that the board conducted an independent investigation into the allegations, but Isgro refused to reveal any details.

The board gave no explanation for Orr's resignation in the short statement Isgro read at the beginning of Thursday’s board meeting, or in the separation agreement Orr signed that will pay the former superintendent through July 31.

Orr, who earns $156,818 annually, will also receive $130,000 within 30 days of his July 31 resignation date, according to the agreement.

The board also announced that Larry Knapp will remain interim superintendent for the 10,000-student school system through next school year.

Isgro said the report from the Orr investigation is in the hands of the school district’s attorney and is not considered a public document available under Ohio law but rather a privileged document protected by the attorney-client relationship.

“We understand that people may still have questions,” Isgro said. “But, ultimately, this is a personnel matter, and we will honor the privacy of all involved.”

The Journal-News said it conducted numerous public records searches of Orr’s personnel files and checked with Hamilton police, who said there were no criminal investigations or incident reports involving Orr.

The separation agreement includes a provision that reads “it is understood that the execution of this agreement does not constitute an admission of any kind whatsoever by any party.”

Orr called his resignation "bittersweet." 

“On one hand I am exceptionally proud of all that my leadership team, teachers, and I have accomplished," Orr said in a statement. "Working together over the past three years, we improved in 18 out of 23 tested areas and significantly increased the graduation rate. I believe that our students’ performance will be even higher this year as a result of our efforts.

 “As a change agent, I was excited to champion free preschool for our families, a centralized registration center, a blended learning academy, and implementing the Literacy Collaborative to help our elementary learners. The positive evaluation I received in July serves as a reminder of these accomplishments. On the other hand, I realize that change is difficult for people, and without it, students will not improve. My wife, daughter, and I are looking forward to our next adventure in education where my priority will continue to be serving the needs of students, staff, and community,” said Orr.

Orr was hired by the board in 2015 and last year had his contract extended through 2020.

Debra Gann, president of the Hamilton Classroom Teachers Association, said she was relieved the unusually lengthy ordered leave of the superintendent had been resolved.

“I was not displeased that Tony Orr has resigned and we are excited about our new leadership. It gives us a chance to heal and move forward,” said Gann.  

The Journal-News is a media partner of WCPO 9 On Your Side.