Dayton school board member Joe Lacey said Wednesday that allegations of racial discrimination mentioned by the board Tuesday night are not the main reason Superintendent Rhonda Corr was put on leave.
In fact, Lacey said attorney Beverly Meyer’s report clears Associate Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli of those charges, and clears Corr of nearly all of them, while acknowledging that some of Corr’s behavior may have been “unprofessional.”
But Lacey said there are separate allegations against Corr only, not related to the racial discrimination issue, that are the reason Corr has been put on leave. He declined to comment on the nature of those separate allegations.
Corr has not responded to requests for comment.
Lolli echoed Lacey’s statement that allegations of harassment or discrimination against her were unfounded.
“Never in 40 years have the words discrimination and or harassment been associated with my name and reputation,” Lolli said. “They won't be in the next 40 years either because they do not describe who I am or what I stand for.”
EARLIER: Dayton school board members late Tuesday night placed Superintendent Rhonda Corr on administrative leave and promoted Elizabeth Lolli, associate superintendent, to acting superintendent.
School board President Robert Walker was very limited in his comments Wednesday morning.
Asked why Corr was put on leave and Lolli promoted if both were named in allegations of discrimination and harassment, Walker said he “cannot get into those questions.”
He said the pre-disciplinary hearing notice against Corr, which is supposed to detail the reasons for her potential discipline, is still “in process.”
But Walker did clarify one issue, in light of recent accusations against other educators.
“I can say emphatically that it has nothing to do with students,” Walker said. “As a matter of fact, her relationship with young people as she went through the schools and engaged with them was really healthy and positive.”
According to a DPS online video stream of the meeting, the school board approved four resolutions when they came out of closed executive session:
- Approving a Nov. 21 report and recommendation of compliance officer Beverly Meyer concerning allegations of racial harassment and discrimination alleged against Corr and Lolli.
- Relieving Corr of her duties as superintendent and placing her on paid administrative leave effective immediately.
- Agreeing to issue a pre-disciplinary hearing notice to Corr, detailing the reasons for potential discipline.
- Naming Lolli as acting superintendent, effective immediately, at the salary level set forth in Corr's current contract, but retaining the benefits set forth in Lolli's current contract.
On all four resolutions, the vote was 6-0. Board member Hazel Rountree was absent.
Corr could not immediately be reached by phone for comment.
Three newly elected Dayton school board members whose terms have not yet started participated in a portion of an executive session last night before the vote on Corr.
Corr was placed on leave by the school board just before midnight Tuesday after a long executive session.
Jocelyn Rhynard, one of the new members who will not take office until January, said she does not yet have detailed information about the existing board’s decision to place Corr on leave.
“I have not had any discussions with anybody (since last night’s votes),” Rhynard said. “I look forward to doing that, and when it is appropriate for me to become privy to information, I’m sure that I will be part of that conversation.”
Rhynard, Mohamed Al-Hamdani and Karen Wick-Gagnet – who were elected to the school board Nov. 7 – were in the audience at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
Rhynard said those three were invited into a portion of the closed executive session near the end of Tuesday’s meeting “to discuss some matters that we needed to be brought up to speed on.”
She said she could not comment on what matters were discussed in the closed session, and added that she, Wick-Gagnet and Al-Hamdani were gone from the meeting when the board emerged from executive session around 11:30 p.m.
The fourth person who was elected Nov. 7, William Harris, was actually appointed to the board at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting to fill the last six weeks of Adil Baguirov’s term. So Harris did participate in both the executive session discussions about Corr’s status, as well as the votes to place her on leave and name Lolli acting superintendent.
“This is certainly a surprise. There have been a lot of dramatic upheavals in the last year and a half, which is one of the reasons I decided to run,” Rhynard said. “I look forward to finding out more information. And I look forward to being part of a board that will bring stability to the district. There are lots of changes that I would like to make and I look forward to being a part of that process.”
Reached early Wednesday, school board member John McManus declined to say much.
"We have been advised by (legal) counsel that we are not permitted to comment on a pending matter," he said.
Corr was hired by DPS in June 2016 to her first full superintendent post after 25 years in Cleveland schools, then brief stints as a high administrator in the Chicago and Indianapolis school districts since 2013.
After Corr was hired, the district had some highlights — escaping the threat of state takeover, solving some long-running busing problems and improving textbooks, computer access and career tech options.
But during that same period, Dayton Public Schools were also put on OHSAA probation for trying to rig a football game, had a long, painful contract fight with teachers that nearly led to a strike and on the most recent state report card, ranked second to last in Ohio on state test scores.
After the teachers' contract fight was resolved, the teachers union issued a vote of no confidence in both Corr and the school board.
At Tuesday night's meeting, the "yes" votes to put Corr on leave came from four members who will remain on the school board next year -- Walker, Sheila Taylor, John McManus and Harris -- plus the outgoing Ron Lee and Joe Lacey.
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