Provide Explanation

Someone must have made a mistake. Otherwise, the Buckeye Local Board of Education would not be paying out $70,000 to make a lawsuit go away.

Taxpayers have a right to know what happened.

During a special meeting Monday night, board members agreed to pay Angela Hicks $70,000. She had been director of federal programs for the district, then a teacher during the 2017-18 school year.

Last October, Hicks filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court against the district. She alleged that school officials had not followed proper procedure in handling a reduction in force – essentially, a layoff of some school employees.

Generally speaking, in Ohio entities can conduct a RIF and lay off employees due to a lack of funds, a lack of work or elimination of positions. Often, collective bargaining agreements govern details of the process.

Under Monday’s agreement, Hicks will receive the $70,000 and will resign as a school system employee. The deal also calls for her to drop her lawsuit.

The lump sum Hicks is to receive under the agreement is not a court settlement, but a mutually agreed upon amount derived from, among other things, her salary, lost wages and expected future wages.

Finally, the agreement states that to the board’s knowledge Hicks did not engage in conduct that would require the district to file a report with the Ohio Department of Education.

No explanation for any of this was offered in public. The board did meet behind closed doors for a time before making its unanimous vote to approve the deal.

School Superintendent Kim Leonard said no comments would be made because “the district is currently involved in litigation…”Once that – presumably, the Hicks lawsuit – is resolved, “it will be public record and the district may comment at that time,”Leonard added.

A full explanation needs to be provided.

If school officials did not handle a reduction in force legally, it could have ramifications beyond the Hicks situation.

Whatever the explanation, the bottom line is that Buckeye Local schools are out $70,000. That is money that could have gone to educate children in the district.

In Ohio public education is funded, at least in part, through property taxes. Therefore, taxpayers deserve to know what went wrong.

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