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School board concludes investigation

No findings against either teacher discovered

T-L Photo/CARRI GRAHAM Switzerland of Ohio Education Association members hold up signs to show support of the instructors during the meeting.

WOODSFIELD — No findings of wrongdoing resulted from the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District’s investigation of two Swiss Hills Career Center instructors who had been accused of violating school safety protocols.

Swiss Hills had a full house Thursday evening as around 100 Monroe County residents and Switzerland of Ohio Education Association members attended a board of education meeting to show support for the heavy equipment operator instructors. The men had been accused of using equipment outside the designated zone of operation, which was alleged to have caused damage to the property, and of taking firewood without permission.

After a nearly four-hour meeting and multiple speakers voicing opposition to the investigation, the board announced that the investigation has concluded. At the end of the meeting and following two executive sessions regarding the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion or compensation of public employees or officials, board President Ron Winkler said he had a statement to read.

“The investigation into Swiss Hills is complete with no findings against either teacher being found. As far as the board is concerned, the investigation is over,” he read.

The crowd of supporters cheered once the announcement was made.

In mid-March, the district filed a criminal complaint with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office against the two heavy equipment operation instructors, leveling the allegations. After a criminal investigation was completed, the prosecutor’s office determined no criminal intent could be proven.

Last month, the board voted 4-1 to hire an outside investigator — Robert Friedrick, a private investigator from Cleveland — to continue to look into alleged safety issues related to the class. When asked about how much they had paid to hire Friedrick, members of the board said they have not yet been billed for his work so a price could not be provided. One concerned taxpayer who spoke at the meeting accused the board of “spending thousands of dollars” on the investigation; however, the board did not reply to the accusation.

Following the meeting, multiple residents continued to express concern for the instructors’ future at the school. A student inquired as to whether the instructors would be reinstated to their former positions. During the course of the investigation, both teachers had been removed from their original positions although both remain employed at the school.

Winkler said the instructors will be notified of what their assignments will be in the coming school year. Greg Schumacher, vice president of the board, added that the decision is not up to the board, it is up to the superintendent, Rob Caldwell.

“The superintendent makes those decisions and brings the recommendation to the board of education, then we approve or disapprove of the situation,” he said.

Both teachers were present at the meeting but did not address the board.

The board next meets at 6 p.m. July 8 at the board’s central office, located at 304 Mill St., Woodsfield.

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