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Swiss Hills teachers reinstated

In this photo taken earlier this month outside of Swiss Hills Career Center, supporters of the teachers accused of violating school safety protocols gather for the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District Board of Education meeting. T-L Photo/CARRI GRAHAM

WOODSFIELD — Two Swiss Hills Career Center heavy equipment operation instructors have been reinstated to their positions more than a week after an investigation concluded that neither teacher committed any wrongdoing.

On Tuesday, a meeting was held between the two instructors and Switzerland of Ohio Local School District Superintendent Rob Caldwell and Swiss Hills Director Matt Unger.

During the meeting, the teachers were informed that they would be reinstated to their former positions that they held prior to March 1 when the investigation began, according to a wife of one of the instructors.

“The (heavy equipment operation) program will resume as it was before,” she said. “… Everything will return to how it was, the students will have their teachers back.”

Although the instructors remained employed at the school, they were both removed from their original positions during the course of the investigation into whether they violated school safety protocols. The teachers were investigated first by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and then by a third party hired by the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District Board of Education for allegedly using equipment outside designated zones, leading to damage to the property, and taking firewood without permission. Following the sheriff’s office investigation that found no crime had occurred, the board voted 4-1 to hire a third party to investigate the allegations. On June 10, the board announced the investigation had concluded with no findings of wrongdoing; however, no guidance was given on the teachers’ future at the school. The board previously said that the decision to reinstate the teachers was left up to the superintendent.

Although the instructor’s wife said she is relieved that the situation is resolved, she said she feels like the instructors and their families are owed an apology from those who initiated the accusations.

“I feel like we, the families, deserve an apology for what they went through. It was rough, it was a character attack for a while. I think an apology is still necessary; I don’t know that we will get one but I believe to make things fully be done, an apology is needed,” she said.

She said she is grateful for the community’s support over the past couple months.

“It was amazing, we had over 700 signatures on the petition (to halt the investigation). I’d also like to thank (school board members) Jerry Gust and Ronnie Winkler for having their (the instructors’) backs, they had their backs through the whole thing. The community’s support was just amazing,” she said.

There are more details that need to be worked out prior to the upcoming school year. The instructors had previously stated in the police report that the school had not provided a designated area for the program to conduct its outdoor equipment classes in. She said the instructors must still meet with school officials to discuss and establish some guidelines for the heavy equipment operator’s class.

Caldwell and Unger could not be reached for comment.

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