Jefferson Twp. school superintendent remains on leave pending investigation

Gates had low ratings on this year’s performance review but received high ratings just four months prior under different school board.

Longtime Jefferson Twp. superintendent Richard Gates remains on administrative leave, pending an investigation into the performance of his duties.

The district’s school board voted unanimously April 8 to place Gates on leave and appoint retired West Carrollton superintendent Rusty Clifford in his place until July 31, which was when Gates’ current contract was set to expire. Clifford is contracted through the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, which is being paid $1,000 a day for his services.

Gates has been superintendent of Jefferson Twp. Schools, a tiny district with roughly 250 students, for at least 16 years, according to his personnel file. Jefferson Twp. Schools was the lowest-performing district in Ohio in the 2022-2023 report card out of more than 600.

The letter to Gates informing him he was placed on leave did not state a reason, but his 2024 evaluation in February was critical of his performance, even though the previous year’s performance review - in November 2023 - rated him as “superior.”

The 2024 review said Gates was not effective in communicating with board members and needed to copy all board members on emails, staff had mentioned he was unapproachable, and parents wanted him to be more engaged, was not open at community events and was unavailable for media comment.

“Staff reported they were left with no leadership from superintendent to assist with staff development,” one comment on the evaluation said.

In a November 17, 2023 evaluation, Gates was given a “superior” rating in several categories and given four points out of five on most of the parts of his evaluation. The only negative written comment was, “He (Gates) was not as transparent on school affairs that could have harmed the district.”

Gates was paid about $140,000 in salary for this school year, according to his contract.

Board member Renee D. McDaniel declined to comment on the suspension. Gates did not respond to a phone request for comment.

Board members Shaunece M. Gillispe, Cuttino Dargan, and Michelle A. Cooper did not reply to a request for comment. Dargan is the only member of the board who served in 2023, according to Jefferson Twp. records.

In November 2023, Gillispe and McDaniel ran for election and won. Cooper ran unopposed in November and filled an unexpired term that ends at the end of 2025. Dargan’s term ends at the end of 2025 and was last elected in 2021.

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