Two key Dayton Public Schools administrators disciplined for Dunbar’s boys basketball eligibility mistakes were reprimanded and put back on the job in less than two weeks after committing a “major violation” that can lead to firing.
DPS Athletic Director Mark Baker and Dunbar High School Principal Crystal Phillips were both put on paid leave March 1-2, with Phillips returning to work March 9 and Baker on March 14.
Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli gave each of them a written reprimand on March 15. The letters said Dunbar junior varsity basketball players left the team bench when a fight broke out during the Jan. 10 game vs. Thurgood Marshall, in violation of Ohio High School Athletic Association rules. That behavior is supposed to result in a two-game suspension for each player.
Lolli writes in the letters that Baker and Phillips’ “lack of follow-through meant that OHSAA rules were not properly enforced and discipline was not properly issued.” The letters say they also failed “to monitor the situation to guarantee that the matter was handled in an adequate and timely manner.”
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The reprimand letters said the pair violated DPS’ “employee performance improvement policy” with multiple “serious violations” and one “major violation” each – insubordination. The policy says for major violations, “employment termination will be most appropriate,” but adds that managers should consider multiple factors in making that decision, including the employees’ previous history.
Baker and Phillips were also in their current roles in October 2016, when the Dunbar football team’s use of an ineligible player led to the team’s disqualification from the playoffs. The team’s eventual effort to lose their final game on purpose led to the OHSAA placing the entire school district on three years of probation. OHSAA officials implicated Baker in that incident.
In an interview Tuesday, Lolli said DPS officials did not believe the situation warranted firing. She said Baker is working with a mentor on his athletic director role.
“There is an additional support person working with Mark to make sure we are not going to be out of compliance with anything related to the OHSAA,” Lolli said. “For Ms. Phillips, we did not find that she was directly involved, other than being the high school principal, and when you’re the principal, you’re responsible.”
Phillips, reached Wednesday, declined comment. Baker said he could not comment immediately but would follow up.
When Baker and Phillips were put on leave, DPS’ official notice said the move was “pending an investigation related to your employment.” When they returned from leave, the official notice said a “formal investigation has been conducted.”
This news organization asked March 26 for all “investigative summaries or reports” from DPS’ examination of conduct by Baker and Phillips, but attorney Tabitha Justice, representing DPS, said Monday that the reprimand letters were all she had in response.
Lolli said Tuesday there are no investigative documents at all.
“They were all face-to-face interviews with the people who were involved, and then follow up interviews, not with those two people, but with coaches and students, plus looking at the video and taking the OHSAA’s information,” Lolli said.
OHSAA officials attempted to have Dunbar basketball removed from this year’s postseason tournament because of an eligibility issue, but DPS won a court ruling on the matter. OHSAA said last month that they were still considering serious penalties for Dunbar, citing two “very serious violations” in 15 months.
Reached Tuesday, OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried said there was “nothing new to report” on OHSAA’s process concerning Dunbar.
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