Jefferson Twp. school principal Jennings died suddenly

The sun sets behind Jefferson Twp. Junior/Senior High School, on Union Road. JEREMY P. KELLEY/STAFF

Thomas Jennings, principal of Jefferson Twp.'s junior/senior high school, died suddenly last month at age 61.

At Wednesday’s school board meeting, Jefferson Twp. Superintendent Richard Gates said Monica Woods, principal of the district’s elementary school, is also serving as interim junior/senior high principal. The school district has about 300 students in grades K-12.

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“During Dr. Jennings' two-plus years leading the Jefferson Twp. Junior/Senior High School, he proved to be a tremendous asset to our district,” Gates said Wednesday. “Dr. Jennings was a passionate educator who loved his students and his work on behalf of those in the greatest need.”

According to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, Jennings died Sept. 24. No cause of death was listed, as it was not a coroner’s case. District officials did not comment on the details of Jennings' death.

Speaking to the school board, Gates said the district had to “stop on a dime and pivot” in response to Jennings' death. He called Woods “a true soldier” for stepping in and said the role would be revisited at the end of the year.

“Our district has operated with a single principal for both buildings in the past and we are very confident in Dr. Woods' ability to work with parents and staff to meet the needs of all of our students,” Gates said.

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Jennings and Woods were both hired to their principal roles in summer 2018 after the board voted not to bring back the previous principals. Jefferson Junior/Senior High struggled badly with turnover and staffing in that 2018-19 year.

Prior to joining Jefferson, Jennings was director of Webster Street Academy, a licensed mental health program. In 2012, while he was at Webster Street, the Dayton organization Parity Inc. chose Jennings for their annual Top 10 African American Males list.

According to Ohio Department of Education records, Jennings also served as a principal at Gem City Career Prep High School in 2006-07.

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