Hamilton superintendent resigns; separation agreement pays him through July

The wait on whether Hamilton’s absent school leader would return to the job ended Thursday evening with the city school board revealing Superintendent Tony Orr had resigned hours earlier.

But the mystery around Orr’s unusual absence remains.

ExploreFIRST REPORT: Hamilton school board orders superintendent on leave

No reason for the resignation was given in the short statement read by Hamilton Board of Education President Steve Isgro at the beginning of the board’s meeting, or in the separation agreement the superintendent signed that will pay Orr through July 31.

Until then he will remain on paid administrative leave – he earns $156,818 annually - and he will also receive $130,000 within 30 days of his July 31 resignation date, according to the agreement.

The board also announced that interim superintendent Larry Knapp will continue in that leadership position for the 10,000-student school system through next school year.

Orr was ordered on paid leave Feb. 5 by the board for alleged, but unspecified, violations of board policies.

The board had since conducted an independent investigation into the allegations.

ExploreMORE: Hamilton school board says investigation of superintendent continues

The board voted 4-0 – member Laurin Sprague was unable to attend the meeting - to accept Orr’s resignation, according to the separation agreement signed by the board and Orr Thursday.

In a statement released after the meeting, Hamilton school officials said: “Orr’s resignation ends an investigation that began in February of allegations that the former superintendent may have violated board policies,” said Isgro.

Isgro said the board won’t go into any more detail about the investigation, other than emphasizing it did not involve students in any way.

“We understand that people may still have questions,” Isgro said. “But, ultimately, this is a personnel matter, and we will honor the privacy of all involved.”

ExploreMORE: Who was Kyle Plush? Community remembers teen crushed to death by van seat

This news outlet conducted numerous public records searches of Orr’s personnel files and checked with Hamilton Police who said there were no criminal investigations or incident reports involving Orr.

The separation agreement includes a provision that reads “it is understood that the execution of this agreement does not constitute an admission of any kind whatsoever by any party.”

Orr released a statement shortly after the board vote accepted his resignation, saying “it is bittersweet that I submit my resignation to Hamilton City Schools.”

“On one hand I am exceptionally proud of all that my leadership team, teachers, and I have accomplished. Working together over the past three years, we improved in 18 out of 23 tested areas and significantly increased the graduation rate. I believe that our students’ performance will be even higher this year as a result of our efforts,” wrote Orr, who was hired by the board in 2015 and last year had his contract extended through 2020.

ExploreMORE: Fairfield police chief investigated for ‘immature’ acts as young officer

“As a change agent, I was excited to champion free preschool for our families, a centralized registration center, a blended learning academy, and implementing the Literacy Collaborative to help our elementary learners. The positive evaluation I received in July serves as a reminder of these accomplishments. On the other hand, I realize that change is difficult for people, and without it, students will not improve. My wife, daughter, and I are looking forward to our next adventure in education where my priority will continue to be serving the needs of students, staff, and community,” said Orr.

Isgro said the independent investigation of the allegations against Orr is in possesion of the district’s attorney and not considered a public document available under Ohio law but rather a privileged document protected by the attorney-client relationship.

Debra Gann, president of the Hamilton Classroom Teachers Association, said she was relieved the unusually lenghty, ordered leave of the superintendent had been resolved.

“I was not displeased that Tony Orr has resigned and we are excited about our new leadership. It gives us a chance to heal and move forward,” said Gann.

Stay with the Journal-News for more reporting on this story.

About the Author