Trotwood-Madison schools are scrambling to prepare for the start of the school year after the sudden resignation of Superintendent Tyrone Olverson, who was replaced by acting Superintendent Marlon Howard.
Olverson submitted a one-sentence resignation letter late Wednesday, and the school board accepted it Thursday night, board President Denise Moore said.
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Moore said the board did not ask for Olverson’s resignation, and there was no disciplinary action pending. Moore said the board was “caught somewhat off-guard” by the sudden decision, but that there had been underlying concerns.
“We have been in the process of evaluating changes that were made during the last school year and preparing for the upcoming school year,” Moore said in an email.” The board was aware of concerns voiced by employee groups. The board has been appreciative of Mr. Olverson’s efforts to do what he thought would continue to move the district forward. Throughout our discussions, it became apparent that there would be challenges moving forward.”
Twice in the past year, Trotwood’s teachers union sought school board intervention, saying that Olverson removed some staff support systems, mismanaged special education services and didn’t listen to concerns from staff, among other complaints.
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Olverson said late Friday that the reasons for his resignation were both personal and professional.
He said he’s worn down from working long hours 6-7 days a week since April of 2018, through building a school transformation plan last summer and working on tornado recovery all this summer. Olverson said missing a recent weeklong California trip with his wife connected to their daughter’s track meet was a wake-up call.
“I don’t have a bad relationship with the board,” Olverson said. “It’s really about me needing some time. I’m tired, truly. I’ve been going since April 15, 2018, without a break.”
Union President Angela Bruno said “there was no indication” the resignation was coming, and said it was not something the union had pushed for.
“I met with him on Wednesday, planning the beginning of school for three hours,” Bruno said of Olverson. “We were setting up that the first week of school we were going to meet, and there were long term plans, talking about the (training) we were going to do throughout the year. … We finished about 2:30 Wednesday. It was a good meeting.”
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Olverson also said he came to Trotwood prepared for the possibility of serving as CEO if the district was taken over by a state Academic Distress Commission in fall 2018. But the district narrowly avoided takeover, and the job of a superintendent is different than that of a takeover CEO. Olverson clashed with the teachers union repeatedly.
“In reviewing the last school year and finalizing plans for the upcoming year, it seemed best for the district and me that we each have a fresh start,” Olverson said. “I am proud of my time at TM and wish the students, staff, board and community the best.”
The school board on Thursday night approved a separation agreement with Olverson, who still had two years left on his contract. The deal through Dec. 31 calls for Olverson to receive pro-rated salary of roughly $59,000, as well as school pickup of his retirement contribution and reimbursement for health insurance costs. In return, Olverson will provide school consulting services as needed and releases the district from any future claims.
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Moore said the school board appointed Howard as acting superintendent while they search for a long-term replacement. Howard has been Trotwood’s director of operations in recent years, after serving as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in the district. Moore praised Howard’s qualifications and willingness to step up, and said he will only double as superintendent and director of operations for a brief period.
Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald said Friday she was surprised by the resignation and doesn’t know “what the challenges have been on Mr. Olverson.” The city and school district have worked aggressively together the past two months trying to help residents bounce back from the Memorial Day tornado.
“I have every confidence in Marlon Howard. He’s home-grown, a Trotwood grad, and I think his commitment to our community has already shown itself,” McDonald said. “They worked hand in hand. Marlon was Tyrone’s right-hand person. He definitely can continue the plan down the road.”
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Before coming to Trotwood, Olverson had been chief academic officer of the Academic Distress Commission running Youngstown schools, which were taken over by the state in 2010. He also worked in several Cincinnati and Columbus-area schools.
Trotwood schools hired Olverson to replace longtime superintendent Kevin Bell in April 2018 while the district was under threat of state takeover. Trotwood avoided takeover by improving scores on state tests taken in spring 2018, just before Olverson arrived.
Olverson launched a significant turnaround plan while still interim superintendent, reassigning principals and other district leaders, trying to boost outreach to families and build community pride.
In December, the teachers union cited multiple complaints with Olverson’s management and urged the school board to review those issues before committing to a long-term contract. But the board disagreed, giving Olverson an extension through summer of 2021.
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Bruno said Friday that the teachers union believed several things needed to be changed, but that they were not seeking to have Olverson removed.
“This was not the desired outcome of the association,” Bruno said. “We were very much interested in working with the board and with administration in getting some things back on track and working together. The staff comes back to work next week, and we need a leader so we can be on track to receive kids on Aug. 12.”
Regarding the union’s concerns over Trotwood-Madison’s special education services, Moore said the board is assessing those with the Montgomery County Educational Service Center and will make changes to “ensure we continue to serve students appropriately.”
Both Olverson and Bruno echoed McDonald’s support of Howard. Bruno said Howard “knows what needs to be done,” adding that as a Trotwood-Madison grad and parent of current students, he’s fully invested in the district’s success.
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School staff have training sessions next week, and the first day of class for students is Monday, Aug. 12. The teachers union will begin the year working under the terms of their recently expired contract, as negotiations are ongoing.
Moore put her focus on the start of the school year, and recovery from the Memorial Day tornado, rather than Olverson’s departure.
“The district is looking forward to a positive start and a successful school year as we continue to work to improve student performance,” she said. “We know we’re not out of the woods, and the board and all of the district’s staff are committed to serving the best interests of our students.”