Principal backs out 5 minutes before hiring; Hill now to lead Belmont

Dayton Public Schools intended to wrap up its major reshuffling of school principals Tuesday night, but the new principal of Belmont High School backed out of the job minutes before the school board was about to approve his hiring.

Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said Toron Wooldridge, who has served as a principal in the Houston, Texas, school district, had been a very good candidate to become principal.

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“The person who had accepted the job two weeks ago contacted us about five minutes before the board meeting and requested to be removed from the agenda,” Lolli said, adding that she didn’t know Wooldridge’s reasoning. Wooldridge could not be reached for comment.

Late Wednesday, Lolli said that Donetrus Hill will take over as Belmont principal for this fall. That was the original plan two months ago, when DPS announced that Hill would leave his Meadowdale principal post to take the Belmont job. But then Hill was named Chief of Curriculum and Instruction for math and science this summer, leading to Wooldridge’s recruitment. It is unclear how DPS will handle Hill’s curriculum role.

Belmont had numerous problems with threats and fights inside and outside the building in the past year. In the spring, DPS acknowledged that fights were “occurring regularly” and replaced Principal Melanie Walter with a team of staffers who oversaw the final months of the school year.

Resource officers

DPS will strengthen its security staff this fall, hiring an additional nine school resource officers to bring the district’s total to 36, officials said Tuesday.

Richard Wright, executive director of safety and security for DPS, said the increase in resource officer staffing is part of an overall effort to make security more effective in the district. DPS is one of the few local districts to use metal detectors as a deterrent. But unlike many schools, its officers are not armed.

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“With everything that’s been going on nationally, we started to plan to bring in more SROs, to upgrade our camera systems, to add the ALICE training,” Wright said, referring to active shooter/threat training. “You don’t want to be reactive. We’re putting feet on the ground and more eyes in the building, and that makes (security) easier to manage.”

Wright said there will be two SROs at each of the six DPS high schools and three middle schools. Each elementary school will have one SRO. Last year, each middle school had one SRO and some elementary schools had to share.

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Wright said with more robust staffing, district security will be able to build good relationships with more students and staff, and be able to send a stronger response from neighboring schools in the case of a major incident.

“We’re very serious about the security and the safety of our students,” Lolli said. “We want to make sure that safety is a priority in this school district.”

Other personnel

** Elbert Seard was hired as principal of Meadowdale High School on Tuesday. Seard had been an assistant principal at Thurgood Marshall High School. Nelson Stone, assigned the Meadowdale job two months ago, will now be principal at Ponitz Career Tech Center, replacing Ray Caruthers, who left to become principal of Trotwood-Madison High School.

** Lyle Cole was hired as boys basketball coach for Dunbar High School. Cole, who coached at Belmont earlier this decade, is a business teacher at Dunbar and is the uncle of former Dunbar and NBA star Norris Cole. Dunbar was coached last year by Chuck Taylor, but eligibility errors led to a legal fight and punishment from the OHSAA. Dunbar’s boys are ineligible for the 2019 postseason tournament.

RELATED: DPS admits fault; Dunbar banned from tourney

** Weeks ago, DPS hired Corey Freed as Dunbar’s football coach over loud objections from supporters of previous coach Darran Powell. Tuesday night, the board approved the hiring of veteran Dunbar coaches Alfred Powell and James Lacking to work under Freed.

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