Athens Superintendent Remains On Paid Leave, Investigation Continues

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Six weeks after the Athens City School Board placed Supt. Carl Martin on paid administrative leave after an alleged failure to make required reports by employees of the school district, no formal action has taken place in regards to the leave.

The board met Thursday night and were updated on the progress of a review of policies and the investigation into the failure to report allegations.

According to a news release provided following the meeting, 11 witnesses have been interviewed as part of the continuing investigation by the board’s legal counsel, Brickler and Eckler of Columbus. Additional witness interviews are scheduled to take place.

The investigation comes following the allegations and guilty plea of Isaac Thomas, a now-former teacher at Athens High School, stemming from a relationship between Thomas and a female student.

“We are going to take whatever time we need to take to see that it’s completed correctly. I wouldn’t be surprised if its over by our next board meeting (April 23) and I would really like to think that it will be completed by the board meeting after that if it’s not over by the next board meeting,” stated Board member Chris Gerig on Friday.

Martin, however, remains on leave and his contract as superintendent is scheduled to expire on July 31.

“Just because Mr. Martin is on administrative leave doesn’t mean that any conclusions have been come to,” Gerig said.

He added that it is because Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn levied allegations of failure to report that Martin is on leave and that his being on leave is not an unusual step to take in similar situations.

Those allegations include that Martin failed to properly report the conduct related to the Thomas case. Blackburn stated as much after Thomas’ court date.

Meanwhile, Martin has already signed a five-year contract with the district to begin on Aug. 1 as associate superintendent, the position currently held by Tom Gibbs who will become the superintendent and is currently the acting superintendent. The position changes were approved by the Board in June 2014. Martin’s original contract as superintendent was not to expire until July 31, 2016, but he submitted a letter of resignation effective July 31, 2015, contingent on the new contract.

Martin is currently employed as a retire-rehire, meaning he is receiving payments from his state retirement as well as his salary from the district even while on administrative leave. Under his current contract Martin is paid $125,407 for the year Aug. 1, 2014 to July 31, 2015. Under the terms of the contract as associate superintendent, Martin stands to make $114,249.16 for the year Aug. 1, 2015 to July 31, 2016.

When asked if the ongoing investigation would have any impact on the switch if the investigation is not completed at that time, Gehrig said that at this time there is no plan to alter the previous plans for the position switch to become effective on Aug. 1.

“At this point, pending the results of the investigation, anything is possible. As it stands right now there is a transition in place that’s firmly outlined,” said Gerig.

Gerig explained that the ultimate outcome of the investigation and impact on district personnel would depend on what the investigation uncovers.

“As with any kind of administrative proceeding, if he is vindicated in his actions, which are possible it would be nothing. It could be if we want to make sure we have a clear understanding of our policies and that we are implementing or have been implemented, there could be some kind of a letter of reprimand or a letter of direction given. Of course with any administrative proceeding (the outcome) could be termination but I don’t want to hold that as a foregone conclusion,” said Gerig in explaining the range of options which are possible.

Currently, there are no other district personnel on administrative leave according to Gerig and acting Supt. Tom Gibbs.

A review of the district’s policies were also included as part of the investigation by the district’s legal counsel.

The review has lead to policy change recommendations relating to reporting of alleged abuse and neglect.

“The recommended revisions to policies were reviewed in detail by the Board, and the Board anticipates moving forward with the first reading of the policy revisions at the next meeting (April 23),” stated the release. Some of the recommendations presented to the Board involved refinement of administrative guidelines, which are more detailed provisions to supplement Board polices and do not require Board approval.

The police changes include further defining sexual battery and suspected abuse.

Under the policy revisions, suspected child abuse or neglect is defined as a person having “reasonable cause to suspect based on facts that would cause a reasonable person in a similar position to suspect that the child has suffered or faces the threat of suffering any physical or mental wound, injury, disability, or condition of a nature that reasonably indicates abuse or neglect of the child.”

Some district personnel have also completed recommended training, while others will complete it prior to the start of the 2015-16 school year according to the news release. The initial training for staff in grades 7-12 took place in mid-February.