Trimble Middle School Principal Placed on Leave

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GLOUSTER, Ohio – The principal at Trimble Middle School has been “relieved from duty” and the renewal of her contract will not be recommended, according to documents The Messenger obtained through a public records request.

Danita Kern, also listed as Danita Glenn in some documents, was placed on leave with pay and fringe benefits effective May 8, according to a letter signed by Trimble Local Supt. Scott Christman, which states that it was hand-delivered to Kern.

Additionally, a letter signed by Christman, which is undated, gives Kern notice that her contract expires on July 31 and that the school board anticipates taking action to renew or non-renew the contract at its May meeting. According to the letter, Kern is entitled to meet with the board in executive session to discuss its reasons for considering the renewal or non-renewal.

During a Wednesday phone conversation with The Messenger, Christman explained that the decision to recommend the non-renewal of Kern’s contract is “not the result of anything illegal or any violation of board policy.”

The recommendation instead comes as the district will be restructuring the administrative staff as a cost-saving measure and to create a more consistent environment. Given that, the elementary building will go to one principal for the 2015-16 school year. In recent years, there have been an elementary principal and a middle school principal in that building. Christman stated that it has not been decided if there will be an assistant principal at the school, with that decision likely to be made in the coming weeks.

According to email correspondence between Christman and Kern, Kern was given the opportunity to meet with the board in executive session during the April meeting, as was elementary school Principal Roger Nott, with regard to the renewal or non-renewal of their contracts which are set to expire in July.

In one email, Christman asks Kern for her purpose in wishing to speak with the board during executive session, if it was due to disciplinary action or other reasons. Kern responds, “It has to do with you removing me from my position.”

While Christman has stated the non-renewal recommendation is due to the restructuring, Kern received an “ineffective” rating on a portion of a recent evaluation and has received two written reprimands in the past year.

Two evaluations of Kern completed by Christman earlier this year indicate his view that there was a need for growth in the area of communication and professionalism. The second evaluation, dated April 28, states, “While I have seen you make attempts to improve in this area I do not believe those attempts have been successful … I will be recommending your non-renewal to the board of education.” That was the lone area where Kern was rated “ineffective.”

Documents in Kern’s personnel file show two written reprimands within the past year, the first coming from then-Supt. Kim Jones last summer.

“Communication of concerns to parents in a manner that caused parental alarm,” was an area outlined in the reprimand that needed improvement. The notice stated that any recurrence of the issues must result in further disciplinary or corrective action, up to and including suspension or termination.

“However, during this, your first year, I have seen your determination to be an excellent principal, and I trust that you will make the necessary adjustments directed in the missive,” Jones stated in the reprimand.

The latest reprimand came in April following an investigative hearing on March 20, according to the document.

“I have found that to date you were less than honest with me while answering some questions I asked you,” stated Christman in the reprimand. Those questions center around Kern’s alleged interactions with a student.

The responses which Christman asserted lacked honesty and complete answers were regarding if she was present when a student spent the night at her house, if a specific student had spent the night at her house and regarding gifts provided to the student. According to the reprimand, Kern claimed to not be present at the time the student may have been at her house spending the night and claimed the only gift provided to the student was a Bible.

Kern’s response, addressed to the board, stated that she resents the fact that Christman had labeled her a liar. She further stated that she answered the questions to the best of her knowledge at the time, and that the information provided to her by the “person responsible for the students staying at my house” later changed to say that the student had stayed there and that it was not at a time Kern was out of the state.

Christman said the information was discussed with the Athens County Children Services worker on site at the school, and that there was nothing criminal or any kind of abuse connected to the situation.

Although it was not a policy violation, Christman said he felt Kern was not being truthful with her answers or giving complete answers when he had information showing otherwise. He added that gifts are discouraged, but not prohibited.

Kern was approved for a one-year contract as the middle school principal in March 2014, with the contract running from Aug. 1, 2014 to July 31, 2015.

Action related to the renewal or non-renewal or Kern’s contract is likely during the regular meeting of the Trimble Local School Board on Tuesday.