WEST MILTON — In a special meeting, the Milton-Union Board of Education voted unanimously to accept high school guidance counselor Paula Shaw’s resignation on Thursday.
The resignation is effective as of Jan. 27, according to the board.
On Oct. 24, Paula Shaw, 57, of Troy, was notified she was “placed on administrative leave with pay, effective immediately, pending further investigation into matters relating to your employment and your conduct in the workplace.”
Shaw had a continuing contract with the district with a salary is $74,962 per year, according to the district’s treasurer Kay Altenburger.
Shaw had been on leave for 55 days and was paid $20,691.55 during the her leave as of Jan. 25. A request for details of her resignation and compensation has not been provided pending legal consultation. She had been employed at the district for 22 years.
On Thursday, in the school’s media room, students, parents and community members voiced their frustrations and asked questions prior to the vote.
According to public records obtained by the Miami Valley Today, the Montgomery County Educational Service Center conducted an independent review of the allegations regarding Shaw’s conduct at the high school.
The investigation was conducted by Marion Stout, the director of human resources at the Montgomery County ESC. Stout was the former human resource director at Miami County ESC and Troy City Schools. The investigation report was dated Dec. 18, 2019, when it was presented to district officials.
“After initial meetings with the witnesses, it appeared that there were five issues at hand with Paula Shaw: leaving students unattended, giving students credit for work they did not complete in Odysseyware, not depositing money per district guidelines, making a disparaging comment to a student about a district drug policy and writing a paper for a student,” according to the investigation report.
Board member Ben Dehus told the group after several pleaded the board to reconsider, “We’re here for a resignation agreement — a mutual contract. Due to this contract, we are bound legally to not discuss how this came to be.”
President Doug Thompson said the board plans to address the district’s “climate” in the near future with a student and staff survey to discern”what is going on and try to fix it.”
Parent Jason Tinnerman said, “I’m hoping to understand that there’s something else there that we don’t know. Because based on this, we shouldn’t be here tonight. I don’t know how you guys met on this to go forward. I don’t know how you improve the situation that is here, but there’s a lot of dealings to be done and a lot of concerns for staff members that are here still that this doesn’t happen to them and lose another asset.”
Dehus later said he wished the board could discuss the matter further and “this is not a joyous occasion for us to be in this situation. We’ve heard from a lot of you from past meetings. We empathize with you with respect to your relationship with Paula, we’re not, at least I’m not, whatever actions are taking place tonight, it’s a resignation and that’s where we are at, and we can’t talk about it.”
Tinnerman said he appreciated the board remaining professional and understood they weren’t able to talk about certain aspects of Shaw’s paid administrative leave and her resignation.
“Her choosing to resign is a big enough statement in and of itself,” Tinnerman said. “Without saying any other words it leaves a lot of questions for the community and the staff…that statement and the lack of statement from the board and what the community sees a fight to keep her is a statement in and of itself.”
President Thompson said, “We’ve consulted our attorney and we’re taken advice from them … it took too long without question, and we had to go through that process at the advice of our attorneys. We aren’t attorneys so we did that — it took too long. It would have been beneficial for a lot of seniors — my daughter is a senior, she’s going through the same problem you’re going through — helping these kids get to college. We know it’s a struggle. We are trying to get help. We’re trying.”
Holly Taylor presented the board with a petition so the board could see comments from students regarding Shaw.
Jane Evans said she attended to support Shaw. She also said she wanted to see Milton-Union return to its “National School of Excellence” status once again. She noted Shaw’s work to help struggling seniors graduate and asked the board what is going to keep teachers coming to the district or to continue to stay.
Bill Clausing, a parent of a graduate of the district, said he was appalled at the money and time that was wasted on what he said were “Mickey Mouse” charges and “he said/she said” claims and a “false witch hunt.”
“My god, I thought we were adults here — I guess not,” he said.
Students also spoke in support of Shaw and asked the board if they were allowed to contact her, invite her to graduation or sporting events. Dehus said it would be up to Shaw and the student on how to handle those requests.
Superintendent Dr. Brad Ritchey only made comments regarding the district’s chain of command. He also addressed a parent’s concern on how the districts lacks guidance counselors who can fill in vacancies — unlike substitute teachers — when asked what would happen if a situation like this occurs in the future.