BLANCHESTER — Despite the board announcing that it wouldn’t take any action on the month-old investigation into Blanchester High School Principal Rick Hosler at its meeting Monday evening, several hundred people attended the first board meeting since Hosler was placed on paid administrative leave.
School officials have kept quiet about why Hosler was placed on leave, saying it was done as an investigatory procedure, not to punish him.
As previously reported, letters written by Superintendent Dean Lynch in Hosler’s personnel file allege that Hosler was “unprofessional” and “inappropriate,” including a November incident where he allegedly threw things and shouted.
Hosler, in a recently written rebuttal letter, disputed earlier allegations of unprofessional conduct.
When Hosler entered the gymnasium, the room erupted with applause. Students began chanting, “Wildcats, Wildcats, what do we say? We say Hosler all the way.”
Several people spoke in favor of Hosler during the public comments section of the event, including parents and students.
Due to press deadlines, the News Journal was not able to include comments from all people in time for Tuesday’s print edition. Further updates will come as time permits.
One of those who spoke was Connie Abirached, who began a petition on www.change.org to reinstate Hosler. She said Hosler was a great principal and leader.
“When I found out Mr. Hosler was put on paid administrative leave, my heart sank,” she said. “The outpouring of concern, the passion and eagerness to help was almost shocking to me. But considering who Mr. Hosler is, that amount of support is positively normal.”
At the conclusion of Abirached’s speech, students in the gym joined in.
“Stand up for a man … (who) has given his life to making each student he comes in contact with the encouragement and strength to say …” Abirached began.
“I believe in this,” the students and Abirached said. “I will do what I can, and we will get it done.”
Students in a TeamHosler section of the gym told the News Journal that Hosler frequently said, “We will get it done.”
Michelle Rhodes, a parent of two children in the district, asked the board several questions. All but one, board president Chuck Shonkwiler, declined to answer.
She asked where Lynch was.
Shonkwiler said Lynch was out sick, which drew groans and boos from the audience.
Rhodes also asked if the board “should and does follow their own policies and procedures,” if all employees of Blanchester schools should be held to those policies and procedures, if they agreed with Lynch’s email to the News Journal that any such reports (such as those alleged against Hosler) should be taken seriously, if Hosler can make administrative decisions while on paid leave and if another employee, “such as the superintendent or even a board member,” would be able to make administrative decisions “if there was an ongoing investigation into their ethical behavior and criminal activity.”
Bill Ostermeier also spoke at the meeting.
Among other comments, Ostermeier said Lynch has “gone out of his way to create bad publicity for this school” and said Community Alliance for a Responsible Education, or CARE, has filed a complaint about the district’s actions with the Ohio Ethics Commission and asked the Ohio Auditor’s office to audit the district.
After the comments, John Concannon, Hosler’s attorney, spoke on behalf of Hosler.
“This wasn’t a two-sided thing,” Concannon said. “Everybody was here supporting him, and I think it’s time they put him back. They can continue their investigation. … What they accused him of, which I think we’ve shown is pretty weak, pretty selective, pretty delayed, even with that … get the guy back to work.
“You heard kids, you heard parents, they all want him back,” Concannon said.
Concannon called the allegations against Hosler “so weak, so contrived, so trivial” and said “there’s nothing that merits any discipline.”
School board members John Panetta, Claire Ledford, Joe Falgner and Chuck Shonkwiler declined or deferred comment.
“Until this investigation is completed, we do not have any clue where it is going, and I don’t have anything to say,” said Shonkwiler, president of the Blanchester Board of Education.
Board member Keith Gibson thanked the community for showing and speaking their thoughts.
“I was really expecting a hateful type atmosphere, and not a one of them was hateful, and I really appreciate it,” said Gibson, who lost a re-election challenge this year and will finish his term soon.
When the meeting was adjourned, many people went to hug and talk to Hosler.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.