BLANCHESTER — An investigation concluded Blanchester High School Principal Rick Hosler engaged in “unprofessional” and “inappropriate” conduct, though Hosler’s attorney, John Concannon, denies that and says he’ll file a rebuttal.
Hosler was placed on leave in late November and returned to Blanchester High School Jan. 14 for reasons the Blanchester school board didn’t reveal. Throughout the investigation, the board has maintained that it doesn’t generally discuss personnel issues in public and that it placed Hosler on leave as an investigatory action, not a disciplinary one.
A letter of reprimand, signed Jan. 19 by Blanchester Superintendent Dean Lynch, gave Hosler directives to follow, ordered him to complete anger management and ended with a warning.
“Any recurrence of the type of behavior that led to this reprimand, violation of any of the above directives or any other future misconduct will result in further discipline, and the Board will strongly consider termination of your employment,” Lynch wrote.
Concannon said the school board should instead “recognize that some of these incidents didn’t happen as described, that what happened is minor and there should be no disciplinary action of any sort.”
“We do stand by our investigation,” said Dave Lampe, an attorney for Bricker & Eckler, which represents the board. “It’s certainly not uncommon in dealing with employment issues” for a rebuttal to be filed. “It’s their right.”
Janice Collette conducted the investigation, according to Lampe. Lampe said Collette has experience as a human resources director for South-Western School District and has been hired by Bricker & Eckler and at least two other law firms to do such investigations for several years.
While Concannon disputes its findings, the letter of reprimand said Collette confirmed allegations made in November that Hosler had a “meltdown,” where he threw things, screamed and yelled at the director of student services.
Specifically, the letter of reprimand said multiple witnesses confirmed that Hosler called the student services director into his office and shouted at her loudly enough that people in adjoining rooms and offices could hear. The letter also said Hosler admitted that another staff member asked if everything was alright after hearing shouts and to saying, “No one is running my building or telling my teachers what to do. I’m the principal. Don’t you dare talk to my teachers.”
Concannon told the News Journal that he believes that incident was being blown out of proportion, saying it was “very minor.”
“The alleged victim strongly objected anything be done about that as far as investigation or disciplinary action,” according to Concannon. “She described it as a minor incident and they had quickly moved on.”
The letter said Hosler admitted to apologizing to that person and saying if he had done it to anyone else he would have been fired.
According to the reprimand, 18 of the 29 witnesses interviewed said they had witnessed, or been the recipient of, Hosler’s anger, “which you (Hosler) defined as ‘sternness.’”
Those witnesses included a former student, a parent, at least two staff members and an administrator, who, between them, reported Hosler yelling, slamming his hands on his desk, pacing, apologizing, throwing a wad of paper and throwing a newspaper.
Nine witnesses said Hosler needed help managing his anger, according to the reprimand.
The letter also said Collette independently confirmed the events alleged in a letter of reprimand from February 2015, events that Hosler disputed in December 2015.
Those allegations included responding inappropriately to a report of sexual harassment between adult staff members, intimidating kitchen staff after a football game in 2014, behaving inappropriately at a Clinton County Juvenile Probation Administrators meeting in August 2014 and behaving inappropriately at a 2013-2014 track meet, where Hosler heckled a principal and student judges.
“We’re shocked they’re still relying on that,” Concannon told the News Journal, denying the allegations.
In December, Hosler and Concannon filed a letter of rebuttal to those four allegations, denying them individually and asking questions that implied Lynch reprimanded Hosler for personal reasons.
“Superintendent Lynch, I try not to take things as personal, but your treatment of me is just that,” Hosler wrote in that letter. “You are obviously trying to get me out of the district. Your reprimands evidence that by your selective witness choices over minor issues.
Additionally, Lynch’s letter reprimanded Hosler for violating Lynch’s directive to not communicate with witnesses or potential witnesses during the investigation and for violating the chain of command by neglecting to contact Lynch related to three incidents.
“Based on all of the foregoing, I currently cannot trust your ability to handle yourself in a professional manner at school,” Lynch wrote, before writing that the board expects Hosler to act professionally and giving Hosler several directives.
Lynch wrote that Hosler should communicate professionally with all staff members and administrators, raise opposing points of view professional and respectfully, “avoid contact that could give offense to others or have the appearance of being defiant, insubordinate or disrespectful of the administration,” follow the district’s chain of command and complete a licensed anger management program by the end of April.
Lynch also recommended that Hosler review board policy on staff conduct and the Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Ohio Educators.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.