Board approves Middletown superintendent’s retire/rehire

Despite reservations from union members, the Middletown City Schools District board of education unanimously approved the retirement and rehiring of its superintendent.

More than 100 of the 400 Middletown Teachers’ Association union members — just as the previous board meeting — attended Monday’s meeting and voiced their displeasure with Superintendent Sam Ison’s performance during the past two years. The union members filled the city’s council chambers, with the overflow crowd sitting in the balcony.

After the vote, most of those in attendance left the meeting.

Ison said he was “honored and very humbled” after the board showed its confidence in his performance. Ison, 58, who has served as superintendent for two years, will retire on June 30, 2015, then be rehired July 2, said Marcia Andrew, school board president.

Andrew said the retire/rehire will save the district money because it won’t have to hire an interim superintendent. Ison also has volunteered to surrender two months of his retirement that will save the district an undisclosed amount of money, she said.

Ison has agreed to return for $120,000 a year and eliminate his 5 percent bonus, which will save the district about $12,000 a year, Andrew said. Ison’s 2014 salary was $123,791. The contract is for three years with a possibility of a fourth year.

Also, Andrew said, the board is allowed to give Ison a 90-day notice, then fire him without cause with no severance.

Ison has said he wants to remain superintendent because he’s seeing improvements in the district’s academics and residents recently passed a bond issue and improvement levy that will fund the building of a new middle school and renovating Middletown High School.

“He does care and he wants the district to succeed,” Andrew said.

Ison said he hopes the emotions shown by the union “can drive actions.”

He promised to improve communications between the administration and the district’s staff. He also wants to periodically meet with the faculty council and improve the climate and professional development in the district.

Ison called communication “a two-way and I am reaching out.”

He then addressed the teachers in the room: “I do believe in you.”

After hearing Ison’s plan to improve communications, Dom Williams, president of the MTA, said he was “very encouraged” that the relations between the union members and administration can get better.

When asked if Ison was the right person for the job, Williams said he was “hopeful he can be” if Ison works closely with union members and reacts to their concerns.

Ison, after the meeting, admitted there was “a lot of work to be done and I’m up to the challenge.”

He understands emotions are high in the district. Now, he said, he needs to step up.

“The truest test of a leader is when things aren’t going well,” he said. “I have to change some things with myself.”

Before the vote, Terry Cole said he graduated from MHS, then earned his bachelor’s and masters degrees from Miami University with the goal of returning to Middletown as a science teacher. He has taught in the district for six years and he had planned to stay until he retired, he told the board.

Now, he said: “I can’t imaging staying right now.”

He called losing quality teachers “sickening” before adding, “I don’t feel valued by the downtown administration. We feel like we are inadequate. It’s a negative climate.”

Two members of the Middletown community voiced their support of Ison. Rick Pearce, president of the Chamber of Commerce Serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton, called Ison “very compelling” and said his enthusiasm is contagious.

Peggy McClusky, who worked for Middletown City Schools for 28 years, said she has been a friend of Ison’s for 20 years, and she encouraged him to leave the Lebanon district and accept the administration position in Middletown.

“I don’t know anybody better,” she said. She called Ison “hard working and a dedicated” person.

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