Despite 1st ‘no’ vote, Hamilton school board extends leader’s contract

The leader of Hamilton Schools just got a new contract, but also earned his first “no” vote about his employment from a school board member.

The Hamilton Board of Education voted to give Superintendent Tony Orr a new contract that will keep him in the job until 2020.

But unlike 2015 when Orr was first hired by a 5-0 board vote to lead the city schools, his latest contract drew a 4-1 vote with member Tom Alf casting a “no” vote.

RELATED: Hamilton board hires rookie superintendent

And Alf isn’t talking about his reasoning behind the lone opposition.

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Alf said he doesn’t want to imply criticism through commenting on fellow board members regarding their support for Orr’s latest contract, which raised his annual salary to $156,818 from $145,000, according to documents obtained via a public records request by the Journal-News.

“Instead of saying something against my fellow board members, I needed to make a statement and my statement was no,” Alf said.

The retired Hamilton Schools assistant superintendent and former principal for the district, declined to reveal the reason behind his vote, instead making a sports analogy.

“If I have a disagreement in the clubhouse I keep it in the clubhouse,” said Alf, who is serving his first term on the board and was not a member in 2015 when the governing board hired Orr.

RELATED: Hamilton Schools open first in-school health clinic

School Board President Steve Isgro declined to comment on Alf’s opposition to Orr’s contract.

First-time superintendent Orr, said Isgro, has improved many aspects of Hamilton Schools since 2015 including raising the city schools’ state test scores in 17 of 23 areas measured annually by the Ohio Department of Education.

Isgro also praised Orr for numerous improvements in the schools including establishing closer ties with city officials and bringing the first in-school health clinic in Hamilton’s history to the district.

The district also just unveiled its first food truck.

STORY & VIDEO: Hamilton schools’ 1st food truck rolls

And though Orr original contract wouldn’t have expired until July 2018, Isgro said it’s not unusual for school boards to extend employment contracts earlier for superintendents if they are pleased with their performance.

“Let’s keep him and see how things turn out,” said Isgro in explaining the board’s majority position.

Orr replaced long-time Hamilton Schools Superintendent Janet Baker in 2015.

His time since has included some high-profiling battling with state education leaders over what he considers is excessive testing of students and unreasonable changes in graduation requirements, which were eventually altered by the Ohio Department of Education in response to similar criticisms from other school leaders statewide.

MORE: Hamilton school leader blasts state education officials

Earlier this year — as reported exclusively by the Journal-News — Orr apologized for sending a letter mailed to private school residents within the city school system criticizing area private schools and suggesting to parents their children would be better served by attending local public schools.

RELATED: Hamilton school leader apologizes for letter critical of private schools

Orr said the contract extension was necessary because “our goal was to promote stability of leadership and continue the progress that we are making regarding improved student performance.”

Orr, who declined to comment on Alf’s opposing employment vote, said “it is common practice to renew a superintendent’s contract within the 18 month period before it expires, which is covered under Ohio Revised Code. It has been a mutual discussion between the Board and myself for several months to enter into a renewal.”

“I am honored to continue to serve our board, students, teachers, and community,” he said.

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