Hamilton school board leader leaves president role, is praised for pandemic-times leadership

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The leader of Hamilton Schools’ governing board said goodbye Thursday to that top job while his colleagues praised him for steering the city schools through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hamilton Board of Education President Laurin Sprague has been the point person for the board in overseeing the 9,000-student district for the last two years.

The onset of the still-going pandemic initially shut down all Ohio K-12 schools in the spring of 2020 and then caused historic disruptions into the 2020-2021 school year and to a lesser degree in the early part of the current 2021-2022 school calendar.

COVID-19 has impacted every public and private school system’s operation locally and nationally to a degree more so than any other challenge to American education since last century’s World War II.

Sprague, a veteran board member and former administrator with the city schools, helped guide the district through many of COVID-19′s sweeping challenges, said Hamilton Superintendent Mike Holbrook in presenting a plaque honoring Sprague during the board’s last meeting in 2022.

“I couldn’t think of two more trying years to be the president of a school board than the last two years,” said Holbrook, himself a veteran of decades of public-school service in southwest Ohio.

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Sprague, who said he will not seek a third consecutive term as board president in January, was emotional when looking back on the “hard times” experienced by Hamilton Schools.

“It was probably the most difficult times in education that any school district has faced,” he said while praising all the district’s employees, students and school families for persevering through the roughest parts to date of the pandemic.

His tenure included contentious public uproar revolving around whether students should be masked to help protect from the virus, remote learning, deep teacher and substitute teacher shortages and many other related issues.

“As a board we made decisions that were difficult to do and those weren’t always popular and we understand that,” said Sprague. “But we always made decisions together … and we did it for the betterment of our kids and what we thought was best.”

“And I’ve been honored to sit here with these four other individuals (board members) … and we all come together for one thing and that is for our kids.”

Former School Board President Steve Isgro also praised Sprague, saying even in non-pandemic times “it’s not an easy job.”

“And then what you went through as the president during the covid crisis and other things, you held a good team together … you should be congratulated. You’ve done an excellent job at this,” said Isgro.

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