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Intimidation led to suspension of Niles teacher, records reveal

Published: Wed, February 24, 2010 @ 12:06 a.m.

By Jordan Cohen

NILES — The 10-day suspension of a longtime McKinley High School math teacher followed “intimidating” behavior, according to school records.

Factoring into the decision to suspend Kelly Newbrough was what Superintendent Rocco Adduci called “unprofessional” comments by the teacher to two students and unauthorized contact with the students’ parents, which included going onto company property where the father is employed, according to the suspension notification letter.

Newbrough, 42, a teacher in the district for 16 years, was suspended without pay last Friday by the board of education for “violating board policies.” At the time, Adduci declined to divulge the specifics behind the suspension, citing an “agreement” he had completed with the teacher.

Adduci, however, provided the suspension letter detailing the teacher’s actions after The Vindicator filed a request under the Ohio Public Records Act.

Under the law, all records of a public office must be made available for public inspection unless they are exempt from disclosure. Disciplinary documents do not fall under any exemption.

The superintendent’s letter in Newbrough’s personnel file recounts the series of incidents that began Feb. 1 when Newbrough told a student who was tapping a pen that he “wanted to take that pen and stab him in the neck with it.” Adduci called that a violation of the Code of Professional Conduct.

According to the letter, the situation escalated four days after the superintendent discussed the comment with Newbrough when he reportedly pulled the student’s sister from her lunch period, demanded her mother’s cell-phone number and told her he was authorized to do so by an assistant principal. Adduci’s letter says there was no such authorization.

Newbrough then took the girl to her brother’s class and had him excused to inquire if he had felt threatened by his comments. The boy said he did, and his sister returned to class in tears after the confrontation.

Adduci wrote that Newbrough tried to call the mother more than 10 times and then told the office that he was sick and had to leave school. However, Adduci wrote that Newbrough, instead of going home, went unannounced to the father’s place of employment “behind a closed gate, entered an unauthorized area and trespassed on the employer’s property.”

It does not state whether Newbrough spoke with the father.

The superintendent described Newbrough’s actions as intimidating to the two students and their family.

“It interfered with our investigation and caused the family to be fearful of sending their children to school,” Adduci wrote.

Newbrough’s personnel file, also supplied by the superintendent at the Vindicator’s request, does not contain records of previous disciplinary issues. Adduci said the teacher never has had any previous reprimands or warnings during his 16 years with the Niles district.

Scott Blake, press secretary for the Ohio Department of Education, said there are no records of any previous disciplinary action against Newbrough in the state’s database. Blake said he is barred by state law from discussing whether ODE is investigating the suspension.

Adduci disclosed that his agreement not to publicly discuss the teacher’s misconduct was solely with Newbrough and not with the bargaining union, the Niles Classroom Teachers Association. Herman Pipe, a labor relations consultant for the Ohio Education Association, the parent union of the NCTA, confirmed the superintendent’s statement.

“The union was not involved because [Newbrough] had secured his own attorney, and for that reason, the union does not know whether a grievance will be filed,” Pipe said.

Adduci emphasized his refusal to discuss the incidents publicly did not mean he intended to deny access to public records.

“You obviously have the right to public records, but my obligation is not to report [about them],” Adduci said. “My obligation is to defend school policy.”

Attempts to contact Newbrough to comment were unsuccessful.

“He is a very good teacher, and we will welcome him back upon completion of his suspension [March 5] to continue doing the job we know he can do for the students of Niles,” Adduci said.

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