By EMMALEE C. TORISK
The permanent high-school teaching certificate of a longtime educator at Campbell Memorial High School has been suspended for a year, after an Ohio Board of Education ruling that found conduct unbecoming of his position.
Between 9:03 and 9:28 a.m. on May 16, Thomas J. Creed Jr., who has taught science at the high school for more than 25 years, left his scheduled second- period class unattended while he ran an errand off of school premises. Creed failed to notify the administration of his need for classroom coverage and neglected to follow sign-out procedures for leaving the building.
He also wasn’t present to supervise those students assigned to him, and therefore couldn’t “provide medical attention to a student with health needs” who “fainted in the class” during Creed’s absence, but “suffered only minor injuries from [the] fall,” according to a May 31 letter to Creed from Tom Robey, then-superintendent of Campbell City Schools, and Jacquelyn Hampton, high school principal.
This conduct violates Ohio Revised Code Chapter 3319 and the Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Ohio Educators.
According to the consent agreement from the state, which took effect Jan. 31, all but 30 days of Creed’s suspension are stayed, or temporarily set aside, with the suspension set to be served from July 1 to July 30. During this suspension period, Creed is prohibited “from performing any educational activities, coaching activities or other duties within the State of Ohio that require certification or licensure through the Ohio Department of Education.”
In addition, the school district must submit detailed reports every three months during the one-year suspension to the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Professional Conduct to indicate whether Creed is “in good standing with his employer.” If Creed is found to be engaging in any further unbecoming conduct during this probationary period, “the full one-year suspension will be served.”
The agreement was signed by both Creed and Richard A. Ross, state superintendent of public instruction.
Creed’s attorney, Ira J. Mirkin, said his client “has expressed his recognition that he made an error in judgment, and accepted punishment of the school district and the Ohio Department of Education.”
Creed “is now focusing on providing the best instruction for the students that he serves and focusing on this current year, and looking forward to future years at Memorial High School,” said Matthew Bowen, current superintendent of Campbell City Schools.
The disciplinary action from the state isn’t the first taken against Creed for the May incident, said Robey, as the school district conducted its own investigation shortly afterward.
Notes of the investigation state that Creed admitted to being out of the building for between 15 and 20 minutes. They also detail Creed’s union representative stating he did not have to answer questions concerning why he left the building, as they were “irrelevant.”
Statements from students who witnessed the incident, but whose names were redacted from the file, claim that Creed had told them he was leaving to get money, but would be right back.
“Whenever an employee does something, regardless of whether it’s Mr. Creed or not, you’re always disappointed that they made a poor decision,” Robey said. “When that happens, all you can do is try to move forward, and try to make sure everybody’s OK, ... so you can go on with your day-to-day activities of educating children within the school district.”
The May 31 letter from Robey and Hampton lists Creed’s initial punishment for violating board policies, administrative guidelines and his job description: He was suspended for five days without pay, and two days were to be held in abeyance for one year.
The two days held in abeyance, the letter states, “will be activated, along with any other appropriate discipline, ... if further discipline or personnel issues occur with said employee between now and the end of the 2013-2014 school year.” If no such occurrences transpired, however, the two days would be deleted.
Because of an Aug. 27 grievance hearing, along with Creed’s “continued, professional service to the district,” this decision was amended.
A letter from the same date — from Robey, Hampton and Bowen — explains that Creed’s reduced discipline would consist of a one-day suspension without pay, as well as one day held in abeyance for a year. Creed’s pay, which was “previously reduced by three days over three pay periods,” would be “reinstated for two of the days that were previously withheld” no later than Sept. 30.
Any future misconduct, though, could result in “further discipline up to and including termination of [Creed’s] employment,” the letter states.
According to state records, Creed’s salary was $63,357 in 2013, plus an additional $3,961 for a coaching assignment.
A review of Creed’s personnel file — which includes evaluations of his performance from Oct. 28, 1987, to March 1, 2013 — revealed overwhelmingly positive ratings in categories such as design of tasks, classroom management and pacing decisions.
The evaluation from 2002 rates Creed’s attendance as “OK,” though in 2003, it states that Creed “made an effort to be punctual and in attendance.”
The evaluation from 2006, however, mentions “excessive teacher absenteeism [that] may negatively impact individual and classroom performance.”
“Absenteeism disrupts student achievement, increases district costs since a substitute teacher must be called out, and damages public confidence if taxpayers perceive sick- leave abuses,” reads the 2006 evaluation, which suggests a need for improvement.
In 2007, attendance was marked as “fair.” In 2008, it was back to “good,” the highest level, with the only comment being a suggestion to have a folder ready for substitute teachers in the event of an absence.