Willoughby-Eastlake Schools Superintendent Stephen Thompson retains his position but loses 20 days' pay per disciplinary action taken by the school board at a special meeting on June 4.
Earlier that same day, Thompson entered a guilty plea to a first-degree misdemeanor OVI charge in Chardon Municipal Court. The superintendent, a South Russell Village resident, was arrested on May 17 for his involvement in a crash at the intersection of Routes 306 and 322 in Chester Township.
Several members of the public, including educators in W-E schools, spoke in favor of Thompson remaining in his administrative position.
"He was hired to bring Willoughby-Eastlake schools out of the shoestring, baling wire and Duck Tape mentality that sustained and underserved our community for several years, and move us to a brighter future financially, technologically, infrastructurally and educationally," said Rob Stohlman, of Willoughby.
"He was not hired as the moral compass of our community. For that we should be looking inside our own households or be turning to our priests, rabbis and ministers. He was hired to be a chief executive, a position for which his personal history, education, professional experience and certifications deem him imminently qualified."
The board's disciplinary decision was lacking to some in the audience, who had hoped for a harsher penalty for Thompson's poor decision to drink and drive.
Voicing his displeasure at the board's action, Richard Lowry of Willowick said it is unlikely that most students know who school board members or Thompson were before the OVI incident.
"It just so happens that the only time they truly know of Steve Thompson is when he has chosen to get behind (the wheel of) a car with a blood-alcohol content of 0.17, two times the legal limit," he said. "My recommendation to the board is they go back and do something stiffer than a 20 day in lieu of pay. That, I think, is a joke and a slap on the hand for something that is much more serious."
In addition to the forfeited pay, per the disciplinary agreement, Thompson also must speak to students regarding the OVI incident, the curriculum of which is still to be determined, said Margaret Warner, school board president.
"Thompson agrees that if he is convicted of, pleads guilty or no contest to, any alcohol or drug-related offense, other than the May 17, 2014, offense, the Board will have good and just cause to terminate his contract," according to the disciplinary agreement.
By Elizabeth Lundblad - The News-Herald, Willoughby, Ohio (MCT)
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