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Tiffin City Board of Education to hold first meeting following arrest of new superintendent

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Tiffin City Board of Education members from left: Meagan McBride, Victor Perez, Jeff Hoyda, Andrew Gase, Chris Widman (Photo courtesy Tiffin City Schools website)

Tiffin, Ohio — The Tiffin City Board of Education is set to hold its first regular board meeting Tuesday following the arrest of newly-hired district superintendent Van McWreath.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in the Tiffin Middle School cafetorium. It can be viewed via livestream on the Tiffin City Schools Facebook page.

The public input portion of the meeting is expected to be busy following McWreath’s arrest last week on three counts of unlawful restraint, a third-degree misdemeanor. Public comments can be delivered in person or sent via email to the board at tcs_boardcomments@tiffincityschools.org.

McWreath, 48, of Cortland, has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for August 9 in Trumbull County Central District Court. The charges stem from an incident last month in which McWreath allegedly restrained his wife and two stepdaughters in the basement of their home.

Dozens of community members voiced their concerns on social media after news of the arrest was publicized. While some said the board should wait and see if McWreath is convicted on the charges before making any decisions, others called for McWreath’s hiring to be halted and questioned the hiring history of the board.

The superintendent position within the district hasn’t been without controversy in recent years.

Former superintendent Vicki Wheatley, who served in the position from 2014 until she stepped down in 2017, reached a settlement with the district after filing a lawsuit which alleged gender-based employment discrimination, retaliation, unequal pay, and a hostile work environment.

Wheatley alleged that district officials told her they would “only hire a male” for the superintendent position, and that her replacement, Gary Barber, only had a master’s degree and five more years of experience than Wheatley but received pay and benefits that were “substantially more” than what she received.

Shortly after the board agreed to hire him in 2017, Barber was convicted of operating a vehicle while impaired (OVI), a charge that stemmed from a traffic stop about two months prior to his contract going into effect.

Barber was again convicted of OVI last year and tendered his resignation to the district in July. Between the time he was charged and when his resignation took effect, Barber was on paid medical leave.

Robert Boes, who currently serves as assistant superintendent, assumed the position of interim superintendent following Barber’s resignation. The board then agreed to bring in James Grubbs, former superintendent of Galion City Schools, to serve as interim superintendent until a permanent replacement could be found.

In April, the board announced that they agreed to hire McWreath, who previously served as principal of Harvey High School in Painesville, as superintendent with an annual salary of $139,000.

Following McWreath’s arrest, the board released a statement regarding the situation.

“The Tiffin City Board of Education is aware of the recent charges against Mr. McWreath that have arisen as a result of issues he is experiencing in his personal life. We met with Mr. McWreath who has been forthcoming about the problems that he is working to resolve. The Board has been consulting with legal counsel to ensure that it is acting both in compliance with law and in the best interest of the District. At this time the situation is being closely monitored as it progresses,” the board wrote in a statement published on the Tiffin City Schools website.

If the board ultimately decides to halt McWreath’s hiring, their challenge of finding a qualified candidate to lead the district for the long run could be even more complicated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Washington Post recently reported that far more superintendents are leaving their posts than in a typical year as a result of the challenges presented amid the pandemic.

“While some superintendents are moving on to similar positions elsewhere, many are retiring early despite having years left on their contracts. And others have been forced out over differences with school boards,” Joe Heim and Valerie Strauss wrote for the Post. “The turnover this year has been unprecedented, superintendents say, with the usual job responsibilities and tensions exacerbated by crisis management and debates with the community and school boards over when and how to reopen schools during the pandemic. Conflicts over equity and education that addressed racial issues also boiled over, with superintendents often feeling the brunt of the disputes.”

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