By Robert Wang, Canton Repository
Posted January 22nd 2019
(PHOTO: FORMER CANTON CITY SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT ADRIAN ALLISON)
CANTON CITY SCHOOLS BOARD MEMBER ERIC RESNICK
After a nearly three-hour, closed-door executive session earlier this month, the Canton City Board of Education said Adrian Allison’s six-year tenure as superintendent had come to an end, only a couple of days before students and school staff returned from their winter break.
The board didn’t give a reason. But it was at least the third executive session the board had held to discuss Allison’s status since a verbal confrontation involving him and a student after a McKinley playoff football game Nov. 9.
Board President John “J.R.” Rinaldi said, by state law, the duties of the superintendent fall upon the assistant superintendent, who is Dan Nero.
Board member Richard Milligan read a brief statement once the board came out of executive session, which lasted from 12:04 p.m. until about 3 p.m.
“The Canton City Schools Board of Education is authorizing the president of the board to enter into a tentative transition agreement, pending counsel approval, that will lead to the departure of Adrian Allison from the district retroactive to Jan. 4, 2019. The board expresses its thanks to Superintendent Allison for his years of service and wishes him well in the future. The board will have no further comment at this time.”
Allison, who did not attend Saturday’s meeting, later told The Canton Repository he had agreed to a buyout of his contract. Board members did not comment on the transition agreement, and nothing in it has been finalized.
All five members — Rinaldi, Milligan, Eric Resnick, Mark Dillard and Scott Russ — voted to approve Saturday’s action.
Allison, in an interview Saturday afternoon, said he plans to sign the transitional agreement within the next two days. As part of the agreement, he said he would, in essence, resign and the board would pay out the remainder of his contract. He said the board did not ask for his resignation.
“I am entering into a transitional agreement where I resign and they move forward with whatever they need to do for the district moving forward,” he said. The sides reached an understanding it would be in the best interest of both sides to move forward, he said.
Allison, who said his signing of the agreement would not be because of the Nov. 9 incident, was hired in January 2013 as the youngest and first black superintendent in the district’s history.
“When I took the job six years ago, I had a choice to make at that time,” he said. ”… That choice was either sit around and be a caretaker or to be bold and courageous and try to make a difference. I chose to be bold and courageous.”
He counts among his accomplishments the implementation of his “Brighter Tomorrow” plan to convert elementary schools and middle schools into specialized academies; closing Timken High School, which became a downtown Canton campus for McKinley High School; launching a partnership with Kent State University Stark campus so district students could get automatic admission to the college and scholarships; and working with the Pro Football Hall of Fame to develop the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village, as the school district owns much of the property.
Nero issued a statement saying he was “deeply saddened” and that Allison was a “true visionary in the education field and has made tough decisions to move the district forward,” citing his increase in providing counseling for students “in every building;” expanding availability of technology at McKinley High School and the AIM Academy; providing more focused education in the elementary schools; “love of kids and his selfless desire to see the students of Canton succeed and be valued citizens” that “have changed many lives.”
Nero wrote, “I know that whichever path he chooses, he will succeed, and we will truly miss his leadership.”
The teachers union, the Canton Professional Educators’ Association said in a statement that Allison made “some difficult and innovative decisions,” that he cared deeply about school employees, students and the community and that “his body of work should not be judged on any singular event but by the overall body of his service to Canton City Schools. In the end, perhaps some of Mr. Allison’s initiatives fell short of expectations.”
A few people who are supporters of Allison and attended the public portion of the meeting expressed dismay, including former board member Lisa Gissendaner, who served a term (2012-15) on the board that hired Allison as superintendent.
“Why was he terminated? That’s what I want to know,” she said, confronting Rinaldi and Resnick after the meeting. “Can anybody answer that?”
Rinaldi replied, “Lisa, you’ll have the availability to everything in the documents.”
“This is terrible for our district right now. Really it is,” Gissendaner said. “It’s indicative of some personal issues. I know that for a fact. And this is so wrong. … I’m disappointed. OK. I’m really hurt because this district needs Adrian in place.
“For one incident. This is one incident that you’re saying is the cause of his termination, and it’s not the case. This is personal, and you know it. … And here we are here today — termination of a superintendent who’s done a lot for this district,” she said. “It’s all about the kids. I don’t think so.”
Resnick said, “I’m not going to respond to nonsense.”
“This process has been very transparent,” Rinaldi said. “Everybody is given due process. … And once all the details come out, you will see that time has been taken. Once you have seen the documents, then we can have a deeper discussion. Everything we do is about the kids.”
Declining to confirm the board had gotten a resignation letter, Rinaldi said, “Everything is pending per legal counsel’s approval. Once everything is signed and the counsels have signed off, we’ll have a full statement, we’ll have the documents and we’ll have comment.”
He indicated he didn’t know how long the district’s attorney, Greg Beck, would need to review the materials before they could be released.
When asked if the board would appoint an interim superintendent, Rinaldi said, “We’re still reviewing all that.”
Why was Allison leaving?
“Once you see the final documents, I think it will be self-explanatory,” Rinaldi said.
Would Allison get a severance payment?
“Everything will be in the documentation,” Rinaldi said.
Taking the helm
Allison was assistant superintendent when the death of then-Superintendent Chris Smith in 2012 led to him becoming interim superintendent. The board promoted him to the top position a few months later.
During the summer, the board declined to give Allison a multiyear contract, instead renewing him for one year at a base salary of $152,000 that would have expired this July 31. The board, which had required Allison to follow an improvement plan, was required to give him notice by March 1 if it was not going to renew his contract.
In the Nov. 9 incident, Allison said a parent chaperoning the school’s band told him band members had been disrespectful to adults at the game and in prior games.
While rebuking the students, one of them, who is gay, tried to interrupt Allison. The superintendent said he replied the student “was a disrespectful little boy or however (you) identify.” He said the student was “cussing me out.”
Students in messages to the board said Allison had referred to the boy as “or whatever you are,” causing the student to cry on the bus ride home from the game.
Allison has denied making a disparaging comment about the boy’s sexual orientation. He said he apologized to the student and the student’s guardian. He also said he would put in place training for himself and the staff “to ensure that we create an equitable learning environment for all students.”
Resnick, who had voted against renewing Allison’s contract in the summer, said Allison had not gone far enough in instilling confidence in him or other students who were offended.