Highland principals back to work
By Randa Wagner –
Highland residents got their wish: Shawn Winkelfoos and Debra Knechtly are back to work.
Superintendent Dr. Bill Dodds announced yesterday morning that, “With the return of our two elementary principals to the Highland Local School District, we will be redistributing responsibilities within the district for the remainder of the 2012–2013 school year.”
Dodds said Winkelfoos will return to the elementary school as the principal of the building. He will be assisted by Amber Clay-Mowry and Pam Mosier-Arnold. Knechtly will work in the district office.
“We are looking forward to a return to school with a full staff that gives us the greatest opportunity to help students in every area of their learning,” Dodds concluded in his statement.
This change comes after the conclusion of an investigation by the Morrow County Sheriff’s Office after a reported incident of possible sexual misconduct by a student that occurred October 19. The investigation was over whether proper protocol for reporting child abuse or neglect was followed by the school staff.
Winkelfoos and Knetchly were placed on administrative leave during the investigation.
After reviewing the information from the sheriff’s office, Morrow County Prosecutor Charles Howland decided not to file charges against the staff members in question.
“Due to the confusing nature of the facts of this case, the County Prosecutor will decline charges against (teacher Karen) Fowler, Mr. Winkelfoos and Ms. Knechtly. The law presumes innocence until proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is established.”
Howland said the investigation was conducted by the Sheriffs Office ‘was complete and thorough’ and the Highland superintendent ‘has assisted and fully cooperated with the investigation.’
“The Prosecutor’s decision in this matter should not be construed as disapproval of the investigation by the Sheriff’s Office or of Highland Schools,” Howland stated. “Their work in this matter was excellent. However, each case must be decided on its own merit and the confusing nature of the facts that make up this case was the deciding factor. Certainly, the educators now understand that they are required to report regardless of the source of abuse. I have every confidence that in the future they will comply with the letter of the law. Further, the educators may still face discipline from their own board and also possible action by the State School Board.”
Howland added that ‘failure to report abuse situations by the Morrow County education community has been an ongoing problem.’ In effort to resolve this matter, he continued, his office will now forward a letter to each school facility that will outline the obligations of educators to report abuse situations. This letter will include a copy of Ohio Revised Code section 2151.421.
“The Morrow County education community should take notice and be mindful that further violations of the duty to report statute will result in charges,” Howland concluded in his statement. “The County Prosecutor will not accept excuses of “I didn’t know I had to do that” any longer. The protection of children is everyone’s business. Among the education community, the protection of children must be the first priority.”