Tri-Village News

Band director resigned of his own free will, O'Reilly affirms

Superintendent: Hennig's reasons will remain private

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Grandview Heights City School District Superintendent Ed O'Reilly has continued to withhold further comment on what led to band director Justin Hennig's resignation, citing Hennig's desire to keep the reasons private.

After meeting in a closed session, the school board unanimously voted April 15 to accept Hennig's resignation, which he submitted April 7. More than 100 students and parents attended the meeting to ask the board to reject Hennig's resignation.

ThisWeek Tri-Village News requested and received from the district Hennig's personnel file, including his resignation letter, the forms high school Principal Ken Chaffin completed after observing Hennig in class three times, an improvement plan for Hennig completed by Chaffin, and Hennig's responses to the plan's recommendations.

The decision to resign was Hennig's, O'Reilly said this week, repeating, as he said at the board meeting, that he understood and accepted Hennig's decision.

While he would not comment specifically about Hennig's situation, O'Reilly said that in general, any teacher found to have engaged in inappropriate, illegal or unethical behavior would have been terminated immediately or at least suspended.

Neither action was taken with Hennig, and Chaffin had not yet made a recommendation as to whether Hennig should be given a one-year limited contract renewal or a non-renewal, O'Reilly said.

Hennig's resignation is effective May 31.

Hennig did not return a phone call from the Tri-Village News seeking his comments for this story.

In his resignation letter, Hennig said he was "happy that I have had an opportunity to build an outstanding rapport with many of my students this past year. I am grateful to have had the chance to work with such bright students who demonstrate understanding of musicianship far beyond their years."

The improvement plan Chaffin submitted to Hennig on Feb. 1 outlined "areas of highest-need improvement."

Regarding knowledge of students and student relationships, Chaffin said Hennig "needs to build rapport with his students and design the overall band program in a way that gives his students a positive band experience. (He) should design and communicate expectations to his students that will allow them to continue to participate in other clubs and extracurricular activities, and meet academic expectations concurrently while participating in band."

In the area of professionalism, "Mr. Hennig should follow through in completing reasonable requests given from building or district administration after the first time he is asked to do so," Chaffin wrote.

The band director "is expected to respond to every parent email that requires a response" and respond to those emails that "elicit" a timely response in a timely manner, Chaffin wrote.

He also suggested that Hennig was expected "to work collaboratively with Bobcat Band Boosters in a way that involves two-way communication and idea-sharing." Decisions should meet the needs of the band program as outlined by the director, but should be made collaboratively, Chaffin added.

Hennig should also "seek out and learn from band alumni and current band students the traditions, performances and experiences that matter the most to them," Chaffin wrote.

The principal asked Hennig to design and complete student and parents surveys and to meet with three teachers in the high school known for building student relationships and effective communication.

In his response to Chaffin's improvement plan, dated March 22, Hennig cited the ways he was striving to meet the suggestions.

Regarding knowledge of students and student relationships, Hennig said he makes it a daily goal to say "hello" to his students when he sees them outside the classroom and takes the time during basketball games to ask the pep band about topics such as other classes they are taking and their other extracurricular activities.

Regarding professionalism, "I continue to comply with any and all reasonable requests given from either building or district administration," Hennig wrote.

He said he had "gone above and beyond the original request" to respond quickly to parent emails, as shown by many of his correspondences with time stamps outside of the workday and "sent from my iPhone" signatures.

"In order to ensure this improvement was effectively met, I do receive work-related emails to my phone," Hennig said.

He said he had changed in terms of collaboration with the band boosters so that "I have now framed the band director's report to include topics of discussion. I want them to know I do value their input and the time they selflessly donate for the betterment of our kids in the Bobcat band."

Hennig also reviewed the meetings he had set up with three teachers and an administrator to discuss ways to improve his communication skills.

Hennig is in his first year as band director. Chaffin is in his first year as principal. Former high school Principal Dawn Sayre recommended Hennig's hiring last spring after former band director Kie Watkins announced he was moving from the city.

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