Residents Question West G Discipline Policy Following Principal’s DUI
February 29, 2016

Some residents are questioning West Geauga Schools’ policies for disciplining staff, particularly middle school Principal James Kish, who was cited by Aurora police at 7:06 p.m. Oct. 21 for driving while intoxicated following a traffic accident.

One resident — who sent a letter to the Chesterland News and the West Geauga Schools Board of Education, signing it “a concerned citizen” — called Kish a “role model” to students.

“Why park crashed cars in front of the school annually (as a reminder to students to not drink alcohol at prom time) when the message being sent is that this behavior is to be kept quiet and swept under the rug?” the person wrote.

According to police reports, Kish, 45, drove into a vehicle on Chillicothe Road that was stopped to make a turn.

Kish was cited for causing the accident that damaged the front end of his vehicle and the rear of the other vehicle driven by an Aurora man, 75, which included the man’s wife, 70, as a passenger. Neither was injured. Kish, however, complained of chest pains while in police custody.

His blood alcohol level registered at 0.17, exceeding the legal limit of 0.08, according to the court records.

When asked about the West Geauga Schools Board of Education’s actions on the matter, board President Dan Thoreson deferred all questions on the matter to Superintendent Rich Markwardt.

“The board acts upon the recommendation of the superintendent,” Thoreson said.

Thoreson indicated labor contracts between the staff and the board come into play in disciplinary action, however, he declined to state what those may entail.

Reached by phone Feb. 26, Markwardt said there is no school policy in place regarding this type of infraction.

“There can be a legal component and a medical component,” Markwardt said. “The Ohio Board of Education has rules on what offenses are grounds for dismissal, this is not one of those. In the case of a DUI, we actually get the report the next day from the OBE.”

When asked if that was the case on Oct. 21, Markwardt said he would “neither confirm nor deny” the incident happened.

“The school has the discrepancy to issue a verbal warning or a suspension without pay that hits the employee in the pocketbook, depending on the seriousness of the situation,” he said. “In cases like a DUI, we look at the circumstances and seek remediation. The purpose is to help the employee change certain behaviors.

“I wouldn’t say that the board has not taken disciplinary action. Since I’ve been at West G, there have been multiple situations of disciplining employees. One was discharged, and there have been unpaid suspensions.”

After making a public records request, The Geauga County Maple Leaf learned Kish received a two-day suspension on Dec. 28 from Markwardt and a letter stating, “I know that you grasp the seriousness of your actions and the damaging, potentially career ending impact that such behavior could have on your career. Your bad decisions appear to have ended with the accident. Your subsequent decisions and actions showed an awareness of wrongdoing, an acceptance of responsibility and a determination to correct the situation. I cannot ask for more.”

According to court documents, Kish went before the Kent Municipal Court Dec. 22 and pleaded not guilty. He was fined and his driver’s license was suspended for 180 days, but he was granted occupational driving privileges.