Ironton City School District faces backlash from the community over band director being put on administrative leave

Published 10:47 am Friday, May 24, 2024

By Joseph DiCristofaro

The Ironton Tribune



It was a heated meeting between the Ironton City School Board and members of the public on Tuesday after board came under public scrutiny after a decision to place Ironton High School band director Anthony Nolan on administrative leave on Monday.

While the board has not said why Nolan was placed on leave, the Ironton Police Department was called to the high school on Monday to respond to a call about a teacher grabbing a student from Rock Hill High School by the hair.

In the report, IPD officers wrote they got security camera footage from the school and saw Nolan talking to the student and “we observed that the student… was laughing and gesturing laughter and shoving Mr. Nolan. Mr. Nolan is observed grabbing the student at the back of the head and walking him towards the auditorium.”

The report continues that they talked to the student (whose name was blacked out in the report due to his age) and his mother and they both said they have known Nolan for years (from when he taught at Rock Hill) and the two were joking around. The student said he went to the back into the band hall to see if he could sit back there and Nolan told him to leave and go back to the auditorium.

The student said he was joking when he pushed Nolan and that Nolan didn’t grab him by the hair in an aggressive manner.

The student’s mother said that Nolan and the student had a great relationship and that he had taken the student home from school on numerous occasions.

No legal charges have been filed by the IPD.

The comments towards the board by the public were blunt.

“Mr. Nolan is a black man, and the pattern has been established that (Superintendent Joe) Geletka doesn’t see black men as equal or deserving of respect,” said Kenny Riley, an Ironton Middle School teacher.

“I went through prejudice since the sixties, do not take me back there, my daughter deserves better than what she got from this school,” said Yvonne Sinnott, owner of the Yvonne Dekay School of Dance in Ironton.

Before becoming Band Director at IHS Nolan was the Assistant Band Director at Rock Hill High School from August 2020 until May 2023.

During the board meeting, the Rock Hill student spoke and identified himself as Tomas Miller.

“I’ve known Mr. Nolan for five years, we talk all the time, teachers are allowed to have a close bond with their students,” Miller said. “I think it’s wrong to assume that he was assaulting me or that I was in danger, I wasn’t in danger at all. We were clearly playing.”

The school board has yet to make a statement regarding the actions taken against Nolan.

Board president Rae Ann Witt did comment during Tuesday’s meeting.

“We know why many of you are here, please understand we cannot discuss student or staff relationships in a public forum, it’s illegal for us to say anything,” she said. “If we don’t respond, it’s not because we don’t care.”

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Daniel Murphy, president of the Ironton Education Association, also shared his thoughts on the matter and how the board has acted towards teachers in recent months.

“Our dedicated educators have been repeatedly ignored, disrespected, and abandoned by the superintendent, who acts as if he is above correction,” Murphy said. “Our superintendent has allowed the assistant principal to remain unpunished after using the most vile and hateful language to oppress minorities.”

Geletka again came under fire for his supposed actions in prior board meetings from Stacy Hay, a parent with a child in the district.

“I filed a formal complaint to the board after the first meeting for the disgusting display and conduct unbecoming of Mr. Geletka,” Hay said. “As I sat back there and listened to all the parents give their testimonies about the wrongdoings done to their children at this school, Mr. Geletka sat up there and he smiled, smirked and laughed.”

Students from IHS attended the meeting in support of Nolan and to share their opinions on the situation and with the board.

“I respect that man almost more than any other teacher that teaches at this school,” said Kaylei Newman, a senior at IHS. “You don’t see the students as people.”

The recent actions taken against Nolan drew the attention of the community along with the local NAACP. “I hope that I don’t have to come back here again,” said Len Collins, Scioto County President of the NAACP.