Ohio Principal of the Year indicted on seven felonies involving sex with two teenage female students.

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A Chillicothe City Schools administrator once named Ohio Principal of the Year has been indicted on seven felonies involving sex with two teenage females who were students. 
Jeffrey R. Fisher was issued a summons by a Ross County grand jury Friday on seven counts of sexual battery, all third-degree felonies. He will be arraigned on Nov. 20. If convicted, he faces one to five years in prison on each charge.
According to Ross County Prosecutor Matt Schmidt, the charges relate to two students, who were 16 and 17 at the time and have since graduated. Schmidt declined to get into the specifics of the charges, saying he didn't want "the case to be tried in the court of public opinion," but sexual battery charges include allegations of sexual intercourse. 
He also said the investigation lasted nearly three months.
A press release from Schmidt's office said the case began when Chillicothe school administrators met with Jody Walker, of South Central Ohio Department of Job Family Services, regarding a sexual conduct allegation against Fisher.
"We've been aware of these accusations for years and we'll be entering a not guilty plea," said Fisher's attorney Brad Koffel. "We're asking for information from the public to help exonerate Jeff Fisher."
Fisher had been working from home since Superintendent Jon Saxton gave him orders to do so in late August, the Gazette has confirmed. On Friday night, Saxton issued a letter to the community stating in part that Fisher has been suspended and the indictment was reported to the Ohio Department of Education.
"We share your concerns about this situation and recognize how incredibly difficult this is for everyone. We are aware this is an emotional situation with diverse opinions, and we ask for your understanding," Saxton wrote, adding counseling services will be provided to any students needing additional support.

A meteoric rise

Fisher was principal at Chillicothe High School from January 2011 through last school year when he was hired for a new position in the district leading registration, safety, and special projects at an annual salary of $85,522. He started with the district in 2005 as a language arts and journalism teacher after graduating from Ohio University and obtained his doctorate degree last school year.
According to Schmidt, the allegations occurred during the school years of 2009 to 2010 and 2011 to 2012.
"With both students, the relationship was first as a teacher then as principal," Schmidt said. "Certainly with at least one victim, phone records will show substantial telephone and text contact."
Fisher was praised during his quick rise into the administrative ranks for his rapport with students, professionalism, and impact on a positive shift in culture at the high school — all qualities that led to him being awarded Ohio Principal of the Year in 2015 which placed him in the running for that national award.
However, all of those accolades appeared to be in question before school started in 2015, according to documents obtained by the Gazette through a series of public records requests.
According to records of a September 2015 meeting with Fisher, Saxton outlined concerns about Fisher's alleged disengagement from the leadership team, failure to exercise good judgment at times, and misrepresentation of himself and a few events. However, he wasn't disciplined for the issues and Fisher continued to receive high marks in evaluations by Saxton.
In fact, Fisher was named as a finalist for the Adena superintendent job in summer of 2016, but was eventually passed over. In January 2017, he was given an administrative job at the Chillicothe district office.

2017 brings issues

But this year, documents indicate Saxton and Fisher were increasingly at odds, starting with a verbal reprimand of Fisher in March for talking to the media without prior approval.
Fisher's June evaluation gave him an overall rating of accomplished — the highest possible — but Saxton called out Fisher in the review to be more authentic and humble while also reminding him to focus less on being defined by his job and more on the person he is.
Fisher wrote a nearly three-page response to the evaluation by Saxton on June 29, just weeks before the investigation began into Fisher's interactions with students. The response was focused on a skilled rating — the next to highest — on one area of the evaluation and some of Saxton's comments in the evaluation.
On Aug. 10 Saxton sent Fisher an email issuing concerns with the way Fisher had been interacting with students via social media and texts, according to records released by the district Thursday in response to a public records request.
"In our conversation, you did not seem to understand the importance of separating yourself from relationships with students via messaging and texts," Saxton wrote referencing an Aug. 7 meeting with Fisher.
Schmidt said nine days later, school officials reported the allegations to Walker.
In a letter dated Aug. 19 and obtained by the Gazette, Saxton assigned Fisher to work from the district's operations center and to have no contact with current and former students, the school board, and staff with the exception of himself and the assistant superintendent. That same day, the school board met in special session, including a nearly 75-minute executive session, but no official action was taken, according to school board minutes.
Fisher also was instructed to "refrain from any social media or communication of any kind on behalf of the Chillicothe City School District."
Just three days later, Saxton assigned Fisher to work from home and to stay off all district property. "Remember this is to protect the integrity of the investigation as I mentioned to you several times on Saturday," Saxton wrote in a follow-up email on Aug. 23.
Although the letters note they should be placed in Fisher's personnel file, the district did not release them in September when the Chillicothe Gazette requested and reviewed Fisher's personnel file. The letters were among records released on Thursday after the district was contacted by a Gannett attorney.
In September, Saxton did acknowledge a staff member was working from home while allegations of inappropriate contact with students were investigated but declined to publicly discuss who it was and the circumstances, saying the district has a “responsibility to preserve the integrity of the investigation, as well as the privacy of those involved." Chillicothe Police Chief Keith Washburn also acknowledged a criminal investigation in September but declined to identify the staff member or the context of the investigation.
At that same time, Schmidt also confirmed the investigation, saying it began after the school administration reported to the Department of Job and Family Services a "rumor, essentially" regarding the employee. Schmidt requested an investigation to determine if any criminal activity occurred.

What prompted complaint?

On Friday, Schmidt provided additional details on the report saying a student approached a staff member about rumors of sexual involvement between Fisher and students. The staff member went to administration with the information and it was then reported to Job and Family Services on Aug. 16 since educators are mandated to report allegations of child abuse.
"The detective in this case talked to many, many both current and former students following leads and allegations," Schmidt said. "Only two came forward and said there was a sexual relationship with Fisher."
Among the district records released Thursday were screenshots of a text conversation indicating a former female student had retained an attorney to speak on her behalf because "it's too much trauma for her to go through again without some protection."
It's unclear who the person was texting to about the situation but she went on to say "she could hardly talk to me from crying and saying it's been seven years trying to get over this."
Other records were screen captures of some of Fisher's social media interactions including a tweet where he told a male student "If your choice of colleges is half as good as your choice in women & your jump shot I have no doubt you've made a great decision."
In another post, Fisher responded to a female student having a rough time opening with saying she was a "10/10" and ended with, "You're an awesome girl. You ever get down and need reminded of that just let me know and I'll explain your awesomeness anytime."
Another social media capture showed Fisher had "liked" a Twitter post regarding a former student turning 21 and a comment from the original poster saying she hoped she was "sloshed."
In an Aug. 10 email to Saxton, Fisher rejected the notion he had been interacting with students inappropriately, saying he felt he was abiding by policy, and he asked Saxton to bring up any concerns as they arise.
"I will continue to represent our school DISTRICT not just the high school on social media in an appropriate manner just as I have always done when you directed me to get social media a few years ago," Fisher wrote.
Fisher's Twitter and Facebook pages are no longer active, according to a web search conducted Friday.

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