New Dist. 62 boss faced misconduct charges at last job
New Des Plaines Elementary District 62 Superintendent Floyd E. Williams Jr. faced dismissal from his last job at a Kenosha, Wisconsin, school district after his boss alleged he had nude images on his work computer and took photos of a staff member that made her feel uncomfortable, according to documents obtained by the Daily Herald.
Williams, then assistant superintendent for elementary school leadership in the Kenosha Unified School District, also was accused of making inappropriate comments to his assistant and directed her to perform personal tasks for him and his family, documents obtained through a request under Wisconsin's Open Records Law state.
He was placed on paid administrative leave Oct. 9, 2015, during an investigation into the allegations before Kenosha Superintendent Sue Savaglio-Jarvis suspended him without pay a month later and recommended his termination to the school board. Williams instead resigned Nov. 23.
On Thursday, Williams said in a statement the accusations against him reflect only the opinion of Savaglio-Jarvis, who won the Kenosha superintendent job that Williams also applied for.
Also Thursday, District 62 school board members said in a statement they were aware of Williams' situation in Kenosha at the time they were considering him for the Des Plaines job and after a thorough vetting were comfortable hiring him.
The weekend after his resignation in Kenosha, Williams interviewed privately with the District 62 board for the superintendent position. The Des Plaines district has more than 4,800 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade at 11 schools.
Williams, one of at least five semifinalists for the job at that point, told the seven-member board about the accusations, in response to a general question the board asked of all the candidates, according to Terry Lindsay, a former board member who relocated to New York state in May.
"He offered it up from the very beginning. He said from the beginning, 'I need you all to know,'" said Lindsay, though he declined to detail exactly what Williams told board members.
The board directed Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the firm they paid $19,500 to conduct the superintendent search, to interview the Kenosha school board president and other board members, along with his previous employer, Milwaukee Public Schools, and principals he supervised, according to District 62 board President Stephanie Duckmann.
"These interviews also supported our ultimate conclusion regarding the employment actions in question in Kenosha -- that those actions were not based on his performance, judgment or ethics, but rather the result of a strained and tense relationship between him and his direct supervisor," Duckmann said Thursday afternoon in a written statement.
While the board was aware of the circumstances of Williams' departure, it only recently received a copy of the 115 pages of documents requested last month of the Kenosha school district by the Daily Herald, Duckmann said.
Lindsay said those interviewed in Kenosha gave Williams a good recommendation.
"We wouldn't have hired him if they said he would've been a loose cannon," Lindsay said. "We were satisfied with what we heard."
In a joint statement issued through the district office, current board members defended the hiring and maintain that Williams is "an excellent choice."
"We remain confident in his abilities to provide strong leadership for the students of District 62, and stand behind Dr. Williams as well as our hiring practices, process and decision."
Officials from Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates didn't respond to requests for comment.
Williams, who spent time meeting teachers and students at the start of summer school this week, declined to respond to questions about the misconduct charges at his last job, due to terms of his resignation agreement. But he did issue a statement Thursday afternoon.
"I pride myself on my ethics and integrity and have been candid with the Board of Education regarding the strained circumstances surrounding my departure from my previous district," he wrote. "The documents in question reflect the opinion of one person and were never substantiated as part of any employment action against me."
The board picked Williams from a field of 44 candidates, the top five of which were presented by the search firm. After a round of interviews with those five, the board narrowed the list to three finalists, before offering the job to Williams.
His three-year contract, paying him an annual base salary of $198,000, was approved unanimously by the board Jan. 19.
Williams' first day on the job was July 1. The former superintendent, Jane Westerhold, had the job for 11 years.
Since becoming superintendent, Williams has gotten job coaching from two former superintendents recommended by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates. When the school board in February approved the $12,500 contract with the firm for one year of executive coaching services, district officials described the situation as no different from when a new principal is hired and has a mentor, though that person is usually someone in-house.
Williams, 43, was hired by the Kenosha school district in July 2013 after more than a decade as a principal in the Milwaukee Public School system and five years as a teacher. In 2004, the Milwaukee native was named a Principal of the Year by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators and was featured in a 2009 profile by Milwaukee Public Television as a principal who makes a difference in the lives of students. He also has worked as an adjunct university professor.
As assistant superintendent in Kenosha, Williams was responsible for overseeing 26 elementary school principals, and directors of early education and Head Start programs in what is the third largest school district in Wisconsin.
Less than a year after his hiring in Kenosha, he was named one of three finalists for the district's superintendent job. He lost out to Savaglio-Jarvis, who had been the assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.
Williams' first performance evaluation under then-Interim Superintendent Joseph Mangi in June 2014 yielded an overall rating of "meets professional expectations."
But during his first evaluation under Savaglio-Jarvis, Williams got an overall rating of "needs improvement" and was placed on a professional improvement plan.
Among her concerns, according to documents from his personnel file, were that Williams directed his assistant to perform personal tasks for him and his family, and made inappropriate comments or jokes to her. Savaglio-Jarvis also stated Williams failed to follow through on tasks or effectively resolve complaints.
In the professional improvement plan, Williams was instructed to "refrain from making inappropriate, including, but not limited to, sexually-charged statements" to district employees.
Savaglio-Jarvis also told him to stop using electronic devices during leadership council meetings, which "demonstrated (or at least created the impression) to your colleagues and your supervisor that you were not paying attention to the topics being discussed," she wrote.
Even though Williams signed the improvement plan, he wrote in a memo to Savaglio-Jarvis that it was unjust, without merit, and "based primarily on one-sided information and allegations."
"Currently I am working in a hostile work environment, where I am being retaliated against, bullied, harassed and intimidated, as well as discriminated against," Williams wrote. "Furthermore, I am dealing with a culture of distrust."
Williams denied making inappropriate comments, adding that other staff members in the district's leadership council "giggle and laugh and make inappropriate comments," as well as use electronic devices during meetings. He wondered how many others received a formal improvement plan and a meeting with the superintendent after making such comments, according to his written response to Savaglio-Jarvis.
He added that he followed through on numerous tasks he was assigned and effectively resolved numerous complaints.
Williams' salary was frozen at $138,966 when the improvement plan was put into place in July 2015.
Savaglio-Jarvis declined to discuss Williams' job performance with the Daily Herald due to terms of his resignation agreement.
A Kenosha school board member told the search firm that because Savaglio-Jarvis was chosen as superintendent over Williams, their relationship was sour from the beginning, according to Lindsay, the former District 62 board member.
Charges of misconduct
In September 2015, the district's human resources officer investigated a complaint that Williams took photographs of a female co-worker during an Aug. 28 office party, causing the co-worker to feel "discomfort, intimidated and harassed," according to the district's statement of charges against him.
The employee reported that Williams didn't respect her request to stop taking photos and didn't immediately tell her why he was taking the photos.
During an Oct. 9 meeting with Savaglio-Jarvis, Williams said he took the photos in order to make a birthday gift for the co-worker, though he never completed it. He also challenged the suggestion that his actions made her uncomfortable.
After the meeting, Savaglio-Jarvis placed Williams on administrative leave with pay and told him to return district property while an investigation took place.
Five days later, two unidentified individuals dropped off Williams' district-issued MacBook Pro, iPad, Dell computer and external hard drive. A subsequent search of the MacBook Pro by the district's technology officer found several photos of naked or seminude women, according to the district's statement of charges.
In at least one of the photographs, Williams can be seen in a mirror taking the photo, the documents state.
A search of the iPad also found Williams recorded a May 1 meeting with Savaglio-Jarvis, though he previously told her he didn't.
"Such conduct constitutes serious misconduct and therefore represents a breach of his contract with the district," demonstrating there was "just cause" to support his termination, Savaglio-Jarvis wrote.
The Kenosha school board was scheduled to hold a closed-door hearing to consider his firing Nov. 23, but Williams instead signed a resignation agreement effective Dec. 31. The agreement states he was on a paid leave of absence starting Nov. 10 for "career exploration purposes."
The Kenosha district agreed to pay Williams about $9,620 for 12 unused sick days and six unused vacation days, while he agreed to indemnify and hold harmless the district from any legal claims, according to the deal.