A suburban school superintendent is resigning after complaints of “inappropriate or offensive” conduct that some co-workers interpreted as sexual harassment, district officials said.
Floyd Williams was hired as superintendent of Des Plaines School District 62 just last year, and until Wednesday the district’s website prominently featured a photograph of him smiling at a table full of schoolchildren.
But late Wednesday night, the school board president ended much of the mystery that has surrounded Williams’ job status since he abruptly went on paid leave in October.
After a closed-door meeting, board President Stephanie Duckmann read a statement saying the board voted unanimously to accept a “separation agreement” for Williams under which he will formally resign effective Dec. 13, though he will remain on paid vacation until then.>>
The district also for the first time acknowledged that Williams, 44, was the subject of complaints about his conduct and comments he was said to have made around other school system employees.
“The board had received several confidential complaints alleging inappropriate or offensive comments and conduct by Dr. Williams made to administrative colleagues, some of which were interpreted by them to constitute sexual harassment,” the statement said. “There were no allegations made of inappropriate physical contact of a sexual nature. Dr. Williams denied that he engaged in sexual harassment.”
Duckmann had previously told the Tribune that Williams’ absence was “due to a private matter.”
Her statement Wednesday noted that disciplining or firing Williams based on those complaints “would require witnesses to publicly come forward with specific charges and a lengthy hearing followed by possible litigation.”>
That would have led to “further disruption to the school community” and substantial legal fees for the district, she said.> Separation agreement between School District 62 and Floyd Williams (PDF) Separation agreement between School District 62 and Floyd Williams (Text)
Instead, the board entered into “comprehensive discussions” with Williams and his attorney, ending with both sides agreeing “that a severance of employment relationship is in the best interest of all parties.”
Williams, whose salary is $198,000, will receive his pay for the remainder of the school year. With the exception of a $3,800 payment for five unused vacation days, he “will not receive any other payments or benefits,” the district said.
His separation agreement also includes a letter of reference for Williams that lists his achievements during his time in the district and makes no mention of the circumstances of his departure. The agreement includes a clause forbidding any party involved from disparaging another, specifically citing Williams’ future prospective employers. Any who contact the district for information about Williams will receive only his dates of employment, salary and positions held with the district, plus the letter of reference, according to the terms of the contract.>
His financial settlement with the district includes a lump-sum payment of about $108,000, equal to what he would have earned through June 30 under his now-defunct district contract. He will earn an additional $15,230 in paid time off for the remainder of his leave, with the district continuing what it called legally required retirement fund contributions during that time.
Dan Winiecki, among those district residents who attended Wednesday’s board meeting, said the board should have fired Williams rather than continuing to pay him for the rest of the school year.
“I say don’t even pay him,” Winiecki said. “Why are you paying him a salary (through) the end of the year? And since he’s resigning … he walks off with a clean slate. … To me that’s wrong. Why are we even doing this?”
Winiecki cited “problems” that Williams had at his last job in Kenosha, Wis., and said the Des Plaines school board “embarrassed the district” by hiring him.
During Williams’ time as an assistant superintendent at Kenosha Unified School District, an employee complained in 2015 that he had photographed her during an office party in a manner that made her uncomfortable, without stating the purpose for taking the image, and continued after she asked him to stop, according to the documents from the Kenosha district that were released to the Tribune. Williams reportedly explained that he took the photo to create a birthday present for her, which he never completed, the documents said.
His supervisor later reported the claim that images of nude and seminude women were discovered on Williams’ district-issued computer and that, in at least one of the pictures, Williams “can be seen in the mirror taking the photograph,” according to Kenosha district documents.
The documents also say Williams had recorded a meeting with the superintendent without her knowledge or consent and that the recording was later found on his district-issued iPad.
Williams was placed on paid leave, and the superintendent recommended his termination to the school board, but Williams instead resigned, effective December 2015, the records show.
Williams did not attend Wednesday’s board meeting and did not return calls for comments placed earlier Wednesday.
A District 62 spokeswoman said Wednesday that she couldn’t comment on the claims regarding Williams during his time in Kenosha or whether the board was aware of them when he was hired in June 2016. They were not addressed in the board’s statement Wednesday night.
Williams was in the second year of a three-year contract in the Des Plaines district. Associate Superintendent Paul Hertel has been leading operations since October and has been named interim superintendent.
A biography of Williams on the district website described him as a “focused and disciplined leader with great vision, effective communication skills and a passion for students in the midst of triumph or adversity.” In 2004 he was named a principal of the year by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators.
Brian L. Cox is a freelance reporter. Chicago Tribune’s John Keilman contributed.
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