The Poughkeepsie City School District wasn’t impressed when the graduation rate dropped 20 percentage points last year to an abysmal 48 percent, so the school board is removing Superintendent Nicole Williams.
The change will cost taxpayers at least $433,000, the Poughkeepsie Journal reports.
“Implementing the change this board and this community has expressed is necessary comes with a price tag,” board president Felicia Watson announced at a Tuesday board meeting. “Today, this board is completing a necessary step towards that change.
“Now, we must focus on the task at hand: healing and rebuilding for the edification of our 4,700 students,” she said.
The board approved a buyout for Williams despite the terrible graduation rate, frequent clashes with the board and staff, and a host of other problems that’s plagued the district since she took the helm five years ago. The deal, ironically, cost nearly as much as the district’s $490,000 budget gap.
According to the Journal:
This month, the district will give Williams a lump sum payment of $202,650 and deposit $28,000 into her tax-sheltered annuity. In January, the district will pay her another $147,650 and deposit $55,000 into the annuity.
That’s more than two year’s salary for Williams, whose anticipated pay was to be $197,676 this school year, with an additional $80,000 in benefits and other compensation, according to Poughkeepsie’s salary disclosure documents.
The agreement settles several lawsuits between Williams and the district, and bans all school officials and board members from criticizing the former superintendent. The deal requires board members to provide Williams with letters of recommendation upon request, and covers her health insurance for a year, if she doesn’t find another job.
Judging by the former superintendent’s prepared statement, she won’t be looking for work any time soon.
“I have elected to pursue other professional opportunities in education … I look forward to commencing a sabbatical for research purposes,” Williams wrote in her resignation letter. “Thanks to the efforts of our team members, we have accomplished a great deal, and the district has made significant progress.”
The buyout follows a community petition to remove Williams over questions about the high school’s graduation rates, among other issues. Williams did not attend this year’s graduation, the Southwest Dutchess Daily Voice reports.
Assistant Superintendent Kathleen Farrell is now serving as interim superintendent at a salary of $175,000 as the district begins a search for Williams’ permanent replacement.
Last month, an investigation by the Dutchess County Board of Cooperative Educational Services and the state Department of Education’s Test Security Unit identified at least nine students who received diplomas in 2017 who didn’t deserve them.
A different investigation by Todd Aldinger, special counsel to the board, found more than 40 students who graduated under “questionable circumstances” last year, according to the Journal.