For too many years, the many scandals and legal troubles of ex-superintendent-turned-school-board-member Patrick Hickey have been an unwelcome distraction at Washington Local Schools. Now that Mr. Hickey has resigned his seat in the face of criminal charges, the district desperately needs to turn its attention to education.
Mr. Hickey, 54, resigned from the school board after being charged this week with three counts criminal sexual conduct of the third degree.
The case stems from an alleged relationship he had during his tenure at Addison High School in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Addison, Mich. A woman claims that she had a sexual relationship with Mr. Hickey when she was 14, and he was her teacher and coach.
The accusation was just one element of the black cloud that hung over Mr. Hickey’s time as Washington Local’s superintendent. He resigned in late 2015, shortly before the school board could entertain a resolution to fire him because of 37 charges compiled by a law firm hired to investigate his behavior.
Those charges included allegations that he failed to inform Washington Local that the accusations involving sex with a student had led to him leaving Addison.
He also has been the subject of a court order to stay away from a female board member who accused him of harassing her, and a complaint from a husband and wife — both Washington Local teachers — who accused Mr. Hickey of harassing them after a relationship between the wife and Mr. Hickey ended.
Mr. Hickey was eventually banned from district property after a 2016 incident at a Whitmer High School basketball game that included abusing a referee and giving an unwelcome embrace to then-interim Superintendent Cherie Mourlam.
Despite all of this, Mr. Hickey ran for school board last November, seemingly seeking a platform from which to retaliate. Immediately after being elected, he set about demanding that foes who worked for the district unblock him on social media and that he be given sideline passes for playoff football games.
Because his fellow board members would not vote to lift the ban that prevented him from setting foot on school grounds, board meetings have been held off-site. The superintendent who succeeded him began hunting for a new job after less than two years in the district. And who could blame her?
His antics derailed any attempts to focus on the issues that Washington Local’s school board and administrators ought to be solely focusing on: teaching and learning.
The district got a D on the latest Ohio schools report card. In February, a 13-year-old student stabbed a security officer at a junior high school.
Like all public school systems, Washington Local has real challenges and real issues. Its students deserve a decent education and the singular focus of adults whose job it is to provide that.
The drama sadly is far from over. The case now set to play out in Michigan courts will certainly get plenty of attention.
But the Patrick Hickey saga works better as a sideshow than a main event at Washington Local. And every adult responsible for the education of children there must now do his or her best to put education at center stage.
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