Washington Local school board member Patricia Carmean, left, speaks with former school board president Sharon Zahn-Davis after a special school board meeting.
Prolonged turmoil regarding the Washington Local Schools’ superintendent reached swift resolution Friday when the board of education returned from a 25-minute closed-door session and voted unanimously to accept Patrick Hickey’s resignation.
About 90 parents, staff, and residents — though not Mr. Hickey — gathered at the district’s offices to witness the vote.
A few of the former superintendent’s supporters lashed out afterward at board members they accused of fomenting dissension in the district and targeting Mr. Hickey, who had been promoted in 2007 from assistant superintendent of schools to lead the district.
Controversy has cloaked the administration, with Mr. Hickey placed on leave twice this school year amid board investigations.
In a page-long resignation letter full of flowery prose and brimming with praise for students, teachers, and parents, Mr. Hickey cited a climate of “innuendo” and said he “could no longer subject the people I love to the evil and viciousness that seemed to never end.
“Each one of you is sunshine and hope and love in my life,” he wrote to students.
In a telephone interview after the meeting, Mr. Hickey said the school board had agreed to pay him $217,000 in severance. He said he had contemplated his future with the district for about six months, and decided hours before the meeting he didn’t want to put his family or the district through more turmoil.
“$217,000 is a lot of money. I think it’s better spent on students and the district, but it allows me a couple years to move on to somewhere else where I will be appreciated and loved by a board or by a boss,” he said.
Board President Thomas Ilstrup refused to comment. Immediately after the meeting, he hugged several in the audience, but walked away as a reporter asked him questions, saying he couldn’t discuss details at this point.
“We believe that it was in the best interest of the district to approve the resignation of Mr. Hickey and the agreement with him,” Mr. Ilstrup said in a written statement issued after the vote.
The statement said Mr. Hickey will remain on paid leave through January and then be on “sabbatical leave” through July 31. Board members confirmed Mr. Hickey would remain on Washington Local’s payroll through July 31.
Assistant Superintendent Cherie Mourlam will continue to serve as interim superintendent.
Mr. Hickey’s backers continued to express support. One described the ongoing drama as “a circus.”
Another faulted board members Patricia Carmean and James Langenderfer, against whom Mr. Hickey said he plans to file complaints with the Ohio Ethics Commission.
“I feel like he was going to go anyway, one way or another. Once all this ended, who wants to stay in a district where you have specific individuals that are constantly trying to dig through your garbage and find things against you to discredit your name?” said Carly Sifuentes, a district parent.
Investigation of a staff member’s informal complaint in September that Mr. Hickey harassed her after their alleged relationship ended resulted in the board issuing Mr. Hickey a letter of reprimand.
Since Nov. 18, Mr. Hickey has again been on paid leave while the board looked into allegations board members still will not specify. The former superintendent said the second leave was never explained to him.
The second leave came after Ms. Carmean filed a police report stating the superintendent had harassed her and sent a critical email about her to district staff. Mr. Hickey claimed she had been “stalking” him.
On Friday, Ms. Carmean said the second leave was not about her harassment complaint.
“We are going to move on. Our district is about our children,” she said.
Melanie Garcia, who has three children in Washington Local Schools, holds a sign and then yells out at school board member Jeff Langenderfer, not pictured, after hearing about the resignation of Superintendent Patrick Hickey.
Earlier Friday, school district parent Michael Murphy said he plans to mail a complaint to the ethics commission against Mr. Langenderfer, who declined to comment after the meeting.
Mr. Murphy alleges the board member disclosed confidential information obtained during executive sessions about the superintendent investigation.
He plans to include sworn statements from Mark Hughes and Thomas Johnson, who both ran unsuccessfully for Washington Local school board seats in November. Mr. Hughes awaits results of an automatic recount triggered by the closeness of his race. Both men allege Mr. Langenderfer shared information with them that he learned in executive session.
Mr. Johnson stated in his letter that Mr. Langenderfer told him the board member had hired a private investigator and used about $3,500 of his own money to take down the superintendent.
An Ohio Ethics Commission spokesman would not confirm any complaints Friday.
Board member David Hunter called the occasion of the board’s vote to accept the resignation a “terrible day.” The district “lost a very good superintendent” who is a great motivator and energetic leader, he said.
“Everybody makes mistakes, and you know Patrick probably made a few that got him into these issues where you had to investigate,” Mr. Hunter said. “I think with all the frustration and everything, it got [to be] too much for all of us.”
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.