NewsLocal News


Salt Lake City School District board, superintendent to participate in mediation

Posted at 7:23 PM, Aug 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-02 23:16:41-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City School District Board of Education announced Tuesday evening that no resolution has yet been reached in the ongoing employment dispute with the district superintendent, but the two parties will undergo mediation of the matter.

Timothy Gadson was put on administrative leave last month after he declined the board's offer to buy out part of the remaining year of his contract and pay him four months of salary.

Gadson, who was sworn in last summer as the district's first-ever Black superintendent, has allegedly been the subject of multiple complaints throughout his tenure. The complaints ranged from inappropriate travel, to favoritism, to inappropriate workplace behavior.

Some, including Utah's chapter of the NAACP and Mohamed Baayd, who is the only Black member of the SLCSD school board, said the accusations against Gadson were discriminatory.

In Tuesday's regularly scheduled meeting, SLCSD Board President Melissa Ford gave a prepared statement that the board did "not have a resolution tonight."

Ford said the board could not share details from closed meetings in which confidential personnel matters were discussed, according to the board's "Statement of Ethics."

However, Ford was able to publicly say that Gadson's contract "requires that we participate in mediation of any disputes," and that he has requested such mediation. She said the board plans to cooperate with the mediation "in good faith," and added that if there was to be a termination of Gadson's contract, it would be done in an open and public meeting.

Ford said in her statement that the board does not expect the process to impact students' day-to-day experience or the start of the school year.

After the statement was read, a few people had the chance to give comments in the public meeting. Some defended Gadson, others called for him to be removed, and others simply pointed out that if he were to be removed, it would make for four different superintendents in just four years and would indicate that there may be problems with the board itself.

“The board members are asking for complaints against Dr. Gadson,” said Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch. “To me, it’s that if they can’t control him, they want to make sure they can get rid of him.”

Williams had previously asked the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into alleged discrimination and harassment by the Salt Lake City School Board. The organization later also claimed that placing him on leave and asking him to resign was discrimination.

“When our teachers asked why he was cutting teachers while at the same time increasing district administration, he abruptly and forcefully shut down the conversation telling them they didn’t understand,” said Maggie Cummings, the principal of Meadowlark Elementary School. “Teachers left feeling unheard.”

“We encourage the board to separate from the current superintendent as soon as possible so we can move forward,” added Robert Hamilton, a parent to two high school students.

But others said another superintendent's office shake-up would be detrimental to the district and its students.

“They want the focus to be on the students," said Lafayette Scott, a parent to a 14-year-old student. "I don’t see how having a fourth leader in such a short period of time is in any way putting the focus on the students."

The district previously spent more than $60,000 to investigate Gadson. The district has refused to publicly release copies of the complaints or the results of that investigation because, as the district claims, there was no disciplinary action taken. FOX 13 News has appealed that decision, questioning the validity of those statements.

Sources say Gadson was given verbal warnings at the time for his behavior.

The Salt Lake Tribune also reported that employees throughout the district have expressed concerns about alleged ethical violations, hiring practices, and a general feeling of rudeness and "disdain" from Gadson.

The Tribune interviewed seven SLCSD employees and administrators anonymously.

”It’s quite possible that he is the victim of racial discrimination and microaggressions,” one district employee told the Tribune, “and also that he has done things that harm the district. Both of those things might be true.”

Some employees expressed concern about Gadson taking a trip to Grand Canyon University, a private, for-profit Christian university based in Phoenix. He took the trip before he was hired at the district.

According to the Tribune's report, GCU wanted to pitch Utah districts on teacher training and online college-level classes for high school students — although Utah state law generally requires districts to use Utah’s publicly funded colleges for such concurrent enrollment opportunities.

Gadson filed a sworn declaration with the Attorney General’s office indicating that he had taken an “all-expense-paid trip” to GCU, according to the Tribune's report, although Baayd said Gadson showed a credit card statement indicating that he had paid for it himself, but this reportedly took place in a closed-door meeting.

Gadson also created two new administrative positions, and the Tribune reports that one of the individuals hired has since resigned after questions were raised about her education credentials.

In a letter to the school board obtained by the Tribune, Cummings wrote that she has seen a "disregard by our current superintendent for rules, systems, and students." She also criticized what she called unethical dealings with GCU.