Probe cleared principal on 3 of 4 points

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    Banks-Wilson

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    Thompson

  • Ramos

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    Banks-Wilson

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    Thompson

BELOIT - An investigation into allegations against recently resigned Beloit Memorial High School (BMHS) Principal Orlando Ramos found he retaliated against two assistant principals after they contacted human resources about their work environment.

"Dr. Ramos clearly retaliated against Ms. (Jaymee) Thompson and Ms. (Janay) Banks-Wilson as a result of their participation in a harassment complaint meeting," the investigation report stated.

The Beloit Daily News obtained documents related to the complaint and the investigation's findings from a source who asked to remain unidentified. The newspaper has a pending document request with the school district under the Wisconsin Public Records Act. The district thus far has not released any documents.

The report was prepared by Strategic HR Solutions and was submitted on Jan. 23 to the board of education.

On Dec. 7, 2018 Thompson and Banks-Wilson filed a grievance regarding harassment based on gender, bullying, retaliation and unjust discipline. Strategic HR Solutions found Ramos retaliated against the two women but did not sustain their other three claims.

The investigator advised a Nov. 20 "letter of concern" written by Ramos be removed from the women's personnel files, a copy of the investigation report be provided to the three parties and Ramos be warned in writing against any further retaliation.

Following a closed session board meeting on Feb. 12, board President Pam Charles confirmed that Ramos had resigned and assistant principal John Kaminski would be acting principal until an interim principal is placed.

On Monday the district announced Executive Director of Special Education Emily Pelz would be interim principal at the high school.

Following are the events leading up to Ramos' resignation, according to the investigation report which included references to interviews with 16 staff members as well as earlier interviews and coverage by the Beloit Daily News.

Ramos, who began employment at the high school in the summer of 2018, had been hired as a turnaround principal and was stressing a literacy initiative at the school. By Feb. 6 he was placed on administrative leave, following staff outcry about administration's recommendation to reassign Thompson and Banks-Wilson to other schools. Staff had written two letters to the board in support of keeping the assistant principals in their posts and many spoke out at a board meeting against the proposed transfers.

Banks-Wilson is the wife of school board Vice President David Wilson.

There are a total of four assistant principals at the high school, the other two being male.

The investigation report indicated tensions were growing almost as soon as Ramos arrived. By August, the assistant principals told investigators they were concerned duties previously performed by the principal were either not being performed or delegated to the assistant principals. They were also concerned about "yelling, swearing and anger during administrator meetings."

By October, Banks-Wilson, Thompson and another assistant principal met with the director of Human Resources to discuss the work environment. Later in the month Assistant Superintendent Darrell Williams called a meeting with Ramos and the four assistant principals to discuss solutions to concerns, with Ramos saying there would not be any retaliation regarding the issues raised.

However, on Nov. 20, Ramos wrote letters of concern to Banks-Wilson and Thompson. On Nov. 27, Thompson and Banks-Wilson met with administration where they were asked to generate rebuttal letters. On Dec. 7, Thompson and Banks-Wilson submitted a grievance to Interim Superintendent Donald Childs regarding their allegations.

On Dec. 14, Ramos wrote to Banks-Wilson and Thompson stating the Nov. 20 correspondence was not discipline or a performance improvement plan.

Childs told the investigator Ramos' desired pace of change was faster than what some preferred. Childs had cautioned the women if they didn't follow through on the letters of concerns' expectations, they could be considered insubordinate which could lead to termination. However, Childs told them they could write a letter of rebuttal which they did along with soliciting the two staff letters.

Although Ramos said the two assistant principals were hard workers and likable, he said he had to ask the assistant principals for things three to four times and that they were not receptive to new ideas. Ramos was concerned about students being suspended for tardiness, the Merrill Center not being used enough and for the assistant principals turning teachers and staff against him.

Another administrator who works at the high school and Kolak Education Center said the team was not being receptive to any of Ramos' ideas, only responding in short answers with reasons why certain things, such as the freshman wing concept, couldn't be implemented.

One teacher said Ramos told her the work environment was toxic for him as principal because Banks-Wilson's husband, school board member David Wilson, would come in the building often and try to intimidate him. Ramos told her he didn't want Wilson in the building without his permission. Ramos told the teacher he was planning to eliminate two assistant principal positions and could hire four deans of students.

Wilson did not return calls when the Beloit Daily News sought to inquire about allegations Wilson had attempted to intimidate Ramos. When Ramos was asked to elaborate on what actions by Wilson he had interpreted as intimidation, he did not respond to the question.

The newspaper asked Board of Education President Pam Charles if the board intended to investigate Ramos' allegations about David Wilson, Charles said she could not discuss anything in the report unless it's released publicly by the school district.

When Charles was asked if David Wilson recused himself from any board discussions or decisions regarding matters between his wife and Ramos, she said: "David Wilson has not recused himself from any discussions pertaining to this topic."

Charles said decisions were reached by consensus.

When she was asked if Wilson participated in the discussion she said "yes."

Charles added there is no legal requirement for Wilson to recuse himself.

Staff interviewed in the report told the investigator other school issues took a backseat to Ramos' literacy initiative with tasks either not being done or given to the assistant principals such as plans for the crisis team, updates to the school improvement plan, plans for educator effectiveness, hiring and Department of Public Instruction reporting, among others.

Employees interviewed confirmed loud meetings with the assistant principals, breakdowns in communication and trust, Ramos prohibiting the assistant principals from accessing his calendar and references to having the two women transferred.

Because of the report's findings, the Beloit Daily News attempted to reach out to Thompson and Banks-Wilson but had not heard back from them as of press time this morning.

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