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Poughkeepsie School Superintendent's Resignation Accepted With $430K Buyout

Former Poughkeepsie City School District Superintendent Nicole Williams
Former Poughkeepsie City School District Superintendent Nicole Williams Photo Credit: Poughkeepsie City School District

The Poughkeepsie City School District will pay former Superintendent Nicole Williams more than $430,000 to resign, according to a settlement agreement.

The school board accepted Williams' resignation, effective this past Monday, and approved a settlement agreement at a special meeting on Thursday, July 5.

Kathleen Farrell, who's been an assistant superintendent for the past year, was appointed interim school chief for the 2018-19 year at a salary of $175,000.

Williams has been in charge of the school district for five years. Her contract was extended in 2014 and again in 2016.

A year ago, the outgoing board majority granted Williams' a new contract, which removed a "no-fault" termination provision.

In her resignation letter, Williams wrote: "I have elected to pursue other professional opportunities in education. . . . I look forward to commencing a sabbatical for research purposes."

The school district will pay Williams a lump sum of $202,649.50 this month, and deposit $28,000 into her tax-sheltered annuity, according to the agreement. In January 2019, the district will pay her another $147,649.50, and deposit $55,000 into the annuity.

The settlement comes shortly after a rocky school year ended — and not long after the district announced that Poughkeepsie High School's June graduation rate was 48 percent -- a drop of 20 percent from June 2017.

Clashes between Williams and the school board majority resulted in multiple lawsuits and appeals during the 2017-18 year. In mid-May, Williams' attorney said the school superintendent planned to stay until her contract expired in 2022.

Williams' anticipated salary for 2018-19 was $197,676, with an additional $80,000 in benefits and other compensation, according to Poughkeepsie's salary disclosure documents.

Williams missed Poughkeepsie High School's graduation ceremony on June 22, as well as two subsequent school board meetings.

"Implementing the change this board and this community has expressed is necessary comes with a price tag," Board of Education President Felicia Watson said in a prepared statement. "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."

In May, residents signed a petition to remove Williams as superintendent, citing serious questions about the accuracy of the high school's graduation rates and other issues.

At the time, Williams’ attorney, Stanley Silverstone, said allegations in the petition were "the same unproven allegations that have been brought against the superintendent by the board majority as part of their campaign of harassment, humiliation and retaliation against her."

When the school board voted to file a lawsuit against Williams in late March, seeking to have her contract declared void, Silverstone called it a tactic to pressure her to resign.

In her resignation letter, Williams also wrote. "Thanks to the efforts of our team members, we have accomplished a great deal, and the district has made significant progress."

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