WILIAMSVILLE, N.Y. – A state hearing officer has ordered the termination of a tenured assistant superintendent in the Williamsville Central School District, citing “convincing proof” of neglect and misconduct in a recommendation to the school board.
As required by law, the school board then voted unanimously Tuesday evening to officially fire Dr. Kim Kirsch, the assistant superintendent for human resources, almost three full years after the district placed her on paid administrative leave.
The New York State Education Department’s hearing officer, John Trela, said in his decision that the district met its burden of proof on all five charges of incompetence, misconduct, neglect of duty, insubordination and conduct unbecoming of an assistant superintendent. Under those five charges, the district alleged 113 violations, including accusations that she failed to provide proper reports and plans to the superintendent, failed to manage the payroll and other human resources matters under her job title and “failed to properly verify or manage the district’s payroll functions."
Kirsch was found guilty of 103 of the 113 specified violations.
“This really bolstered our argument – our case, if you will – for what she had done incorrectly,” Superintendent Dr. Scott Martzloff said.
At Tuesday night's board meeting, two school board members made public statements to clarify that the termination vote was required by law, and not necessarily reflective of their individual opinions about the case or Dr. Kirsch's professional conduct. In his own public statement, Martzloff admonished those two board members and praised the hearing officer for making the recommendation for termination.
In the 140-page ruling, the legal counsel for Kirsch attempted to shred the district’s arguments and allegations by portraying the case against her as a form of retaliation.
“Dr. Kirsch was singled out for unfounded discipline because on June 30, 2014 upon the advice of District Council she brought legitimate concerns that she and other employees had about the Superintendent’s governance of the district to the attention of the incoming Board of Education,” the legal counsel said in the ruling.
The Williamsville Teachers’ Association, which called for an investigation into Superintendent Martzloff’s conduct in 2014, has also taken the stance that Kirsch has been retaliated against for raising concerns about Martzloff’s handling of the district. In legal action filed against Martzloff, Kirsch’s legal team argued that the superintendent “engaged in unlawful retaliation against Dr. Kirsch in violation of her Constitutional right to free speech.”
The hearing officer, however, said in his ruling this week that Kirsch’s “charge of retaliation by the Superintendent is not supported by the evidence in the record.”
When asked to respond to allegations of retaliation, Martzloff pointed to the hearing officer’s own words.
“It’s less about how I respond to those claims and more about what the hearing officer said in the report that he issued. He said there was no retaliation whatsoever,” Martzloff said, “basically that this was based on someone’s misconduct and incompetence and insubordination.”
Kirsch, whose salary was about $170,000 per year, collected nearly a half-million dollars since her paid administrative leave began in 2014. Her termination officially takes effect Wednesday.
Her attorney did not return phone calls seeking comment on Tuesday. The Williamsville Teachers’ Association also could not be immediately reached.
“This decision really is a hallmark point in time when we can say, you know, this is moving behind us and we need to move forward in a collaborative fashion,” Martzloff said. “I think regardless of any perceived conflict, we’ve worked well together, we’ve taken care of business with our administration, teachers and all our employees, and we’re doing everything that’s possible in the interest of all students and teachers and staff members.”
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