Weigel resigns as superintendent

Published 11:55 pm Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Supt. Richard Weigel resigned as superintendent of Niles Community Schools.

Supt. Richard Weigel resigned as superintendent of Niles Community Schools.

After four years, Richard Weigel is out as superintendent of the Niles Community Schools.

The board of education voted 5 to 1, with one member abstaining, to accept Weigel’s resignation and approve a proposed separation agreement during a special meeting Wednesday that included two closed sessions.

Board member Michael Waldron cast the lone dissenting vote, while Jeff Curry abstained from voting. Kathy Zeider, Greg O’Toole, Mark Wortham, Jon Martin and Dana Daniels voted yes.

When asked why Weigel resigned, Zeider said she couldn’t answer, citing confidential personnel matters. When asked when Weigel submitted his letter of resignation, Zeider said it occurred during the course of an investigation that began Feb. 10. Zeider declined to comment about the nature of the investigation.

The school’s public relations firm released a statement via email about an hour after the meeting.

“For the past four years, Dr. Richard Weigel has served as Superintendent of Niles Community Schools. Under Dr. Weigel’s leadership, the District has made positive progress in several areas. Recently, however, it became apparent that some members of the Administration, the Board of Education and Dr. Weigel have differing views on the leadership and vision for the future of the District. During Dr. Weigel’s recent sick leave, he and the Board have evaluated options on how to best move forward. Dr. Weigel has elected to resign his position as Superintendent effective immediately. Dr. Weigel will remain as consultant to the district until June 30, 2014. The Board of Education is grateful for Dr. Weigel’s leadership during the past four years and wishes him all of the best in his future endeavors. Through the upcoming transition, our focus will remain on our commitment to improving student learning at every level.”

Weigel did not return a phone call after the meeting or messages left earlier in the week.

When asked after the meeting and also when contacted by phone, Waldron said he could not discuss why he voted not to accept the resignation because of attorney/client privileged information. When asked if he felt Weigel was treated fairly, Waldron said, “I will reserve that. I’m not going to answer that. I wish I could.”

When asked if he felt the public deserves more information than has been given, Waldron replied, “I think the public deserves as much information as can be legally divulged, but I can’t say much more.”

Former Niles High School Principal Jim Knoll said he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting. Knoll left the school district in March of last year after working there since 2004.

“The leadership style that the board apparently did not support is the reason why a lot of administrators left the district,” he said. “It’s a big part of why I left.”

The board met in two closed sessions prior to the vote. The first, to discuss a complaint against an employee, lasted about 30 minutes. The second, to review attorney-client privileged information, lasted about an hour.

The board unanimously agreed to appoint Kevin Ivers, Berrien Regional Education Service Agency Superintendent, as interim superintendent until a replacement is found. The board also approved the start of an immediate search for a new superintendent.

Weigel, who was hired in April 2010 to replace the retiring Doug Law, had been out sick for the past couple weeks. In his absence, the school board held multiple closed sessions to discuss personnel matters and review attorney/client privileged information. Whether or not any or all of these meetings were about Weigel is unknown.

The issue culminated in Wednesday’s special meeting where the board accepted his resignation.

Under Weigel’s watch, the district has seen enrollment reach its highest point in five years. Weigel was also the driving force behind the implementation of several new programs, including Niles New Tech Entrepreneurial Academy, W-A-Y Niles and the Montessori program at Northside.

However, Weigel’s relationship with the district’s teachers took a hit during contract negotiations in 2011-12. The negotiations lasted more than a year with both sides taking shots at one another during public meetings and teachers holding rallies outside board meetings. When the dust settled, the teachers agreed to a five percent pay cut. Administration also agreed to a decrease in pay.