WLS Superintendent of community support: “Their faith is well placed in me”

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TOLEDO (13abc Action News) – The Washington Local School Board publicly reprimanded Superintendent Patrick Hickey on Wednesday for unprofessional interactions with staff members.

Hickey says he will be back to work on Thursday. He says his bosses – the board members – believe his leadership style may be “too familiar.” As he thanked his hundreds of supporters, Hickey showcased that he is a hugger.

For days, those students, parents and district employees rallied behind Hickey as they feared the board would fire him.

However, School Board President Thomas Ilstrup said that was not on the table, despite the information that spread on social media.

“Contrary to the views of many members of this community, the board has not been considering action on Mr. Hickey’s contract,” says Ilstrup.

As soon as Hickey walked into Wednesday’s school board meeting, his crowd of supporters erupted into cheers and chants.

When the board – for the second time in two days – retreated into closed door executive session, fears surfaced that he may be fired for a publicly unknown reason.

"That's the million dollar question. What is going on? Nobody knows,” says parent Kim Shaw.

"I think it's sad,” says Whitmer High School student Karlie DuBois. “I love him. He's like a father-figure for everybody."

However, when the board returned, members voted to reprimand Hickey with a written letter on his record after a confidential investigation into concerns raised over unprofessional interactions with staff members.

The board president said this has nothing to do with the advertising deal with Brondes which fell through.

"The board issued a written reprimand and directives for future conduct for his unprofessional judgement and conduct and directed him to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in his interactions with both female and male staff members of the district,” says Ilstrop.

In what looked like a receiving line after a wedding, Hickey thanked his supporters with hugs.

"There's nothing sexual, there's nothing romantic, there is no finance problems, there is nothing to do with a student,” says Hickey of the investigation. “I can assure the district of that. Their faith is well placed in me."

Hickey says he is restricted in what he is allowed to say about what did happen.

"My leadership style is familiar. They caution me that it may be too familiar for some people,” says Hickey. "You saw me hug 300 people. If there's one in there that doesn't want a hug, they need to let me know and I won't hug them."

Meanwhile, families in the district are happy the drama is done.

"I have been terrified of this day,” says Whitmer High School student Ryan Dewey. “I am so, so relieved that all he's getting is a reprimand."

"He didn't let us down,” says Malena Mudse, a parent. “Everybody makes mistakes, but legally he was on the right side of the law and that's what we need."

"We're excited to have him,” says Mike Stein, a parent. “He is well loved as a superintendent."

Board member David Hunter told the crowd that it’s time for the district to heal and move forward.

Board member James Langenderfer was not present for the vote about reprimanding Hickey.

Christopher Hodnicki, the President of the Teachers’ Association of Washington Local Schools, released this statement Wednesday night: "Superintendent Patrick Hickey is a phenonmal leader for Washington Local Schools and our community. His leadership, vision, dedication, and passion for Washington Local is deep, enormous, and unquestionable. The Teachers' Association of Washington Local Schools commend the school board for their meticulous review of the issue prior to rendering a decision. We trust the judgement of the school board, which based it decision on facts, and not on rumor or social media, that fueled speculation on his tenure. Guaranteeing due process while protecting the integrity of those involved speaks highly of the boards conduct on this issue. As we move forward, the teachers' association will continue the successful working relationship with Patrick Hickey and the school board. In addition, our teachers will maintain the same commitment to lifting up and making a difference in the lives of our kids each day."

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