Two more Riley County School Board members announce their resignation

Two more board members have resigned from the Riley County USD 378 school board.

Nathan Mead and Justin Ricketts announced their decisions to step down Monday. It’s the latest in a series of events that have transpired since early January when the new board suspended and later removed Superintendent Cliff Williams.

Mead says in eight years on the board, only the last two months had he experienced the board commitments like hiring a law firm and a private investigator without board action first to contract those services.

“This new board majority has made removing Mr. Williams their primary focus. In the process, misleading and confusing allegations were made. Factual details directly related to these allegations were ignored and fiscal responsibility seemed to not matter,” he said.

Ricketts echoed many of those same sentiments, citing stress from these events which has led to his own recent personal health problems.

“The previous board members were very professional and respectful to the other board members’ opinions, even when we disagreed. Starting January 2024, there have been changes in the board culture. The board has been consistently split with 4-3 or 4-2 votes. With the unnecessary spending this is going to cost the school district, I don’t want to be associated with any part of this anymore,” he said.

Board President Samantha Brown and board member James Greer each declined a request for comment following Monday’s meeting.

Newly elected board member Shane Eslit, who phoned into Monday’s meeting, expressed his disappointment in his colleagues’ actions, saying he looked forward, particularly to serving with Mr. Mead on the board. He encouraged both to reconsider their action, a point that was seconded by board newcomer Jarred Anderes.

Sixth grade teacher Hannah Downing, speaking on behalf of the district’s teachers association, says many district teachers agreed with the board’s recent decision to remove Williams as superintendent, calling into question his leadership over the past eight years.

“Our district has lost 17 people during his time, many of whom have noted that he was one of the reasons for leaving. My suggestion would be that the board conduct exit interviews when people leave the district, so we can figure out why we’re losing quality educators,” she said.

Williams was briefly reinstated at a special meeting Friday, where he then tendered his resignation. According to The Riley Countian newspaper, that decision came about following a series of executive sessions, where the district’s attorney, Peter Rombold with Hoover Law Firm of Junction City, noted that legally, Williams’ employment continued until March 1 despite the board’s Feb. 20 decision to terminate. A state statute, 72-2283, allows an administrator to request a hearing within 10 days of receiving notification of non-renewal of their contract. Williams’ resignation was effective March 1, subject to a written separation agreement. 

Three board members have now resigned in less than a month. Jeff Hancock resigned Feb. 12, after only a month into his term. Mead and Ricketts each had nearly two years left on their terms.

The board will be accepting applications to fill the three vacant seats. No timetable was announced for how quickly the board plans to fill those seats. The board still can meet quorum requirements with four board members, however any action items will require a unanimous vote for passage.

In other business Monday night, the board approved a supplemental contract for interim superintendent Erin Flair.

The district will pay Flair $40,000 retroactive to early January when she began serving in the interim role, continuing through June 30. Flair is also the district’s athletic director and assistant high school principal.

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