By EVA-MARIE AYALA and HOLLY K. HACKER
Published: 13 August 2013 11:48 PM
Updated: 13 August 2013 11:55 PM
Cedar Hill’s school superintendent resigned this week after a after a tumultuous summer for the district that centered on allegations of sexual misconduct by teachers.
Horace Williams, who has overseen the district for six years, reached a separation agreement with the board Monday. Williams remains on paid leave until his last official day, Sept. 30.
His resignation was not a surprise.
Trustees began discussing Williams’ performance in May, shortly after a middle school teacher was arrested on allegations of a sexual relationship with a student, according to board agendas.
In June, a second teacher was arrested, and Williams’ contract that went through August 2014 was not renewed. Trustees then spent much of July in closed deliberations discussing the accusations, Williams’ employment status and the duties of central office staff.
The terms of his separation agreement equates to taxpayers paying his $212,000 salary for another year. He will be on paid leave through September and then receive another $195,000, which is 11 months of his salary.
Williams, 52, could not be reached for comment. In a statement posted on the district’s web site, he wrote that “healthy debate” is essential to good decision making but that teamwork is also necessary to meet challenges.
“Leaders typically receive both the blame and the credit for changes they oversee,” he wrote. “While I accept whatever blame has come my way, I do want to highlight the many unsung heroes responsible for our successes.”
Williams was largely known as a quiet leader of the 8,200-student district south of Dallas. He’s credited with helping Cedar Hill achieve various academic gains in recent years, including a national Blue Ribbon School designation in 2012, an academically recognized state rating for the district in 2011 and the launch of a Collegiate High School that allows students to earn two years of college credit.
However, some criticized his handling of the sexual misconduct allegations and what his administration was doing to ensure the safety of students amid threats of litigation. The two teachers who were arrested also face an investigation by the State Board for Educator Certification, as well as a third Cedar Hill teacher accused of not reporting what she knew about one of the allegations.
Williams and trustees agreed they wouldn’t speak negatively of each other. And as part of the agreement obtained by The Dallas Morning News, board president Sonya Grass wrote a letter of recommendation.
“Mr. Williams faced challenges from day one in the school district and has worked diligently with his team to transform the culture and direction of the school district,” Grass wrote. “I know you will come to appreciate his dedication to children and learning as we do.”
Grass did not respond to questions submitted by the News.
The separation agreement called for Williams to clean out his desk by the end of Tuesday and return his district-issued keys, cell phone and credit cards.
Williams became Cedar Hill ISD’s leader in 2007, after stints as superintendent and principal in Texas and New York.
Cedar Hill officials pushed for both a bond package and maintenance and operating tax rate increase in 2011, which was shot down by voters.
But last November, the electorate approved a $45 million bond package, to fund the expansion of a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM) program at Cedar Hill High School, various facility and technology upgrades and security projects.
Longtime Cedar Hill educator Linda Martin, who has been working on a history of the district, said Williams was effective in bringing new opportunities to the district and aggressively met with community leaders to get last year’s bond approved.
“He really was the ground force to help get that passed,” Martin said. “Mr. Williams stayed in the district much longer than most superintendents we’ve had. I’m sure the board will provide for a smooth transition for our district.”
Kim Lewis, the district’s chief operations officer, was named acting superintendent.