The Watertown Unified School District Board of Education voted to terminate the contract of Watertown High School Principal Scott Bostwick early this morning.
At 12:47 a.m. today the board moved back into open session after deliberating in closed session for more than three hours and announced the decision to terminate Bost-wick’s contract.
Superintendent Cassandra Schug told the Daily Times the board voted 9-0 in open session in favor of termination. The termination is effective immediately, Schug said, and the board will meet again on Oct. 11 at 5:30 p.m. to write the official termination order.
Schug said she will begin looking into hiring a replacement, either on an interim basis or long-term, shortly. She added she hoped to have the principal position filled within a month.
“A lot of people came forward at personal and profession risks to themselves, and I appreciate the board was thoughtful and reflective and made a decision in the best interest of students and staff in the district,” Schug said.
Before moving into closed session, Wednesday night the board heard almost five more hours of testimony. The board met for 6 1/2 hours Tuesday night to hear testimony.
The administration’s attorney, Mary L. Hubacher of Buelow Vetter of Waukesha, called forward Schug to describe her relationship with Bostwick prior to coming into the district last year. Schug said she had known Bostwick for eight years because they were both principals in the Little Ten Conference. She said they had a good professional relationship but were not very close.
She added when she was hired as the superintendent she did not have any intentions of removing Bostwick from his post.
However, Bostwick, who spoke in his own defense at the end of his allotted time to present his case, said he heard from three separate people who told him Schug was out to get him.
Bostwick and his attorney, David J. Sisson of Reinhart Boerner, have maintained the investigation into his conduct has been a “witch hunt” to remove him. Sisson did not return a call from the Daily Times this morning.
Schug said she was approached by two female employees early in January who told her about incidents involving ongoing poor treatment toward them by Bostwick. Schug said she did not come to any conclusions after talking with the two staff members but was concerned and asked human resources director Ivan Thompson to investigate the claims. She added she did not give him any directions about where she wanted the investigation to end or to dig up information that could be used to terminate Bostwick’s contract.
Schug said she was presented with Thompson’s final report at the end of August. After multiple meetings with Bostwick throughout the year to discuss the investigation she said Bostwick did not feel he had done anything wrong and would not modify his behavior.
“I felt like termination was the only option,” Schug said. “To do an improvement program option, that employee has to want to improve.”
During his presentation time Sisson presented the board with several performance evaluations from Bostwick’s first years in the district praising his work and leadership skills. He added there were no evaluations from 2007 to 2011 in Bostwick’s file.
Sisson said he sent a letter to the school board on June 5 filing a harassment complaint against Schug and Thompson on Bostwick’s behalf. Sisson added Bostwick was placed on administrative leave on June 12. Sisson said after Bostwick was placed on leave several other letters requesting an audience with the board went unanswered.
Sisson also questioned the methods of independent investigator Paul Vance, hired to examine the administrator’s investigation into Bostwick. Sisson said Bostwick was only interviewed once during the independent investigation and then five attempts to get a hold of Vance went unanswered.
Sisson said Bostwick’s harassment complaint was handled during a closed session board meeting on Sept. 12. The board voted not to take action on Bostwick’s harassment complaint.
“This should never have happened. Had we had any idea that Mr. Vance did not plan on talking to us anymore, we would have at the very least made another demand to the board,” Sisson said. “Instead we were never told the central issue in the case was already decided (at the Sept. 12 meeting).”
Sisson added the board violated its own due process policies in handling Bostwick’s harassment complaint. Sisson said when an employee files a formal harassment complaint against the superintendent a meeting should be set up within five days to handle the complaint. He added if the person making the harassment complaint does not feel it has been adequately handled, they can file an appeal for a meeting with the board within 30 days.
“We made five requests to get in front of the board. We played along with third party investigations ... then you have a closed session where he doesn’t have the right to challenge this,” Sisson said. “How you apply your board rules says a lot about the district and board in general.”
However, Hubacher said Bostwick did not make a formal harassment complaint in the June 5 letter. She said the letter demanded the investigation stop and the district issue a statement saying there was no merit to the allegations. She added the formal complaint was not submitted until June 14, two days after Bostwick was placed on administrative leave.
Hubacher said in the formal complaint Sisson asked for the independent investigator to look into the investigation, which delayed the process because the independent investigation could not reasonably be completed in five days.
She added the Sept. 12 school board meeting was to determine if the harassment complaint had merit, which is board policy.
During his time to speak Bostwick said this past year has been hard for him.
“Obviously this past year or so has been extremely difficult. I have been principal here for 10 years and I enormously enjoyed the first nine years,” Bostwick said. “One of the reasons I enjoyed the time was because we always treated people fairly ... I don’t think I have been treated well.”
Bostwick said early in his career he had two assistant principals who made huge mistakes, one involving alcohol and another inappropriate relationships with a student teaching interns. He added when the news came out they were disciplined but treated well, and now both have found jobs in other places.
Bostwick said he challenged the board to find any conduct in the investigation that came close to anything those assistant principals had done.
In her closing remarks Hubacher said Bostwick repeatedly made up stories and spread rumors which isolated and created doubt throughout the high school staff.
“A bully is someone who engages in repeated harmful acts usually directed towards people in an imbalance of power,” Hubacher said. “This is about the women sitting out here who have been ill treated by Mr. Bostwick. He sits there and says, ‘I am the victim,’ but he is not the victim in this hearing. The people who sucked it up and took risks (to come forward), they’re the victims here and they are the people who deserve to be treated with fairness and decency.”