Board opens bias investigation after complaint

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BELOIT - School District of Beloit officials are being tight-lipped about a discrimination complaint filed by an employee, which apparently will result in another investigation into conduct within the district.

Although Tuesday's agenda referenced a document alleging complaints of employment discrimination, the Beloit Daily News sought and was denied access to the public record by Executive Director of Human Resources Tracey Caradine, who said she would have to get permission from the acting superintendent.

The newspaper put in repeated calls to Acting Superintendent Darrell Williams seeking to view the document. Williams emailed back that he would look into the matter, but did not produce the document.

Just prior to the board meeting a reporter approached Williams and asked to see the document cited on the agenda. Williams said he didn't have a document to provide and did not know what the complaint was about or who filed it. He said the board would learn that later in the meeting. 

After meeting behind closed doors, the board produced the following statement:

"The board has received a compliant by a school district employee against the school board. The board has directed district counsel to retain an independent counsel to conduct an investigation into the employment discrimination complaint. Consistent with its past handling of similar situations, based on statutory and case law precedent, the board will not release the complaint or the name of the complainant during the investigation and will have no comment on the matter during the investigation."

It's not the first time discrimination issues have been raised in recent months within the district. In the May 22 televised meeting, former board member Dennis Baskin said racism was rampant in the district, and Baskin cited Williams' alleged mistreatment as an example. Baskin said Williams was never evaluated in the interim superintendent role, and accused the board of being unable to draw an objective conclusion if he should stay in the position until a permanent superintendent is selected. Baskin also claimed there are two hiring systems, one for whites and another for blacks. He said blacks have to go through an arduous process that is cumbersome and exhausting, while whites do not.

The last known full investigation by the school district regarding discrimination was completed in July 2017. The board had authorized the investigation following internal complaints filed by board member Dennis Baskin and then Assistant Superintendent of Administration, Operations and Equity Darrell Williams - currently the acting superintendent - accusing board member Pam Charles of creating a racially hostile workplace.

That investigation was not kept secret from the public.

Investigators concluded there was no evidence to sustain accusations Charles had created a racially hostile workplace.

According to an Beloit Daily News article published in September of 2017, two investigations authorized by the Beloit Board of Education - both determined to be without merit - cost taxpayers roughly $92,824 in legal fees, listed in records obtained by the newspaper under Wisconsin's Public Records Law for billings from the district's law firm, Buelow Vetter Buikema Olson & Vliet, LLC of Waukesha.

The first investigation involved complaints against Charles, referenced on an April 3 agenda. The second investigation was referenced as a staff complaint on an April 11 agenda. On March 23, three teachers had sent a letter to the board regarding their concerns about the career advocate position as well as CareerTek, a separate Hendricks Family Foundation funded program with which the district partners.

At Tuesday's meeting the board also approved two additional staff members at Beloit Memorial High School - one full-time position for math and one full-time position for family consumer education. The fiscal impact will be $98,088, or $49,044 on average per teacher.

It also approved a full-time plumber and full-time electrician positions. Salaries will be approximately $90,000 each.

The board then discussed how interviews would be conducted soon for the Beloit Memorial High School principal position. It also voted to post the newly approved job description for the executive director of business services.

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