SLC School Board member, former state senator allege superintendent faced racial harassment
Aug 1, 2022, 7:59 PM | Updated: Sep 23, 2022, 5:19 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake City School Board member and a former state senator are calling on residents to come to Tuesday’s board meeting to support Superintendent Timothy Gadson, alleging he’s been the victim of racial harassment and an effort to force him to resign.
The district has not given a reason why Gadson — who has only been on the job a year — was placed on paid administrative leave last month. The board’s president and vice president released a statement at the time citing confidentiality.
“While we have heard our community’s desire for more information, the Board is limited in our ability to confirm or deny the accuracy of any reported information due to our commitment to maintaining the confidentiality of our closed executive sessions,” the statement said.
Ahead of Tuesday evening’s meeting, board member Mohamed Baayd claimed Gadson faced racial harassment.
“The systemic racism and the institutional racism we have within our district, unfortunately, was not ready to receive a Black leader who can actually lead a district in a different direction,” Baayd said in an interview with KSL TV and KSL NewsRadio.
Baayd, the only board member speaking out in defense of Gadson, said the board received complaints against the superintendent and that he viewed those complaints as being racially motivated.
“As a Black person, when I hear them, it’s like someone looking at me and saying, ‘We cannot accept you as who you are. Your culture, your behavior does not match what we are looking for here in our district,’” Baayd said in an interview with KSL TV and KSL NewsRadio.
Baayd and former State Senator James Evans are both asking people to come to the public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to show their support for Gadson.
“You have an unprofessional board that is siding with their friends in administration and undermining the superintendent,” Evans said. “And then the backdrop to that is the racial discrimination component.”
Before the public meeting Tuesday, the board will have a closed, executive session starting at 5 p.m.
“Unfortunately when [Gadson] came in, the board failed in actually supporting him and accomplishing the agenda of taking care of our students and our families,” Baayd said.
A letter to residents from Evans cosigned by local NAACP President Jeanetta Williams alleges Gadson faced a pressure campaign to get him to resign.
“We assert that the core of this campaign to force out Dr. Gadson is driven by individual board members upset that he has not acted on direction given directly by them to him,” the letter said. “This has led to an environment of intimidation, racial harassment, unfounded complaints, and secretive closed-door meetings to push him out without due process, and without cause.”
When asked about the letter and the allegations of racial harassment a school district spokesperson declined to comment and referred KSL the statement released last month.
Below is the entire statement the SLC School Board of Education President Melissa Ford and Vice President Nate Salazar dated July 14:
We have heard this week from valued stakeholders regarding their desire for transparency in light of media stories about our superintendent. We appreciate hearing from our community and want to reassure our constituents that this important, sensitive matter is being handled by the Board in a manner consistent with state law. To protect everyone’s interests, including those of our employees, we do not comment on personnel matters.
As a Board, we will continue to follow all laws, including the Open and Public Meetings Act, which governs discussions held in closed executive session. It is unfortunate that any board member would knowingly choose to talk about topics that may have been discussed in a closed meeting. While we have heard our community’s desire for more information, the Board is limited in our ability to confirm or deny the accuracy of any reported information due to our commitment to maintaining the confidentiality of our closed executive sessions.
We remain committed to providing our students with the best educational opportunities and are grateful for the continued work and dedication of our employees as they prepare for the upcoming school year.