Thursday, March 2, 2023

School board reinstates former superintendent

Benjamin Edmondson
A standing ovation from a packed meeting room welcomed Romulus Community Schools Superintendent Benjamin Edmondson back to the job.

Edmondson was formally reinstated to his position as part of a settlement agreement in a lawsuit he filed against the district last September. His lawsuit was filed in response to his suspension by previous members of the board of education who subsequently placed him on indefinite leave. Immediately following Edmondson's return to work following a six-week medical leave as he recovered from heart surgery last fall, he was placed on administrative leave by the board members. During his medical leave, board members hired Dixon Public Consulting to analyze district finances. The former board members subsequently voted 4-3 Sept. 27 to place Edmondson on administrative leave as the audit continued.

Board meetings following his forced absence became contentious and often raucous as students, parents, teachers and community leaders protested and criticized both the consulting firm and the actions of the board. Edmondson’s lawsuit charged violations of the Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act and the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act naming the board members and the district. The board members retaliated by placing him on “indefinite leave.”

In his lawsuit, Edmondson claimed the “administrative leave” came only days after he reported his concerns about potential violations of the Michigan Open Meetings Act to the board members. He also claimed in the suit that he had been inundated by a “sustained campaign of harassment” from board members who began “pushing back on decisions within his discretion as superintendent, interfering with his ability to perform his job and improve the school district, and causing multiple District administrators and employees to quit.” 

Edmondson, who is Black and holds both masters and doctoral degrees, became superintendent in September of August 2020. During his imposed indefinite leave, he was replaced with a white person who was paid more and had few qualifications, the lawsuit alleged.

In November, voters chose new school board members and did not reelect two of those who voted to terminate Edmondson. The new board members approved the negotiated settlement with Edmondson which included his reinstatement. The current board members and a crowded room of supporters welcomed Edmondson back during the Feb. 13 meeting.

“We're ready to move our district forward,” board President Ursula Wester said.