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Springfield Schools’ Warwick on Tape Denigrating Board Member Weeks Before Exit…

UPDATED 6/6/24 4:59PM: Superintendent Warwick has announced that today June 6, is his last day, and include additional updates from Thursday.

Daniel Warwick

Warwick’s career invited accolades at his retirement announcement. The twilight of his career has seen condemnation. (via Springfield City Hall)

A week after a tense vote to select the next Superintendent of the Springfield Public Schools, an audio recording has surfaced in which the outgoing superintendent trashed a School Committee member. Superintendent Daniel Warwick calls relatives of at-large member LaTonia Monroe Naylor “scumbags” and “crazy.”

In the recording, Warwick was ostensibly speaking with Chief Schools Officer Kim Wells, a finalist for superintendent. The vote came amid weeks of acrimony as a majority of Committee members began to question the selection process. Observers thought Wells was insiders’ favorite, but she received three of seven votes. The Committee majority of four chose Sonia Dinnall, a longtime educator in Springfield, instead.

“These people that are freaking scumbags,” Warwick says on the recording. “Those Naylors they, they would steal everything that’s not bolted down.”

Later, while describing an interaction with Monroe Naylor on waiting lists, Warwick said he could not help her or, “in other words, fuck you, LaTonia.”

The Republican and New England Public Media first reported the audio.

The nearly two-minutes of audio began circulating on social media in the last day. In a statement, Warwick did not address how he was recorded. Still, he confirmed it was him “and a colleague” on Tuesday night.

“The remarks that I made were the result of total frustration with some of the issues we have been dealing with to uphold school department policies.  However, this is no excuse,” he said in a statement the School Department shared. “It was never my intention to hurt anyone, and I would never expect it to be captured and shared.”

He apologized to Monroe Naylor for “the disparaging characterization it casts” on her and her family.

Wells did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In 2017, Monroe Naylor won one of the Committee’s two at-large seats the year before in a competitive election with four candidates and only one incumbent. Politically, she had once aligned with the mayor, but drifted away after his reelection in 2019.

LaTonia Monroe Naylor

Naylor speaking on Government Matters last year. (still via YouTube/Focus Springfield)

Monroe Naylor was not available for comment as of posting time. In a statement she gave to WWLP she said the comments undermined the values of mutual respect and integrity.

“I am deeply disturbed and saddened by this development, as I have sought to work collaboratively with both individuals over the past seven years,” she said. “The language used is unprofessional and wholly unacceptable for individuals in positions of authority responsible for the education and well-being of all our children.”

In January, Warwick stunned the Springfield punditocracy when he announced he planned to retire weeks after a quite favorable review. It set in motion a sudden search for his replacement. There were concerns early on about the process, but things began to break down a few weeks ago.

The same Committee members who would later take a pass on Wells and install Dinnall said parents and residents had mounting concerns about the selection process. Things came to a head when School Committee Vice-chair Joesiah Gonzalez attempted to add items to the agenda to address the issue. Warwick, acting with disputed authority, blocked him.

Afterward a majority of the Committee began boycotting meetings. Mayor Domenic Sarno, the chair of the Committee and a voting member, blasted the majority—which included all Committee members of color—as “petulant and childish.” To some, the caustic fusillade betrayed mayoral projection.

Despite reservations and threats of litigation among some in the majority, the boycotts did not carry into the superintendent selection. Monroe Naylor along with Gonzalez, member for Ward 4 and 5 Barbara Gresham and at-large member Denise Hurst backed Dinnall and opposed Wells. The mayor, the member for Ward 6 and 7 Chris Collins and the member for Ward 2 and 8 Peter Murphy backed Wells and opposed Dinnall.

The recording itself may refence the search when Warwick appears to pan Monroe Naylor’s assessment of credentials.

Sonia Dinnall

Five days before the recording, Monroe Naylor was in the majority that installed Dinnall as Springfield’s next School Superintendent. (still via WAMC/Focus Springfield)

Monroe Naylor had backed Dinnall’s appointment. Those that opposed Dinnall questioned her qualifications, including from her time with the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership. However, officials from the PZP disputed this critique and backed her superintendent candidacy.

In addition to besmirching her family in the recording, Warwick and Wells bemoan Monroe Naylor’s requests for more tickets and parking for an event. That event was her daughter’s graduation. They appear to characterize the School Committee member’s request as “disgusting” and “gross.”

While the context is not entirely clear, on social media Monroe Naylor’s addresses this claim. She states her daughter was class president and wanted to be accommodate her large immediate family.

Monroe Naylor thanks “Principal Johnson” for helping her. It is not clear if this is the “George” Warwick and Wells discuss in the recording. However, the principal of Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, which held its graduation ceremony Monday, is George Johnson according to the school’s website.

Calls have gone out for Warwick to resign. Warwick has only weeks left before he is due to depart from municipal service. During the superintendent search, even Committee members who condemned Warwick’s obstructionism were reluctant to say it would overshadow his otherwise positive legacy. Now, the episode threatens to mar his entire decades-long career in Springfield schools.

Among the calls for resignation were from Springfield NAACP head Rev. Talbert Swan, II. He told The Republican and NEPM the comments played to racial stereotypes. Monroe Naylor, who is Black, does not appear to have leveled that accusation directly. On Thursday at a press conference, she remained less explicit. However, she called for Warwick’s resignation, too. Later, the superintendent said Thursday would be his last day.

However, in her statement to WWLP, she notes that Springfield schools are 70% Latino and 16% Black. She also emphasized the Committee’s mission to provide a “safe, inclusive and high-quality education” for students.

Despite pulling every lever critics perceived as favoring Wells, a visibly perturbed Sarno had to announce at last week’s meeting that Dinnall has been appointed. He then sought no motion—nor did anyone raise one—to declare the selection unanimous a common courtesy among Massachusetts school boards.

Springfield School Committee

One big not quite happy family last week selecting a new super. (still via YouTube/Focus Springfield)

Now topped with this incident, the selection process has become a political fiasco for Sarno as well. Although just one vote on the Committee, the toxic environment of the last few months is, at a minimum, a product of his insistence of control over the process. Indeed, Committee member Hurst alluded to the mayor’s “modeled behavior” in an interview with The Republican/NEPM.

On Wednesday, the Springfield mayor/inadvertent Casablanca gambling hall visitor, called Warwick’s remarks “unacceptable and unprofessional.”

“My hope and goal is to restore the respect and harmony that we once had not too long ago and for the betterment of our public school’s system,” he said in a statement on his office Facebook page. “We need to move forward with a healing process.”

Sarno also said he had spoken to Monroe Naylor.

The story broke hours before Central High School graduated the class of 2024, which Committee members attended (Warwick did not appear to speak). Monroe Naylor’s other colleagues on the Committee and her political allies across the city have rallied to her defense. Monroe Naylor will address the controversy more fully Thursday during a 10:15am press conference at City Hall.

In her statement, she was sure the next steps with her colleagues would be positive.

“I have faith that we will emerge stronger and more united in our commitment to serving our community,” she said.