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Warwick Bows out Early As Outrage over Disparagement of Monroe Naylor Crests…

Putnam Graduation School Committee Springfield

Happier Times. Warwick with the School Committee at the Putnam Graduation…Monday. (still via YouTube/Focus Springfield)

A deeply controversial selection process for his successor had not totally poisoned the well of goodwill Daniel Warwick had accumulated over decades in city schools. He was about three weeks from the close of his career. Then it all came crashing down in less than 48 hours. In an erroneously recorded voicemail, he disparaged LaTonia Monroe Naylor, one of his seven School Committee bosses.

Warwick holstered his pencils for good Thursday, hours after calls for his resignation mushroomed at a press conference Monroe Naylor held in the morning. In a statement, the School Department said he informed Mayor Domenic Sarno in a letter that today was his last. His retirement will start immediately.

“Due to my desire to act in the best interests of Springfield Public School students, staff, families and the community at-large, I am notifying you I will be retiring effective Friday June 7, 2024,” he wrote.

As of Wednesday, the only prominent call for his immediate departure had come from Springfield NAACP president Talbert Swan, II. However, there were signs he might exit sooner. Warwick did not speak at Central High School’s graduation Wednesday night.

Two days before, Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy held its graduation. Among the graduates, Monroe Naylor would later tell media, was her daughter, the class president. Warwick had apparently lavished praise on both.

Later, while speaking ostensibly to Chief Schools Officer Kim Wells during the recording, he called Monroe Naylor and her family “scumbags.” The pair also complained about extra tickets—a typical request for any graduate’s family—and special parking that Monroe Naylor had requested. Wells called the parking request “gross.”

Warwick offered an unqualified apology Wednesday, but it was too little too late.

The fallout may not yet be over. On Thursday, Monroe Naylor called for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to audit all of the School Department’s hiring and firing during the past decade.

Joesiah Gonzalez

Vice-chair Gonzalez: now who’s childish and petulant? (via homecitydevelopment.com)

Joining Monroe Naylor at her press conference were legislators, clergy, family, and her Committee colleagues. During his remarks, School Committee Vice-chair Joesiah Gonzalez called up members Barbara Gresham and Denise Hurst, too. He noted that the majority they constituted had been in the mayor’s crosshairs only a few months before.

“In this very room a few months back, the mayor held a press conference to assail the four of us, calling us childish and petulant because we asked for transparency and uplifted the voices of the people in this city,” he said.

“Now let us remember that we have worked together these past couple of months, the four of us, and we have shown this city, we have shown this community, the power of when we stand together,” he said.

Gonzalez was among many pols who called for Warwick to leave early. Ward 5 City Councilor Lavar Click-Bruce, often measured during even the Council’s hottest debates, said after hearing the audio, “I was pissed off.”

Senator Adam Gomez echoed that sentiment.

“No person, elected or not elected, should have to endure the words we heard on social media,” he said.

Many speakers were overt in declaring the comments were not only unprofessional and cruel, but racist. At a minimum, they were doubly insulting to level at people of color in a minority-majority city.

“The people who love this city are not going to tolerate hatred, they are not going to tolerate abuse, they are not going to tolerate slander and they are definitely not going to tolerate attacks on our children,” Monroe Naylor said.

LaTonia Monroe Naylor

A lot about the comments bothered Monroe Naylor, but the suggestion she was somehow not qualified struck a nerve and she pushed back…with nuance. (still via YouTube/Focus Springfield)

Monroe Naylor did not resist other speakers’ accusations of racism. Yet, she emphasized a more nuanced point. She invoked her grandmother and a guidance counselor inspiring her to focus on education. Monroe Naylor earned degrees, built a business and a community organization and wrote a book. She noted that she had been married to her husband, a pastor, for 23 years. They have four children making their own positive mark on the community.

Scumbag would be grossly unprofessional to say of anyone. If Warwick were frustrated by recent events, there were many other angry words he could have used. He did not have to choose one that would have been as diminishing of an otherwise inarguably reputable School Committee member and her family.

“I don’t understand how somebody can shake your hand and kiss you on the cheek and say they’re so proud of you and your family and the next day call you a scumbag,” she said.

At one point, Monroe Naylor said mentors long ago advised her to speak in soundbites—not in the glib meaning of the word, but clearly, carefully and without duplicity. She chose words that showed rather than told the slander and damage that word and others summoned.

Hours later, Warwick had put in his retirement papers. The parade of sendoffs were seemingly cancelled. An ignominious end capped a heretofore respected career. It is all now in the past.

In a text, Monroe Naylor welcomed Warwick’s decision and wished him well in the future. Yet, she also looked ahead to the future.

“I am elated that the community spoke and that the message was heard loud and clear,” she said. “Now we can move on to focus on the education of our children and rebuilding a culture of proficiency and equity.”

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