Conflict with school board members led to superintendent’s resignation

Friction between interim superintendent and some school committee members ended six-week tenure

By Scott Pickering
Posted 9/17/21

The unexpected resignation of interim Superintendent of Schools Robert Hicks from his role in the Bristol Warren Regional School District on Tuesday was a surprise to most everyone in the district. …

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Conflict with school board members led to superintendent’s resignation

Friction between interim superintendent and some school committee members ended six-week tenure

Posted

The unexpected resignation of interim Superintendent of Schools Robert Hicks from his role in the Bristol Warren Regional School District on Tuesday was a surprise to most everyone in the district. It was not to the nine members of the school committee. The night before, during a closed-door meeting, tension that had been quietly building between Mr. Hicks and some members of the school committee boiled over and he told them he would be resigning.

He formally submitted the resignation the next morning. A little more than 24 hours after his actual resignation, someone in the district sent out a brief, four-sentence announcement that Mr. Hicks had resigned. It was not signed by anyone and had no explanation of what led him to resign six weeks after taking the job.

A source with direct knowledge of the Monday night meeting and the events leading up to it revealed that Mr. Hicks was frustrated by his belief that school committee members had been overstepping the boundaries of their roles, attempting to micromanage him and the administration. Throughout the closed-door meeting on Monday, emotions ran hot, including accusations and squabbling between members, and at one point a committee member insinuated Mr. Hicks was not telling the truth on an issue.

Mr. Hicks and the school committee were meeting in executive session Monday night to discuss a personnel issue that was not disclosed to the public. According to the source, a portion of that meeting was devoted specifically to the relationship between Mr. Hicks and school committee members, particularly school committee leadership.

His resignation leaves the Bristol Warren Regional School District looking for its fifth superintendent in a little more than two years. Mr. Hicks was hired to fill the vacancy left by Dr. Jonathan Brice, who resigned in July with a year left on his contract.

Two summers ago, the school committee forced the resignation of Mario Andrade. He was initially replaced by Assistant Superintendent Diane Sanna on an interim basis, and she was then quickly replaced by Dr. Jonathan Brice, also on an interim basis. A few months later, Dr. Brice was signed to a three-year contract without the school committee conducting a formal search for a permanent replacement. At the time, school committee members felt they had the right person in place to lead the district.

That relationship began to sour in the past year, amid discoveries of financial mismanagement and a major budget shortfall for the district. Dr. Brice resigned in July with still a year left on his contract. Mr. Hicks, a longtime administrator with multiple districts, came out of retirement to take the interim job and lead the district as it searched for another replacement.

Dr. Brice received a $41,250 severance upon leaving. Dr. Andrade received a $100,000 severance upon leaving.

Reached by phone Wednesday morning, School Committee Chairwoman Marjorie McBride had no comment on the resignation or the hiring of a new superintendent.

The anonymous email sent to Bristol Warren families and staff on Wednesday read: “Please be advised that Bob Hicks has resigned from the position of interim Superintendent.  The School Committee is actively working to appoint another interim Superintendent.  We will notify you when this is complete and appreciate your support during this transition. In the meantime, if you have questions or need assistance please contact either Diane Sanna, Acting Superintendent (diane.sanna@bwrsd.org), or Kathryn Brown, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent (kathryn.brown@bwrsd.org).”

— With reports from Christy Nadalin

2021 by East Bay Newspapers

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Meet our staff
Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.