KANAWHA COUNTY (WOWK) – A Kanawha County judge has overturned the ruling of the West Virginia Public Employees Grievance Board after the Kanawha County Board of Education did not select an educator for the position of South Charleston High School principal.
Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Louis H. “Duke” Bloom has ordered Kimberly Williams to be immediately instated to the South Charleston High School Principal position and awarded all appropriate relief, including but not limited to back pay and benefits.
According to an order of the court, the West Virginia Public Employees Grievance Board found Williams was the most qualified person for the position with “impressive qualifications” and a “stellar record.” It also says the board found she had been the victim of “discrimination, favoritism and bias.”
However, the grievance board did not instate Williams to the position despite these findings and ordered the position be reposted within 30 days of the Level III Decision. It also stated the selection panel should not include anyone who participated in the previous selection process. Williams appealed that decision.
The circuit court order states there was alleged bias against Williams in the hiring process due to her sexual preference, with one allegedly stating, “… I can never support her.” The order also states the claim the board was looking for “a fresh set of eyes taking a look at the school” was also a pretext for discrimination and favoritism and not a permissible justification for hiring the successful candidate according to WV State Code.
Williams has been an employee of the Kanawha County School Board for more than 38 years, serving as a classroom teacher for approximately 24 years and a vice principal for approximately 14 years.
The position for SCHS principal was posted at the end of the 2017-2018 school year following the then principal’s retirement. Williams was among those who applied. The first successful applicant soon left to take a different position, and the position was posted again.
Following the interviews, Williams had the highest score, according to the court order, however, a different candidate was the only person recommended to the superintendent, despite some other interviewers’ recommendation of Williams. The board members who testified said the only information they had on the hiring decision was presented by the interviewer who recommended the successful applicant.
An interviewer said he chose to recommend the other candidate because he had scored higher on one question, which the interviewer said he “weighed heavy.” According to the court order, by ignoring Williams’ qualifications due to a single arbitrary quality of the other candidate “exceeded its discretion in filling the position.”
They said the grievance board’s decision not to instate Williams was inconsistent with its own findings and contrary to law.