Richmond Schools Chief of Staff resigns, blames 'mean-spirited,' 'toxic' school board

Posted at 4:14 PM, Feb 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-23 09:51:45-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Another top official at Richmond Public Schools is resigning from the job. Chief of Staff Michelle Hudacsko, a member of Superintendent Jason Kamras' cabinet, will be leaving Richmond Schools at the end of February, multiple sources told Tyler Layne.

In a strongly worded email to Richmond School Board members and Kamras, Hudacsko blamed board members for creating a "hostile" and "toxic" work environment which she said is a disservice to the Richmond Schools community.

"The frequent actions that some Board Members take to dismantle progress and intentionally set the Administration up to fail, along with the mean-spirited personal attacks, threats, and unfounded accusations have made doing this work nearly impossible. Our students are the ones paying the price," Hudacsko wrote.

Michelle Hudacsko quote.png

Hudacsko, who has served in her role for five years, did not specify to which board members or actions she was referring.

When reached for comment, Richmond School Board Chair Stephanie Rizzi said she intended to release a statement on behalf of the board, but she said the board has not yet came to a consensus on a statement.

However, Rizzi issued a personal statement, which read, "This is a personnel matter and, generally, we don't comment on issues of this nature. I thank Ms. Hudascko for her service and dedication to RPS."

3rd district Board Member Kenya Gibson also sent CBS 6 her own statement, directly addressing Hudacsko's comments.

She said while she is thankful for Hudacsko's service, she was disappointed to read her letter of resignation.

“Unlike DC public schools where Ms. Hudacsko worked before joining us here, Richmond Public Schools is governed by a democratically elected board. Democracy is not served when our elected officials are labeled as hostile when asking important questions and pushing for accountability," Gibson said. "This is especially concerning because nationally school boards are under attack by right wing and corporate interests that do not benefit from bottom-up governance. Any administration that comes to Richmond will have to prioritize democratic buy-in as part of their planning, as has every administration before them. It does not serve schools or students to undermine elected leadership.”

Hudacsko also wrote she was "incredibly grateful" to have worked with Kamras over the years.

"He is one of the most talented and inspirational leaders I have ever worked with and I know that under his guidance, RPS will continue to grow to be the system of excellence our kids deserve," she wrote.

Richmond Schools has seen a number of district leaders leave their positions over the past 12 months.

In May, former Chief Operating Officer Alana Gonzalez resigned, citing concerns similar to Hudacsko's but did not say whether it was related to the school board.

At the time, Superintendent Kamras said Gonzalez couldn't perform her duties due to a "political climate in which she felt harassed, undermined, and demeaned."

In July, Chief Academic Officer Tracy Epp resigned citing personal reasons.

More recently, the district's Director of Safety and Security Mauricio Tovar resigned the same week as a February school board meeting in which board members publicly criticized his answers to their questions regarding school security protocols.

Hudacsko said the interactions between the administration and school board are "not the RPS story."

"For me, the RPS story is told via a special RPS family I have become close with this year- six children, ages 2 to 16, in four of our schools. They experience challenges, as many of our kids do; however, they are resilient and happy; smart and amazing. One of them is thriving in her first days in preschool, another is following her dreams of becoming a nurse," she said. "Serving them - and 22,000 other children like them - to ensure that they have the opportunity to live the life they desire - has been the honor of a lifetime."

Back in September, Hudacsko addressed a rumor that she may be resigning in an email to school board members, writing, "I have not resigned - you're still stuck with me! (I have heard this rumor quite a bit too - not sure how/why!)."

An RPS spokesperson said the district will not comment on personnel matters.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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