WEBSTER, N.Y. (WROC) — In a letter sent to teachers Thursday morning, Webster Central School District Superintendent Dr. Carmen Gumina announced he is retiring.
“Just a few days ago, I notified our board of my intent to retire as of tomorrow. It has become more certain to me over the last few weeks that this is the best decision for me, my family, and the district,” Gumina wrote.
His announcement comes two weeks after a former district employee filed a lawsuit against the school.
Kali Watkins, the former Webster teacher and coach, was found not guilty after prosecutors claimed he raped a 14-year-old student in a locker room at Webster Schroeder High School.
The lawsuit filed by Watkins claims that Gumina influenced the investigation into Watkins because the two had a relationship with the same woman — a teacher hired by Gumina.
“The ‘investigation’ was influenced and corrupted by a school district whose own superintendent had a malicious personal vendetta against Watkins. This vendetta stemmed from the superintendent’s discovery that his extra-marital partner (a teacher hired by the superintendent) was also having an intimate relationship with Watkins.”
“Instead of protecting Watkins’s due process rights, the superintendent made up his mind and very publicly questioned the innocence of Watkins in front of faculty members. He held an ’emergency’ meeting informing faculty members to cut off contact with Watkins. He sent school officials to bully faculty members into silence.”
A statement from Watkins’ attorney to News 8 Thursday:
“Kali Watkins filed this lawsuit to set the record straight and to reclaim his life. We will not speculate about why the superintendent and chief of police both decided to retire.”
The board of education appointed Brian Neenan, current Webster CSD Deputy Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, as interim superintendent of schools during its Thursday meeting, effective Friday.
The school district released a statement adding the board will provide updates on the search for a new superintendent.
“The Webster CSD Board of Education expresses its sincere appreciation to Dr. Gumina for more than three decades of service and commitment to thousands of Webster students and families,” Board of Education President Tammy Gurowski said in a statement. “We wish him well as he begins this next chapter and thank him for making a difference in our schools and community.”
Gumina has been in the district for 31 years.
Read full letter below:
Good morning everyone,
This is a tough “Thoughts” to write. Just a few days ago, I notified our board of my intent to retire as of tomorrow. It has become more certain to me over the last few weeks that this is the best decision for me, my family, and the district. I will certainly be around to help in the immediate transition as Brian Neenan takes over as interim superintendent.
I am so incredibly thankful for each of you and all that we’ve accomplished during my seven years as superintendent, especially over the past 14 months as we transitioned from “normal school” to emergency/remote classes last spring and then to “hybrid/remote” in September and finally back to “sorta normal” school for our elementary kids.
I have typed, deleted, and retyped the words of this letter and the words have ranged from sadness, to anger, to dismay, and peace. The truth is, there’s nothing I can write that won’t be called ironic or misquoted, analyzed, mocked, and even turned around because when people have an agenda or narrative based in cruelty, they’ll use what they can to tear down and destroy. So, I’ll speak from my heart and hope it lands on the ones that are open.
I’m incredibly proud and happy with the connections that you’ve allowed me to make with you. I am a better person because of the time you’ve allowed me to share stories with your students, watching them perform on stage and on the field, and hearing your own stories about how this profession is our noble cause. I am a better person because of the time I have spent in your classrooms watching you share your passion for learning with your students. And, I am a better person because of the time I spent simply talking with you in hallways, doorways, and classrooms. We have been a district committed to joy, compassion, and learning; so many of you embody that.
It is ironic how true words rarely change people’s perceptions when falsities do, and so I am trying to write this message not to sway or persuade, but simply to say thank you to those who supported me, my girls, and my visions for kids and our One Webster community. The outpouring of support my family and I have received over the past week has been incredibly humbling, and for a moment I was almost tempted to stay in my role until at least Adriana graduated from Fredonia, but I’ve realized that I just don’t have the fight left in my soul. My “tank” is empty, and I think it’s because I’ve left everything out there in the district with you and the students. And I’m at my absolute best when my energy level is annoyingly high and positive, and if that is no longer there, it is time for someone else to have this amazing role to work alongside you.
I have loved my time (over 31 years) here in Webster. Many of you were my students, and some of you were even my high school classmates. I would do anything for our community and for you, and now the “anything” means to move on.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you’ve done for me. I am such a better person because of your patience, encouragement, and willingness to take the risks that I’ve asked you to take. I may be losing my voice as a standing superintendent, but not as a lifelong educator. And, as an educator, I implore and challenge you all to find your voice and continue to raise it for decency, compassion, and kindness… obviously for our students, but also for each other.
Leadership matters. Hopefully, you have positive memories of what my leadership has meant for you and our community.
I love you guys.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we continue to update this developing story.