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Green Bay schools superintendent resigns

Claude Tiller steps down after complaints he targeted staff, teachers and local businesses in an interview

An empty classroom
An empty classroom is pictured at the MHS, Meo High School private college, in Paris on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Francois Mori/AP Photo

Green Bay’s school district superintendent resigned Saturday following controversy over statements caught on a hot mike during a radio interview.

Superintendent Claude Tiller Jr. resigned Saturday. The Green Bay Area Public School District Board of Education voted unanimously to accept his resignation Saturday at a special board meeting. The board issued a statement following the meeting, which included hours of closed-door discussion.

“The Board and Dr. Tiller, Jr. have mutually agreed to the terms of Dr. Tiller, Jr.’s resignation from the District. Both Dr. Tiller, Jr. and the District have agreed that this is the best course of action for both parties,” they stated. “The Board and District wish to express their gratitude to Dr. Tiller for his many contributions to the Green Bay Area Public School District and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

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Tiller issued a statement of his own to Green Bay-area media hours after the board’s vote, saying he made the decision with “mixed emotions.”

“This decision was extremely difficult to make, and comes after considerable deliberation, reflecting on the district’s needs, its future direction and a collaborative consensus with the board regarding what serves the best interest of collective stewardship of the district,” he wrote.

Tiller was placed on paid leave last week when comments he made during an interview earlier in the month came to light. The board said they placed him on leave “as it works through the issues raised.”

The superintendent’s comments came while he was visiting Atlanta to recruit teachers from local colleges and appeared on a local radio show

Tiller reportedly disparaged teachers, area employer

He is accused of being caught on a live mic during commercial breaks disparaging a subordinate, teachers and area businesses. The comments were included in an online stream that has since been taken down and the board has not made the video available to the public.

At a district meeting last week, Ed Dorff, a former Green Bay school principal and board member, addressed the school board during public comments, describing what he saw in the video while it was still online. 

“He used the term ‘lily, lily white’ to describe Green Bay. He suggested that a major employer wanted to keep people down and that they gave parties for kids as a substitute for doing right by their workers,” Dorff said. “He called into question the ability of 92 percent of the teaching staff to really do their jobs effectively.”

Dorff also said Tiller disparaged a specific individual who works for the district during the interview, calling her “a wicked witch and a (b—–) spelled out.”

In his statement, Tiller said he did not mean to call out specific individuals in his comments, but was speaking about broader issues.

“In the days subsequent to my appearance on the program, it was disheartening to learn that select comments in my two-hour long interview were interpreted in a manner that inadvertently caused offense with some in our school community,” he wrote. “It’s important to emphasize that my comments were specifically directed toward the broader systemic issues within public education that contribute to ongoing challenges.”

According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, about 50 people attended the special session Saturday, many in support of Tiller. District video of the special board meeting is less than two minutes long, with the board voting to accept the resignation in open session, but not holding public comments.

Tiller joined the school district in July. He previously worked as an assistant superintendent in Detroit.