Former Janesville principal fired for sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct

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Ted Sullivan
Monday, August 16, 2010
— A former Janesville principal was fired after being accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, including making comments about women’s body parts and partying with staff members, according to documents obtained by the Gazette.

Former Jackson School Principal John Walczak also was accused of bullying employees and failing to visit classrooms for evaluations, according to 208 pages of documents from a school district investigation.

Staff members also told school officials that Walczak missed parts of a Green Bay conference because he was at a bar or had a hangover, according to the documents.

Walczak was placed on administrative leave in May after complaints were made against him. He was fired in July for violating the Janesville School Board’s sexual harassment policy and not upholding the dignity and decorum of his position, according to the documents.

The school district released the documents after the Gazette filed a request under the Wisconsin Open Records Law to learn why Walczak was fired.

Walczak had asked a Rock County judge to block the release of the documents. He later dropped his request.

The documents include records of interviews that the district conducted with every staff member at Jackson School. They also include reports from an interview with Walczak, who denied the allegations.

Walczak and his attorney, Michele Perreault of Madison, could not be reached for comment.

Sexual harassment

Employees told school officials that Walczak repeatedly made sexual comments in the workplace. They said he also commented on the bodies of female staff members and parents of students.

For example, four employees said Walczak saw another Janesville principal and said, “Wow! You’re nipped out,” according to the documents.

Walczak also told two women, “I knew within the first three minutes that I was going to hire you. Yeah, I am a boob man,” according to the documents.

At school, a female employee was bending over to log a student onto a computer, according to the documents.

Walczak stood in the doorway and said, “I get to see the better side of Miss … I don’t mind looking at that,” according to the documents.

One teacher reported that Walczak asked if she was “with” someone.

Another teacher asked for a reference to teach summer school in Madison, and Walczak responded, “What is a good reference worth to you?” according to the documents.

A male employee told officials he was going over student data with Walczak when Walczak interrupted, looked out the window and commented on a parent’s buttocks. Walczak then said, “Did you see her boobs?”

“You just wouldn’t’ believe what he was saying,” the employee told school officials. “It was like the mentality of a frat house.”

Walczak once reportedly commented on an employee’s bare midriff unknowingly showing during a meeting. He also was accused of asking an employee whether he saw another employee in her swimsuit while at a hotel for a conference.

Inappropriate behavior

Walczak went to a conference in Green Bay in October 2009 with three other Jackson employees.

During the conference’s first session, an employee said Walczak was texting or playing video games on his cell phone.

The employee said Walczak and his staff skipped the second session and got alcoholic drinks at a bar. They later had more drinks and dinner.

While walking by a Green Bay strip club, the employee said Walczak noticed a sign that stated it was amateur night.

Walczak made a comment to his employees about them going into the strip club to dance, according to the documents.

On the second day of the conference, Walczak reportedly slept on a couch in a hotel lounge and missed the first session because he had a hangover.

In social situations, Walczak commented about how he is a perfect example of how incompetent people get promoted. He told employees he never finished his dissertation, even though he went by the title of doctor.

After parent-teacher conferences in October, Walczak bought beers and shots for his teachers at a Janesville bar.

He played the song “Crazy Bitch” on the jukebox and sang the words out loud. The song has profanity-laced lyrics about sex.

Fear of retaliation

Some teachers told school officials that Walczak didn’t visit their classrooms or offer support when they had difficult students or tough projects.

They said Walczak often didn’t follow through with promises and didn’t return e-mails when asked questions.

They said Walczak often spoke negatively of other employees at school, and they felt bullied and feared retaliation if they spoke out.

“If I would have said something, I would have lost my job, or my year would have been hell,” one employee said.

Some teachers said they avoided Walczak in the hallway and didn’t want to talk to him if it wasn’t necessary. They told school officials they were relieved when he wasn’t there.

One employee said Walczak had no leadership, vision or direction. The employee said the staff was angry and deflated.

Another employee told officials Walczak bullied, intimidated and harassed teachers.

A few staff members said they liked Walczak and thought he worked hard for his teachers and students. They said he was a good principal and his problems were because of disgruntled employees.

History of problems

Walczak, who made $97,726 last year, was assistant principal at Janesville’s Edison Middle School from 2000 to 2008. He was promoted to principal at Jackson in August 2008.

While at Edison, Walczak was investigated after a woman complained that he made inappropriate sexual comments during a staff meeting, according to the documents.

The district was unable to prove the claim, but Walczak was warned, according to the documents. The woman then filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Equal Rights Division.

The district spent up to “thousands” of dollars defending Walczak, and the claim was eventually dropped, according to the documents.

Walczak also had been warned about his behavior three times by his supervisor. Co-workers also told Walczak to change his behavior because he was offending others.

“It is clear to me that Mr. Walczak knows what unprofessional and inappropriate conduct is, but he continues to promote it,” Angel Tullar, manger of employee relations, wrote in the district’s investigative report.

Last updated: 2:42 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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