OBERLIN — Oberlin High School Principal William Baylis has been reprimanded three times in the past two years for infractions ranging from “inappropriate interactions with female subordinates” to using Facebook to reach out to a student regarding her absence.
Over the summer, the school board refused to give Baylis a multiyear contract extension — offering him only a year instead. Earlier in the year, Baylis also was asked to attend training on office etiquette and avoiding sexual harassment.
“You can kind of read between the lines,” said Barry Richard, Oberlin school board president, while declining to elaborate about the contract’s duration.
A Jan. 6 letter of reprimand involves female subordinates, but it does not say exactly what Baylis was accused of saying or doing.
Superintendent John Schroth wrote in the letter of reprimand that he was “concerned about your activities creating a hostile work environment based on sex.” Schroth also wrote that he’d had discussions with Baylis in August 2011 and December 2011 regarding Baylis’ behavior, too.
“Such actions by a person in your supervisory kind of role clearly amount to violations of federal and state law, as well as board policy,” the letter stated. And, referring to the earlier discussions with Baylis, he wrote: “I must conclude that you have engaged in a pervasive pattern of behaviors after you were directed specifically by the undersigned before the start of the school year and again in December, to maintain a professional atmosphere and after co-workers and subordinates have expressed their unhappiness and discomfort with respect to your choice of language and have asked you to stop.”
The superintendent’s letter also stated that Baylis would be subject to a recommendation that he be fired if he engaged in any behavior “that might be perceived to be retaliation for their complaints or concerns about your behaviors.”
Baylis also was reprimanded on April 4 for posting a message on a student’s Facebook page about her absence from school, which Schroth wrote violated board policy about the use of social media sites.
The letter stated that “the use of Facebook and other social media are severely restricted by policy” even though “the message was posted with the best intentions and was done in an effort to establish contact with the student after all other methods had failed.”
“In the future, please refer to policy before posting information in a public forum,” the letter stated.
Since the reprimands in January and April, there have been no reports of any problems, according to Schroth and Richard.
Baylis also received a letter of reprimand from former Oberlin Schools Superintendent Geoffrey Andrews on Feb. 7, 2011, for using inappropriate language with a parent and student.
“It is important to note that your use of language was not done out of anger and frustration,” Andrews wrote. “Nonetheless, as part of a description of a fight for which a student was ultimately suspended, your use of profanity was out of place. I am instructing you to send a written apology to the parent and student and to copy me. You are a dedicated and valuable administrator in the Oberlin Schools. Please work hard to ensure that this unfortunate occurrence does not recur.”
Andrews wrote that 2011 was the first year he gave Baylis a letter of reprimand and that Baylis “probably would have been better served to have had greater accountability from me in past years.”
Baylis’s evaluation in 2011-12 had four “highly effective” and two “effective/proficient” ratings and stated his strengths were teacher motivation, relationships with students and staff, instructional monitoring and his applications for grants and awards.
Baylis, who has been with the district for six years, also received other positive feedback in his personnel file.
During his tenure, Oberlin High received and maintained an excellent rating from the state and student discipline problems dropped by about 60 percent.
In an interview Friday, Baylis said he regretted his behavior with staff and said it amounted to using inappropriate language. He said his wife also works as a teacher in Oberlin Schools, although at a different building.
“I wasn’t hitting on anyone,” Baylis said. “I used some foul language, and it wasn’t appropriate.”
Baylis recalled one incident in which he used inappropriate language while discussing the decision of Andrews, the former superintendent, to leave the district and take a job heading a school in China.
Baylis said he and Andrews are friends, and Baylis said he thought they had an understanding to “ride this together.”
Regarding the Facebook post, Baylis said he should have sent the student a message and not created a post that others could see.
Baylis said he was “proud of my body of work” at Oberlin High.
“I really know kids and their families,” Baylis said.
He earns $98,272 a year and he said his career goal is to become a school superintendent.
Richard, meanwhile, called Baylis “a very valued employee” in a recent interview.
“We think a lot of William,” Richard said. “In anyone’s career, there can be bumps along the road.”
Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or email@example.com.