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Superintendent and governing board member resign at Williams Unified School District

The Williams Unified School District office building. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

The Williams Unified School District office building. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — The Williams Unified School District will begin looking for a new superintendent and a new governing board member after the recent resignations of Rick Honsinger and Mike Fleishman.

Following a challenging 2020-2021 school year as superintendent of WUSD, Honsinger announced his resignation at the Nov. 18 Governing Board meeting.

“It was time for me to resign in mid-November, as the board and I were not getting past our differences,” Honsinger said in a statement to the Williams News.

Honsinger’s resignation followed months of WUSD struggling to strike a balance between public health and in-person education, with many schools remaining with or returning to remote-learning recently.


Rick Honsinger resigned as WUSD Superintendent Nov. 18. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

WUSD Governing Board President Carla Dent said Honsinger had a different view of handling the coronavirus pandemic than many of the Governing Board members.

“Rick did some great things for our district, unfortunately we just had a difference of opinions on which direction the district should go,” she said. “It’s a shame it had to come down to this — being coronavirus related.”

Fleishman notified the Coconino County Superintendent of Schools of his resignation Nov. 19.


Mike Fleishman resigned from the WUSD Governing Board Nov. 19. (Wendy Howell/WGCN)

Honsinger had been with WUSD since 2015, when he was hired to be in the combined position of WUSD Superintendent and Williams High School principal. In 2019, he retired from the dual position but stayed with the district as part-time superintendent.

Fleishman is a retired Williams High School science teacher and had been on the WUSD Governing Board since 2015. Fleischman was the lone dissenting voice among the five WUSD Governing Board members regarding the return to in-person classes in August 2020. He continued to push for a return to remote learning throughout the fall.

Fleishman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The board named Eric Evans, Williams High School principal, as acting superintendent.

Coconino County Superintendent of Schools will begin accepting applications for the vacant WUSD Governing Board seat, according to WUSD Business Manager Joyce McNelly.

A difficult year

As the coronavirus pandemic came on the radar in spring 2020, Honsinger was thrust into leading the district through unprecedented challenges as the schools navigated online learning in the spring and a controversial return to in-person learning in the fall.

At the Sept. 23 governing board meeting, the stress of overseeing a school district during the pandemic became apparent when the WUSD Governing Board challenged Honsinger on his decision to temporarily close a kindergarten class amid COVID fears earlier that week.

Honsinger, along with Williams Elementary-Middle School Principal Carissa Morrison, made the decision to suspend kindergarten classes after nearly half of the students were absent the day before.

The administrators made the abrupt call to close the classroom while the staff determined if an outbreak had occurred, Honsinger said at the time.

Board members Ann Wells and Herman Nixon were concerned about the quick decision and lack of communication with the governing board.

At the meeting, Honsinger was frustrated with what he saw as a lack of support for the decision and said he felt judged by some of the governing board members before they had all of the facts.

The board planned to hold a special meeting to address the district’s reopening plan and relations between the board and superintendent.

On Nov. 18, the governing board held another meeting to decide whether the district should remain open for in-person classes following the report of four COVID-19 positive students and two staff members.

Honsinger conveyed the stress and concern several school employees had regarding the outbreak in the schools. He spoke of his support for the district’s staff, and relayed some of their concerns.

Despite Honsinger’s concern over continuing with in-person learning, the governing board voted 4-1 to keep the schools open.

“It is with mixed feelings that I write this letter of resignation as WUSD Superintendent,” Honsinger said in a letter to the governing board. “When I look back at where I started in 2015, I am very proud of the progress and changes I helped implement to make WUSD what it is today. But I also know it is time for me to step aside and waive WUSD on by as I feel I am holding it up at this point.”

Dent said Evans will remain the interim superintendent until June 2021. She said the board will have discussions on whether to keep the position part-time or full-time.

“We will probably have discussion further on how we want to fill that position,” she said.

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