West Valley Superintendent Michael Brophy will step down by the end of the year after reaching a separation agreement with the school district Tuesday.
After nearly three months of paid administrative leave, an investigation into allegations of policy violations has been halted in an agreement that will transition Brophy to unpaid medical leave, according to his lawyer, William D. Pickett of Yakima. During his leave, Brophy will maintain benefits and can use accrued sick and vacation leave, said Pickett. He will retire at the end of his medical leave, the duration of which is up to his doctor but will end no later than Dec. 31.
Assistant Superintendent Peter Finch has been serving as acting superintendent in his stead.
The separation agreement was signed by the West Valley school board on Tuesday, Pickett said. District officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Brophy was placed on paid administrative leave on May 7 pending an investigation into private messages he sent to adult women on his professional Twitter account, according to Pickett. They were allegedly discovered during a random search of Brophy’s accounts.
Public records from the district show that while Brophy’s public-facing professional Twitter presence focused on educational topics, private messages this spring showed personal conversations with 13 women. Those conversations included offers to fly women to stay with him using airline miles, offers to help women financially after meeting them, and messages containing nudity, among other things. Brophy stated he was at work or in meetings in some of the conversations.
Pickett said under the agreement, the investigation was ended. The agreement was not a confirmation of any policy violations, he said.
“Our position on this has been crystal clear from day one. It’s that private messages between consenting adults is not for public consumption, period,” Pickett said. “I don’t think there is anybody, whether they be a teacher or administrator or otherwise, who believes that their private messages to other adults should be made available for public consumption.”
Pickett said the agreement was “positive step for both parties and allows them to move forward and do what they’re called to do and do it to the best of their ability. That is absolutely a win.”
The decision comes months after a separate vote of no-confidence in Brophy’s leadership by the West Valley Education Association in late January. During a school board meeting, WVEA President Heidi Mochel said the vote meant “that our association no longer trusts, believes in, or will invest in building a working relationship with Dr. Brophy,” according to minutes from the Jan. 26 meeting. The complaint focused on leadership concerns, and was months before the period covered in the released records of Twitter messages.
Other leadership changes
Brophy’s departure from the district is part of a larger wave of transition.
The district’s assistant superintendent for business and finance operations, Angela Von Essen, recently left West Valley to take the helm of the Kittitas School District as its superintendent. Innovation and CTE director Chris Nesmith is the new superintendent of the Elma School District. The district’s directors of human resources and communications also left in recent months.