Community backlash as Sequoia district’s first Black female superintendent and board of trustees part ways


Rylan Butt

Former Superintendent Williams’ vacant chair.

Rylan Butt, Co-editor in chief

Sequoia Union High School District’s first-ever Black female superintendent Dr. Darnise Williams resigned from office after less than two years of serving. In the weeks leading up to the announcement, the board of trustees (including two newly elected members) held two closed-session meetings evaluating the former superintendent, causing the community to speculate the district planned to fire Superintendent Williams.

“The Sequoia Union High School District and superintendent Williams mutually agree to part ways,” then-president Carrie DuBois read. “As Board members, we thank Superintendent Williams for her grace, dedication, and leadership during this unprecedented time.” 

The board has refused to comment on the reasons for her resignation or on any events that occurred in the two closed sessions.

In her year as superintendent, Dr. Darnise Williams worked towards equity and diversity in the district as a whole. A few of her accomplishments include helping create the affinity group system and making Sequoia a statewide leader in equity. The steps she took in the direction of equality in the district caused confusion in the community as to why she was being evaluated. When the public found out about the special meetings scheduled, rumors began to circulate accusing the board of planning to fire the superintendent and of racism.

“We worked together during labor negotiations with the result of a multi-year contract reaching the long-standing effort of transitioning health benefits that resulted in ongoing savings to the district, reopening of schools, and advancing educational outcomes and equitable access for all students. We could not have done it without her,” DuBois said.

Audience members took advantage of the public comment sessions to voice their opinions on the resignation of former superintendent Dr. Williams, many bringing up the alleged racism and anti-blackness as the reason for her departure.

“I’m tired of seeing BIPOC members leave year after year […] It doesn’t show me that black lives matter,” East Palo Alto Academy teacher Eva Tang said.

The two closed sessions and lack of information on the situation with Dr. Williams caused distrust between community members and the board of trustees.

“I wish this board would make their visions clear through having their own study sessions earlier and thought through what their actions, not their words, meant for the community,” Abbie Korman, English teacher at MA said.

Following the press release, the board swore in two new members Sathvik Nori and Amy Koo, making the board a majority of people of color. Rich Ginn was also appointed board president, with former president Carrie DuBois stepping down to board member and Shawneece Stevenson taking the place of vice president.

To celebrate, cake and fruit salad were provided, sparking some anger and backlash from the audience.

Rylan Butt

“We will not forget this decision […] I hope you enjoyed that cake,” Woodside teacher Jenny Ortez said.

Audience members also brought the validity of the mutual agreement into question, wondering if the board had targeted Dr. Williams as a person or if something had happened that the board wasn’t allowed to disclose.

“We’re not dumb, we all know she was pushed out,” Sequoia History teacher Pablo Aguilera said.