At-Large School Committee member LaTonia Monroe Naylor surrounded by her family at a press conference addressing disparaging comments made about her by then-Superintendent Daniel Warwick.
Reminder Publishing photo by Sarah Heinonen

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Daniel Warwick resigned on Thursday, June 6, after the June 5 release of an unintentional voicemail recording in which he disparaged at-large School Committee member LaTonia Monroe Naylor and her family, calling them “freaking scumbags.”

The resignation came hours after Monroe Naylor convened a press conference that packed the School Committee meeting room of City Hall. Her husband, Mah’dee Naylor Sr., members of the Naylor and Monroe families, fellow School Committee members and other local and state elected officials spoke in defense of Monroe Naylor. Nearly everyone who spoke called for the resignation of both Warwick and the person he was speaking with in the audio clip, who Monroe Naylor identified as Lead Chief School Officer Kimberly Wells. Wells has not confirmed whether it was her voice in the audio.

At-large School Committee member Latonia Monroe Naylor
Reminder Publishing photo by Sarah Heinonen

Warwick did confirm that he was one of the people in the voicemail. Not long after the clip was released on Facebook on June 5, Warwick released a statement in which he said, “A conversation between a colleague and me was somehow recorded. I am mortified.” He described his remarks — calling Monroe Naylor and her family “scumbags,” questioning her credentials, saying the Naylors would “steal everything that’s not bolted down,” and called the Monroe family “crazy” — as “the result of total frustration with some of the issues we have been dealing with to uphold school department policies.” He acknowledged that was “no excuse.” Warwick said he had not intended the comments to be recorded and apologized for the “disparaging characterization.”

Warwick and the other individual on the voicemail also accused Monroe Naylor of trying to receive special treatment in terms of “jumping” a school waiting list for her niece and receiving extra tickets and special parking at her daughter’s high school graduation. At the press conference on June 6, Monroe Naylor defended herself, saying her niece had made a mistake on a form and she was trying to help sort it out. She posed the question, “If I can help somebody else’s child, why can’t I help my niece?” As for the graduation, she said, “I have a big family.” She said no one asked for special favors for her family.

In a statement made the day before Warwick resigned, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, who serves as the School Committee chair, said, “This is both shocking and disappointing to me. Superintendent Warwick’s remarks speak for themselves. These comments, even out of frustration, are totally unacceptable and unprofessional, and merits an apology.” He went on to call for a School Committee retreat to “restore the respect and harmony” and “move forward with a healing process.

At the press conference, Monroe Naylor spoke about her life and experiences. She said that, as a teen, she was shot in the chest and thought she would die, but felt she was reborn with a passion to be the one to affect positive change in her community.

“I want to assure the public and my fellow committee members that I remain committed to our primary mission: providing a safe, inclusive and high-quality education for all students in Springfield,” Monroe Naylor said in a statement. “This incident will not deter me from continuing to advocate for all our students, parents, and educators.”

Members of Monroe Naylor’s family spoke at the press conference. Her husband choked up when speaking and said Warwick spoke about the family “like they’re dogs in the street.” Bishop Leonard Naylor, the oldest member of the Naylor family, said of the recorded comments, “I was really disturbed. I felt like I was being set up for assassination.” Speaking on behalf of the Monroe family, Co-Pastor Linda Monroe said, “A weak apology is not enough.”

City Councilor Lavar Click-Bruce attended the press conference with several other councilors, including Malo L. Brown and Jose Delgado. Click-Bruce said, “I’m disgusted by the remarks. Totally disrespectful to call them names. It’s one thing to call someone out on their policies.”

Bishop Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP, referred to Warwick’s use of the word mortified. “He wasn’t mortified by what he said. He was mortified that he got busted,” Swan said. “Character is defined by what we do in private.”

Calling Warwick’s comments “racist tropes,” Swan asked, “What kind of incendiary language is used when discussing Black children, Black parents?” Swan said that he questioned how decisions made by Warwick over the years have been influenced by what he called Warwick’s “biases.” The NAACP has filed a request for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to audit the administrative hirings and dismissals in the district over the past decade.

“No person, elected or not elected, should have to endure those words on social media. This is not political. It’s racism,” said state Sen. Adam Gomez (D-Springfield). He told Monroe Naylor, “The Gomez family, the Latino community, we stand with you.”

State Rep. Orlando Ramos (D-Springfield) shared a similar sentiment, “When you come after one of us, you come after all of us.” He said Warwick not only insulted “an entire family,” but “an entire community.” Like others, he called for Wells to be fired, as well as Warwick. More than once during the press conference, the room erupted into chants of “fire him” and “fire them.”

Monroe Naylor and her family were not the only ones who had negative comments made about them by Warwick. In the same recording, the now-former superintendent said of another person referred to only as George, “The synapses don’t all fire with George.” School Committee Vice Chair Joesiah Gonzalez said it was Putnam Vocational Technical Academy Principal George Johnson of whom Warwick spoke and defended Johnson, saying his synapses “fire just fine.”

Monroe Naylor said in a statement, “I firmly believe that mutual respect and integrity are foundational to our educational system. The comments made by the superintendent and lead schools officer undermine these values and the trust placed in our educational leadership, especially in a district where nearly 70% of the students are Latino and 16% are Black.”

Before Warwick’s decision to resign, Monroe Naylor told Reminder Publishing that if he did not resign and was not fired by Sarno, she would call for a special session of the School Committee and motion for a vote to terminate Warwick’s contract, which would require four of the seven committee members to vote yes. She noted that fellow School Committee members Gonzalez, Barbara Gresham and Denise Hurst had attended the press conference and supported Warwick’s termination.

On June 7, the School Department announced that the School Committee had agreed unanimously to appoint Chief Instructional Officer Michelle Balch as interim superintendent until Dinnall officially takes over the position. Contract negotiations with Dinnall were scheduled to begin on June 11, after Reminder Publishing’s deadline. Hurst, who proposed the motion, said the decision was based on conversations with the Massachusetts Association of School Committees and “follows precedent,” according to the department. Balch has been with the School Department since 2005 and has served as the chief instructional officer in an acting or full-time capacity since April 2023.