An African-American administrator at Amityville Memorial High School has filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights against the school district, alleging racial discrimination.
Rodney Wilkins, 53, of Manhattan, was hired in March 2014 as interim assistant principal at $500 per day. Four months later, he was made associate principal with an annual salary of $135,000.
Wilkins, in the complaint filed June 29, said he was recruited for the position when John Williams was superintendent, with the goal of addressing racial issues at the high school. Williams died in February 2014.
Amityville aimed to close an achievement gap for minorities. In the 2013-14 school year, the high school served 759 pupils, 52 percent of them African-American, 37 percent Hispanic or Latino and 9 percent white, according to state Education Department records.
Shortly after he started, Wilkins said in the complaint, his work was undermined by then-interim superintendent Mary T. Kelly, who is white.
He was excluded from key planning meetings, belittled in front of his staff, removed from his office and relocated to a kitchen facility within the administrative building, and held to a different standard than were white employees, Wilkins said. In June, he was banned from district property, according to the complaint.
"When he wanted to address the issues affecting this underserved and intensely needy community within the district, he was slapped down," said Frederick K. Brewington of Hempstead, Wilkins' attorney.
Though he remains a district employee, Wilkins currently must work from home, according to both him and a letter signed by the superintendent.
Kelly, in a statement Monday, said the district will "vigorously defend against" the claims.
"We are confident that the district will prevail in the appropriate legal forum with regard to the allegations being made by Mr. Wilkins," she said. "The Amityville school district is committed to providing a professional work environment for all staff, and does not tolerate discrimination of any kind."
Wilkins, who obtained his master's in education administration from Columbia University, worked as an assistant principal for a Bronx elementary school for five months before leaving the post for Amityville. Before that, he worked as a project associate for New York University's Steinhardt Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, beginning in 2010.
He worked in finance -- for Citigroup and Prudential Securities -- for several years starting in the late 1990s before returning to the education field.