The controversial chairman of the Prince William County School Board, who was the target of a recall campaign, resigned Wednesday.
Ryan Sawyers, who was elected to the position in 2015, wrote in a resignation letter that he was stepping down because of “personal and professional reasons.” He sent the letter to Lillie Jessie, vice chairwoman of the board in suburban Virginia.
In a phone interview, Sawyers said he could no longer contend with a school board and administration he described as corrupt. He said he plans on turning over information about the school system to law enforcement and disseminating it to the public.
“There’s really no path forward,” he said. “There’s only so much that I’m capable of taking on.”
Sawyers’s resignation arrived about a week after he suspended a campaign for Virginia’s 1st Congressional District seat. Sawyers said he didn’t see a viable path to defeat Rep. Rob Wittman (R).
Sawyers’s departure from the school board is welcome news to community members who have sought his ouster for more than a year. A recall petition began circulating in November 2016, said Jeannie Lowder, who has three children in the school system and belongs to the committee that began the recall effort.
Lowder said Sawyers, who is a Democrat, used his position to go after political opponents and settle personal grievances. The Prince William Committee for Quality Education, she said, includes parents and community members who believe Sawyers abused his authority.
“One thing we all agreed on was that he misused his office in various capacities,” she said. “We need to work together and do it for our kids.”
In September, school board members voted to censure Sawyers for “multiple and egregious violations.” Board members contended Sawyers violated the board’s ethics rules by making public documents exchanged between the school board and its attorney in court filings.
More recently, Sawyers called for Superintendent Steve Walts to resign. Sawyers accused the schools chief of misleading the school board about the severity of an accident he was involved in while driving a school district-owned car.
Reflecting on his tenure, Sawyers said he was proud the school board approved protections for LGBT students and staff, provided raises to school employees and focused on closing achievement gaps.
“Thank you for your time in working to accomplish these goals in only two years,” Sawyers wrote in his resignation letter to Jessie. “Good luck to you in working to improve the school system.”
Jessie will assume the duties of chair until the school board appoints an interim chair, according to the school district. Applications for the interim post are being accepted by the School Board clerk.