Students participating in the Outstanding Young Man scholarship program were surprised to find out OYM Director Troy Williams was relieved of his duties Thursday night.
In a post to the OYM Facebook page, Williams told the boys participating in the program that he had “been let go as the OYM director.”
Williams volunteered to take over the program when he was an SRO at Portage High School. This is his ninth year participating in OYM as either director, emcee or both.
“Last Friday I was asked to attend a meeting with Mr. Gill to talk about OYM. I went to that meeting and [I was] basically handed a letter stating that they were transitioning to student emcees for OYM and DYW (Distinguished Young Woman),” Williams said. “Mr. Gill said that he did not write the letter that we were given, although his name is on it.”
Last Friday was also Gill’s last day as head principal before his sick leave began. Since then, Williams talked to Michael Stills, Gill’s replacement. Williams told Stills that if he was not going to be allowed to emcee the event, then he would be stepping down as the director as well.
“I want to emcee it,” Williams said. “I think I’ve earned that right. I’ve done it for the last eight years. Somebody doesn’t want me to emcee it. There isn’t enough time to facilitate it and get someone up to speed because the script isn’t usually done until an hour before the show. There’s a lot that goes into that. That’s why I think this is more personal than anything else and the timing is just suspicious. I wanted to emcee and they told me no. I said, ‘Then I can’t continue [directing]. I can’t put my name to something that’s not going to be successful.’”
Some OYM contestants voiced their concerns that the timing of the letter seemed odd. Senior Jonathan Brasseur, an OYM participant, was upset and confused when he heard the news about Williams.
“It’s basically the timing that has all of us mad. Like why now? What’s the point?” Brasseur said. “Why did they have to do it a week before our event and two days before our judging? It’s making us mad the most because he obviously loved the program and did everything he could for it, but he got removed.”
Williams was also concerned about the manner of his dismissal.
“Mr. Gill had said this was coming from the ad building and someone wanted to take politics out of it. I’m thinking the timing seems a little suspicious to me — the fact that Mr. Gill said he wasn’t the one that authored that memo. There is no good reason why I couldn’t emcee this year’s program but if they want to move on to someone else next year then so be it.”
As of Friday afternoon, Williams was reinstated as emcee of the this year’s event. He will continue to supervise the boys at practice, as well as their interviews in front of the judging panel.
“I’m very pleased to be able to continue working with OYM and continue on its successes over the last eight years,” he said.
While students participating in the program were initially confused and upset when they heard Williams would no longer be hosting the program this year, his reinstatement has lifted their spirits again.
“This event has prompted me to consider not doing OYM,” senior Jovan Simakoski said. “I’m happy Chief Williams is back, but it’s unfair to have fired him from the job in the first place after all of the work he put in. I’m glad he was able to come back and finish what he started after we were all caught off guard with him losing his position.”
In a written statement, Director of Communications Melissa Deavers-Lowie said, “Portage Township Schools is working with the sponsors of Outstanding Young Man to provide the best experience for our students. We look forward to seeing the students perform and compete in this valuable program.”
Dr. Amanda Alaniz, Superintendent of Portage Township Schools, has not responded to the Pow Wow’s request for comment at this time.