RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Effective Feb. 28, Richmond Public Schools (RPS) Chief of Staff Michelle Hudacsko is stepping down, after submitting her resignation to the superintendent and School Board, in which she cited a “hostile” and “toxic work environment.”

The letter was sent out Wednesday morning. In it, Hudacsko said that it had been a privilege to serve “RPS students, families, and staff over the last 5 years.”

Prior to her current role, Hudacsko led the design and district-wide implementation of District of Columbia Public Schools’ (DCPS) performance assessment and feedback system for all school-based staff, according to RPS. She began her career as a middle school special education teacher.

“I am proud of the many things I was able to accomplish — both big and small — as part of this Administration,” Hudacsko said in her resignation letter, addressing her tenure with RPS. “From helping to manage our division through COVID, all kinds of facility improvements that enhanced our kids’ experiences, launching the crossing guard program, managing our budget, negotiating our collective bargaining agreements, being the responsive person folks reached out to, and much more.”

But Hudacsko also referenced “the frequent actions that some Board Members take to dismantle progress and intentionally set the Administration up to fail, along with mean-spirited personal attacks, threats, and unfounded accusations.” She did not name specific members of the RPS School Board.

8News reached out to Superintendent Jason Kamras — who was named in the letter as “one of the most talented and inspirational leaders” that Hudacsko had ever worked with — but has not received a response. 8News also contacted each member of the School Board.

Third District representative Kenya Gibson said that she was grateful for Hudacsko’s service.

“Unlike D.C. public schools where Ms. Hudacsko worked before joining us here, Richmond Public Schools is governed by a democratically elected board. Democracy is not served when our elected officials are labeled as hostile when asking important questions and pushing for accountability,” Gibson said. “Any administration that comes to Richmond will have to prioritize democratic buy-in as part of their planning, as has every administration before them. It does not serve our schools or students to undermine elected leadership.”

Sixth District representative Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed said that her focus was on moving forward.

As a school board representative, we can receive nominations and resignations on a weekly basis. Nominations of candidates and resignations of employees are discussed in our executive session, not in the public. This resignation is no different. I am choosing to focus on what matters and that is student outcomes for our school division. I encourage the school division and my school board colleagues to remain focused, poised, and ready to move forward.

Dr. Harris-Muhammed in a Thursday email to 8News

Meanwhile, Fourth District representative Jonathan Young said that he hoped the concerns outlined in Hudacsko’s letter would spark actual change.

“There is no one in the district that works harder and, arguably, no one who has made a bigger difference in the lives of students,” Young said. “She’s exceptional in every capacity. To lose her is a blow to the district, no doubt about it.”

Although he said it would be challenging to replace Hudacsko, Young noted that the school division would likely hire an Interim Chief of Staff from within, before conducting a nationwide search for the next individual to fill the role on a more permanent basis.

“There was writing on the wall,” he said. “Were in a really, really bad place. So, look, I mean, the School Board has to own that failure. There’s no way to characterize where we’re at other than abject failure, and so her critique of the School Board, I pray, will encourage my colleagues, along with yours truly, to be mature enough to self-reflect, look at ourselves in the mirror and identify a better way to move forward.”

Local coach and community advocate David Jones, Sr. told 8News Thursday that that is his hope, as well.

“She’s one of the staples in the last 5 years of RPS,” he said. “It was hurtful.”

Jones formed the TH-JAW Foundation — named after the division’s five primary high schools, Thomas Jefferson, Huguenot, John Marshall, Armstrong and George Wythe — to help motivate and mentor student-athletes.

“I’ve seen her go to the board. I’ve seen her fight hard behind the scenes, trying to do what’s best for these kids in RPS,” he said. “To get your team to cooperate and go with the game plan is very difficult. Sometimes, the School Board before this one, you could see that they were a team. You could tell that. They build three different schools in the City of Richmond.”

Young said that he wasn’t aware of any singular issue that could have prompted Hudacsko’s departure, but noted increasing challenges in RPS.

“I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult, and that difficulty shouldn’t be surprising to anybody. I mean, we just experienced this preceding year something like 25% of our teachers depart the district,” he said. “I don’t know that you can point to any one variable or element, but it’s really an aggregate, a culmination of many things that have been materializing for for a long time, the truth be told.”

RPS Associate Director of Advocacy and Outreach Lorena Arias said in a statement to 8News that the school division does not comment on personnel matters.