Posted on February 26, 2024

Former Black Schools Leader Radio Interview Brings Focus on Race Issues in Green Bay

Corey Williams, Associated Press, February 22, 2024

When an Atlanta radio host referred to the Wisconsin city of Green Bay as “about as lily white as I have ever seen,” Claude Tiller Jr. responded: “The lily on top of the lily.”

The back and forth was part of a Feb. 6 radio interview that included blunt comments on race that led Tiller, the first Black superintendent for Green Bay’s school district, to resign on Saturday.

Tiller’s departure, after less than nine months on the job, followed a closed-door meeting with school board members.


On Wednesday, the Green Bay school district released the WAOK-AM radio recording in which Tiller was caught during a break from speaking on air referring to a female principal as a “wicked witch” and using a disparaging slang word to describe her. Tiller was in Atlanta on a teacher recruiting trip.

Green Bay is not a small town. But the city of about 100,000 in northeastern Wisconsin, has a small-town feel. About 72% of its residents are white, according to U.S. Census data released in July 2023.

People who identify as Black make up about 4.2% of the population, while 17.1% are Hispanic or Latino. Another 4.1% identify as Asian, while just over 3% are American Indian or Alaska natives.


During the radio interview, Tiller was asked about his conversations with mostly white teachers and how he had to “go debunking some microaggressions.”


“They think majority of us we like fried chicken and watermelon,” Tiller said on one break. “I prefer my chicken baked.” He added that, as “a bald head black man with a bow tie, they get my passion confused with anger.”


In a statement after his resignation, he said his remarks during the interview were “specifically directed toward the broader systemic issues within public education that contribute to ongoing challenges.”

He added that he offered his perspective “with candor, anchoring my narrative in both my professional insights and personal experiences as an educational leader of color.”

“Simply put, I spoke my truth.”


Robin Scott, executive director of a nonprofit called We All Rise that supports the African American community, said Black leaders like Tiller “are thrown into situations that are already in crisis and we’re used almost like puppets to fix it.”

“Dr. Tiller represented the diversity that we need here in Green Bay, the diversity that could give Black and brown, and even our allies’ children something to look up to,” Scott said.