Newberg School Board fires Superintendent Joe Morelock

Education

It's the latest in a series of highly-charged, controversial moves in Newberg

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It was another emotional night for the Newberg School Board as they voted to fire their superintendent.

Dr. Joe Morelock, who has been superintendent for slightly more than 2 years, was fired without cause in a 4-3 vote by the school board. Morelock was under contract through June 30, 2024. The school board will “give immediate written notice of termination in 10 days.”

Newberg School Board meeting of November 9, 2021 on YouTube

Board members David Brown, Brian Shannon, Renee Powell and Trevor DeHart voted to fire Morelock, while the board’s other three members, Rebecca Piros, Brandy Penner and Ines Peña voted against.

The vote to fire Morelock came more than 2 hours into the highly charged meeting and ended with Piros saying it “pained” her to see this happen and she was “disappointed in the decision.”

“Thanks, Rebecca,” Morelock replied. “Just remember from the darkest dark comes the brightest light. So everything will work out alright in the end.”

The district’s superintendent cabinet issued a response late Tuesday, saying they were “shocked and dismayed” at the decision.

“The Superintendent Cabinet of district administrators is shocked and dismayed that the Board would take this disruptive action in the middle of the school year,” the statement read, in part. “We will continue supporting our staff in that mission day in and day out, as we wait to see what the Board’s plan for leadership of the district will be.”

Read the superintendent cabinet‘s full statement at the bottom of this article.

This firing is the latest in a series of high-profile and controversial actions the Newberg School Board has taken in recent months.

The Newberg Education Association is suing the Newberg School District after the School Board prohibited all political signage, including Black Lives Matter signs or any uses of the Pride flag.

A state lawsuit filed recently against the district and four Newberg School Board members — David Brown, Brian Shannon, Renee Powell and Trever Dehart — states that there were violations of free speech rights, state constitutional rights against arbitrary and unequal treatment and violations of federal constitutional due process and equal protection.

It wasn’t until newly elected School Board members Dehart and Powell, the document states, joined Shannon and Brown to form a majority to elect Brown as Chair of the Board and Shannon as vice chair that there began to be an issue.

Full statement from Newberg Superintendent Cabinet:

“At tonight’s meeting of the Newberg School Board, the Board voted 4-3 to terminate the employment of Superintendent Dr. Joe Morelock, who was under contract through June 30, 2024. The Board will give immediate written notice of termination in 10 days. The Superintendent Cabinet of district administrators is shocked and dismayed that the Board would take this disruptive action in the middle of the school year.

“A bilingual English and Spanish speaker, Dr. Morelock became Interim Superintendent for the 2018-2019 school year, with the district in significant financial difficulty after having to lay off staff. Facing an ending fund balance of less than $500,000 on a $51 million General Fund Budget, Dr. Morelock’s fiscal responsibility and his work to rebuild trust steadied the district. He was hired as the permanent Superintendent beginning with the 2019-2020 school year. Under his leadership, new contracts with our associations brought better pay to teachers and staff, more educational school days for our students, a stabilized financial situation with a safety net of over $9 million in the ending fund balance, and the passage of the largest Construction Bond in the history of Newberg Public Schools. Navigating a global pandemic with immense challenges, Dr. Morelock’s leadership has been demonstrated in the low turnover of building and district leadership, and the hiring of excellent new teachers and staff who more closely reflect our student body.

“Assistant Superintendent Dr. Derek Brown and the rest of the Superintendent Cabinet remain committed as always to putting our students first and supporting our staff to educate each and every one of our students. The goal of public education is to meet every student where they are, and to create learning environments that can open doors and opportunities for our students to make vital contributions to our community. We will continue supporting our staff in that mission day in and day out, as we wait to see what the Board’s plan for leadership of the district will be.”

KOIN 6 News will have more information as it develops.

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