Newberg staffer concerned over interim superintendent search meeting

Education

The district's spokesperson wishes for public to be informed on process

Newberg School District’s Office (Google)

NEWBERG, Ore. (KOIN) — In the latest issue regarding the Newberg School District, the district’s communication coordinator raised concerns about the process of hiring a new interim superintendent.

In an email to district spokesperson Gregg Koskela, Newberg School Board Chair David Brown requested Koskela set up a Zoom meeting with the school board to talk about the interim superintendent and “complaints that need to be addressed.” The emails were first reported by The Oregonian/Oregonlive.

KOIN obtained a copy of those emails from the district’s communication coordinator.

The email added, “District policy says 24 hours is needed to inform the public, so this is no issue. There will be no public comment at this meeting, so this makes the meeting go much easier.”

Koskela then forwarded the email to the board with concerns.

He cited district policy stating that the board members should only interact with the superintendent and the board secretary. Currently, both of those positions are vacant.

The School Board recently fired former Newberg School District Superintendent Joe Morelock.

Brown said in a statement that the termination “Can be done and was done with no-cause per the contract. This means a specific reason does not have to be given for the termination of an employment contract.”

Koskela told board members the directive by Brown violated policy. In an email to KOIN 6 News, Koskela said he did have previous experience as the board secretary for the district from August 2017 through April 2021.

“If I am going to go outside of my job description and perform the duties of an interim board secretary, I am going to insist on following public meeting law,” he added. “A board secretary’s responsibility is also to insist on upholding our responsibility as a public organization to appropriately inform the public what specific business is on the agenda… As you know, several lawsuits have been filed against the board, including one for violation of public meeting law.”

To limit legal risk and set up a meeting, Koskela requested information about what would be said regarding the interim superintendent hiring. Those questions included a name of a potential hire, if the meeting would establish the process and if the district would be a hiring a search firm.

“Those are all material items the public deserves to know in this crucial business item,” he said.

Brown did address the potential special board meeting in a statement on Tuesday, Nov. 30.

“Recently we had to cancel a public meeting due to the absence of a board secretary and no district resources to fill duties during the absence. A temporary job posting was recently made to fill the board secretary position and closed on November 24 at midnight,” he said. “It is the hope of the board to have this position filled soon in order to once again hold public meetings.”

According to the district’s board policy, the board may engage in a nationwide search for applicants for the position of superintendent whenever a vacancy in that position occurs. The process includes the board gathering candidate qualities and work experience, criteria and policy directives, such as promoting from within at a meeting open to the public.

The public would then have the opportunity to comment.

“The board may seek the advice and counsel of interested individuals or of an advisory committee, or it may hire consultants to assist in recruitment and screening of candidates and to encourage professional educators to file an application,” said the policy. “Final selection, however, shall rest with the board.”

Once a candidate has been identified, the board will appoint the superintendent by a majority vote at a public meeting with notice given ahead of time of the intended action.

As for the second item on Brown’s brief agenda, Koskela wanted to know the specific complaints the board would be taking action on.

To call a special Newberg School Board meeting, normal procedure is for the chair to inform the board secretary, superintendent and other board members. According to the district, the announcement of the meeting – with the agenda of business items – must be officially given as notice to the public at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.

Koskela said he has yet to hear back or received information from Brown regarding his concerns for setting up a special school board meeting according to Oregon’s public meeting laws.

As of Monday, Nov. 29, there was no special meeting listed for the Newberg School Board on the district’s website for that week.

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