Woodburn superintendent under investigation, placed on leave


Woodburn School District Board retains investigator for a personnel complaint

Woodburn Superintendent Oscar Moreno Gilson, 2020 (Rick Vasquez/Pamplin Media)

WOODBURN, Ore. (Portland Tribune) –Woodburn School District announced Wednesday that Superintendent Oscar Moreno Gilson has been place on paid administrative leave while the district retains an outside investigator for a personnel complaint.

WSD Board issued the leave during its Tuesday, Jan. 26, meeting.

“At this time, there is an active investigation and I cannot speak to the matter any further beyond what has been shared with staff and the community,” WSD Board Chair Anthony Medina said Thursday.

Medina sent electronic notifications to the district community on Wednesday. In that notification he said:

“It is important to note that the complaint does not relate to students, and the Board’s action does not signify that the allegations have been substantiated.”

The Board adjourned and met in Executive Session on Tuesday toward the end of the meeting, then reopened the meeting to render the decision.

Moreno Gilson was named the superintendent in March, 2020, just shortly before global pandemic closures descended universally on schools, businesses and community activities throughout the state. He officially assumed the superintendent position on July 1.

Juan Larios, who has served as the district’s director of the department of school performance, has been named as the district’s acting superintendent.

“Because of personnel policies and legal considerations, we cannot discuss the nature of the allegations,” Medina noted. “What we can say is that we are intent on a thorough inquiry into these complaints and a just resolution.”

He further ensured the district community that the charges will not interfere with district or school operations.

Meanwhile, Woodburn Education Association has been negotiating with the school district as it develops a plan for a hybrid learning model, which combines distance and in-person learning.

WEA Vice President Tony Salem said Thursday that the board’s action is a concern.

“While we know nothing about the allegations against Mr. Gilson, we are concerned that this change could have an impact on an already-challenging negotiation process,” Salm said.

The targeted date for implementing the hybrid model is March, according to the WEA.

“WEA is gravely concerned that this plan is being pushed through hastily in advance of negotiations, with questionable assurances of safety and a lack of informed input from families,” Salm noted. “WEA’s position has been and remains that any return to in-person learning must prioritize protections for staff, students and the multi-generational families.”

WEA President Kathy Kuftin issued a video statement on Wednesday urging the district to examine its hybrid plans and potential consequences more fully, especially in the wake of Gov. Kate Brown’s announcement last December that leaves the reopening decision in the hands of school districts statewide.

“WSD has apparently absolved itself from accountability to science by preparing a hasty transition to hybrid instruction,” Kuftin said. “However, that does not free WSD from accountability to the Woodburn community, a community where COVID rates have consistently remained among the top 10 highest zip codes in the state.”

Kuftin further noted several points: the pandemic’s risk of spreading is not an equitable one; its devastating health effects are not distributed equally; secondary losses grieved by Woodburn’s children are not equal.

Kuftin said she personally knows a handful of Woodburn families who are experiencing secondary losses, such as loss of income, food security or home care, and wondered how many more there are in the district.

Earlier this month the WEA announced its plans to install flags and banners at the WSD office to honor those fallen from the pandemic.

“This one is specifically designed for us to recognize lives lost of educators, but also share, provide an opportunity for the community to share how their families have been impacted,” Kuftin told Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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