NEWBERG, Ore. (KOIN) — The ousting of Newberg School District Superintendent Joe Morelock continues to reverberate through Yamhill County and much of Oregon as protesters gathered outside of the district building Thursday.
The Veterans Day protest included hundreds of veterans, parents, students and residents who are upset Morelock was fired without cause in a 4-3 vote Tuesday night. Morelock was under contract through June 30, 2024.
Around 1 p.m. Thursday, Morelock arrived to address the crowd directly.
“Regardless of what other people say, our schools are open to every single child that walks in the door,” Morelock said.
The protest attracted a large crowd with several speakers in support of Morelock.
Ian McDonough the Marine veteran who organized the event said his reasons for putting this protest together is two fold. One for his family and second for the freedoms he fought for while in uniform.
“I have grandchildren that are white, Latino, Asian, Black, trans, bisexual and straight,” he said. “They are not getting the treatment that they deserve.”
BLM and Pride flags were seen being waved at the protest. Some of those in attendance told KOIN 6 they want students to have this level of comfort and inclusion in school, while others said they don’t want these flags in the building.
“The problem on the adminstrative level is that the’re causing so much fear to minority groups, such as the queer and black community in Newberg,” said Dandy Johnstone, a trans student.
Johnstone said as a trans student the board’s recent divisive decisions makes it hard for students like her to feel welcome at school.
No one came to counter protest the event.
“I saw hundreds of people that had my back,” Johnstone said. “I knew this was a good crowd of people, and honestly that’s what I’ve always seen in Newberg.”
The four board members who voted Tuesday to fire Morelock are Dave Brown, Brian Shannon, Renee Powell and Trevor DeHart. The same four also worked to ban BLM and Pride flags in the school.
“The board has to protect every student and every family – we don’t get the option of just picking and choosing,” said Brown, the school board chair.
Brown said disagreements over the Black Lives Matter and pride ban wasn’t necessarily why they fired Morelock, suggesting he and other board members felt there were multiple issues at play.
He said “there are a lot of aspects of this we can’t talk about.” Brown explained there’s information the school board can’t make public due to rules of executive session.
“Like our country, our town is divided,” he said. “A lot of people feel one way, and a lot of people feel another way – and the board made a decision to go in a different direction.”
Board members Brandy Penner, Rebecca Piros and Ines Peña voted not to fire Morelock.
Penner said Morelock’s firing “has been the shadiest process ever. And it’s our children who will be suffering, because they’ll be losing resources out of their classrooms – and those are my kids.”
The district will have to pay the outgoing superintendent a year’s salary up to $260,000, plus pay a new interim superintendent a comparable salary — along with the the time consuming and costly process of searching for a new superintendent, which can add up to more than $40,000.