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Two fired superintendents discuss the state of education in Oregon

By DEBRA GIL

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    PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — The Oregon Senate approved a bill Thursday that establishes job protections for school superintendents. Two local superintendents were recently fired by their school boards without cause, but those appeared to reflect rifts over COVID-19 restrictions and politics.

Senate Bill 1521 creates employment protections for Oregon’s school superintendents. The measure limits the instances in which a school board can terminate the district leader’s employment without cause.

On Thursday, the City Club of Portland talked about the state of education with the former superintendents of Greater Albany Schools and Newberg Public Schools.

Both Melissa Goff and Dr. Joe Morelock were fired without cause by their boards recently. Goff believes COVID-19 restrictions and efforts to steer resources and assistance to immigrant students and students of color spurred backlash. Morelock said wanting students to feel supported no matter their ethnicity or how they identify created division in the community.

Both said politics at the school board level, rather than a focus on education and students wellbeing, ultimately led to their termination.

“The influence of politics, and I would say that is a big change in what we have experienced as superintendents in the past,” Goff said. “What is now happening, however, is you are seeing the two major political digging in around candidates for school board. That never happened before.”

“We welcome every child that walks in the door regardless of where on the political spectrum their parents are. It doesn’t actually matter. You’re here and we’re going to care for you. We’re going to do our best to support you in school. It seems sometimes people who don’t want something for their own child, also don’t want it for everybody else’s children,” said Morelock.

Under Senate Bill 1521, a school board can’t direct a superintendent to take actions that conflict with state or federal law. Some in the community felt the Newberg School District’s ban on Black Lives Matter signs and Pride flags violated law and are pursuing that.

The bill now goes to the Oregon House for consideration.

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