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Oak Grove resident is having to take unpaid leave as a Molalla River Middle School teacher, having run out of paid sick leave

This story has been updated from its original version online.

Oak Grove resident Trisha Claxton has resigned from the North Clackamas School Board due to health reasons.

Claxton, 39, said she started having seizures at work on Oct. 15 and has had 20 seizures since then, adding that her neurologist is working on a diagnosis.

"Based on how I'm responding to meds, right now, he thinks it's a mix of epileptic seizures and non-epileptic seizures caused by stress," she said.

Trisha ClaxtonClaxton resigned as a board member with a Nov. 2 letter to the superintendent.

"While serving as a member of the board, I have seen much growth in the district and I am truly proud of the progress we have made," Claxton wrote. "I am satisfied with my contribution and will miss my time in the district. However, my unforeseen health issues have led me to this very hard decision."

Claxton thanked district officials and local voters for giving her "the opportunity to be part of such a strong and dedicated district." She hoped her resignation would give the superintendent and school board "some thought to look into the support that we give each other within the board, and whether all of our interactions are as positive as they could be."

A Rex Putnam High School graduate, Claxton is a Molalla River Middle School teacher who previously worked for seven years as a biology teacher at Clackamas High School. She said that she is having to take unpaid leave from her job in Molalla, having run out of paid sick leave.

"Unpaid leave means doing all the yucky parts of teaching like grading, paperwork, responding to emails and planning for subs in between my seizures and doctor meetings," she said. "The greatest inspiring part of my job that would make me feel better — working with kids every day — isn't even something I get to do right now."

Claxton recently saw the new Grinch movie and related to the Grinch feeling saddened and left out of the rest of the world.

"I can't wait for the moment when I get to join in the Who feast and begin educating again," she said. "I want to feel whole again and feel my heart grow three sizes."

Claxton was a part-time accounting assistant for Smetco pallet manufacturing in Aurora for four years until 2009.

Elected in 2011, Claxton had proven to be a swing vote on the school board who was not afraid to lose a vote in order to make a point. She unseated Board Member Lee Merrick on the basis of what she saw as a need to bring a teacher's perspective to the board after hearing dozens of complaints from neighbors about the district's handling of Sojourner School. She was re-elected in 2015, defeating Tim McMenamin.

Claxton, who lives halfway between Concord and Riverside elementary schools, was the lone no vote in 2013 to close Concord, saving $450,000 in estimated annual administrative and custodial costs. She would have rather seen the district enact measures such as discontinuing the purchase of new textbooks until voters passed a bond to improve the safety of schools during earthquakes.

North Clackamas voters passed a school construction bond in 2016 to continue at the current rate of $2.37 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Claxton joined a unanimous vote in March 2017 to sell Concord Elementary to the parks district.

This November voters approved the district's request for a tax hike to fill in the expected $17 million school-funding gap to maintain local services in the coming school year. The amount raised by the levy over the next five years is expected to be $97 million but the district says it's impossible to predict what the funding gaps will be that far into the future.

On May 10 the school board voted 5-2 to approve naming the new elementary school after Oregon civil-rights advocate Beatrice Morrow Cannady, which was the name proposed by the School Naming Committee. Claxton and Lee Merrick voted against the Cannady name.

Board members Rein Vaga and Tory McVay joined Claxton and Merrick in rejecting both of the names favored by the naming committee for the new high school. The committee had recommended Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson, offering former Oregon Symphony music director James DePreist as an alternate.

The school board declared Claxton's position vacant at a Nov. 15 meeting, and set a Dec. 19 deadline for applications. Applicants will be interviewed in January, and the remaining six school board members plan to vote Jan. 24 to appoint one of the applicants. The appointee will finish the remainder of Claxton's term, which expires June 30, 2019. In order to continue in the position, the appointee would need to run for the office in the May 2019 election.

Claxton would like her seat to be filled by someone in the community who understands her desire to dedicate her entire life to education, in her work and free time between 2011 and 2018.

"That kind of commitment to use your free time to not always to be the popular person, but to be the person to hear all perspectives and do what is right for the safety and ethics of future generations of our community ... that's the person I hope will apply for my position on the North Clackamas School Board," she said.

Registered voters in North Clackamas who are not employed by the district or one of its charter schools are eligible to apply. More information about the position and how to apply is available at nclack.k12.or.us/schoolboard/page/school-board-vacancy-application-timeline-process.

This story has been updated from its original version online to correct the date that the levy passed.

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