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The Newberg Graphic's readers weigh in on important issues of the day and more

Questions for the Newberg School Board

To the editor:

On Sept. 14, the school board chairman indicated he would be choosing speakers for comments that hadn't had a chance to speak, yet he continued to promote three speakers that have had several consecutive speaking opportunities: Mr. Casey, Mr. Gunn and Mrs. Wheatley (spoke at four consecutive meetings).

At the Sept. 22, meeting 47 people did not get a chance to speak, so why was Mrs. Wheatley given time at that meeting? What assurances can you give us that promotion of speakers is being done fairly and impartially?

Regarding the hiring of the outside lawyer Tyler Smith, why was Mr. Smith at the Sept. 14 board meeting when you already had a PACE lawyer provided? Mr. Smith reportedly did 10 hours of work for some on the board prior to the forced vote on Aug 24. Since that work happened before the vote, who pays that $3,000 fee? The district or the board members he did work for?

Director Powell believes Mr. Smith should be at every meeting. Chairman Brown said he wouldn't be. When will Mr. Smith be at meetings and who will know about it prior to the meetings and will the public be informed?

Regarding the $36,000 annual legal budget, given the amount of legal trouble our district is in, this doesn't seem like a lot of money. What happens when those funds run out? How will further legal fees be paid? Will it come from our ending fund balance? Will it come from our students music, art or sports departments? Will we have to hire fewer counselors, or fire someone to pay your fees, or will board members need to pay their own legal fees when the fund runs out?

I believe our community deserves honest answers to these questions.

David Rightmire, Newberg

State flag could be considered politically controversial

To the editor:

Four members of the Newberg School District board of directors propose that: "No district employee shall ... display ... flags ... that depicts support or opposition relating to a political, quasi-political or controversial topic." "The flag of … the State of Oregon [is] not prohibited by this policy."

Section 35 of the 1857 Oregon State constitution excluded Black Americans from the state. Although rendered moot by the 14th Amendment, it wasn't officially repealed until 1925. Section 6 of Article II of the original constitution, which read "No negro, Chinaman or Mulatto shall have the right of suffrage" (rendered moot by the 15th Amendment) wasn't removed until 1927. In 2002, Measure 14 removed residual racial references from the Oregon State Constitution … and 29% of the vote was against this measure.

Some will argue that the Oregon State flag is politically controversial and should not be displayed in a classroom. Instead of attempting to implement ambiguous and legally indefensible policies, I would enjoin the Newberg School District board of directors to abandon their agenda-ridden political adventuring and get on with their primary tasks of supporting district faculty, staff and students.

Ian McDonough, Newberg

School board creates problems where none previously existed

(Editor's note: Chairman Dave Brown and Vice-chairman Brian Shannon were elected to the school board in 2019).

Congratulations go to the newly-elected four Newberg school board members. You have earned on A+ in creating problems where none existed before, even being first in line to do so starting as you did before the new school year had begun.

You just had to rid schools of the BLM and rainbow flags. And what has been the result? Negative national and even international news. Slave Trade cruelty indulged in by some students. One staffer showing up in blackface and being fired for it. The football team having to experience the humiliation brought upon it by your actions.

For many years I have been a sports official. Fairly recently a component of officials' continuing education has been Safesport, a program that was born from the ashes of abuse that is ever at the ready of being inflicted upon kids. Bullying is covered in Safesport. Bullying takes many forms, some quite obvious and but many not nearly so. And as far as I'm concerned, the actions of the new Newberg School Board members about the BLM and rainbow flags have been a form of it.

The BLM and rainbow flags essentially are nothing more than a representative and emblematic pushback on all the various forms of bullying. And they have nothing to do with politics; they are rooted in a desire to counter bullying. None of us wishes our kids to be victims of it. Surely, minimization of it is a worthy pursuit. What is not worthy is the creation of problems where none existed.

Scott Phoenix, Newberg

Board's actions a form of bullying

To the editor:

It is with a heavy heart I write this. I am a graduate of Newberg High School. I found healing from a challenging family situation and hours of laughter there. It was deeply disturbing to learn of the recent and frequent racial and homophobic comments and actions taken by children, and on at least one occasion, an adult in the school district.

My father was Jewish and was no doubt the only Jew outside of Portland when I was there. I got one awkward and well-intentioned, if ignorant, comment by a friend's mother. But never did I receive hateful or aggressive comments directed to me.

I have been a licensed family therapist for 31 years and have seen the damaging lifelong effects of bullying on my clients. In fact, I clearly remember the pain from my own first and second grade (years), being bullied for the clothes I wore.

Racial bullying and homophobia is at a level five times that of regular bullying. The emotional scarring is bad enough, but it actually results in an environment in which physical attacks and even murder can and does result.

The children and employees need to suffer consequences for their inappropriate behavior, but even more importantly impactful and powerful trainings need to occur for the entire district. I would urgently request that the district call in specialists and consultants to help staff, children and yes, even board members, to be given the opportunity to learn the effects of these types of verbal assaults and ways to prevent them. Consider Portland State University and a variety of recognized racial and gay groups for guidance.

Susan Diamond, Newberg

Board chairman skewing the numbers

To the editor:

I am dismayed by how little some members of our community seem to value empathy. Have we forgotten that just because we personally haven't experienced something or witnessed specific behavior that it doesn't mean it isn't true? For every one Black student in Newberg there are 70 white students in our schools. In order to be responsible, caring and contributing members of a community, we need to listen to our least represented citizens.

Four school board members are seeking to rescind the "Every Student Belongs" policy, which bans the display of the Confederate flag, nooses and swastikas -- all three of which have been labeled statewide as symbols of hate. A Pride flag and BLM flag bother them so much, but they are fine with the symbol of the genocide for 6 million Jewish people being displayed in our schools. Think about that.

It feels disingenuous to me for them to claim, "we have heard a lot from the community that does support the ban," but you have yet to show evidence of that. Chairman Brown had to add a question to the public comment form request sheet in order to make sure he could have it look far more 50/50 of a split in regard to how the community feels than it actually does.

Director Brown has repeatedly chosen the same people to speak every time, despite telling others "that he is trying to pick new people." One of the "pro ban" residents has spoken four times. He selected people that have never had kids in our public school system and people that don't have kids in our schools now over listening to current students or their parents. He is purposefully skewing it to look like he and the other three board members have more support than they do. They aren't trying to hear from everyone, only those that support their racist and bigoted agendas.

Sarah Kimsey-Sauro, Newberg

Newberg's school pride has taken a hit

To the editor:

With teams from other schools ridiculing Newberg because of the Newberg School Board's proposed ban of Pride flags, isn't it a bit ironic that it's Newberg's school pride that has taken the hit? Is that the outcome the school board is after?

Charlie Harris, Newberg

Everyone is entitled to equal acceptance and opportunity to participate

To the editor:

An important song in the musical "South Pacific" was entitled "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught." It was a very important message. The singer realizes a person's skin color, or other observable characteristics, have absolutely nothing to do with their worth. Everyone is entitled to equal acceptance and opportunity to participate. Look to the racial mix of past high achievers for confirmation.

Unfortunately, in any self-identified group, some will attribute superiority to themselves and act on that belief in socially destructive ways. In every such group there will be people of high and low achievement. Recognize specific achievement without any other consideration, and also recognize that group assigned racial characteristics are neither superior nor inferior.

And our new understanding of our genes shows race to be a false construct.

Dean Werth, Newberg

What happened to the Golden Rule?

To the editor:

The city of Newberg is said to have more churches per capita than any other city in Oregon. Is it not reasonable to expect that we would also have more citizens living by the one commandment that is taught by nearly all religions? Specifically, that one should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated.

Shouldn't it follow then that our Newberg community be known to be inclusive and supportive?

Mike and Jeanie Gougler, Newberg

Saddened to hear of bullying at NHS

To the editor:

My wife and I both graduated from Newberg High School, Class of 1965 (yes, we've been around a long time). I've had the privilege to coach high school athletes for 50 years and I've always kept a close eye on the Newberg teams with pride.

We are both saddened and disgusted to hear about this racial and homophobic bullying happening at the high school. In my experience kids are basically good; leaders do not allow bullying on their teams or in their school.

I am sure there are a lot of good leaders, staff and students at Newberg High School. Hopefully, they will speak up set a good example about the importance of inclusion and treating all with respect.

Rod Rumrey, Newberg

Board members do not have the mandate of the people

To the editor:

I'd like to remind the conservative Newberg School Board members (and their supporters) they were hardly given a popular mandate by the community.

Only 31% of eligible voters in the Newberg-Dundee area turned out for the 2021 election. In the Zone 1 race, Director DeHart won by fewer than 200 votes. With 329 undervotes in that race, it wouldn't have taken much for the incumbent, Ron Mock, to defeat DeHart. The result could've been vastly different had Director Mock actually campaigned.

In Zone 4 the race was split three ways on the ballot because the incumbent withdrew too late; had everyone who voted for Director Woodruff voted for candidate Tai Harden-Moore, Director Powell would've lost by over 600 votes. There were 281 undervotes in that race.

So, the two of you are here because of missteps by incumbents. It would behoove you to remember this as you move forward.

As for our chairman and vice-chairman, voter turnout in the 2019 races was an abysmal 18.95%. Chairman Brown won his race with only 36% of the vote. A little more than half the 726 undervotes alone would have tipped the scales in candidate Andrea Call's favor, not to mention the 820 votes garnered by the third candidate.

Vice-chairman Shannon's race was more decisive, but 957 undervotes, plus horrendously low turnout, equals still not a mandate.

I would strongly urge my fellow Chehalem Valley residents to use their voices in future special elections. Our district is in turmoil not because of flags and pins, but because four people are more interested in serving a vocal minority than serving the actual school district they asked to lead.

Ava Martin, Newberg

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