The Scappoose School District voted at a contentious meeting Monday evening to approve a $24,000 contract with the district's outgoing interim superintendent, Paul Peterson, for him to assist in the transition process when the newly hired superintendent, Timothy Porter, starts July 1.
Board members Lisa Maloney and Tim Brooks voted against contract approval.
Peterson was hired by a 5-2 vote of the school board last summer to serve a year as the district's interim superintendent. Brooks and Maloney voted against rehiring Peterson, who had previously worked with the district before he was released early from his contract in 2011 in the midst of a discrimination lawsuit filed against the district based on Peterson's actions. The district ultimately settled the lawsuit.
The contract approved Monday allows Peterson to remain with the district for two months after his interim superintendent contract ends June 30.
During discussions, Maloney alleged it was the first time the consulting contract for the outgoing superintendent had been publicly discussed and that it had not previously been brought to the board during public meetings, or the during the 2019-20 budget planning process.
"This is more like severance package for someone who's only been here a year," Maloney said.
Most of the board members, including board Chair Phil Lager, Vice Chair Michelle Graham, Jim Hoag and Branda Jurasek, denied Maloney's assertion.
"I don't want to go into the details of our executive session, but it was done when we were discussing the hiring of our new superintendent. And you were there," Lager said to Maloney, referring to an executive session meeting held March 25.
Hoag also pushed back against Maloney, stating the board had agreed to allow Lager and Graham to negotiate contract details with the incoming superintendent in March during the executive session.
"You are incorrect and you were part of the discussion and there was not a dissenting person in that discussion," Hoag said to Maloney. "So we must all be liars."
When the board met March 25 in executive session, it was still considering four finalists for the permanent superintendent position.
No public decisions were made following the meeting, however. The following day, March 26, Peterson announced he was withdrawing as a finalist for the superintendent position. The board then publicly announced the hiring of Porter on April 5, several days before it voted to approve his contract in a board meeting.
Peterson and Lager both signed a contract agreement on March 25 to allow Peterson to work with the district as a consultant, according to public records made available to the Spotlight this week.`
"We have a signed contract, yet we haven't voted," Maloney pointed out.
The March 25 contract also differs from other versions of the document included in the board packetearlier this week. On the night of the school board meeting, Maloney said she received another contract for approval that was also different from what had first appeared in the board packet.
When Maloney pressed for more details about when the contract was discussed publicly, why there was no record of the topic in meeting minutes, and why the topic had not come up during budget committee meetings, Lager cited closed discussions never revealed to the public.
"There's all kinds of stuff in our executive session that's not covered in detail. So here's the problem, now we're walking into talking about executive session where I don't feel comfortable talking about executive session and what went on," Lager said.
He continued, "There was consensus built on a plan on how we move forward. The entire group agreed with this plan. You're acting like you never heard anything about this, and to me this is outside the scope of what we should talk about in a public meeting, period."
The March 25 contract included a salary of $36,000, derived from public funds, for a contract set to run from July 1 to Sept. 30.
The June 10 contract indicates Peterson will work for the district from July 1 to Aug. 31 and will be paid $24,000. Peterson will also retain district health insurance, one day of sick leave, and the district will pay the employer contribution to the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). The total cost to the district will be $36,000 which has been included in the 2019-20 budget, Finance Director Mitch Neilson explained.
Duties outlined in the contract include assisting the board and the new superintendent by performing "tasks reasonably related to the transfer of the leadership of the District, as determined by the Superintendent," the contract states.
Initially, the contract had been slated for approval on the board's consent agenda. Consent agenda items are typically routine in nature and have been reviewed by the board beforehand, and are approved with one vote and often little discussion.
Maloney specifically requested the contract approval be moved to the new business section of the agenda so it could be publicly discussed.
Peterson is currently being considered as one of four finalists for a superintend position in the Philomath School District.
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