The school board will investigate district employee separations for past three years

The Woodburn School Board announced that it will be bringing in an independent investigator to review the school district's last three years of staff and administration employment separations.

Parents and teachers are pressuring the board for an explanation for recent non-renewals of contracts of staff and administrators.

School Board Chair Linda Reeves said the investigation will review employment separations and develop a report for the board and public. The report should be done by the end of the year.

Reeves did not say whether the investigation was in response to parents' concerns, and said according to board policy she could not speculate or discuss personnel matters.

District Superintendent Chuck Ransom said he could not comment on the investigation as it would be reviewing decisions under his leadership.

The Independent has received emails from parents, students and district employees accusing the school district of a pattern of non-renewing teachers' contracts without sufficient cause. Several district employees have told the paper the district has not been transparent in decision-making and created a hostile work environment.

More than 50 parents and students attempted to speak at the Woodburn School Board meeting April 5, demanding an explanation for the resignation of Woodburn High School's Wellness Business and Sports School teacher and basketball coach Ryan Slider, who resigned March 1 after vocal supporters allege he was told his contract would be non-renewed.

Parents and students were unable to voice their concerns about Slider's resignation due to a policy enacted by the board in January prohibiting mention of individual staff members during public comment.

Students were particularly upset that Woodburn had lost a teacher of color, which they said was important as it reflected the demographics of the school.

The Independent has also heard from parents and district employees upset about the reassignment of Valor Middle School Principal Danny Nañez.

Nañez's contract was not renewed and he was reassigned in the middle of the semester to instructional services program coordinator, trading places with Eric Swenson, who is now Valor's principal.

Parents of Valor students were alerted of the move March 14 in a letter from Casey Woolley, the district's director of human resources.

The letter stated in English and Spanish that Nañez had "stepped down," and did not explain to parents that Nañez had been reassigned and his contract non-renewed.

The district originally agreed to let Nañez stay on as principal at Valor until the end of the term, according to School Board Director Gustavo Gutierrez-Gomez.

"I did not think (the move) was fair, that's not what we talked about," Gutierrez-Gomez said.

Gutierrez-Gomez said that he was troubled by recent non-renewals of staff and administrators contracts, expressing concern that Latino employees were being treated unfairly and dismissed for minor performance issues. He said that its important for students to be represented by the staff and administration. Not counting Nañez, three of the district's 11 head principals and four of the district's five assistant principals are Latino.

"Why retain some people, and let other people go, who just happen to be Latino?" he said. "My concern is, were these people let go because they really screwed up?"

Patrick Evans



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