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Compelling turnout at Mount Angel School District Board meeting appeared to influence a contract decision

PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Well wishers embrace Mount Angel Middle School sixth-grade teacher Stacy Boost as the school board overturned a recommendation to not renew her contract.So many people showed up at the John F. Kennedy High School Library for a school board meeting Monday, March 11, that district personnel were still toting in and unfolding chairs as the meeting got underway.

Roughly 100 people attended the Mount Angel School Board meeting with dozens remaining standing throughout the assembly, which lasted more than two hours. Most were on hand to show support for Stacy Boost, a sixth-grade teacher and robotics coach. Many attendees wore stickers showing an arrow-pierced heart and text that read: Keep Boost at Mt. Angel Middle School.

In the end, the large turnout proved pivotal in influencing a board decision — Boost will return to her position next year.

One meeting agenda item was renewal of teacher contracts. Following an earlier decision, Boost, a new district middle-school teacher still within her probationary period, was not on the list for renewal.

Boost challenged the nonrenewal recommendation, and an executive session was slated.

According to the Oregon Department of Justice, employment, personnel and discipline discussions are among those allowed to be handled in executive session behind closed doors. However, "a governing body may hold an open session even when the law permits it to hold an executive session."

Boost waived her right to a closed session and, given the support she received at the board meeting, that proved strategic.

"I had the choice of an open or closed meeting. I chose open so that anyone who was wondering what the charges against me were could hear them," Boost said. "I felt that if it was closed, there would always be the feeling that there was some secret bad thing that I did."

So the executive session was called to order before the crowd at last Monday's meeting.

Nuances of the nonrenewal recommendation were sorted out between the board, district Superintendent Troy Stoops and Mount Angel Middle School Principal Jared Tiecke and were based on a few incidents, mostly pivoting on procedural standards.

Though civil throughout, many in the crowd expressed disbelief as some details were hashed out, including a few complaints from at least one parent and a relatively large amount of communications, including hundreds of emails, between Boost and Tiecke.

Board member Shari Riedman was concerned about the consequences of the board's decision, questioning whether there would be enmity between Boost and her supervisor if the teacher was allowed to return.

Both Boost and Tiecke made assurances there wouldn't be.

Three members of the Mount Angel Middle School Parent Team — Toni Ruef, Brigid Stoops (no relation to the superintendent) and Kyla Halter — made a pitch to the school board in support of Boost.

Ruef also supplied a communitywide petition with 138 signatures and a student survey signed by 57 in support of the teacher.

COURTESY OF TONI RUEF - Sticker worn by attendees at a Mount Angel School Board meeting show support of sixth-grade teacher and robotics coach Stacy Boost.A half-dozen other attendees, including two students and robotics team members, spoke to the board during the public forum; five expressed support; one was neutral.

Afterward, the board unanimously approved the recommended renewals and contract extensions, including Boost's.

"The (Mount Angel School District) administration makes our job on the board very easy, and we really appreciate that," said Rod Hill, the board chair. "I'm sure we'll all get past this just fine."

Superintendent Stoops also expressed approval of the show of community support and participation, saying it was the largest turnout at a meeting since he's been with the district.

Boost appeared touched as many in attendance embraced her following the decision. No one embraced the decision more than the parent team.

"Yes! The school board heard us and listened to the people of the community," Ruef said. "They listened to all of the facts and made the right decision."

Later in the week, Boost was still awed by what took place, and expressed deep gratitude for the support.

"I was absolutely blown away," Boost said Wednesday. "I'm still not processing the whole night. I love this community with all of my heart."

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