WEA: School board's 'quiet' disquieting
The Woodburn Education Association issued a statement to the Woodburn School District Board Monday, April 12, expressing opposition to the board's handling of Superintendent Oscar Moreno Gilson's leave of absence.
In an open letter to the board, WEA expressed concern over due process, hinging largely on a statement Board Chair Anthony Medina shared with OPB last week.
The WEA letter stated: "The Woodburn Education Association (WEA) expresses its concern and disappointment in the apparent decision, as foreshadowed by Chair Medina's statement to OPB on April 8, to take employment action against Superintendent Oscar Moreno Gilson, apparently without an opportunity for due process."
An April 8 OPB story noted:
"In a statement sent to OPB Thursday afternoon, board chair Medina said, 'The Woodburn School District has a practice of not commenting on litigation or personnel issues. We wish Mr. Moreno Gilson well in his future endeavors.' In another statement sent a few minutes later, the second sentence was removed."
Last week Moreno Gilson filed a tort claim notice to the WSD board, declaring his intent to sue the district for claims that include retaliation and emotional stress.
The board placed Moreno Gilson on administrative leave Jan. 27. Moreno Gilson's attorney, Maria Witt, said that action was prompted by a single complaint from a member of the district's Senior Leadership Team, a group of administrators that includes the superintendent and board secretary.
Witt also said that roughly five hours after the superintendent filed his intent on April 6, the WSD board voted to send him a "Notice of Action" the board discussed in executive session.
Moreno Gilson had reportedly implemented stricter performance and accountability standards for the SLT, which Witt said made some members uncomfortable. The superintendent also worked toward implementing the Oregon Department of Education's "All Students Belong" initiative.
The WEA letter said from the start of his July 1, 2020, entry into the position, Moreno Gilson was tasked with addressing unprecedented situations, including pandemic-related curricula adjustments, ODE civil rights audits, questions about the school resource officer program with the Woodburn Police and overall accountability and equity standards.
"While we have had our differences with Superintendent Moreno Gilson, WEA acknowledges that he undertook decisive actions, within the contexts of these unprecedented challenges, to underpin two pillars of our district's value system: accountability and equity," the WEA stated.
The letter was signed by 10 members of the union's leadership, including President Kathy Kuftin and Vice President Tony Salm.
The letter further asserted that accountability and equity are key components of the core values listed in WSD's strategic plan, and suggested that the superintendent was guiding the district in accordance with that plan, but that guidance had been thwarted by personal interests within the board and SLT.
"We have first-hand experience trying to make cultural and institutional change with this senior leadership team, and our experience looks a lot like that of Superintendent Oscar Moreno Gilson," WEA said in the letter. "Therefore, we find the 'quiet' around this major personnel action to be disquieting and suspicious. Most troubling is that senior leadership and the board appear to have put their personal interests ahead of the core values of the school district and above the needs of our students."
The WEA demanded full disclosure of the allegations levied at the superintendent, the reasoning behind the leave of absence placement and what appears to be a violation of Moreno Gilson's contract.
The WEA noted: "We demand that a due process hearing take place. We also demand the hearing be held publicly, should Superintendent Moreno Gilson agree, so that concerned staff and citizens of Woodburn can hear first-hand what the issues are and arrive at their own informed conclusions regarding WSD senior leadership's and the school board's action."
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