OPINION: WSD Board chair sheds light on superintendent investigation
As Chair of the Woodburn School Board, it is my duty to serve our students, staff and community in a way that honors our culture, adheres to our values and centers equity in the forefront of creating positive, lasting change. That is why I feel it necessary to respond to the recent editorial.
During the week of Jan. 25, the Woodburn School District superintendent was placed on administrative leave while an outside firm, independent of the school district, investigated complaints filed against him. The Woodburn School Board acted swiftly to ensure a fair and thorough investigation would be conducted. The investigation concluded in March and substantiated the claims. The district then worked for five weeks with Mr. Moreno Gilson and his legal representation in hopes of coming to a mutual separation agreement so he could proceed with his professional career. Those negotiations failed due to the substantial financial settlement Mr. Moreno Gilson and his attorney were demanding out of the district's general fund — money that is dedicated to our students and student learning.
The next step is for a due process hearing to be held on April 19 related to the district's intent to terminate provided to the superintendent. The board will continue to provide due process and respect Mr. Oscar Moreno Gilson's personnel confidentiality rights by not disclosing the specifics of the allegations substantiated by the independent investigation.
Mr. Moreno Gilson began working for the Woodburn School District on July 1, 2020. The Woodburn School Board tasked him to "move the mission forward" when it came to equity-building and advancing a curriculum based on cultural competencies. In the short six months Oscar served as superintendent he began refining those pillars, and for that the Woodburn School Board is grateful. However, no amount of positive change in that time excuses a leader from being responsible for the impact of his or her personal conduct. I would urge those who are working from assumptions to withhold judgment out of respect for your colleagues who were brave enough to come forward.
The Woodburn School District is limited in its ability to respond publicly due to laws around communicating on personnel and litigation matters. These are not limitations that Mr. Moreno Gilson and his attorneys have, which furthers a one-sided narrative that is sowing division and unnecessary conflict.
The Woodburn School Board is saddened that its commitment to equity is being questioned. For the past several years, the Woodburn School District has ranked No. 1 in Oregon's Educator Equity Report for having the highest percentage of students, teachers, staff and administrators of color in Oregon. In 2017, the Woodburn School District was the first to have an elected Latino majority school board in Oregon's history. The school board overwhelmingly supported the "All Students Belong" policy passed last November. Equity is a cornerstone to this community and it shall not be used as a scapegoat to hide from taking personal responsibility.
We realize the past year has been one of uncertainty due to the pandemic and its impact on our employees, their families, our community and its students. Adding an administrative change is stressful and unsettling for everyone, but it was necessary. We will continue to share information as we are able to do so. In the meantime, we ask that you allow the legal process to run its course, and refocus on helping our students transition back to classroom learning.
Anthony Medina serves as chair the Woodburn School Board.
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