Uncensured: School board opts for training

February 2020 Posted in News, School

By Brenna Wiegand

Move forward with training, not censure, was the direction from the Silver Falls School District Board Feb. 10. On a 6-1 vote, additional training was endorsed as the appropriate response to the Nov. 25 citizen complaint lodged against five board members.

The complaint charges challenged the way board members followed – or did not follow  – district policy, particularly on confidentiality and communications. The complaint was investigated by two district-hired attorneys, each submitting an independent report. The initial conclusion found that Janet Allanach and Lori McLaughlin were not members of the board when they participated in the electronic chain of communications submitted as evidence, and therefore not bound by board policies.

Subsequent review noted participation by board members Shelly Nealon, Jonathan Edmonds, and Jennifer Traeger was subject to question.

Board member Tom Buchholz, tasked with facilitating the board’s response to the reports, prepared a censure proposal of board member Nealon. Edmonds and Traeger were not recommended for censure due to their contriteness and willingness to submit to any further measures directed by their colleagues.

More than one board member expressed dismay at what they termed Nealon’s “defiance” and an unwillingness to “own” her mistakes. They cited her recent email to the board “advancing her position” during the school district/teachers union contract negotiations, an action contrary to board policy. The contract was board-ratified Feb. 3.

Nealon said a verbal apology does not carry the weight of proving oneself in future actions. Her attorney, James McDermott of Ball Janik LLP, emailed a Feb. 10, seven-point response to the district findings, supporting Nealon’s actions and challenging the other attorneys’ conclusions.

He suggested a “collaborative process should begin with Ms. Nealon receiving an apology for what she has had to endure” and the SFSD board reimburse her for all attorney’s fees incurred as a consequence of an “unnecessary ‘investigation.’”

Though at least two additional board members said they came ready to vote for the censure, the ultimate board position was to reword the document from censure to a commitment to training focused on the policies in question. Training is to be completed by Aug. 31. In the end, Buchholz was the sole vote in favor of censure.

The next day, Board President Jonathan Edwards
said that such trainings are typically held at regular
board meetings and are therefore likely to include the entire board.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.