The small town of Newberg, Ore., made national headlines last fall when the newly elected school board voted to adopt a policy that bans educators from displaying Black Lives Matter and gay pride symbols in classrooms, eventually broadening the policy to prohibit district employees from displaying all types of political symbols. The vote came after six months of rioting in downtown Portland that cost the city millions.
Joining the majority in the 4-3 vote to implement the policy, Board Chair Dave Brown emphasized, “We need to get moving back towards education,” adding “we’ve been derailed for quite a while.” Newberg Superintendent Joe Morelock refused to enforce the policy in what the board deemed a timely manner, and was subsequently fired in November 2021 by the school board.
Senate Bill 1521 appears to be Democrats’ response to the so-called “no cause” termination of Morelock by the Newberg School Board under the terms of his contract. If passed, the new law would prevent school boards from no-cause firing of superintendents in the future.
The bill proposes provisions for the termination of superintendents prior to the expiration of their contracts. It states:If the superintendent and the district school board mutually agree to include a termination-without-cause provision in the contract, the district school board may terminate the superintendent’s employment, without cause, at any time during the contract period only if the district school board provides the superintendent with at least 12 months’ notice of the termination. Nothing in this subparagraph authorizes the district school board to make a wrongful termination or a termination for any reason described in subsection (3)(a) of this section.In a public testimony opposing the bill, Ben Edtl, CEO of the nonpartisan group Free Oregon, called the bill “absolutely senseless.”Given that the [Oregon Department of Education] runs one of the worst performing public school systems in the nation, why would it make any sense to give more power to the state over local school districts?” he asked. “Considering that the school board members were democratically elected to remove this political indoctrination from their public school district, there must be no other way to interpret SB 1521 as an anti-democratic attempt to block taxpayers from influencing the public education they pay for.
I'm sure the legislature would have no trouble firing a superintendent for supporting Donald Trump.