(Video Credit: KATU News)
The conservative majority of a Portland-area school board abruptly fired a superintendent during a Zoom meeting after he failed to enforce a policy banning teachers from displaying politically-charged symbols such as gay pride and Black Lives Matter flags in their classrooms.
Superintendent Joe Morelock found himself on the chopping block as he was fired in a 4 to 3 vote on Tuesday during a Newberg School Board meeting, according to the Daily Mail. He was informed of his termination during the Zoom meeting.
Conservatives currently hold sway over the board. They refused to comment after they fired Morelock, infuriating liberals on and off the board. A separate meeting was held privately but the topics discussed were not revealed.
One of the board members who opposed the firing was Rebecca Piros who tearfully apologized to Morelock as his fate was sealed. She was extremely disappointed with the vote.
“I’m baffled why you feel this needed to be done and why you feel it needed to be done tonight,” she angrily told the board. “I feel you’ve just jammed this through and insisted upon it. … I feel like this has been on your agenda since Day 1 since the two new board members were voted on. We’re going to lose so much from this action.”
Here is a full statement on the events of Tuesday night; alt text will be posted in the replies. pic.twitter.com/6TTncJcfjb
— joe morelock (@radiumray) November 12, 2021
The superintendent was making a comfy $260,000 a year, according to the Daily Mail. In the midst of shock that he would actually be fired, he replied, “Just remember that from the darkest dark comes the brightest light, so everything will work out eventually.” Piros broke down in tears as he spoke.
Newberg is a town of 23,000 that is 25 miles southwest of Portland, Oregon. A number of residents proceeded to put up signs that quoted Morelock’s final words after termination.
The conservative school board is being opposed by a collective of parents called Newberg Equity in Education. They reportedly held a demonstration at the school district office on Thursday.
Brandy Penner, another school board member, stated on Wednesday according to the Daily Mail that she believes the conservative board members fired Morelock because he didn’t aggressively implement their ban on controversial political symbols. She equivocated by claiming that the policy didn’t define what symbols would be unacceptable.
The policy expressly forbids teachers from displaying in their classrooms “political, quasi-political, or controversial” symbols. It was crafted in response to complaints concerning Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ flags being displayed in district schools.
Both of those symbols had previously been banned by the district. Threats poured in after that.
Morelock has ten days left on the job and then he’s gone, Daily Mail reported. His advisory cabinet objected to the firing, stating they were “shocked and dismayed that the board would take this disruptive action in the middle of the school year.” An interim superintendent will need to be hired to carry out Morelock’s duties.
“Under his leadership, new contracts with our associations brought better pay to teachers and staff, more educational school days for our students, a stabilized financial situation with a safety net of over $9 million in the ending fund balance, and the passage of the largest construction bond in the history of Newberg Public Schools,” administrators said.
The teachers union in Newberg is condemning Morelock’s firing as “yet another example of a board majority bringing instability to our schools.”
The Newberg Education Association union has previously filed a lawsuit over a policy passed by the conservative school board members that purportedly limits what types of images or signs school employees can display on campus.
The union is arguing that the policy violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment that protects free speech and the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing equal protection.
Penner called conservative members of the school board “cowards” and predicted they would be sued for firing the superintendent. She also pointed out he would still be receiving his salary for a year under contract while another superintendent would need to be hired. The Oregonian confirms that the district will pay Morelock $175,000 over the next 12 months, cover his health insurance, and pay $5,000 into an annuity on his behalf.
“So we’ll be paying for two superintendents and the financial and legal liabilities to the district are endless,” she contended.
OPB’s Think Out Loud podcast reported that Morelock does not want to speculate on the reasons he was fired.
“I plan on getting to all 10 of our schools to say hello, maybe say goodbye, give some closure for some people and still get to see the magic,” Morelock remarked. “That’s really where the joy in this job is, is to see all of the stuff that’s happening in our schools and to be a part of that.”
He claims he was enforcing the policy as written, but that others felt “frustrated” that his actions to enforce the directive weren’t moving quickly enough.
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