Rick Pass, the Knappa School District superintendent, said he's submitted his resignation after the Knappa School Board shifted its position on the disputed re-employment of FFA teacher Courtney Bangs.
The board voted at a Wednesday night hearing to overturn its earlier decision not to renew Bangs' contract. Instead, members offered Bangs a renewal contract for next year with an accompanying plan of assistance.
More than 45 students, parents and alumni filled the Knappa High School library for the hearing. Many had signed a petition to support Bangs, and others were concerned that the FFA program itself might be in jeopardy.
Bangs requested the public hearing after the board voted to affirm the administration's recommendation not to renew the first-year teacher's contract for next year at a Feb. 23 board meeting. The position is half-time.
Questions had been raised about Bangs' honesty and communication skills.
Rinda Johansen, the board chairwoman, said the board worked hard to consider all sides of the parties involved.
"I feel the board tried to come to the best decision it could," Johansen said this morning. "We felt both sides had ownership in the problems and felt they could work to resolve those issues." The board asked the administration to come up with a specific plan for the resolution.
Johansen said the full board was not aware of Pass' letter of resignation, which he gave to her at the end of the hearing.
Pass said he submitted his resignation to Johansen because he feels the board's action was a vote of no confidence in his efforts for the district.
"It was a very loud vote that they don't believe the administration is doing a good job," Pass said this morning. "They don't believe in my leadership."
Pass added that in light of the current budget crisis the district is in, he didn't see how the board could trust his future decisions about the next biennium's finances or staffing. Because Pass' contract won't be up for another year and a half, he said he'd continue working in the district until he locates another position.
"It was a labor of love for all those years," Pass said of his 27 years of service. Pass said the best thing the board could do would be to "thank me for my service and say goodbye now."
But he'll stick it out if needed, he said, even though it will be uncomfortable.
After the hearing, Bangs said that while she was still in shock about what happened, she was definitely looking forward to going back to work.
"I'm excited to continue with my students. Obviously I have a few concerns, but I'm glad my students could be there and see the results," she said. Bangs said she intended to accept the renewal offer, even though she knew the working conditions might be tense. "My students depend on me and I wouldn't let them down. I am who they hired me to be, the FFA/Ag. teacher, and I can't let my personal fears get in the way of that," she said.
The hearing began with a presentation from the district's attorney, Nancy Hungerford, and then the attorney questioned Debi Brazelton, the high school principal and Bangs' supervisor. Brazelton answered questions to support her earlier allegations that Bangs was not sufficiently performing her job, especially in the areas of communication and honesty. Brazelton cited e-mails and written documentation in her answers.
The hearing was presided over by Richard Cohn-Lee, another attorney from the Hungerford Law Firm.
Next, Dot Russell, an attorney with the Oregon Education Association, spoke on Bangs' behalf, then Bangs made her own statement and presented evidence to the board. Bangs refuted Brazelton's specific claims about her performance, insisting she tried to initiate several meetings with Brazelton to try to resolve communication issues between the two.
"I requested time to talk about my concerns, but no meeting was held," Bangs said.
The teacher also said she had always felt her position at the high school was not a stable one. "I was given the distinct impression that my position was on the chopping block," she said.
The board questioned Brazelton and Bangs, asking questions about specific incidents detailed in the allegations. One incident involved Bangs and two other teachers' use of the schools' greenhouse, and another was whether Bangs had the district's permission to move forward with plans to attend National FFA Week.
The two teachers involved in the greenhouse incident, Laurel Smalley and Jeff Skirven, later spoke to the board in a private executive session, answering questions about circumstances.
Board member Ben Bartlett made a motion to extend Bangs' contract another year, with a plan of assistance and regular updates to the board, and board member Ed Johnson seconded the motion. The board then voted unanimously to support the extension.