WARRENTON - The Warrenton-Hammond School Board came under heavy fire again on Tuesday night, as community members launched a slew of complaints related to the recent nonrenewal process for Superintendent Craig Brewington.
Calling themselves Concerned Citizens in Support of Warrenton Schools, the group began by demanding the board be held accountable for violations of board policy or law that may have occurred. They ended by demanding that Board Chairwoman Linda Dugan resign.
Christine Bridgens, Darlene Coffey and Greg Bosin read a prepared statement to the board at its regular meeting at the Warrenton High School library, and asked that hiring an interim superintendent for next school year be suspended until an investigation can take place.
"We have confidence in (Brewington) but no longer have confidence in our school board in light of the fact that this non-renewal ... was done in such an unaccountable and possibly illegal manner," Coffey told the board and the 40-plus member audience.
Coffey ended the presentation by asking the board's chairwoman, Dugan, to quit.
"Because we believe the actions of the board chair are cause for her to step down, we ask for her immediate resignation," Coffey said.
This morning, Dugan said that's out of the question.
"I have no intention of resigning as this is an exciting time for Warrenton-Hammond School District. The board is united in believing the children in our district are capable of meeting the standards for graduation," she said.
At the meeting, the Citizens group cited four board policies and the current superintendent's contract, and raised concerns that the board:
? Did not follow the board policy for the evaluation of the superintendent, which states that "the superintendent will be notified in writing of areas to be remedied and will be given an opportunity to correct these problems;"
? Violated the board-staff communications policy that states the board should communicate directly with the superintendent when Dugan visited Warrenton Grade School Principal Jan Schock on March 31;
? May have violated the contract it has with Brewington by not serving him with written charges and missing the Feb. 15 deadline for his annual performance evaluation;
? Has lost its credibility within the district.
The board had held a private executive session to review Brewington's performance evaluation with him 30 minutes before the beginning of the regular March 9 board meeting. Later in the meeting, the board voted 4-2 not to renew Brewington's contract, causing former board member Jim Gannaway - who voted against the non-renewal - to resign.
At the meeting, Dugan only responded directly to some of the group's comments, and then only addressed specific circumstances surrounding the superintendent's evaluation and why it was conducted after the Feb. 15 deadline.
Bridgens, the community group's spokeswoman, demanded that Dugan respond to their requests with more detail. Several members of the audience voiced their support for Bridgens' request.
Dugan suggested Bridgens could contact the district's attorney if they needed more information or wanted to pursue it further.
"We will be happy to do that," Bridgens replied. When others in the audience voiced their dissatisfaction with Dugan's response, board member Kelly Simonsen jumped in to defend the board's actions.
"When we have children that are failing, that's a problem," she said. While people might like Craig Brewington as "a man," making the decision not to renew his contract wasn't about his likeability, she said.
"You don't know everything," she said to the audience.
Bridgens also asked the board to consider postponing the search for an interim superintendent, but the board held fast.
Vice chairman Dennis Warren said he'd continue to heed the board's lawyer's advice and stay the course, and board member Darlene Warren agreed.
"Our best interest is at heart. We need to proceed," she said. Darlene Warren was the other board member who voted against Brewington's non-renewal last month.
The board also considered a revision to the minutes from the March 9 meeting, and Dugan proposed removing a portion that she said came from the Columbia Press newspaper. The text to be removed detailed the board's discussion that night about whether Dugan had asked for Brewington's resignation in a one-on-one meeting in early March, directly before the vote to not renew occurred.
As the board considered the substitution, Brewington urged them to carefully consider their action, explaining that he included the details from local newspapers because their coverage was more in depth.
"This could be a very legal subject. I'd caution you not to put yourself in a position to sanitize the minutes," he said.
Dennis Warren asked how often newspaper articles are used in board minutes.
Dugan said she wanted to continue the usual procedure in which the board secretary compiles the minutes based on her notes. No recording is made.
She explained that Brewington asked the board secretary, Shannon Schelin, to contact the media about their stories.
"He asked her to go to the newspapers because they were better secretaries," Dugan said.
The board then voted to return the minutes to a brief summary of the conversation.
Gannaway, the former board member, asked the board to rescind the non-renewal of Brewington's contract, citing two primary concerns.
"First, it was a hasty, last-minute decision, and second, it was the lack of due process afforded Mr. Brewington," Gannaway said.
He then cited graduation data for the district during Brewington's tenure, and said that last year's poor numbers were an anomaly. Warrenton had a better graduation rate than Astoria for the two years prior, he said.
Recall unclearAfter the meeting, Bridgens said she has no plans to lead the Citizens group into a recall, but other members might choose to do so.
For now, the group plans to pursue holding the board accountable to the requests made at the meeting, since the board did not directly respond during the meeting, she said.
"I am stunned at the incompetence and chaos," Bridgens said.
Today, Dugan said now is the time to capitalize on progress already made toward district goals.
"It is critical that we bring in leadership that will unite our district and I will continue to be a part of that process. Time is of the essence; a bad school year can greatly affect a child's education," she said.
In other board business, the group discussed a work session scheduled for April 29 in which the board is scheduled to review its policies, many of which have not been updated since 1989.
Also, two spots on the board remain vacant, and applicants can still apply for the position. Interviews are scheduled for May.
After the regular session, the board met in executive session to discuss interim superintendent candidates.