Latest 509-J crisis: super quits
- Susan Matheny
- Madras Pioneer - News
Amidst months of upheaval and controversy in School District 509-J, Superintendent Guy Fisher has submitted his resignation, effective immediately.
Fisher was not present at the April 23, school board meeting, which had to be moved to the Buff Elementary gym to accommodate a crowd of around 150.
Board chair Steve Earnest read a statement after announcing Fisher's resignation:
"Recent events concerning our school district are of great concern to the board. As board members, we are aware of these events and are dealing with them appropriately."
"Our district seems to be ripe with rumor and speculation at this time. These two activities (rumor and speculation) will do nothing to address the issues the board is facing."
"As a board, our greatest concerns are for our students, their families and our employees and their families. It is my hope that as a community that cares deeply about our schools, we can work together to meet the challenges that are ahead of us."
"It is not enough to simply continue to function ... we need to function well ... as board members and employees, we need to lengthen our stride."
"I have confidence that these issues are overcomable. As a board, we ask for your patience and your trust," Earnest said.
Issues confronting District 509-J include:
. Unrest over drawn-out teacher contract bargaining.
. The siting of the proposed Willow Creek Community High School.
. The reconfiguration of three elementary schools.
. Controversy over the hiring of a new athletic director.
. An in-school confrontation between two middle school vice principals last week, in which the police were called.
A copy of an agreement with the board shows Fisher's resignation was negotiated through a "mutual termination agreement" which lists "personal reasons" as the explanation for him leaving.
By resigning, Fisher agreed to waive his rights to any claims or actions against District 509-J for breach of contract, and to claims for severance pay, damages and other benefits.
In consideration for Fisher's prior service, the 509-J board agreed to give him a positive letter of recommendation, to pay his regular monthly salary through June 30, and to pay his accrued and unused sick leave through June 30.
Fisher has been with the district since July 2005. His past experience included positions in Tennessee and in Alaska, where he had a 20-year career in the Anchorage school system.
The question of who will now lead the district was answered following an extended executive session.
Earnest said the board wants to hire an interim superintendent while conducting the search for a full-time superintendent. Board member Jeff Sanders will contact the Oregon School Board Association for a list of qualified candidates.
"We want to take our time and get somebody who is a right match for us," Earnest said.
In the meantime, the board appointed chief financial officer Daniel Chamness as the budget officer for the district, and Earnest said they had decided to use a team concept to run the district until an interim is hired.
Melinda Boyle, human resources director, Steve Johnson, director of auxiliary services, and Daniel Chamness were selected as the team to carry the district forward.
"They will address issues that come to the district," Earnest said, adding, "I believe we can come through this and be successful."
On the topic of Willow Creek Community High School, the future of which is uncertain, Earnest said there were concerns about opening the new school in a wing of Westside Elementary, and asked Boyle, Johnson and Chamness for more information:
. A plan of what will happen to kindergarten classrooms at Westside.
. The cost of turning the north wing of Westside into the small high school.
. The possibilities of siting WCCHS somewhere else, such as at the middle school, and the costs of doing that.