School chief apologizes for error on applications

Matter more ethical than legal, attorney says

Superintendent Howard Fetz said Wednesday, April 23, that his assistant had made an error concerning the number of applications his office received for a vacated seat on the Estacada School Board.

Fetz's executive assistant and School Board secretary, Sabrina Licari, had said during a telephone interview Friday, April 18, that former Zone 1 representative Danny Scott's application to represent Zone 3 was uncontested.

However, records from the superintendent's office indicate Dora Morgan, a TriMet bus driver from Estacada, also applied for the position. Both Scott and Morgan are residents of Zone 3.

'Dora applied, and so did Danny,' Fetz said. He apologized for any confusion his assistant's oversight may have caused.

'We've had a flurry of calls because of Dora,' Fetz said.

Morgan said she doesn't believe the error was an oversight and insists that the board orchestrated Scott's move from Zone 1 to Zone 3 in order to shut her out.

Scott said his decision to make the transition was a practical one and in no way extended his term.

'We wanted to build our dream house,' Scott said, and it just happened to be in Zone 3 of the school district.'

Licari had indicated Scott created the precondition that if there were no other applicants from Zone 3, he would apply. Once appointed, he would submit his resignation from Zone 1, which he did.

Licari also said their office published a public announcement about the vacated seat 20 days before the closing date for applications, Feb. 5.

When Scott applied on Feb. 4, the day before the closing date, he was the only applicant. Morgan filed her application the following day.

Questions from the application, called the 'Candidate Information Sheet,' are listed below along with the applicants' handwritten responses:

Q: Do you have any children in Estacada schools? Scott: Yes (2)

Morgan: Yes

Q: Which schools?

Scott: Eagle Creek Elem. Estacada Jr. High.

Morgan: HS (Lents) 2 already graduated. - 1 went on and graduated college. 1-hd person at library.

Q: Have you ever served on any school committees?

Scott: Yes

Morgan: No

Q: Which committee(s)?

Scott: School Board.

Morgan: But I have applied to serve on budget committee.

Q: Why would you want to be a School Board member?

Scott: I enjoy giving back to the community I live in.

Morgan: To make sure all children have the best education that the schools can provide. Bring back all ESN services until district has efficient programs.

Q: What is the role of the School Board in the fulfillment of that purpose?

Scott: To implement, monitor and govern the policies of the district.

Morgan: To bring in the properly trained staff and programs. To oversee the administrative staff and budget to see that the public money is being spent efficiently.

Q: What could be done to help improve communication and relationships among the board, staff, students, parents and community?

Scott: To have members of the community educate themselves when bringing concerns before the School Board.

Morgan: For starters, answer people at board meeting or by phone or letter. To be available to the public to who you are representing. To do everything in the open and not behind closed doors.

Q: What should be the relationship between the board members and the administration in the handling of school concerns?

Scott: To have open, honest and informative communications.

Morgan: I would hope that the administration would be open and honest and take each issue case by case all open to the public that's within the law.

Q: In what area of function as a board member would you have a particular interest or skill (public relations, budget, negotiation, evaluation, long-range planning, facilities, policy, etc.)?

Scott: Budget, negotiations, evaluation and policies.

Morgan: I would like to work with the special education department. I would like to see that this large group of children receive the support that's needed.

Q: What do you see as the strength of the Estacada School District?

Scott: The administration team collaborates very well together.

Morgan: I do not see anything that stands out. It very limited to special interest groups that have alienated the public and credibility statewide.

Q: What do you see as the area's most needing improvement in our schools?

Scott: Funding for SpEd and I.E.P. departments.

Morgan: Again the grip of those special interest groups.

Morgan made an additional note in the bottom margin of the application: The school district has lost many good teachers and programs. These need to be brought back. Superintendents come and go, none have children in the school, most teachers do not live here and again none have children in the school. They have nothing vested here.

During the School Board's Feb. 13 meeting, each applicant was interviewed, which is part of the procedure for appointment, Fetz said.

'There's a brief interview in front of the board at which time they can state why they are worthy,' Fetz said. 'Both Danny and Dora spoke. For whatever the reason, she tried to ream the board out.'

Morgan said the board asked Scott very few questions, then proceeded to 'blast' her with questions unfairly.

There is no audio or videotape of what transpires during School Board meetings, and the clerk recorder does not take full transcription. Therefore, the only available records of meetings are brief summaries of minutes about what took place.

The board's minutes state: 'Danny said he enjoys giving back to the community in which he lives and would resign from his current position of Zone 1 if he were selected for the Zone 3 vacancy. There were no questions from board members.'

The minutes also state: 'She (Dora) told the board …. she is officially available and did not have (to) resign a position to become available. Jay asked Dora about the article in the Jan. 2 edition of the Estacada newspaper. Dora said that the district needs better oversight before it is too late, like the fire department situation.'

Now, Morgan argues that Scott should have vacated his position as Zone 1 representative before applying to Zone 3 rather than wait until after the board appointed him to the vacated seat.

Fetz said the board contacted the Clackamas County Elections Office beforehand to confirm that their actions met with Oregon's rules of governance.

'Something similar is happening with Lynn Peterson, who occupies Seat 2 at the County Commissioners Office, and she is applying for Seat number 1,' said Margaret Wu, the election office's manager.

Wu said she remembered talking with Fetz, and she didn't believe any rules were being broken; however, she said the bylaws and charter would have to be checked to be sure.

Morgan said she contacted a local attorney, who told her it was more of an ethical matter than a legal one.