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A group presents school board with a Change.org petition and statement

A group of 15 North Gresham Elementary students, parents and community members delivered a Change.org petition signed by 1,000 people to the Gresham-Barlow School District Thursday, April 18.

The petition, “Do Not Oust Principal Tom Klansnic for Illegal Reasons,” supported the popular elementary school principal, whose contract was not renewed for next year, and urged the school board to reconsider its decision.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: LISA ANDERSON - Brenda Cook, a colleague of Principal Tom Klansnic, wore a 'Stand Up Together' T-shirt as she read a statement to the school board Thursday, April 18.

Klansnic’s story made international headlines after the principal’s attorney, Judy Snyder, said he was being let go because of his sexuality.

“It is negligent that the GBSD does not keep this man working with the kids in our community, and their reasons for not doing so are absolutely suspect,” Brenda Cook, a colleague of Klansnic’s, said to the board. “For each board member who finds this dismissal to be ‘routine,’ please read and consider the testimonials within this petition. Once you do so, you undoubtedly will look into the actions behind this man’s dismissal if you are, in fact, representing the constituents who elected you on our behalf.”

Cook handed the petition to Kris Howatt, the school board director elected to position 2 of zone 3, representing North Gresham Elementary.

The district, however, disputes the decision is because of Klansnic’s sexuality. Because the decision is part of a personnel matter, the district said it could not comment.

Dale Clark, the school board chairman, said the petition would be forwarded to Superintendent Jim Schlachter for consideration.

The district reiterated its nondiscrimination policy, saying any accusations that the district had discriminated against an employee due to his sexual orientation are false.

“The district is unable to share with the community why Mr. Klansnic’s contract was non-extended due to state law,” the statement read. “Oregon law deems an employee’s personnel file to be confidential.”

Denise McCloud, a parent and school volunteer who helped organize a high-profile antibullying program earlier this year at North Gresham, said she wasn’t surprised with the outcome of the meeting but she expects the school board to consider the citizen concerns.

“The elected representatives have an obligation to take our concerns seriously and investigate,” McCloud said. “We need to make sure no laws were violated.”

Looking ahead, she said she hopes parents have some involvement in choosing who succeeds Klansnic.

“For our kids there, that’s what we need to be focusing on now,” McCloud said.

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