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  • 3 Jun 2015

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Culture shift comes to education district board

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Multnomah Education Service District elected three new board members, including Siobhan Burke, a Portland paraeducator.

Election Day came at an interesting time in the life of the Multnomah Education Service District.

The last board voted March 5 to bar the door to two-year Superintendent Barbara Jorgensen, who will receive a yet-undisclosed separation agreement before the end of the fiscal year.

Laura Conroy, a spokeswoman for the district, said the board is looking at ways to include the voices of the three new board members in the selection process for a new superintendent. The board hopes to select from seven final candidates after a public forum on June 12.

“My top priority is participating in the superintendent search and making (sure) MESD has the best leadership it can,” board member-to-be Siobhan Burke said after her landslide election May 19.

The board is also anticipated to fire Brett Bigham, the 2014 Oregon Teacher of the Year and a celebrated educator, in June. Bigham has been in a year-long battle with the district that began with his desire to resign over what he felt was discrimination by an administrator against his homosexuality.

“I believe MESD chose June because they know I was named a National Education Association Foundation Global Fellow and will be in Peru working as a Teacher Ambassador and will not be here to defend myself,” Bigham said.

June is also just before incoming board members take their seats July 1.

New board member Stephen Marc Beaudoin, who is gay and executive director of a nonprofit working with people with disabilities, said the district needs to work on equity issues of all stripes.

“The culture needs a lot of work,” Beaudoin said during the campaign. “You talk to any MESD parent, teacher, board member. They will tell you the culture needs a lot of work.”

Burke is also vocal about equity issues in the causes she supports and in her work as a paraeducator to children with special needs.

“I am excited that the new board will bring positive change for the students MESD serves,” she said.