Board votes to request financial assistance from legal trust offered by Oregon School Boards Association

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Interim Superintendent Ron Alley speaks during a Scappoose School District board meeting Monday, Feb. 12. Alley presented the school board with a resolution Monday that would allow the district to seek financial assistance from the Oregon School Board Association for ongoing legal costs the district is facing. The Scappoose School District has overspent its legal budget by almost $7,000 this fiscal year.

The school district, which has faced at least three legal proceedings filed in Columbia County Circuit Court over the past year, is facing high legal costs and recently voted to seek financial assistance from the Oregon School Boards Association for litigation expenses in an appeals case.

During a meeting last week, Feb. 12, the Scappoose School District board of directors voted unanimously to approve a resolution requesting assistance from the OSBA's Legal Assistance Trust to help with the litigation expense.

The OSBA trust is a special fund set up by the association to primarily assist school districts facing legal actions in the appellate court, outcomes of which could have statewide impact, the OSBA website states. The fund is generally not used to provide funding to school districts for routine legal


Alex Pulaski, OSBA communications director, said the fiscal amount awarded to each district varies case to case and in amount, from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. He noted that requests are fairly rare. In 2017, for example, no requests were made.

Interim Superintendent Ron Alley said he is unsure at this point how much financial assistance the district will request, especially since the legal proceedings are still ongoing.

The Scappoose School District's legal costs have more than doubled so far in the 2017-18 fiscal year, coming in at $21,840 as of mid-February. The district budgeted $15,000 for legal expenses for the year. The district has seen a rise in legal expenses for at least the past two years, records indicate. In the 2015-16 school year, the district spent $4,374, a figure that nearly doubled in 2016-17 when the district spent $8,067.

Last July, former Scappoose fourth-grade-teacher Erika Reardon filed legal actions through her Portland-based attorney Elizabeth Joffe against the school district after Reardon was dismissed from her position as a third year probationary teacher at the end of the 2016-17 school year. Her

legal claim stated that dist-

rict failed to follow proper procedure when it dismissed


In November, Columbia County Circuit Judge Jenefer Grant filed a summary judgement to dismiss the case after months of review. However, in early January, Reardon and Joffe filed a motion to appeal the case to the Oregon Court of Appeals. The case was assigned to an appellate settlement conference program in early February.

The school district has faced several legal filings during the 2017-18 school year, including Reardon's case. Also, the parent of a disabled Otto Petersen Elementary School student filed a suit in December alleging the district discriminated against the student and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, while another former teacher, Heather Ramage, alleged in a suit the district had discriminated against her based on her medical condition.

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