Wednesday, March 15, 2006
DALLAS -- On March 9 the Morrison Charter School board heard a demand for the immediate termination of Executive Director Don Wildfang.
The three members of the five-member board who were present listened as Steve Kenney firmly outlined allegations that Wildfang created a hostile work environment resulting from his retaliations toward employees exercising their freedom of speech.
Kenney serves as a consultant with Oregon Education Association's Uniserv unit. He was present as a representative of the Morrison staff. Nearly all of that group was present as he spoke.
Following an executive session of the board, that panel reconvened in an open meeting with a proposal to offer more lines of communication between the board and its staff.
The board invited the employees to meet with two directors at any mutually agreeable time to discuss unprofessional conduct or other instances involving staff and Morrison Executive Director Don Wildfang. Such instances are those that might occur between now and June 30.
The board also supported Wildfang in his need to enter classrooms and to meet with students and staff. Board chair Don Currey stated, "Don Wildfang will continue to do his job."
Currey also commented, "I don't believe there was any indication from any of the five board members that they (the staff) couldn't speak openly (as cited in the letter)."
Teacher Ken Guffey, president of the Morrison Education Association, responded by saying, "It would have been nice to have been told that. The executive director told us he would talk with the board, train them and teach them what to say."
Director Jerry Nathan's response following Kenney's letter reading was, "I am speechless." Board vice chair Chuck Lerwick commented, "There's a lot to digest here. We need to get the facts."
The Morrison staff announced at a Jan. 18 public hearing that none of them would return to their positions in the fall if Wildfang remained as executive. Following that hearing the Dallas School Board refused to renew the charter for the school.
The Charter school's contract with Dallas School District expires June 30. A letter appealing that decision has been sent to Oregon Department of Education. Wildfang noted that there is no timeline for a response to the appeal.
In other Morrison Charter School news:
Board chair returns compensation
DALLAS -- "It was a rookie mistake," according to Morrison Board Chair Don Currey in response to a letter alleging he broke the law when he voted to compensate himself for work he would be doing in the process of terminating Morrison Charter School.
A retired school administrator, Currey admits he knew better when a motion was made at the Feb. 9 meeting of the Morrison board. With only three of the five board members present the motion required approval of all three.
The letter was written by Salem attorney Paul Dakopolos. He has overseen the Morrison Charter renewal process for the Dallas School District board. The letter cited an Oregon statute prohibiting public officials from using their official position to obtain financial gain.
Following the board action, Currey returned two checks he had received. He gave them to Executive Director Don Wildfang during a March 9 executive session of the board.
The board chair also tendered his resignation from the charter school body should that be the board's wishes. Again there were only three board members present. Later, after polling all board members, it was unanimously decided not to accept the resignation.
DALLAS -- A $15,756 check to the U.S. Treasury was among $24,000 of bills approved for payment by the Morrison Charter School board at its March 9 meeting.
The large check to the Treasury resulted from a discrepancy between payroll figures reported to the government in 2004 by Willamette ESD and W2 numbers reported by WESD. At that time WESD was keeping Morrison's books.
Executive Director Don Wildfang explained that a year earlier nearly $8,000 was refunded to Morrison as result of a similar discrepancy.
That check had the effect of moving Morrison's monthly employee benefit costs from the normal $9,000 to $10,000 level to more than $18,000 in February.
Even with the unusual expense the charter school is expecting to close its final year June 30 with an account balance of more than $120,000. Those dollars will be turned over to the Oregon Department of Education with the closure of the charter school.