Ontario School District Office

This undated photo shows the exterior of the Ontario School District office in downtown Ontario.

ONTARIO

Ontario School District’s Board of Directors is officially accepting applications for new legal counsel, as the board voted unanimously to post its request for proposal during Monday night’s meeting.

The School Board will be accepting applications for new legal counsel until Dec. 4 with the hope of voting on the new counsel at its December meeting.

For six months in 2020, the board was represented by Brian DiFonzo, after a request by member Blanca Rodriguez. This was right after board member Eric Evans (now the vice chairman) filed a tort claim against the district, citing bullying and harassment by school district administration.

During the board’s September meeting, Evans said if the board is to continue to have legal counsel at all meetings, then he wanted someone other than DiFonzo, questioning DiFonzo’s ability to represent the board “based on things I witnessed and saw during the last meeting.”

Evans alleged that he saw DiFonzo texting with Albisu during the meeting where the board interviewed candidates for the vacant seat. Albisu denied that she was texting DiFonzo during that meeting.

Draper also brought up he was concerned with DiFonzo being married to a member of the Ontario School District administration.

“I feel more comfortable with them,” Rodriguez said during the September meeting. “Because our meetings are intimidating. And I don’t have an attorney, but others do. So I’m being selfish, I guess.”

The discussion of texting came up during Monday’s meeting, as well.

Rodriguez opened the topic because Evans was concerned with DiFonzo texting during meetings, while members of the board are also on their phones during meetings.

“The perception can be negative if someone is using a cell phone,” Rodriguez said.

Evans and member Derrick Draper said that if they are texting during meetings, it is usually with their families.

Draper said one time he had to leave a meeting because he got a text after his wide was in a car accident.

Board Chairwoman Renae Corn said it is OK to message family members, especially if there is an emergency, but reminded the board members that they are not legally allowed to have hidden discussion during a board meeting. Board members texting each other during a meeting would constitute a violation of Oregon open meetings law.

Feeding families

On top of giving out lunch to students at pick-up spots, Ontario School District is giving out a full week’s worth of food via meal kits.

The meal kits are coming right before the holiday break to feed families until meal services resume the following week.

The kits come with breakfast and lunch for six days and include recipes for every meal to be completed (available in both English and Spanish).

The meal kits will be distributed at Ontario High School on Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4-6 p.m.

According to Pam Suyematsu, the district’s nutrition director, there have been 750 families sign up for the meal kit pick-up.

High school missing

Notably absent from Monday’s meeting were members of the Ontario High School administration.

On Oct. 26, Ontario High School Principal Jodi Elizondo’s legal representation sent letters to the School Board threatening legal action may be incoming if actions of board member Derrick Draper were not addressed.

The letter states that Elizondo has a case for legal action against the district, claiming discrimination based on gender and also intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Doing that October meeting, the board voted unanimously to have Corn respond to the complaint.

As part of the letters sent to the district, Elizondo, as well as associate principals Nathan Sandberg and Melissa Judson, and Athletic Director Josh Mink, announced that members of the high school administration will not be attending any board meetings “until measures have been implemented to ensure they are treated with common decency and respect.”

Ontario School District’s contracts do not require employees or administrators to attend School Board meetings, but they may be asked to attend per the superintendent’s discretion. There is no school district policy requiring employees to attend board meetings.

Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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