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Ontario School District

Ontario High School teachers want investigation

30 sign letter stating board ‘showed no interest’ in determining if state, school rules had been broken by one of its own

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Ontario High School teachers want investigation

The 400 hall of Ontario High School sits vacant in mid-March of 2020, after the first wave of shutdowns hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. About 30 teachers at the school are currently requesting a full investigation by a third party regarding  a board member allegedly intercepting a recording of a secretly recorded staff meeting.

ONTARIO

Numerous teachers are not satisfied with the Ontario School District Board of Directors’ response to a complaint that was first launched on Jan. 28. It alleged a staff member secretly recorded a staff meeting then went to the home of Derrick Draper, a member of the board, to give him that recording.

The board responded with a letter outlining formal complaint procedures.

As such, a follow up letter signed by about 30 teachers was sent to the board on Feb. 9 requesting a full investigation into “a clear violation” of policy regarding the chain of command for complaints against employees.

The newspaper obtained a copy of the most recent letter, which states that the board’s response to the staff “is extremely surprising and disappointing considering the nature of the complaint.”

The board’s response to the initial complaint came in the form of a letter to staff on Feb. 5, which was drafted following a special session on Feb. 4. The board’s letter stated that there was no violation of board policy, and simultaneously acknowledged “there may have been a breakdown of trust.” The board went on to state that they welcomed feedback, but that it needed to be done through “established policies and procedures.”

However, it is those very policies and procedures that the staff claims Draper has violated “in several ways,” including policy KL by accepting the recording instead of having it filed through the appropriate administrative channel. The letter states Draper also violated policy KL-AR regarding public complaint procedures in several ways, including attempting to share the recording with board members in private, attempting to play the recording in an open public meeting, involving the board before a full administrative investigation played out, and attempting to complain against an employee in a public meeting, which can only be done at the request of the employee.

“As a team, we are shocked that the board does not recognize this glaring violation of Board Policy,” reads the latest letter.

Furthermore, staff say that the board pointing them to policy for complaints is “confusing to us as teachers, as we believe we have followed the complaint procedure with our concerns.

The letter further poses the following questions.

“If the Board cannot follow its own policies, what function do they ultimately serve? What protections do they offer to those that bring a complaint forward? And how can we trust the Board to serve its constituents rather than being self-serving?”

Teachers say Draper aimed to ‘convince other board members of his position’

The letter alleges that Draper sent an email dated Jan. 22 to all board members about receiving an audio recording from an OHS teacher “who was unhappy that the ‘administration was turning staff against the board.” The letter alleges Draper wanted to share the recording with board members but ran into technical difficulties, so offered to share it at an open meeting.

“Finally, his email included anger at OHS administration and assertions that the OHS admin had acted inappropriately, in a clear attempt to convince other board members of this position,” reads the staff letter.

A request for a copy of the email from Draper to the Board was denied by Board Chairwoman Renae Corn in an email on Thursday.

“The Ontario School District is in receipt of your public records request for an email from Director Draper dated January 22, 2021,” reads the response. “The email is exempt from disclosure pursuant to ORS 192.355(2) and therefore, cannot be provided.”

The law cited by Corn states that disclosure of the content is “information of a personal nature,” that if publicly disclosed “would constitute an unreasonable invasion of privacy.”

A staff member who signed the letter, and whose name is being withheld for privacy reasons, was also unable to provide Draper’s email which was detailed in the letter.

“To my knowledge, the Director Draper email was received just prior to the board meeting on Jan. 22 and provided to the building principal before the board meeting to inform her of the events Director Draper described in an effort to start addressing the issue for our staff and student protection,” reads the response. “The content of the email had to be shared with staff (not the email itself, at this point) to inform them they were recorded without their knowledge and how we received that information.”

Staff cite potential violation of Oregon Revised Statutes

The staff letter states that the board “showed no interest” in determining whether Draper himself violated policy or engaged in illegal activity, including whether he violated ORS 165.540, and most specifically section e. This states that a person may not “use or attempt to use, or divulge to others, any conversation, telecommunication or radio communication obtained by any means prohibited.” It is noteworthy that obtaining or attempting to obtain the whole or part of any conversation where not all participants are informed is also listed as a violation of that law.

“Unfortunately, in our view, it looks like Director Draper is being protected more so than staff, administrators, students and families of OHS,” reads the letter.

The letter signers are requesting that the board have an impartial third party do a comprehensive investigation into the matter and release the findings expeditiously.

“Anything short of these actions, send the message that unethical and illegal behavior among the Board is condoned. Restoring trust in the Board to act fairly at this time is paramount,” concludes the letter.

When asked whether the board would be taking any action on this newest letter, Corn in an email on Friday afternoon confirmed the board did receive the most recent teacher letter, but said it was “unlikely this letter will be added to the agenda as the board previously took action on the matter at its last meeting and this appears to be a request to reconsider the Board’s decision.”

Corn also confirmed that Ryan Roulston was the president of the teachers union. A call to Roulston regarding what the teachers might do next if the board would not consider their request for an investigation was not returned by press time.

At its most recent special meeting on Feb. 4, the board heard and accepted two complaints, the first of which was the initial staff letter from Jan. 28. The board did not disclose details of either complaint. It is noteworthy, that upon accepting the second complaint, a motion was made to appoint legal counsel and to seek an investigator to look into the complaint.

Corn said there is no additional information at this time regarding that investigation, but that “the district’s lawyer is working on that piece of that on behalf of the Board.”

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