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After firing superintendent, Albany school board considers next steps

In its second special meeting in a week, the Greater Albany Public Schools board of directors first voted to declare a vacancy in the position of Superintendent. One board member, Michael Thomson, voted no.

The board unexpectedly fired Superintendent Melissa Goff on July 14. She’d been in the role for two years.

Board members have not discussed publicly their reasons for dismissing Goff. The termination comes on the heels of an election, when three of five board members were voted into office after campaigning against certain COVID-19 restrictions and district priorities related to racial equity.

After scheduling, then canceling a meeting scheduled for July 16, the board met Wednesday to discuss next steps and to consult with the board’s legal counsel, Paul Dakopolos. Dakopolos said the timing of Goff’s dismissal did not leave time to plan for a transition.

“The board’s decision has created some real challenges,” Dakopolos said.

He said Goff has created a transition plan that has Assistant Superintendent Lisa Harlan taking on several superintendent duties. But after July 24, the district will not have a superintendent.

The board will meet again Friday to review public comment and potentially vote on two things: suspending board policy on recruiting and appointing a superintendent, and adopting a sped-up search process for an interim superintendent.

The process outlined by Dakopolos looks like this:

The school board is still accepting public comment on the board’s proposed process, as well as what qualifications the community would like to see in a superintendent.

Thirty public comments received before Wednesday’s meeting speak to the conflicting views in the school community, with most comments expressing opposition and concern in response to Goff’s firing, and the desire for more parent and staff input in the process for hiring the district’s next superintendent. Some comments requested a broad search for candidates outside of Albany.

“We have a large number of families within our district who are experiencing fear and uncertainty over this transition, and an interim superintendent who is committed to caring for those fears is essential,” read a comment from Nolan and Jill Nelson.

Staff and families rallied outside of Wednesday’s meeting to protest Goff’s firing, according to KOIN.

A couple of commenters seemed to agree with the board’s decision, suggesting a future superintendent should focus on “education — not indoctrination.”

“Traditional academics — no fads or experiments,” read a comment from David and Dacia Rickenbach.

William Hays asked for transparency from the board as the process begins, including transparency in sharing board members’ reason for dismissing Goff.

“We have to know your thinking in what you do and why you do it,” Hays wrote.

Others asked the board to retain Goff before July 24, when her dismissal takes effect.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting