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Editorial: GAPS board should build trust by explaining firing decision

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GAPS Terminates Goff's Contract10

Supporters and opponents of Superintendent Melissa Goff hold signs as they await the outcome of the Greater Albany School District board vote on July 14.

The Greater Albany Public Schools Board of Directors should give more information to the public on why its members voted July 14 to terminate the contract of Superintendent Melissa Goff as of Saturday.

As our readers are aware, we’re not the biggest fans of Goff’s leadership style, the inconsistencies in her communications, her lack of transparency and what frankly can be described as retaliatory tactics. She’s frustrated countless community members, and left behind a wake of unsatisfied teachers, students, parents and local public safety workers, as we detailed in an editorial in June.

In some instances, she’s taken positions unpopular with her own employees or pupils, and then doubled down on those moves in spectacular style, blaming rank-and-file educators for controversies of her own making.

So we don’t disagree with the board’s determination to terminate Goff’s contract, though the financial implications could be significant. And we write this while acknowledging that we largely agree with some of her decisions, such as a careful reopening of schools that prioritized public safety during a pandemic.

The no-cause firing shouldn’t have been surprising, unless perhaps if you consider the timing. Three new board members, all of whom opposed some of Goff’s policies, joined the government body less than two weeks beforehand, so this occurred in rapid fashion.

But if the board wanted to make a move and have a superintendent in place before the next school year, that makes quick action necessary. The clock is ticking. The start of the school year is almost a month away.

We believed Goff’s removal was inevitable. If you read the room, you had to have known this was a possibility as soon as the results of the May election were released. It became more of a probability as the school year came to a close, and Goff created new problems for herself.

And yet, the previous school board, as lame ducks, gave Goff a contract extension and raise. As we noted, this looked like a cynical attempt to make it more difficult to fire Goff.

The cost could be around $200,000, as board member Michael Thomson said. We also should note that he set the price tag that high as a board member on June 7.

The contract extension and raise for Goff also has resulted in an ethics complaint against the GAPS board that challenged the legal standing of those votes.

The situation is fluid, and we fully expect more details to be released once Goff is no longer officially employed by the district — even though she might still be paid by taxpayers.

Board member Roger Nyquist, for example, has said that he wants to make all executive session meeting minutes from the last two months open to the public, and that could be a trove of information about Goff, including whether she asked for a buyout before receiving a more golden parachute.

Those executive session minutes also would likely include particulars regarding the censure of board chairman Eric Aguinaga for reportedly treating district employees with disrespect and other allegations.

But even with these documents, new board members should still make public statements and give more information about their decision. These statements might be limited, because, after all, this was a no-cause termination that the board voted on.

A little bit could go a long way, though, if only to combat misinformation that fits into convenient national narratives. We believe people from outside the Albany area — and even some residents, based on signs they carried into the school board meeting — have misrepresented this conflict.

Goff, for example, wasn’t fired because of her efforts to promote inclusion within Albany, and the district is actually being sued for racial discrimination by a former high school principal who is of Mexican American descent.

The new school board also isn’t trying to stop educators from teaching about critical race theory. Oregon has teaching standards that focus on history, including the ugly history of racism in our nation with slavery, the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement.

The rumor mill can get a bit wild.

The bottom line is that the public needs to be convinced that there’s a greater good in the change that has been made with Goff’s firing. Why was this the best outcome for the community?

The Albany school board needs to restore the public's trust in GAPS, help the community come together, and once again focus on our children’s education.


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