For every action, there is an equal or greater reaction, indeed! Visit the website for the Rural Organizing Project to gain some insight on what people of reason and progress are doing to defend equity and freedom in Oregon!
by Brandy Penner
Newberg School Board Director
(on the selection of Steve Phillips as the new Newberg Schools Superintendent, May 10, 2022)
I did not vote for Mr. Phillips.
I do not know Mr. Phillips beyond what I have seen via this interview process. Unfortunately, I’ve come to the conclusion that he is not equipped nor qualified to be the superintendent of the Newberg School District.
I visited the Jewell School district as part of the interview process. Mr. Phillips left behind a school district team in shambles. He has left a school system hungry for help and support in a crisis. He has left behind people who are deeply dedicated to educating the kids of Jewell and are working hard every day, not because of his efforts but too often despite them.
He resigned from his position before Jewell because of a false, hateful statement made on social media. At best, he was tone-deaf and showed a lack of awareness and compassion in leadership.
During our interview process, it has become clear that Mr. Phillips does not grasp a superintendent's most basic knowledge and skills. He did not know what neurodivergent meant, and this is excusable unless you run a school district of 4,200 kids and nearly 500 staff. He often vaguely stated, “etc., etc., etc.” During interviews and interactions with staff and the community, this is for a position that pays close to $200,000 annually and requires very strong communication skills.
More than half of the qualifications listed in the posting for this position are related to trust, communication, and relationship building. Mr. Phillips is not a strong communicator. He does not build positive relationships and does not have a high level of trust among those he has worked with or for. In addition, he has proven to be culturally unaware.
In the survey sent to parents, staff, and the community, the top priority was preserving our highly qualified teachers. The top area of improvement was leadership consistency, followed by cultural competency. Mr. Phillips did not show us that he possessed these skills or the skills needed to heal and lead our community.
Yet five people last night voted to support him as the leader of our school district. I will do everything in my power to continue to center student and staff voices against what feels like insurmountable odds.
By Elaine Haworth Koskela
From what I can tell, the Newberg School District is in serious trouble with the number of quality staff leaving. Here's what I see as a staff member. All opinions are my own. The board majority went to war with everyone the very night they gained power. No talking with the union or anyone. Just authoritarian power moves. That meeting and all board meetings are on YouTube. Thanks to Dr. Joe and a lot of other people, the board only broke laws that currently have no punishment, no mechanism for accountability. Most staff and many parents were super upset with the authoritarian methods and the breaking of public meeting laws, not to mention the seeming hatred of the diversity that exists in our schools. A totally local small group of parents decided to do a recall, as is their right. They were attacked and slandered and had lies told about them. Then massive amounts of money from Republicans and all sorts of far right organizations poured into Newberg to stop the recalls. Well over $200,000.00. So much money and propaganda. The power of the current majority is strong and seems to me to be derived from fear of LGBTQ and BIPOC students and staff. Fear that something they don't agree with is being forced on their children. (It's not) They are told these PEOPLE are political and are indoctrinating others. Now there is witch hunting for anything that doesn't fit within the straight, white, Christian ideology. Obviously a lot of fear too. People are told their rights as straight, Christian, white folks are threatened because of the existence of difference. Most staff I know working in public education are doing so to educate everyone. They know the students who are most vulnerable. They weren't too thrilled to be told they were being political by making sure vulnerable populations have representation. For me, I'm really committed to keeping public education public. If someone doesn't like the diversity of gay, or black, or oppositional deviant, or whatever, they are welcome to homeschool or send their children to private schools. There is nothing wrong with that. But our public schools are for everyone. Let's keep it that way. It makes me sick and sad to see one group putting down another instead of everyone working together. Unfortunately, I think the district is going to bleed both staff and students for a long while. Hopefully, the next superintendent will be a skilled bridge builder and something can be built back that doesn't marginalize already marginalized people.