Draper, second from right, speaks at a board meeting. (The Enterprise/File)
ONTARIO – Voters may end up sending Derrick Draper back to the Ontario School Board despite his surprise resignation last week.
Draper quit the board during an executive session of the school board, ahead of a vote that censured and condemned him for his conduct towards Superintendent Nikki Albisu.
Draper’s term expires June 30, but he filed for re-election and he had to remove his name from contention by March 18.
He didn’t respond to written questions about whether he intended to drop out of the race or would return to the board if elected.
He is opposed by Tom Greco, a retired U.S. Army colonel who is now lead pastor at Ontario Community Church.
The winner of the May 18 vote would be seated July 1.
Renae Corn, school board chair, said in an email last week that Draper hadn’t submitted written notice of his resignation as required by board policies. She said the board in any event would let voters fill the seat instead of appointing a replacement.
The confusing circumstance followed a closed-door session of the board on Tuesday, April 20, that considered the findings of an investigation into a complaint filed by Albisu against Draper and board member Eric Evans.
In a short public session, the board voted 3-0 to condemn the conduct of the two. By then, Draper had quit and left the meeting.
The board also agreed to join in mediation between board members and district administrators – a step it has rebuffed in the past.
Secrecy shrouded the process leading to the extraordinary board action against its own.
Corn said the board wouldn’t release the complaint against the board, filed by Albisu, and wouldn’t release the investigative report and findings considered by the board.
Instead, the board met in executive – or closed session – to discuss the report and what action to take. A reporter from the Enterprise attended the session but is generally restricted from disclosing what happened under Oregon law.
The action Tuesday follows years of tension between some school district administrators and board members, primarily Evans and Draper.
“These past few years have been the most difficult of my career,” Albisu said in a statement to the Enterprise. “It is unfortunate that this substantiated behavior has distracted from the many wonderful things that have been happening in OSD. We have been held up as a successful district in so many ways on a state level.”
She said educations respect the district’s “success with various initiatives and on several key metrics, like our graduation rates. We have made progress of which we are proud and I hope that we are able to get back to focusing on what is most important, supporting our students, staff, and this community.”
Corn said she hoped mediation now embraced by the board would get board members and administrators to “focus on the work that needs to get done” and “focus on doing what’s right for the kids.”
Draper has been a flashpoint on the board for his contentious confrontations in public meetings with school executives.
He resigned about a half hour after the board went into closed session to consider the investigative findings.
Later, Corn said that Draper “didn’t give a reason for his resignation.”
In its public session, the board gave little clue to what triggered the latest investigation. But its action to condemn two board members signaled evidence of misconduct had been uncovered.
The board said in its censure motion that Draper and Evans “acted in a manner inconsistent with the policies of this board and the district by engaging in conduct towards Superintendent Albisu” that violated nondiscrimination policies and its contract with the superintendent.
The discrimination policy states, “The district prohibits retaliation and discrimination against an individual who has opposed any discrimination act or practice.”
DOCUMENT: Nondiscrimination policy
The board’s motion also cited Draper separately for acting “in a manner inconsistent with the policies of this board and the district by engaging in conduct towards Superintendent Albisu that violated board policy.”
The board cited in that instance its “Standard of Conduct,” a policy which directs that “board members will treat other board members, the superintendent, staff, and the public with dignity and courtesy and will provide an opportunity for all parties to be heard with due respect for their opinions.”
DOCUMENT: Board Standards of Conduct
The board members said in their motion that they “do hereby condemn the conduct and actions of Directors Draper and Evans, and by passage of this Motion to Censure, do hereby censure Directors Draper and Evans.”
By then, Draper was gone and Evans recused himself from voting. Corn and board members Blanca Rodriguez and Craig Geddes passed the motion.
A censure carries no penalty and doesn’t impair a board member’s service.
Evans late Tuesday issued a statement to the Enterprise.
“Many factors come into play with each decision I make, and I don’t personally believe that retaliation has ever been one of them,” he wrote. “That said, I am always humbled when someone lays judgment on me. I will certainly take the time to reflect on the choices I have made. At this point, I think it’s important to remind myself of the reasons I am on the Board. Those reasons are to represent the needs of kids and this community. I look forward to continuing that important work.”
Draper and Evans have come in for criticism of their conduct before, though the board didn’t act on a previous investigation.
In 2019, an attorney concluded that Draper violated board policies in his behavior towards school administrators and during school board meetings. The findings came after 14 district administrators delivered to the board a 26-page letter with allegations against Draper and Evans. The report concluded there was no substantiation for allegations against Evans for discrimination.
Evans subsequently put the Ontario School District on notice he intended to sue, claiming harassment by school administrators. An investigation ordered by the board into those allegations concluded in 2020 that there was no substantiation for his claims.
In the 2019 investigation, the school board released to the public the investigative report. In 2020, the board elected not to release an investigative report that didn’t substantiate allegations made by Evans.
Lat week, the board again opted for secrecy.
Corn last week said the board would not release any of the complaints filed against the board in the past year. The Enterprise sought the complaints through a public records request. Corn said the complaints represented “internal advisory” communications that wouldn’t be released.
After Tuesday’s board session, Corn also said the board would keep secret the latest investigative report that contains the evidence of misconduct by Evans and Draper. Corn said the board was advised by its attorney not to release any information leading to the censure.
Evans, Rodriguez and Geddes were each provided written questions about the board acting in secrecy. Evans said it was up to the board chair to speak for the board. Rodriguez and Geddes didn’t respond.
News tip? Contact editor and publisher Les Zaitz at [email protected]
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