Two Ontario School Board members drew criticism in a recent letter that asks for their resignations or censure. (The Enterprise/File).
ONTARIO – As the first day of school looms, strife is tearing at the Ontario School District with administrators demanding two school board members resign or be censured over the harassment of employees.
The details of the rift are in a 26-page document, crafted at the request of 14 of 18 district administrators and calls for the resignation or censure of board members Derrick Draper and Eric Evans. The document is astonishing in its scope, detail and assertions and was delivered via email to the Ontario School Board July 5. It contains a long list of grievances against Draper and Evans that run the gamut from harassment to a conspiracy to create division between the community and the school district.
The document lists 13 examples meant to show how Draper and Evans created an “unsafe and hostile work environment through intimidation and harassment” of Superintendent Nikki Albisu and Jodi Elizondo, Ontario High School principal and at least one teacher. The document also accuses Draper and Evans of using their board position to “achieve personal agenda, without regard for what is best for students.” Draper and Evans are also accused of civil rights violations “regarding the treatment of female administrators and Hispanic female administrators.”
The document purports to represent the views of 14 of the district’s administrators but none of them are listed.
The document supports some claims by quoting extensively from what it said were emails between some school administrators and Draper.
In a May 30 email from Draper to the high school principal, Draper wrote that “the public’s perception of our schools is ultimately in the toilet right now.” He wrote that “there are a lot of things wrong” in the district.
Draper didn’t respond to phone messages or written questions sent to him Tuesday.
“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the substance of the complaint pending that, but I welcome the opportunity to defend my name and my service to the board,” Evans wrote in an email sent to the Enterprise Wednesday morning.
Mike Blackaby, who became board chair this week, said the board is consulting with the Oregon School Boards Association on how to handle the allegations. The association, he said, recommended four law firms – three in Oregon and one in Idaho. Blackaby said the board will choose one of the law firms to advise them going forward.
Blackaby said he didn’t want to rush to judgment on the matter but if the accusations in the document were true “I would be concerned with the behavior.”
The other two board members, Renae Corn and Blanca Rodriguez, didn’t respond to requests for comment or to written questions.
Among the incidents mentioned in the document is an early June meeting between Draper, Albisu and Elizondo. Draper allegedly dismissed the administrators' comments, showing aggressive behavior by slamming his hands on a table and screaming.
According to the document, this is a pattern of behavior for Draper.
The document also recounted Elizondo’s attempt to discuss Draper’s behavior with Evans, then chairman of the board.
The document claims that Evans showed an attitude that was indifferent and dismissive towards Elizondo’s complaints.
The document further chides Draper and Evans for reportedly neglecting to follow protocol for complaints. This behavior has led to disharmony between the district and community members, according to the document, and has hampered administrators’ ability to resolve problems and stem the flow of misinformation.
“Their disregard of policy and reliance on popular public opinion makes them main players in growing the idea that our school is losing ‘great teachers’” the document asserts.
The document also calls into question Draper’s behavior during a spring parent/teacher session, asserting he “verbally assaulted” Ontario High School choir teacher.
“He raised his voice with her and made statements such as ‘Why would anyone ever put their student in your class?’” the letter claims.
According to the document the teacher was “distraught and felt intimidated.”
“(Draper) has proven incapable of communicating with staff with anything other than disrespectful, aggressive and irrational behavior. It is common knowledge and experience for many of our teachers and administrators and they feel they need protection,” the document said.
The behavior Draper and Evans has a “negative impact on the mental and physical health of the administration” and their presence on the board has “grown to be a huge liability for the school district.”
The document lists a host of other purported faults of Evans and Draper and asks the three other board members to “censor” them.
Blackaby said he has total confidence in Albisu and Elizondo. He said he doesn’t expect to ask Evans or Draper to resign.
“They’ve done some good things,” said Blackaby. “I think that the most we can do is censure them."
Evans and Draper were both appointed to the school board in 2016 and then ran successful election campaigns in 2017. Both men ran unopposed.
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