Ontario School District. (The Enterprise/Les Zaitz)
VALE – Results for the special election on Tuesday, May 18, spell changes for Malheur County’s local school boards.
The Ontario School Board, disrupted by strife in recent months, will see two incumbents hold onto power while a divisive member loses re-election, according to results released at 1 a.m. Wednesday by Malheur County Clerk Gayle Trotter.
In Nyssa, four of five incumbents on the school board, including the chair, lost to challengers, portending a significant shakeup in the Nyssa School District, based on initial election results from the Malheur County Clerk's Office.
And Treasure Valley Community College will now have two new board members who are likely to push the college even more deeply into work training students in career skills such as welding and nursing.
In Vale, Jason Chamberlain, Darlene McConnell and Jason Johnson won their elections to school board unopposed. The race between two district parents, Ryan Bates and Jessica Kulm, wen to Bates.
Malheur County voters also were asked whether the Malheur County Court should each year consider a shift in the Oregon-Idaho border. The initial results were 3,050 yes, 2,572 no.
The clerk's office reported a 35% voter turnout.
School board races in both Adrian and Nyssa were unusually contested this spring.
In Adrian, Eric White beat out incumbent Jake Speelmon 208-172. for a seat on the board, with incumbent chairman Ryan Martin winning over Julene Bowns 208-175 to take over the second contested seat. Quinten Shenk won his race unopposed.
In Nyssa, voters had to settle five contested school board races. The final unofficial count:
*Police Chief Raymond Rau: 538. Incumbent Brett Johnson: 337.
*Incumbent Pat Morinaka: 554. Tammie Briner, a dental hygienist: 292.
*Megan Robbins, a special education teacher: 514. Incumbent board chair Bob Fehlman: 359.
*Susan Ramos: 358. Greg Armenta: 251. Incumbent Torie Ramirez: 245.
*Alesha Munk: 385. Incumbent Kim Stipe: 332. Jason Berry: 148.
With four out of five incumbents defeated in the election, the new Nyssa school board, which has seven members, will look significantly different next year.
The TVCC Board election had four positions open. Incumbents Roger Findley and Betty Carter were unopposed for re-election..There were two contested races:
*Dirk DeBoer: 3,471. Cydney Cooke: 1,383.
*Ken Hart: 3,226. Christopher Plummer: 1,458.
In the Ontario School Board races:
*Incumbent Craig Geddes: 1,338. Martin Mendoza Jr.: 1,072.
*Tom Greco: 1,538. Incumbent Derrick Draper: 898.
*Incumbent Blanca Rodriguez: 1,055. Tony Cade: 831. Cydney Cooke: 573.
*Matt Stringer: 1,676. Jeff Schauer: 853.
A new school board may represent a drastic change in the tone and function of Ontario School District after more than a year of public conflict.
In July 2019, a detailed letter purporting to be from 14 of 18 Ontario administrators alleged discrimination and harassment by two board members, Draper and Eric Evans . An investigation of the letter’s claims concluded that there was not “a preponderance of evidence” to support the conclusion that Evans and Draper had acted in a discriminatory fashion, citing alternative motivations for the behaviors described in the letter.
In February 2020, Evans brought a tort claim regarding the letter, saying that it represented “libel, defamation, bullying, harassment and retaliation by fourteen unnamed administrators.” An investigation of those claims concluded they were unfounded.
But in July 2020, then-board chair Mike Blackaby, an Ontario insuranceman, resigned from his position in protest after the board voted to keep from the public the results of an investigation into the claims of harassment and discrimination by Draper and Evans.
A later investigation led to the censure of Draper and Evans for their conduct related to Superintendent Nikki Albisu. The board again opted to keep the report from the public.
Meantime, Draper announced he was quitting the board as it met behind closed doors to consider results of the investigation. He didn’t follow through with a board policy that requires resignations to be in writing. Draper had not responded to questions from the Enterprise about whether he would accept the board seat if re-elected in his race against Greco.
News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.
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