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Board votes to part ways with Hess

The Lebanon School Board voted 3-1 to enter into a resignation agreement with Supt. Rob Hess on Tuesday, June 12, then on Thursday appointed Assistant Supt. Of Operations Bo Yates as interim superintendent.

Hess

The board further voted on Thursday, June 14, to create an ad hoc committee to develop the superintendent selection process and return a recommendation to the board by July 17.

Tuesday, the board met in an executive session, which is closed to the public, to discuss records that are exempt from public disclosure before entering a special session, which is open to the public, and approving a resignation agreement.

Michael Martin moved to accept the agreement. Nick Brooks gave a second. Martin, Brooks and Chairman Tom Oliver voted to approve the agreement. Richard Borden voted not to approve.

“The Lebanon Community School District Board of Education and Supt. Rob Hess have agreed that Supt. Hess will retire from the LCSD effective June 30, 2018,” Oliver said in a prepared statement following the decision. “The board appreciates Dr. Hess’ long service and commitment to LCSD students, staff and community.

“The board will develop a superintendent search process to identify new leadership, and there will be multiple opportunities for public engagement during that process.

“Again, the board thanks Dr. Hess for his leadership and wishes him the best in his future endeavors.”

Among the terms, he said, Hess will receive $250,000, which reflects approximately one year’s salary and benefits.

Hess has been superintendent since 2009.

During the board’s regular meeting Thursday, it acted to appoint Yates, the interim superintendent and to form the committee.

Brooks moved to form the ad hoc committee to develop processes to define the scope of search, interview process, community involvement, staff involvement, student involvement and selecction process.

The committee will include two board members, a district administrator, a principal, a Lebanon High School student, two teachers, one staff member, two parents and one community member.

Final selections to the committee will be made by the two board members and the administrator.

The committee meetings will be open to the public with a public comment section and the beginning and end of the meeting.

Comments will be limited to two minutes, with a total of no more than 20 minutes allowed.

Meeting notices must be posted provided to media at least 24 hours in advance of a meeting.

The board voted 5-0 to approve the motion, with the fifth vote by newly appointed board member Tammy Schilling.

The board also voted 5-0 to appoint Yates as interim superintendent, recommended by Oliver.

“I would be happy to do it,” Yates told the board. “I still have a job to do.”

That means other members of the district’s leadership team will have to share the load, he said.

“If that’s the direction you’re going to go, it’s going to be a team approach.”

Two members of the public addressed the board about the resignation Thursday evening during public comments.

“It’s clear that some members of the board have been unhappy with Dr. Hess for quite awhile, even to the point of dishonesty and perusing illegally the private employment record of Dr. Hess, his wife and family,” said former board member Russ McUne, who resigned in March.

“Incidentally, all five board members gave their OK with their relationship once we understood supervision and evaluation was to be done by LBL ESD (Linn-Benton-Lincoln Education Service District).

“And the board also last year unanimously agreed that the hiring of (Hess’s) wife, who was unrelated at the time, was OK with the current procedures and practices of the district.”

McUne said he had concerns about “probable illegal activity” by the current board and what he described as “multiple policy violations,” including policies governing individual board members’ authority, board standards of conduct, special and emergency meetings and board officers.

In the last year, the board chair hired a coach to work with Hess, who felt he was doing as asked and following the advice of the coach, McUne said. He asked who gave the board authority to hire the coach, who paid for the coach and who received reports from the coach.

“Was the coach just looking for information on Rob to go after him?” McUne asked. “Did the evaluation, which was not completed, involve the reports from the coach, and did all board members, per policy, receive the reports from the coach?

“The board chair informed the superintendent he was dong well through the year, meeting expectations. Prior to his dismissal for unknown reasons, was he ever given any plans of action? Was he ever given reprimands or concerns of his behavior, and was there fairness in his feedback?”

A 360 evaluation was not completed, which was supposed to be done by June 1, with results given to board members prior to evaluating the superintendent, McUne said.

“Nick and Mike’s evaluations, both poor, reportedly both wrote on the same report, need a separation of some sort,” McUne told the board.

“Russ, I’m sorry, but there has been no evaluation,” Oliver said. “So your comments are not…”

“Board chairman got this information, must have agreed and wrote a report or note of resignation to Rob Hess to present it to Rob Hess,” McUne continued.

He asked who authorized the letter, who hired the attorney, who paid for it and who set the parameters for the agreement.

“Either a serial meeting happened, which is what I’m concerned about, or the board chairman is operating way out of his authority to operate this action,” McUne said. “This action was unfair, not transparent, It was unethical. it violated multiple policies and probably laws.”

“Time’s up Mr. McUne,” Oliver said.

Former board member Rick Alexander also criticized the board’s action. He told the board he was picked to attend the board meeting by a group in the community.

“If you look and listen what’s been going on tonight, the district has been on the improvement side,” Alexander said.

Earlier in the evening, members of the Lebanon High School attendance team reported improvements in attendance rates and graduation rates.

“Everybody, it looks like, is getting along better,” Alexander said.

“Scores are getting better. Graduations rates are better. Our superintendent was man of the year. All of the sudden, it looks like there’s been a personal vendetta.

“Now, I hope this isn’t true, but if everything’s going like it looks like, we’re headed in a positive direction. So why would we spend $250,000 of our taxpayers’ money to get rid of a business, which is a school district, headed in a positive direction?

“All I’m asking is that you tell the community why you decided Rob Hess was not fit to be our superintendent.”

The board did not respond to either comment.

In other business, the board:

Appointed Schilling to fill the vacancy for Zone 1 left by the resignation of McUne in March. The district received three applications, but Schilling was the only applicant from Zone 1.

Following a public hearing, adopted a $64.4 million budget for 2018-19.

Approved new administrator and confidential employee compensations and working conditions. The decision provides salary increases of 3 percent in 2018-19 and 2 percent in 2019-20. The district also will pay the amount received by the teachers or classified employees, whichever is higher, for insurance benefits.

Ratified the hiring of Michael Hillman and Kevin Van Zee as co-principals at Seven Oak Middle School and Jordan Ford as principal of Hamilton Creek School, effective July 1.

Approved the hiring of 23 teachers across the district.