In a divided decision, Clatskanie School Board voted against renewing the elementary school principal's contract.
More than 30 minutes of public comments supporting Brad Thorud were heard as the Feb. 26 school board meeting opened. One speaker presented a petition carrying 500 signatures favoring renewing his contract, and she said 41 families had pledged to withdraw students from the school if Thorud’s contract was not renewed.
Petitioners and concerned parents who supported renewing Thorud’s contract with Clatskanie School District were in front of Hi-School Pharmacy and Safeway on the afternoon of Monday, Feb. 19. The petition was also shared on social media in the weeks leading up to the decision.
An email that had been circulated to parents by Clatskanie Elementary School teachers said Thorud’s contract was in jeopardy of not being renewed. The email urged those with opinions about Thorud to contact the school board and included names and email addresses of members.
"We personally feel that we have an amazing principal here at CES," the email read. "We are incredibly saddened and worried about the possibility of his contract not being renewed."
The school board met in executive session in early February to discuss the school district superintendent’s performance and to consider records that are legally exempt from public inspection. Hartley’s contract with the school district was recently renewed for three more years, expiring in June of 2021.
At the Feb. 26 meeting, Clatskanie School District Superintendent Lloyd Hartley recommended against keeping Thorud on staff. Hartley alleged that in a January meeting, Thorud made a threat to Amy McNeil, Clatskanie Middle/High School principal, which could result in litigation.
According to Hartley, Thorud's threat to McNeil included the statement, "I am very scared and concerned for you." Hartley said McNeil took the statement as a direct threat to her current and future employment. He said two different attorneys had suggested not renewing Thorud's contract.
Hartley said despite his efforts to create a cohesive, functional team between himself, Thorud and McNeil, he did not see any future resolution regarding interpersonal conflicts among the administrative team. Hartley said a teamwork coach assessed that forward progress would be impossible due to a lack of trust between the administrative team members.
Thorud disputed the effectiveness of the coaching sessions, but said he had tried to reach out to McNeil to mend relations and had planned to continue discussions with Hartley as well. Thorud read from a series of glowing performance evaluation reports and denied making any threat.
"None of my evaluations, with the last one being only eight months old, indicate that I have any issues or problems or deficiencies with communication or collaboration with administrators or anyone else," Thorud said.
The large audience that attended the meeting was ushered into the elementary school gym as the school board held a closed-door discussion about Thorud’s contract. Upon returning to hear the vote, several audience members directed dismayed and angry comments at the board and Hartley.
Clatskanie School Board ultimately voted 3-2 against the contract renewal. Board members Monty Akin and Judy Skirvin opposed renewal, and board members Megan Evenson and Valerie Williams were in favor of keeping Thorud. Board Chair Walt Lovegren cast the final vote against Thorud’s contract renewal.
Thorud was hired as a teacher in August of 2000. He became an administrator in July of 2015. With his non-renewal, Thorud’s contract with the school district expires in June of 2018.
A social media campaign to recall the Clatskanie School Board gained traction immediately after the vote. A Facebook group dedicated to the recall garnered nearly 800 members in just a few hours.
This story is developing and updates will be posted.
A petition that supports keeping Clatskanie’s elementary school principal is circulating aro…