Community divided over firing of GAPS superintendent

This was a $200,000 decision, according to a board member who voted against firing Melissa Goff.

Posted: Jul 15, 2021 1:42 PM
Updated: Jul 15, 2021 8:02 PM

ALBANY, Ore. – The firing of Greater Albany Public School superintendent Melissa Goff has divided the community.

Wednesday night, the school board voted 3-1 to fire Goff, whose contract allows the board to dismiss her without cause. After the decision, messages in support of Goff went up at the front of the district office.

"We've really seen the work that she has done to help advocate and make sure that the needs are met, and so I'm concerned at what it looks like in the future," said Jill Nelson, who has two children currently enrolled in the district.

Other community members were pleased. During the packed school board meeting, onlookers cheered after the decision was made.

"From what I've heard, she is not a conservative thinker," said Cathy Williams, who has four grandchildren enrolled in the district. "She's a progressive thinker and my family is more conservative."

The board used the "no-cause" option in Goff's contract to terminate her, meaning they did not have to provide her with a reason. But board member Michael Thomson who voted against firing Goff said it may be because of her handling of the pandemic.

"It starts with a vocal minority who are upset with the COVID protocols," Thomson said.

He said other factors may have played a role as well.

"[There's] definitely a feeling of frustration with the implementation of programs and policies related to equity and inclusion," Thomson said.

Thomson told KEZI 9 News this was a $200,000 decision, as they will have to pay Goff for the remainder of her term and may have legal fees and costs associated with searching for a replacement.

The three members who voted to oust Goff are all newly elected and have only been on the board for two weeks.

"A vocal minority who got their way in the election, winning the election, is driving these members," Thomson said.

Goff released a statement following the decision: “When new school boards are elected, they sometimes choose to move in a different direction than the board they replace." To read more, CLICK HERE.

In recent months, Goff has been the focus of some controversy. In April, she asked police greeting children on their first day back to the classroom to leave campus after some parents shared concerns about their presence. Some in the community felt this was a bad move, but others spoke in support of Goff’s decision at a school board meeting.

An interim superintendent must be in place by July 26, and Goff’s last day will be July 24. A special board meeting had originally been scheduled for Friday, July 16, to clarify more details regarding the search process, but has now been cancelled by the board.

The next board meeting will be August 9, at 7:00 p.m. Any written comments submitted for Friday's board meeting will be moved to the next board meeting where public comment is accepted, according to a district official.

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