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Chair of GAPS school board talks recent controversies, staff shake-ups

"There is a misconception that we fired Melissa because of EDI [equity diversity and inclusion] and it's absolutely not true," the board chair said.

Posted: Aug 2, 2021 7:53 PM
Updated: Aug 3, 2021 9:22 AM

ALBANY, Ore. – Leadership within Greater Albany Public Schools is speaking out amid controversy and staffing changes.

Most recently, executive director of operations Russell Buttram resigned, citing lack of trust in the school board.


"I don't think that they're behaving ethically and I couldn't support them anymore," Buttram said.

Buttram posted on Facebook about his decision to leave the district, saying that his breaking point was when board member Roger Nyquist arranged for Rich Sipe to be chief of staff when interim superintendent Rob Saxton was on vacation.

"Board members getting involved in hiring below the superintendent level automatically contributes to an ethically grey area," Buttram said.

He said Sipe's ties to at least one of the board members is at least part of the reason he was selected for the position. And Saxton's hiring process was rushed as well, Buttram said.

"The fact that they seem to be selecting people who are just friends of local politicians to fill positions within the board rather than using an easily available competitive process tells me that this is just not an organization that I can work with," Buttram said.

Saxton is in charge of the search for a new executive director of operations.

School board chair Eric Aguinaga told KEZI 9 News that during his job interview with the board, Saxton indicated the district should focus on having a diverse panel when making hiring decisions.

Buttram will continue to serve as the district's executive director of operations until Sept. 22, but said in his resignation letter he's planning to use his 35 accrued vacation days, three personal days and one paid holiday before that date.

Aguinaga told KEZI he disagrees with several accusations Buttram made in his resignation letter.

"There were absolutely incorrect statements in there," Aguinaga said.

In his resignation letter, Buttram accused Aguinaga of being "inept." Aguinaga disagreed.

"I'm always very punctual with staff, getting back to them within 12 to 24 hours over email," Aguinaga said.

Aguinaga also spoke about misconceptions surrounding reasoning behind the board's decision to fire Melissa Goff, which happened July 14. As allowed under her contract, no reason was given for the change, which was approved in a 3-1 vote by the school board.


"There is a misconception that we fired Melissa because of EDI [equity diversity and inclusion] and it's absolutely not true," Aguinaga said.

But when asked to give a specific reason for Goff's firing, Aguinaga declined to give one.

"With state employees and how we handle those things, those are actually confidential," Aguinaga said.

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