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Oregon school district to pay fired superintendent more than $100,000; he agrees not to sue

The board said the termination came because the superintendent didn't follow board directives. Other sources said he was fired for obeying the state's mask mandate.

VALE, Ore. — The Adrian School District will pay former superintendent Kevin Purnell more than $100,000 as part of the settlement he signed when being terminated last week.

The agreement represents 10 months remaining on Purnell’s contract, which was to end next June.

In the deal, Purnell agreed not to sue the district.

The agreement emerged as comments about the firing attributed to Purnell and the chair of the Adrian School Board, Eddie Kincade, were reported in an in-house article prepared by the Oregon School Boards Association. Kincade earlier had declined to explain the decision and Purnell couldn’t be reached for comment after the firing.

RELATED: School district in Eastern Oregon fires superintendent for obeying state's mask mandate

 That report described a growing split between Purnell and the board with what the association said was a “final straw” over Purnell’s handling of the state mandate for masks in schools.

“The vast majority of us in small schools are saying, ‘If I follow the governor’s order, I run the risk of losing my job. If I do what the board wants, I run the risk of losing my license,’” according to Purnell as reported by the association.

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration confirmed that it is investigating the school district over complaints that the mask mandate isn’t being enforced.

Purnell’s firing came at a special meeting of the school board on Monday, Aug. 30. Purnell has been superintendent for three years and gave a tearful address to about 100 people at the meeting, convened in the Adrian High School gymnasium.

Credit: Austin Johnson/The Enterprise
Kevin Purnell gives an emotional farewell to the Adrian community after the Adrian School Board fired him after meeting in executive, or closed, session for about 10 minutes on Monday, Aug. 30. (AUSTIN JOHNSON/The Enterprise)

Purnell worked under a contract that was going to expire in June and the board earlier decided without explanation not to renew. The contract provided that Purnell would get six months’ severance pay if he didn’t contest a dismissal before his contract was up.

But the agreement signed by Kincade and Purnell on Aug. 30 provided that he would get paid $41,191 on Sept. 20 and another $61,787 on Jan. 20. The district will pay $14,500 for health insurance as well as “employment taxes and retirement contributions required by the PERS system.”

RELATED: Yes, Oregon teachers and students will have to quarantine if they test positive for COVID-19