ALBANY, Ore. — In a contentious - and very quick - meeting Wednesday night, the Albany School Board voted 3-1 to fire its superintendent, Melissa Goff, without cause.
The three "yes" votes were cast by three newcomers to the board; Peter Wilson, Peter Morse and Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist. Goff, according to a statement she released included below, was asked not to attend.
Board Chair Eric Aguilar abstained, and Director Thompson voted "no." Comments from the public were not included in the 22-minute meeting.
Wilson, Morse and Nyquist, who all received backing from the Albany First PAC, were elected to the board in May. They had attended a single board meeting prior to Wednesday, when they voted to oust Goff.
It remains unclear why Goff was let go, and the action was not discussed at the board's previous meeting.
As part of her no-cause dismissal, the school board will pay out 12 months of her salary and benefits, which includes a base salary of $181,000.
The search for a new superintendent is also expected to carry an additional, hefty price tag.
Her last day on the job will be July 24. She has been in the role since 2019.
According to the Corvallis Gazelle-Times, dozens of people attended the meeting, some in support of Goff and others calling for her firing:
Signs carried by community members also spoke to the division in the room: “We Support Melissa Goff," "We Support Our New School Board," "4 Goff 4 GAPS," and "Fire Goff, Back the Blue, Say No! To CRT," referencing Goff's dismissal of police officers from GAPS campuses as well as the nationwide controversy over teaching critical race theory in schools.
Thompson, the lone "no" vote, told the rest of the board the actions they took were not transparent.
"Three of you have been on the board for just 13 days. Literally one regular meeting. And yet you’ve put it on the agenda, and you’re tackling an action which is the most serious thing a board can do, which is fire the superintendent. And I just want to ask why?" Thompson said.
The meeting lasted less than 23 minutes and was quickly dismissed with no commentary from the public, despite a vocal crowd on both sides.
The school board was set to hold a special board meeting Friday, July 16 to appoint members to complete the superintendent's tasks during the job search, and discuss what attributes they'd like to find in job candidates.
Public commentary was supposed to be included in this special board meeting.
Three hours after announcing the special board meeting Thursday afternoon, the school district's communications administrator, Andrew Tomsky, said the meeting was canceled.
The next regular school board meeting is set to take place Aug. 9 at 7 p.m.
Melissa Goff's statement on her firing:
The Greater Albany Public Schools Board of Directors asked me to not attend tonight’s special session. On the agenda was an item to consider dismissing me from my role as the GAPS superintendent without cause, effective July 24, 2021. Their vote confirmed this proposed action.
When new school boards are elected, they sometimes choose to move in a different direction than the board they replace, This is one of those times. It is why "no cause termination" language is written into superintendent contracts, providing new boards the opportunity to hire a district leader aligned with their approach and beliefs.
Though this Board decision is not what I had hoped for the future of our students, I recognize that the Board is acting within its authority to take this action. When I began as GAPS superintendent in July 2019, it was with a Board who sought an equity leader who could guide the district through strategic planning where all voices were heard. For two years, I had the pleasure of working with a fully supportive Board aligned with my beliefs in how to create a District in which all students and families thrived. I am grateful for the students, families, staff, and community members who have partnered with us in this work.
I believe our new Board has expressed a commitment to the priorities shaped by your voice. I look forward to seeing the progress in equity and inclusion, in student and staff emotional and mental health, and in academic rigor and relevance. As an Albany resident and committed community member, I will be there with you to celebrate these successes in the bright future of Greater Albany Public Schools.