The educator at the center of a community firestorm in Clatskanie last year will resign at the end of this year, according to school officials, who say his exodus is amicable and that the school and community have been healing since last year.
Clatskanie Elementary School principal Brad Thorud announced his decision Monday, Clatskanie School Superintendent Cathy Hurowitz said Wednesday, and he will finish his contract through the end of June.
Hurowitz said Thorud “has done a great job” and said it was his personal decision to resign and not tied to any concerns of wrongdoing or discontent from administration.
Reached by phone, Thorud declined to comment Wednesday and said he would release a statement at a later time.
The resignation comes during a period of apparent reconciliation for the school district and community, which were thrown into conflict last year when the school board voted 3-2 to not renew Thorud’s contract as elementary school principal at the recommendation of former Superintendent Lloyd Hartley.
Thorud’s district personnel files, while mostly positive, also said he had threatened former Clatskanie High School Principal Amy McNeil and had conflicts with other educators. An attorney for McNeil at one point threatened to sue the district.
However, the community supported Thorud and recalled two of the three board members who voted not to renew Thorud’s contract. The third quit before the landslide recall vote, held on May 1 last year.
In June, a mostly-new school board voted unanimously to rehire Thorud, appealing for reconciliation and mending of community relationships. Hartley resigned in April a week after taking a leave of absence due to stress, and the school board in June selected Hurowitz, a 14-year school administrator, as the new superintendent.
Now, all five members of the school board are running unopposed to retain their seats in the upcoming May 21 special election.
“This current school board came on, of course, as you know in some turmoil,” Hurowitz said. “But they have made an effort to talk to the community, be out in the community.”
Megan Evenson, the sole board member remaining from when the controversy first began, said she hopes the board members’ unopposed re-election run “speaks to the fact that people are happy with the direction that the school board’s heading and the direction the school district is going too.”
Facilitated by the Oregon School Boards Association, the Clatskanie School Board has met four times this year with parents, teachers, administration and supervisory staff to identify “areas of focus” for the school district, Hurowitz said: Engagement, instruction, community and wellness.
Evenson said that the school district is having productive conversations among staff, the teacher’s union and parents. She attributed much of that progress to Hurowitz, who she said came in as a neutral and diplomatic agent to the conflict.
“It’s still a process,” Evenson said. “We’re not 100% healed from it, by any means, but I think we’re making good strides. I know there are still hard feelings, but we have to move forward.”
Evenson said she couldn’t speak for Thorud but said that his decision was entirely personal and not related to any conflict within the school. She said the board has gotten along “great” with Thorud since last year.