Clatskanie protestors

A group of around 40 people with signs stood outside Clatskanie Elementary School before the school board meeting March 19. The group were protesting the school board's decision to not extend elementary principal Brad Thorud's contract.

Twenty-seven employees of Clatskanie Middle-High School issued a statement Sunday backing Superintendent Lloyd Hartley, who is under fire along with the school board for declining to rehire Clatskanie Elementary School Principal Brad Thorud.

“We support our superintendent, not because we have to, or because we feel obligated to, but because we trust him,” the statement reads. “This is not a blind trust, it is a trust built on experiences and has been earned over the years that we have worked with him.”

Hartley has been Clatskanie’s superintendent for five years.

Three school board members — Monty Akin, Walt Lovegren and Judy Skirvin — voted to not extend Thorud’s contract beyond this school year. Lovegren resigned from his position last week, while Akin and Skirvin remain targets of a recall effort.

According to Nina Brewer, a teacher at the middle-high school, a group of staff members wrote a statement independent of the teachers’ union, Hartley or Middle-High School Principal Amy McNeil. After sending it to the personal accounts of 33 school employees, 27 employees responded and all approved the statement, Brewer said. (The school has about 41 employees, but some employees did not provide their personal emails.)

The statement was not signed by any individuals, as the staff “do not wish to place undue or unjust pressure on our colleagues,” according to the document.

The statement says the staff may not always agree with Hartley’s decisions, but his moves “have reflected the his ability to see the ‘bigger picture’ and to make tough choices that benefit the longevity of the ENTIRE school district’s wellbeing. [sic]”

The statement ends with a calling for the community “to move forward.”

Hartley could not be reached for comment. (This is spring break week for Clatskanie.) School board members Judy Skirvin and Megan Evenson said they had not seen the letter and declined further comment.

Recall leader Katherine Willis told The Daily News that the statement “just isn’t really relevant to our recall efforts,” as the recall was only directed at the three school board members.

David White, Clatskanie’s consultant with the Oregon Education Association, said Brewer had sent him the statement beforehand and confirmed it was “legit.” As far as the statement’s content, White said that he supports teachers in both the elementary and middle-high schools.

“I feel that this is a difficult matter and one that has to be (seen to) very carefully,” he said.

A public meeting to interview and potentially hire two new school board members will be held in the Clatskanie Elementary School library at 6:30 p.m on April 9.

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