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Oakridge School District to Investigate Superintendent, Minimal Details Shared on Process

Oakridge School District

In response to complaints about the Oakridge School District’s superintendent, the board unanimously approved an investigation into the complaints at its meeting Monday evening. But minimal information was provided about the process.

The meeting, which was scheduled to start at 6:00pm, was delayed by roughly an hour and a half after the board decided to hold their executive session at the beginning of the meeting instead of afterward. Once the board meeting officially started, school board chair John Weddle announced the delay is because they added an agenda item—a motion to approve an investigation into Superintendent Reta Doland.

The motion passed unanimously. Weddle then read the board’s policy on an investigation.

“If the board decides an investigation is warranted, the board may refer the investigation to a third party,” said Weddle. “That policy also provides that when the investigation is complete, the results will be presented to the board, and the board shall decide within 30 days—in open or executive session—what action, if any, is warranted.”

According to the motion on the investigation, the board chair will work with the district attorney to consult a private investigator, “with preference to an investigator that specializes in schools or has experience in schools.”  The board did not provide a timeline for the investigation process.

But approving the motion to hold an investigation meant the more than 90 meeting participants would not be able to provide a public comment on the issue since it’s now an investigation.

“Because this complaint has been received and the board has voted to refer to investigation, no public comment will be accepted on this subject tonight,” said Weddle. “Any person who wishes to complain about any employee, should follow the complaint procedure policy on the district website.”

During public comment, community members such as Oakridge parent Nicole Sulick, were muted when they provided complaints about policies that are implemented by Doland.

Other community members shared concerns about poor teacher retention, as well as school board member’s lack of email communication. In fact, KLCC emailed an Oakridge school board member last week and has not received a response.

Of the more than 90 participants left at the end of the meeting, less than 10 people were able to speak during the public comment period.

Oakridge teacher Karen Batten said she and other teachers signed up days ago to speak during the school board meeting. But the board did not call their names to provide a statement. When Weddle asked if any of the participants wanted to provide a comment, Batten tried to unmute herself. But despite her efforts, she and others were prevented from unmuting themselves before the meeting was over.

The Oakridge School District’s next virtual board meeting is Jan. 11 at 6pm.

Elizabeth Gabriel is a former KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She is an education reporter at WFYI in Indianapolis.
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