By Marilyn Deutsch
NEWBERG, Oregon (KPHO) – The first and only Latino member of the Newberg Public Schools school board has quit, citing a “toxic work environment.”
For months now, Newberg Public Schools has been rocked by one controversy after another, including the banning of political signs and the firing of the school principal.
Ines Peña, who has served on the school board since 2017, announced her resignation at a board meeting on Tuesday evening.
“I am leaving my role with the Newberg School Board,” Peña said.
Wearing both a Black Lives Matter pin and a Pride pin, Peña left no doubt as to where she stood on the issues rocking the school district or why she was stepping down.
Over the past year, a battle of liberal and conservative school board values has unfolded in Newberg Public Schools. First, the majority – four school board members voted to ban school staff from posting political signs in schools. Peña was in the minority in the vote.
Protests followed the ban, with some community members saying not allowing the signs hurt Newberg students of color and LGBTQ+ students.
Then late last year, the Conservative majority voted to fire school superintendent Joe Morelock without cause.
In his resignation, made in Spanish and English, Peña called his work environment “toxic”.
“It was by no means an easy decision, but it is the right decision for me. I am worth it. I deserve to leave this toxic work environment. I will no longer tolerate emotional and psychological abuse,” said Peña in a Facebook post, “To clarify, I don’t use the word ‘abuse’ lightly. Part of our counseling training includes the ability to identify abuse. What I’ve been through, and I’m sure others have experienced it too, is that just abuse. I will no longer participate in the damage done to our community. Instead, I will continue to passionately defend the equitable education that our students deserve.
Peña served just over three years on the Newberg School Board. It will now be up to the board to decide who should replace Peña.
Two board members – Chairman Dave Brown and Vice Chairman Brian Shannon – were subject to recall last month. The recall hasn’t been officially decided, but it looks like Brown and Shannon will retain their seats.
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