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MailTribune.com
  • Top union advocates are among those gone at Eagle Point schools

    At least 38 workers are being replaced, 28 of them teachers
  • The Eagle Point School Board on Wednesday is expected to approve replacements for at least 38 workers who were dismissed or have resigned since June, including the former union president and chairman of the union's bargaining support team.
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  • The Eagle Point School Board on Wednesday is expected to approve replacements for at least 38 workers who were dismissed or have resigned since June, including the former union president and chairman of the union's bargaining support team.
    The new hires are primarily licensed staff and are split among nearly every campus in the district, according to board records.
    "I found it very difficult to do my planning for the fall and get excited," said David Sours, a teacher at White Mountain Middle School who resigned. "It just wasn't happening."
    Sours, who acted as chairman of the union's bargaining support team, said he felt his freedom to design his own curriculum was lessened because of administrative pressure.
    "I feel like I had administration looking over my shoulder all the time," said Sours, who has registered to become a substitute in the area and also has been offered a position as a public speaking instructor at Rogue Community College.
    Sours said his wife holds a steady job and the couple thought they could financially handle Sours' temporary unemployment.
    "For me, it was no longer a good fit," said Sours. "It was a red flag when I couldn't get my mojo back."
    Also on the list of resignations was Sours' next-door neighbor while teaching at White Mountain Middle School, former math teacher Dave Carrell.
    Carrell acted as union president during the strike, and has since left the district for a position teaching in Brookings, Sours said.
    Carrell wasn't shy about his ill will against the administration during the strike, accusing it of overspending on strike-related expenses and expressing frustration when employees weren't immediately allowed back on campus when the strike ended.
    Other employees in the district also may have wanted to resign, but weren't in a financial position to do so, Sours believes.
    "My perception is that the morale is very low," said Sours.
    District Human Resources Director Allen Barber said that he didn't believe the resignations over the summer were related to the strike, and that neither Carrell nor Sours indicated the strike as a reason for leaving in their resignation letters.
    Barber said the number of new hires might be higher than in the past few years, but that should be attributed to layoffs in the past, not to the strike.
    Over the past five years, the average number of new teachers hired yearly was 25, according to Barber. Of the nearly 40 new hires listed in board records for approval Wednesday, 28 are teachers.
    Following Carrell's and Sours' resignations, the union has appointed Jay Schroder, a language arts teacher at Eagle Point High School, as its interim president.
    "There is a correlation between the resignations or terminations and people who had union roles," said Rebecca Konefal, a representative with the Oregon Education Association and a former Eagle Point Middle School teacher.
    Konefal resigned in January, before deadlocked negotiations led to an eight-day strike of more than 250 union employees.
    "There are still unresolved feelings," said Konefal, who moved into her OEA position and returned to Eagle Point last spring as a consultant during the strike.
    Both classified and licensed employees participated in the May strike, which was a result of stalled negotiations concerning teacher prep time, whether to pro-rate insurance for part-time employees and whether the district should be allowed to subcontract transportation services.
    In the end, employees did not get full say in how teacher prep time is scheduled, part-time employees were given pro-rated insurance and the district can renegotiate subcontracting transportation before the contract period is up.
    Sours said he believes the district administration is working hard to improve the district, but isn't acting as collaboratively as it could.
    "(The district) is under a lot of pressure. I think they feel like they have to push hard," said Sours, who believes the pressure is unnecessarily transferred to employees, taking the enjoyment out of their jobs.
    "There's a lot of people who want to do their jobs, but feel like they are being evaluated every minute."
    Though only 39 new employees are listed on a personnel action document for Wednesday's meeting, the district website states there are 47 newly hired employees at the district this year.
    The Eagle Point School Board will meet at 6:30 p.m. at the district board room, 11 N. Royal Ave., Eagle Point.
    Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.
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