Schools chief Long's contract may end

The superintendent convinces the Medford School Board Monday to delay a final vote on its renewal until spring

The Medford School Board on Monday chose not to vote on the renewal of Superintendent Phil Long's contract, meaning his contract with the district will end in June of next year.

The board was set to vote on whether to renew the contract beyond the next school year since Oregon law and board policy require that such a decision be made the year before a contract ends.

The School Board previously had an obligation in its contract with Long to never defer a decision on whether to renew the contract, but a memorandum of agreement on Monday between the board and Long removed this obligation, and allowed the board to refrain from voting on whether to renew.

Board members Paulie Brading and Marlene Yesquen voted against the memorandum of agreement.

Yesquen said she wished the board had considered early termination of Long instead, saying she had serious concerns about Long's job performance.

Despite Oregon statutes that require school boards to decide whether to renew a superintendent's contract by March 15 of the year before it ends, Long said in a statement to the School Board that he wanted it to defer a decision about his renewal until the spring.

Before the board's decision, Long read a statement about his relationship with the board, requesting that his contract be renewed for three years.

Since being hired in 2005, Long said that a once-respectful relationship between him and the School Board has turned sour over the past few years.

Long said that with his contract up for renewal, board members have grown divided over whether he should continue in the job.

"This has been a topic of contention among board members, which has caused a lot of behind-the-scenes meetings and, to be frank, disrespectful discussions to occur," said Long.

The board was considering renewing Long's contract through December of 2014 "to temporarily resolve this matter," Long said, but no vote was taken on that option.

Long said that his relationship with the board is critical to the success of the district and that some of the board's members have overstepped their role as a part of the board, choosing to "dictate day-to-day operations and direct staff to do things that are beyond the scope of (the) role of the board."

He said board members have intruded on district staff, and that some board members will confront employees about work they are doing without having "authentic, personal relationships" with the employees.

Long said that because the board was considering his contract, he couldn't offer an official recommendation to the Board if it should renew his contract, but said he was willing to continue in his position for an additional three years if board members so chose.

Yesquen said she wished the board had considered options other than renewing or not renewing Long's contract past June 2014.

"I'm disappointed that we didn't take another action today," said Yesquen, adding that her concerns about Long's performance have been addressed in her annual evaluations of him.

"I don't think there's ever going to be a right moment to address this," said Yesquen, who was appointed to the board in December 2010 and then elected in May 2011.

Long said the regardless of his future employment with the district, he would finish his contract with energy and focus.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.


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