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Former school employee defends hiring kin

Medford School District's former student services director has been charged with gross neglect of duty by the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission for hiring and supervising her two adult children for two years during her leadership position in the district.

Julie York, now director of interagency educational services at the Oregon Department of Education, said she plans to request a hearing on the charge. York said she was unaware that employing her son and daughter in the Medford district violated state law and state administrative rules.

State law, under Oregon Revised Statute 244.177, prohibits public employees from appointing, employing or promoting relatives or members of their household to a position with the public body.

"I'm not sure why the human resources director wouldn't be charged because he signed off on it," York said.

Todd Bloomquist, Medford schools human resources director, did not return a phone call from the Mail Tribune seeking a response to York's statement.

York allegedly hired her son and daughter during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years "to fill positions for a grant project for which (she) set the terms of their compensation, authorized their work and supervised them by signing their timesheets," according to the charge.

York said no one at the school district verbally warned her that the staffing decision violated law. She said she didn't learn the practice was a violation until notified by the TSPC that a complaint had been filed in December 2009. She said she doesn't know who filed the complaint.

The TSPC took action to charge York Nov. 5 but didn't issue a letter detailing the charge until Friday. As of Monday, she said she still hadn't received the letter at her home in Grants Pass.

Melody Hanson, TSPC professional practices manager, said the commission charges 25 to 30 educators at each meeting.

"It can take some time for notices to be sent out," Hanson said. "They're sent out in no particular order. The notice is written, sent to the attorney general and then mailed to the educator."

If the commission finds the charge is proven, penalties could range from a public reprimand to revocation of York's teaching license.

York said her current position at the education department doesn't require a teaching license, so loss or suspension of the license might not affect her employment.

Her supervisor, Nancy Latini, ODE assistant superintendent of Student Learning and Partnerships, did not immediately respond to a request Monday for information about the future of York's employment.

York's hearing request must be filed within 21 days of receiving a letter notifying her of the charge, which was postmarked Friday, according to Cristina Edgar, investigative support specialist.

York was Medford schools' student services director between 2005 and August 2010.

Shortly after the complaint was filed, York was demoted from a director's position to supervisor of federal grant programs.

The education department hired York in August to serve as its director of interagency educational services and was unaware of the pending complaint at the time.

"I'm not required to have a teacher's license here, so if this affects my licensure, I will still be able to work here," York said Monday. "I made it past my six months' trial service with excellent reviews."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.