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Crook County School Board fills vacancy with Prineville native Steve Holliday, before 3 challengers take office

(Update: Board chooses new board member)

Choice made after judge declines to extend order that paused disputed process; lawsuit will continue

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- At a special meeting Monday evening, the Crook County School Board unanimously appointed Steve Holliday to fill the vacant at-large board position recently vacated by Gwen Carr's resignation over health issues.

He was immediately sworn in in a virtual ceremony by outgoing board Chair Jessica Ritter. 

Holliday grew up in Prineville and went to work for Les Schwab Tires after graduating from Crook County High School, the school district said. He and his wife, Emily, have three children and were longtime owners of Prineville Disposal.

Holliday has been active in the community for years and has served on various boards, including the Prineville Chamber of Commerce, Prineville Economic Development, Powell Butte Community Charter School and the Crooked River Roundup. 

“I’m excited to get started and help make sure our school district remains a positive place for students, staff, and families," Holliday said in the school district announcement. "My three children have attended local schools, and my youngest will be a junior at Crook County High School in the fall.

"I’m eager to work collaboratively with the incoming school board to ensure high student achievement, maintain a great staff culture, plan for future growth, and make needed repairs to older buildings,” he added. 

The school board declared the vacancy on May 26th and received 23 applications from interested community members.

Scott Cooper, who will be the only current board member still serving come July, said it’s time to move forward and get back to school district business. 

Cooper said Holliday "brings experience and knowledge to the table and will hit the ground running as the new board cements its role in district operations. I look forward to working with him and the other three new board members starting in July.”

Departing board member Doug Smith said he worked with Holliday on the Crooked River Roundup Board.

"I know he has a way of reaching out and creating compromise," Smith said. "And I think that will come in very, very handy as we look at what is in front of us as a school district."

Ritter noted that the judge in the dispute called on both the current and new board to "do absolutely everything we can for the good of the kids -- and I couldn't agree more. And the reason that I believe Steve is a good choice, a top choice, is because he has so much board experience, which I think will be invaluable."

Holliday replaces Gwen Carr, who resigned in early June after a head injury. He’ll fill out the remainder of her term through June 2025. Holliday will be joined by Cooper and newly elected board members Cheyenne Edgerly, Jessica Brumble and Jennifer Knight. They will take their oaths of office during the regular board meeting on July 5th. 

Edgerly and three applicants for the board seat vacated by Carr had filed a lawsuit in circuit court two weeks ago, alleging the current board violated its own policies in an effort to quickly fill the seat before Edgerly and the two others elected in May take office next month.

Circuit Judge Stephen Forte granted a temporary restraining order that halted the selection process, but he declined last Thursday to extend that order, pending further court proceedings on the issues raised in the lawsuit.

Ritter said in a statement after Thursday's ruling, "We are very pleased the judge ruled in our favor this evening.

"We never wavered in our belief that we had the authority and responsibility to make this appointment," Ritter said, adding, "It’s now time for the community to come together, heal from the divisive election, and do what’s best for our children."

Edgerly also provided a statement about the latest court developments:

"We filed a case against the current school board, asking a judge to eventually determine if the outgoing board had violated the law and their policies over the last several weeks. We believe the evidence is clear that they did.

"Along with this lawsuit, we asked the court to stop them from moving forward with their plans. This is called an injunction. It was originally granted on a temporary basis.  The law requires that a temporary injunction is only good for 10 days unless it is extended after a hearing. 

"An injunction is very difficult to obtain, and even though the court said it looked like the school board had violated its policies, the judge could not say that we had 'clear and convincing evidence' that we were likely to win on that issue over the next several months. He said it was messy and he just couldn’t tell at this stage. As such, the judge did not extend the injunction.

"We think we have a strong case that the board violated their own policies (and the law) in how they handled this whole appointment process. At this point, we intend to move forward with the case,” Edgerly said.

Article Topic Follows: Crook County

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