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Three newly elected Crook County School Board members sworn in, dive into wide array of issues

Crook County Clerk Cheryl Seely swore in new school board members Cheyenne Edgerly, Jennifer Knight and Jessica Brumble
Crook County School District
Crook County Clerk Cheryl Seely swore in new school board members Cheyenne Edgerly, Jennifer Knight and Jessica Brumble

Call for public process to choose a new superintendent - and a return of board meeting recordings online

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A much-discussed changing of the guard took place Wednesday night as three newly elected Crook County School Board members were sworn into their four-year terms and quickly immersed themselves in a variety of issues facing the school district, including the process to replace departing Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson.

Cheyenne Edgerly, Jessica Brumble and Jennifer Knight, who came to be known as the "Mama Bears" during a contentious May election campaign, were sworn into office by Crook County Clerk Cheryl Seely.

They are joined on the five-member board by Steve Holliday, appointed in June to fill the at-large position through 2025 after Gwen Carr's recent resignation (a quick process being challenged in court), and Scott Cooper, entering the final two years of his current term. 

The new board members voted to appoint Brumble board chair and Knight vice chair.

The three newly elected members say they’re committed to greater transparency and parental involvement as they begin their terms of office. They provided a list of priorities for how they plan to lead:

  • We’ll work together to provide consistent leadership and policy decisions to ensure our students, educators, and parents have what they need to accomplish the work of learning
  • We will respect all elements of our community and work toward being inclusive in our decision-making process
  • We will respect the rights of parents to be heard and involved in the education of their children
  • We will support our teachers, our staff, and the administrators in their roles and responsibilities as they seek to educate the children of our community
  • We will follow the laws of our State and the policies set by this Board in a fair, equal, and consistent manner
  • We will focus on the task of educating our students, not on promoting ideologies that divide our community and seek to devalue any individual
  • We will always negotiate in good faith as we attempt to find new vehicles to help our children be educated and prepared for the demands of the 21st century
  • We will seek to be transparent and communicate with our community as best we can

One somewhat symbolic but crucial to some issue arose toward the start and end of the nearly three-hour meeting.

A parent who congratulated the new board members expressed dismay that recordings of school board meetings were no longer made available online, for those who could not attend or watch the livestream. Later, the board directed staff to restore their availability.

"That decision to pull the meetings down was solely Dr. Johnson's," Cooper told his new colleagues, and the board could direct otherwise.

The first order of business was to decide who will fill in as superintendent during the selection of an interim, then permanent superintendent, since Friday is Johnson’s last official day.

After much discussion, the board decided Assistant Superintendent Joel Hoff will serve as acting superintendent until the board’s mid-August meeting, by which time a selection committee would be formed, including an administrator, retired teacher and a parent, to oversee the public search for an interim superintendent. Edgerly said she had a search firm in mind that could cost $5,000 to $8,000, far less than the quoted estimate of $20,000.

Cooper and Hoff provided plenty of background when the new board members asked questions on various issues. And they went along with Cooper’s advice not to put a bond measure on the November ballot, after voters defeated a measure last year.

"What's your thoughts, Scott?" Brumble asked Cooper.

Along with a new board and superintendent in place, Cooper noted the challenge of winning passage, "one of the hardest things a board has to do," especially in an off-year election with typically low voter turnout. He also noted that “we are in a period of high interest rates,” which can cut into the voter-approved bond funds.

Chief Financial Officer Anna Logan also pointed out that “the things we need most urgently are not things parents get excited about – boilers and roofs.”

The board will meet July 31 in a work session to set goals and priorities for the upcoming school year.

Article Topic Follows: Crook County

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Barney Lerten

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