Oregon school district fires superintendent for upholding state’s mask mandate
Elizabeth Stuart, CNN
(CNN) — An Oregon schools superintendent was fired during a Monday night school board meeting, after he enforced the state’s mask mandate in the district’s public schools, according to a report from the Malheur Enterprise newspaper, which had reporters in attendance at the meeting.
Adrian School District Superintendent Kevin Purnell was terminated after 14 years working in the district, and three years as superintendent, in a 4-1 vote, with the board saying Purnell failed to follow its directives. Board members met behind closed doors and did not give further explanation for termination, the Malheur Enterprise reports.
A representative from the district declined to give CNN a statement about Purnell’s termination. CNN was unable to reach Purnell for comment.
“Purnell has said he is not in favor of Gov. Kate Brown’s mandates, but he was described in comments by Adrian residents as a ‘rule follower’ who would enforce them anyway,” the Enterprise wrote.
Following the decision, Purnell gave an “emotional” speech.
“Ultimately, I feel that I have lost my way, and it began to consume me,” Purnell said, according to the Enterprise. “I have become tired. Tired of disappointing myself, my family, my friends, my colleagues.”
Educators, community members and students all defended Purnell during the meeting.
“I’m a senior this year at Adrian and I don’t really care what it takes,” said Elizabeth Nielson, Associated Student Body president, according to the Enterprise. “Being online in school was not good. And if it means doing something I don’t want to do, because I don’t want to wear a mask, I’ll do what it takes.”
Gov. Brown created a mask requirement for all students in K-12 schools statewide on July 29. Earlier this month, Brown published an open letter to superintendents and school board members after some indicated they would defy the masking rules.
“Throughout this pandemic, my north star for decisions about our schools has been to do what is best for our students. We know that students’ mental, physical, behavioral, social, and emotional health is best served when they can be in schools for full-time, in-person instruction,” Brown said in the letter. “The Delta variant puts this goal at risk. It puts our children’s health and lives at risk. But, by again taking simple and effective precautions, we can still return our children to classrooms full-time this fall.”
According to the Enterprise, the mask mandate was the main topic during the Adrian School Board’s August 12 meeting. The first day of school was August 23.
The Adrian School district is in Adrian, about an hour west of Boise, Idaho.
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