Students and parents packed the boardroom at the Pendleton School District central office to protest the resignation of Seely Daniels, the Pendleton High School agriculture instructor and FFA adviser.
During an emotionally charged board meeting Monday, most of the audience members used the public comment platform to persuade the superintendent and the school board to reverse their decision to accept Daniels’ resignation.
The board unanimously voted at its March 6 board meeting to accept that resignation, effective June 15. But multiple students and Daniels said she didn’t have a choice but to resign.
Following the meeting, Superintendent Chris Fritsch declined to comment on the details surrounding Daniels’ resignation.
The students who spoke before the board characterized Daniels as a teacher who went above and beyond for her students, sparked interest in agriculture and guided them through tough times.
They also voiced frustration over Daniels’ sudden departure.
“Why is she the one that’s being forced to resign when there’s tons of teachers who are doing so much less, who aren’t putting in the extra mile?” Pendleton High School student Madison Furstenberg said.
Daniels had a much broader base of support than the four current and former students who testified on her behalf. After the meeting ended, Pendleton High School student Natalie Waggoner presented a petition with 198 student signatures to Fritsch while urging him to listen to students.
Daniels was in the audience but did not speak during the public comment section, leaving the room shortly after the last person spoke.
As some students openly wept in the hallway outside the boardroom, Daniels greeted and comforted them.
Daniels said she attended the meeting to support her students. “I would walk through fire for my students,” she said.
Daniels said she resigned because Fritsch told her that her contract would not be renewed for the following school year. She said Fritsch’s reasoning is that she had used bad judgment and could not be trusted.
According to Daniels, she has received good evaluations throughout her tenure but was getting complaints from a particular family. She declined to identify the family.
Even if the district changed its mind and invited her back, Daniels said she was unsure she could come back to the district as long as Fritsch was in charge.
While some audience members pressured the board to reverse the decision, board member Debbie McBee told the crowd that state law mandated the board stay uninvolved in personnel issues, unless an employee specifically asks the board for a review.
“There’s a very clear separation of roles and responsibilities between board and superintendent,” she said.
The board’s approval of district staffing decisions like hirings and resignations was just upholding the state’s procedural policy, McBee said.
This is the second month in a row that the board meeting’s public comment section has been used to protest a staff resignation.
Several community members voiced their opposition to Pendleton High School Principal Dan Greenough resignation last month. Since then, the Hermiston School District has announced that Greenough is a finalist for the Desert View Elementary School principal position, for which he will interview Tuesday.
Contact Antonio Sierra at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0836.