LA GRADE - The Union-Baker Education Service District voted last week to force resignations of three of its top administrators and end its relationship with a primary consultant.
Ed Schumacher, UBESD superintendent, was asked to continue working until an interim replacement is found. He is then to resign himself.
The paid administrative leaves of Lyle Mann and Jude Lehner are to be extended by 20-days. During this time, Schumacher is to negotiate an agreement that the two men resign. If this does not happen, he is to recommend that they be fired.
Mann is the program's vocational technical director; Lehner a teacher who also manages part of the alternative education program.
Schumacher also is to establish a mutual agreement with Lenny Williams, ending a contract that pays him $96,000 a year for his services as a consultant. This contract is set to expire in 2006.
The shake-up at the UBESD's Sept. 15 board meeting follows the public disclosure of results of a financial audit a week earlier. Prepared by the Pendleton firm of Dickey & Tremper, the audit revealed serious problems in several areas, among them unjustified Average Daily Membership (ADM) payments credited to five other school districts. This affects state funding going to the districts and could involve intentional fraud.
In the last week, area school officials have been in contact with several governmental agencies, including the FBI, the Oregon Department of Education, the Oregon State Police and the Teaching Standards and Practices Commission.
Officials at area school districts that contract with the UBESD for alternative education programs have been loudly and publicly upset by the audit.
"We need to hold the ESD accountable," said Don Ulrey. "Their lack of action has been appalling and unbelievable."
Ulrey is superintendent of the Baker School District. He and his school board have insisted publicly that the UBESD administration and five of its board members resign.
According to Ulrey, the Baker district has contacted legal council and intends to recoup any losses.
Doug Hislop, Imbler superintendent since July 1, said if the audit is correct, the district may have received funding that should have gone to other schools.
"Too much trust was placed and not enough scrutiny," Hislop said.
He said he would make sure the 73-students who have transferred to the district from other schools this year have in-district forms signed by both schools.
The La Grande School District appears to have had ADM credit for its students credited elsewhere. Superintendent Jay Rowell said they have retained the Hungerford law firm in Oregon City to determine how they should proceed.
"We don't want to condemn without the facts, but we want some answers," Rowell said.
Don Starr, a UBESD board member, expressed the concern for the program that was echoed by many others.
"If we let it go down we'll hurt a lot of kids," he said. "Our principal aim has to be to get the program on track."
The UBESD board will meet with the Oregon Department of Education on Sept. 27 to get help finding an interim superintendent, Starr said.
Board chairman for the past two months, Rich Cason said the UBESD would have to rely on the staff to maintain programs while administrative positions are being filled. He said the agency is advertising for a chief financial officer. The sale of the program's airplane also is being advertised.
The airplane was a bone of contention between the board and the Education Workforce Development Committee after it was purchased last year. The EWDC is circulating recall petitions on three board members; Cason, Starr and Kelly Anderes. Ray Stinnett, a member of this group, said, "We want to insure that we have a new board."
Questions about UBESD financial management were raised last year by the committee and then forwarded to Union County District Attorney Martin Birnbaum, who passed the case to the OSP for investigation. The audit, paid for by the UBESD, was suggested by the state police.