The chair of the Molalla River School Board survived a vote to remove her from her position last week, following calls for her to step down because of her role in presenting a controversial parents’ rights in ed proclamation the board later rescinded, and other comments she had made.
The proc, which seemed to be controversial more for the group that appeared to have originated it than the language itself, sparked lengthy discussion and public comment about the safety and security of gay and transgender students in Molalla, and the LGBTQ community in general.
That continued at the board’s most recent meeting on Thursday, despite the fact that the board had already rescinded the proclamation, replacing it with one drafted by Superintendent Tony Mann, with input from Molalla River teachers and community members.
Some, like Molalla resident Karen Bitz, said they didn’t see a clear connection between the original proclamation and the “huge LGBTQ-plus sexual rights fight” that it became.
“Many of us believe our schools need to get back to focusing on the basics of education, and actually teaching our children what they need for future life skills, and leave this LGBTQ-plus sex agenda outside of school activities,” she said.
Analiz Wickham, a recent Molalla High School graduate and University of Oregon student who identifies as pansexual and genderqueer, said they understand the difference of opinions on LGBTQ issues.
“But at the end of the day, we’re talking about people,” they said. “And we’re talking about children. Children that sometimes feel that school is the only place that they can feel like themselves.”
Some commenters spoke directly to Board Chair Eskridge, or referenced previous comments she had made. A motion to remove Eskridge as chair, which had been made at the previous meeting but tabled until this one, was discussed at length by the board members.
Eskridge spoke after allowing everyone else to have their say, and defended herself — seeming to push back against board member Jennifer Satter’s assertion that she doesn’t have the right skill set for the job.
“I do have skill sets,” she said, going on to cite her experience running a hospital for eight years and serving as a captain and medevac in the Army National Guard. “And I believe I can handle this. My only problems is with Robert’s Rules. Eventually, I’ll get that skill set. I’m learning.”
For her part, Satter said her concerns weren’t isolated to the one proclamation. She became emotional as she explained her belief that the issues go much deeper than that.
“We can try to say that I have a vendetta or I have personal reasons,” she said. “My personal reasons are that the business for the children is not getting done. And it’s frustrating for me, and it’s really upsetting for me.”
According to the board’s procedures, the vote to remove a chair takes a two-thirds majority. In this case, it failed by any measure, with only three votes in favor and four opposed.