South Lane Superintendent Krista Parent has signed a deal with the school district to retire after nearly nine months of news reports concerning a personal relationship between Parent and a South Lane School District employee continued to circulate leading to more than 100 SLSD employees requesting Parent be placed on administrative leave earlier this month.
Under the terms of the agreement, Parent will continue to work as an employee of the school district in various projects until June 30 as well as maintain her positions on several state boards including the American Association of school Administrators National Conference in February, the Oregon School Activities Association Executive Committee (OSAA) and the Oregon Association of School Executives Executive Board.
Outside of the specific terms of the agreement, Parent’s employment will continue to be guided by her superintendent contract. The deal also provides Parent with a letter of recommendation and strict language preventing anyone other than the human resource director from speaking to potential employers.
In the spring of 2016, a Cottage Grove resident filed an official complaint with the district claiming that Parent had entered into a personal relationship with an SLSD employee. In response to the complaint, the school board funded an $8,000 investigation into the matter which concluded the district did not have an anti-fraternization policy and therefore, Parent had not violated the terms of her employment or any district policies.
In August, an anonymous handwritten letter was given to each member of the school board citing Parent’s standing in the community and claiming that the ex-partner of the SLSD employee involved with Parent was committing libelous and slanderous offenses.
The same Cottage Grove resident who filed the initial complaint, paid a reported $700 for a handwriting analysis which concluded it was “probable” Parent was the author of the letter.
An unknown group of individuals wrote a letter to the school board requesting that Parent be placed on paid administrative leave until an investigation into who wrote the letter could be completed. The letter was placed on an online survey platform by South Lane Employee Association (SLEA) President Diane Hicks.
“SLEA takes the allegation of the anonymous letter given to the school board in August very seriously,” the SLEA letter read. “The letter slanders and harasses a school district employee, and if it is indeed from our superintendent, then this would become a very serious legal matter.”
115 out of 153 SLEA members responded to the survey requesting permission to forward the letter to the school board. 110 approved the letter.
A second letter was sent to the district by 13 administrators asking that the initial SLEA letter be considered and a “no-confidence” vote emerged shortly after from nearly 80 percent of the classified employees polled.
“… I did not write that anonymous letter nor did I distribute the letter to the school board,” Parent said in a statement to the Sentinel. “Regardless of who authored the letter, the letter was never considered or acted upon by the board. The board never considers anonymous letters and threw the letter away.”
After an executive session held on Tuesday, Jan. 16, South Lane School Board Chair Alan Baas announced that Parent would retire from the district in June. Just minutes prior to the executive session, the board received a fourth complaint from the law firm Reitmann and Reitmann on behalf of four unidentified school administrators claiming Parent had threatened them with retaliation for “having expressed reasonable concern regarding superintendent Parent’s conduct through appropriate channels.”
The complaint was official dropped on Friday.
In the district’s recommendation letter of Parent, it states that she was “instrumental” in passing a $27 million bond in 2010 to build the new high school, a $36 million bond in 2016 to fund a new elementary school as well as update the community pool and technology throughout the district and that she “systematically led” the academic turn around at Cottage Grove High School. “Three years ago, CGHS had the top high school for graduation rate in the state and has been in the top 10 for the past two years. In the late ‘90s, CGHS had years of double-digit drop-out rates, now it’s at one percent or lower.”
The letter also cites Parent's awards including her 2007 recognition as National Superintendent of the Year.
“This award brought recognition to the work she had doing to serve the students of South Lane for many years,” the letter reads. “South Lane School District is in a better place as a result of her leadership.”