The Multnomah Education Service District today approved settlement agreements resolving two disputes with ex-employees who will together get more than $300,000.
The first settlement for about $150,000—one year's salary—goes to Barbara Jorgensen, the ex-superintendent who was ousted in March. Her firing followed complaints about Jorgensen's leadership style from superintendents of the eight Multnomah County school districts that comprise MESD's partners—Portland, Parkrose, David Douglas, Centennial, Gresham-Barlow, Corbett, Riverdale and Reynolds.
The settlement, which calls Jorgensen's departure a resignation, also includes $17,350 for 24 unused vacation days.
The second payment—for $140,000—goes to Brett Bigham, the 2014 Oregon Teacher of the Year who accused MESD of discrimination because he is gay. Bigham and MESD had been engaged in a months-long back and forth over his accusations and MESD's claims that Bigham missed too much work as a result of his award. MESD fired Bigham in April, then re-instated him in order to properly fire him. Friday's settlement sought to resolve that longstanding dispute. Per the agreement, Bigham has resigned.
MESD is attempting to enter a period of stability. It was poised to hire a new superintendent earlier this month, but walked away from two publicly announced finalists after the current board couldn't agree on a pick. Board leaders also said it was important to involve newly elected board members, who won't be sworn in until July. One of those finalists—Karen Fischer Gray, superintendent of the Parkrose School District—had been involved in Jorgensen's ouster.