More than 400 teachers showed up to work at the Redmond School District on the first day of school.
Only one of them was sent home after refusing to wear a mask.
The conflict came to a head at last night’s school board meeting, when the board voted 3-2 to allow Tori Caudell to keep her job.
The Terrebonne Community School fourth-grade teacher remains on paid administrative leave with her $82,647 salary after refusing to wear a mask at school.
Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline told Central Oregon Daily News on Thursday it was the first time he’d led a termination hearing in his career.
Caudell requested the hearing be made in a public meeting setting.
“It’s a first time for us, we’ve never really done this before,” he said. “I’ve been at this for 20 years as a school administrator and I’ve never fired a contract teacher before…so it’s all new for us.”
Cline believes mask-wearing is no different than wearing safety gear required when working in construction or in a laboratory.
“Most employment law allows employers to terminate their employees for not following safety procedures,” he said.
Board members Shawn Hartfield, Keri Lopez and Michael Summers voted to let Caudell keep her job.
None of them returned our requests for comment today.
Cline says the district is coming up with possible ways to work around the teacher’s refusal.
“Our board has asked us to try and create accommodations for her refusal to wear a mask, so we’re working on trying to do that..we have a couple different options, but we’re not ready to disclose what those are,” he said.
So far, Caudell is the only teacher in the district to defy the mask mandate.
If others join her…the consequences could be major.
“If we have multiple staff members refuse to wear masks, we may have to move back to distance learning,” Cline said. “We don’t have the accommodations to be able to put people in an area where they cannot wear a mask.
“We hope that doesn’t happen, there’s quite a substitute shortage at this point, so finding subs for folks that don’t want to wear a mask would be difficult.”
Central Oregon Daily News attempted numerous times to reach Caudell but received no response.