Newberg School Board member resigns, citing ‘toxic work environment’

Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 12:53 PM PST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NEWBERG, Ore. (KPTV) - The first and only Latina member of the school board for Newberg Public Schools has resigned, citing a “toxic work environment.”

For months now, Newberg Public Schools has been rocked by one controversy after another, including a ban on political signs and the firing of the school superintendent.

Ines Peña, who has been on the school board since 2017, announced her resignation during a board meeting on Tuesday night.

“I’m stepping down from my role on the Newberg School Board,” Peña said.

Wearing both a Black Lives Matter pin and a Pride pin, Peña left no doubt as to where she stands on the issues that have shaken the school district or why she was resigning.

Over the last year, a battle of liberal and conservative values on the school board played out in Newberg Public Schools. First, the majority - four members, of the school board voted to ban school staff from displaying political signs in schools. Peña was in the minority on the vote.

Protests followed the ban, with some in the community saying that not allowing the signs hurt Newberg students of color and LGBTQ+ students.

Then late last year, the conservative majority voted to fire school superintendent Joe Morelock without cause.

Newberg School Board member resigns, citing 'toxic work environment'
Newberg School Board member resigns, citing 'toxic work environment'(KPTV)

In resignation, made in Spanish and English, Peña called her work environment “toxic.”

“This was by no means an easy decision, but it is the right decision for me. I am worth it. I deserve to leave this toxic work environment behind. I will no longer tolerate the emotional, and psychological abuse,” Peña said in a Facebook post. “To clarify, I don’t use the word ‘abuse’ lightly. Part of our board training includes being able to identify abuse. What I have experienced, and I am sure others have too, is just that, abuse. I will no longer participate in the damage done to our community. Instead, I will continue passionately advocating for the equitable education our students deserve.”

Peña served just over three years on the Newberg School Board. It will now be up to the board to decide who should replace Peña.

Two board members - Chairman Dave Brown and Vice Chair Brian Shannon - were subject to a recall election last month. The recall has not officially been decided, but it appears Brown and Shannon will retain their seats.