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POTEAU – In a special meeting called of the Poteau Public Schools Board of Education, the board, after about a 14-minute executive session, approved the termination of Poteau Upper Elementary School Secretary Nancy Ortega effective June 10, 2021.
After the executive session, Board President Ron Hall stated that the board received information about Ortega last month which made the board believe that there were enough “causes” for her have her contract terminated.
“The notice advised Ms. Ortega of the causes for her termination and the grounds supporting the list of causes,” Hall said. “The termination letter also advised Ms. Ortega of her rights, including her rights to a hearing regarding her termination in front of the (Poteau) Board of Education, if she requested the hearing in writing within 10 days of the date postmarked on the letter. Ms. Ortega submitted her written request for her hearing regarding her proposed termination in front of the (Poteau) Board of Education within 10 days of the date postmarked on the letter.”
On Tuesday, an agenda from Poteau Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Don Sjoberg’s office that said there was going to be a special board meeting for the main purpose of a due process hearing. However, about 24 hours later, a revised agenda was sent from Sjoberg’s office in which no due process hearing was going to take place.
“Having been represented and advised by counsel, Ms. Ortega has now waived her rights to a hearing in front of this (Poteau) Board of Education regarding her termination in writing,” Hall said.
So, after the 14-minute executive session, the board re-convened and unanimously approved Ortega’s termination.
“The causes and grounds set out in the notice of letter are supported by the evidence and are sufficient grounds for the termination of Ms. Ortega,” Hall said.
“The board decided for reasons presented were sufficient to terminate her contract,” Sjoberg said after the meeting officially ended. “We wish Ms. Ortega the best. I will say that.”
Because there was no due process hearing, the grounds that led to the board approving to terminate Ortega’s contract could not be made public.
“We didn’t actually have a public hearing,” Sjoberg said. “Ms. Ortega just decided it would be best for her to not have a hearing.”
Sjoberg did say this process at any time is hard for the board members.
“Anytime an employee is terminated, this board is in a tough position,” he said. “I know they considered all of the facts. No one wants to be terminated, but they (board members) felt in this situation they really needed to move ahead (and terminate her contract).”
Sjoberg said that the district “will declare her job open” for seeking Ortega’s replacement.