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Oregon School superintendent reportedly canned for enforcing statewide mask mandate

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An Oregon superintendent is out of a job after he reportedly refused to ignore the governor's statewide mask mandate, the Daily Mail reports.

What are the details?

The Adrian School Board fired former Superintendent Kevin Purnell on Monday for his decision to uphold Democratic Gov. Kate Brown's statewide mask mandate in public K-12 schools.

Board Chair Eddie Kincaid said after the meeting that the "decision was due to Purnell's failure to follow board directive," but did not specifically mention masks. According to a report from the Oregonian, both Purnell's supporters and critics said that his stance put him at odds with the school board.

Purnell tearfully told board members and the rest of his community that he is "tired of disappointing" his colleagues by enforcing the statewide mask mandates despite what the outlet says is his "personal opposition to them."

The Oregonian added that he said he had, at times, "failed to communicate well and that board members had at times failed to communicate in a civil manner."

"Ultimately, I feel that I have lost my way, and it began to consume me," he said in an emotional speech. "I have become tired. Tired of disappointing myself, my family, my friends, my colleagues."

Purnell worked as superintendent for three years and spent the last 14 working for the district.

He concluded his emotional speech with a push for unity and quoted Ephesians 6:12, which reads, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

What else?

The Daily Mail reported that Oregon's deputy superintendent of public instruction, Colt Gill, said that school administrators have a duty to uphold the governor's mask mandate.

"We have a shared priority to reliably return students to a full-time, in-person school this year," he said. "Face coverings are proven to slow the spread of COVID-19. I say this knowing that face coverings aren't the argument. Personal freedom is the argument. But, with personal freedom comes responsibility, not only for ourselves, but for our neighbors."

Brown announced the implementation of the mask mandate earlier in August, telling administrators that the "highly contagious Delta variant has changed everything," and warned that "flouting mask requirements will put everything we have worked toward in the last year at risk."

An interim superintendent has not been named at the time of this reporting.

Pushback

Several community members came to Purnell's defense during the Monday night meeting.

Nickie Shira, Malheur Education Service District STEM coordinator, said, "I know firsthand that Mr. Purnell is one of the best superintendents in the county, and it breaks my heart that we are in this position. It's sad that it has come to this. But beyond mask mandates, there's a lot to running the school, to leading the staff, and being an administrator. And Mr. Purnell is a man of integrity and ethical leadership."

Local businessman Eric Ellis added, "We say that an outcome of education at Adrian is to produce good citizens. To achieve that, our children must be led by honorable and moral leaders. Dismissing Mr. Purnell would send the exact opposite message — that we want only educational leaders who lead when it is convenient and non-controversial, and in accordance with the short-term passions of the vocal minority."

Jake Speelmon, former Adrian School Board member, said that Purnell was "going to protect the district by protecting its employees, and a lot of the community would say, 'I think that the superintendent needs to protect the kids, and protect the education the school gives by protecting the kids."

He added, "They see those things as opposing. Before, you could do both. Now, with the political nature of vaccines, masks, government threats, and that stuff, I think you've got to pick a side. You'll toe the line, or you'll stand on your beliefs."

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