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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow SESSIONS RESIGNS UNDER FIRE

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SESSIONS RESIGNS UNDER FIRE

By Kirby Neumann-Rea

For The Observer

HOOD RIVER — A $49,000 payment to former athletic director Glenn Elliott has led to the resignation of Superintendent Jerry Sessions of Hood River County School District.

Sessions, a former La Grande School District superintendent, resigned Wednesday but plans to complete the 2002-03 school year at Hood River County School District.

Saying his resignation was voluntary, Sessions said, "I felt there had been a change in relationship with the (school) board and it was time for me to step down."

However, it was Session's decision to pay Elliott and his failure to disclose it to the board that prompted his resignation. Elliott was assistant principal and athletic director until June 2002.

The school board accepted Sessions' resignation, effective June 30, following a 45-minute executive session. The vote was 6-1. Sessions is in his second year as superintendent after leaving the La Grande district. Sessions' resignation comes just three days after the abrupt departure of high school principal Ben Kolb.

In a written statement to the board, Sessions said, "I am writing to provide you with the considerations and circumstances upon which I authorized and directed payment to district administrator (Elliott)." Sessions read the statement to the board Wednesday in executive session, and released it to the Hood River News Friday.

"I believed that this action was in the district's best interest," Sessions wrote. "However, I should have consulted with you before the payment was paid, and I should have reported this action to you promptly. I did not do either one," he wrote.

Elliott, a.d. for 19 years, left the district in July after the board eliminated his assistant principal position due to budget cuts. He is now an assistant principal at Newberg High School.

Saying it was "basically a severance," Elliott declined to elaborate, though he added that his departure was "a tough process ... the whole lack of process they went through with some of my personnel issues."

Jeff Baker, the school district's attorney, said that Sessions termed the Elliott payment as one for "services."

"It was a payment to finish out his job and assist in the transition to the new person," Baker said.

Sessions added in his letter, "I apologize to you for my lapse in judgment. I did not mean to be disrespectful of you nor your responsibilities as board members. I believed I was heading off what were likely to be future problems for the district.

"My decision was influenced by what I saw as an opportunity to improve the working relationship with the administrative team, to accomplish a smooth transition period, to help the high school leadership team and to any further contention."

Sessions declined to elaborate.

"I am sorry about this," Sessions told the board verbally. "I'll finish up the year in a positive way.

Kirby Neumann-Rea is editor of the Hood River News.

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