School district to pay Rickert's defense costs

EAGLE POINT — The Eagle Point School Board narrowly decided Wednesday that the district will cough up about $6,000 for Superintendent Cynda Rickert to fight a charge of misconduct she received from the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

The board voted 3-2 in favor of a resolution to cover the costs of Rickert's legal fees during her appeal of the charge, which she received in November.

According to her Notice of Opportunity from the TSPC, Rickert allegedly replaced licensed counselors at Eagle Point High School with unlicensed staff.

Knowingly having employees take on tasks they are not licensed for is a violation of Oregon Administrative Rules and is "gross neglect of duty" according to the TSPC.

Rickert vows that the charges are untrue, and said that counseling services at the school's Eagle Center have remained unchanged since she took her post as superintendent in 2007.

"What Eagle Point High School does in the Eagle Center literally started 25 years ago," said Allen Barber, district human resources director. "We follow every law to the letter. I speak very proudly of our Eagle Center."

Currently, the Eagle Center at the high school employs two full-time counselors, as it has for many years, according to Barber.

The TSPC charges are the result of a January 2011 complaint by board members Mark Bateman and Jim Mannenbach, according to district administration. Both board members voted against spending the $6,000 for Rickert's legal defense.

Mannenbach and Bateman each declined to admit whether they lodged the TSPC complaint.

"By voting no, you are saying you think it's appropriate for us to breach her contract. You're saying you don't care that we break the contract," said Scott Grissom, who explained that the board has a requirement to support the superintendent.

Supporting an employee through a legal matter that directly relates to their job duties is common for districts to do, according to Lisa Freiley, Oregon School Boards Association director of legal and labor services.

Rickert did not speak in her own defense during the meeting.

The three board members who voted in favor of providing Rickert's legal defense — Grissom, Ted Dole and Mary Ann Olsen— have consistently supported Rickert, and issued a statement defending her against the charge in December.

"I'm pretty adamant that what we are doing is the right thing," said Barber.

The board voted to approve a resolution of support for Rickert, stating that "the district provide a legal defense for the superintendent in the charges brought against her by the TSPC."

Rickert filed an appeal against her TSPC charge, and is waiting for a hearing to be scheduled with an administrative law judge.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or

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