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Eastern Oregon school district fires superintendent for obeying and implementing state’s mask rules

The superintendent of one of the schools in Oregon was fired for obeying and implementing the state’s mask rules.

Kevin Purnell was fired on Monday, a week after students returned to school.

The Adrian School Board convened in a closed door meeting and voted 4-1 to terminate Purnell.




The board provided no public explanation for its surprise decision to oust a superintendent who has been on the job for three years and in the district for 14 years.

After the board emerged from executive session and had its vote, Purnell gave an emotional speech.

He said that 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,” Purnell said. “I have become tired. Tired of disappointing myself, my family, my friends, my colleagues.”

A conflict emerged between the Board Chair Eddie Kincade and Purnell amid rising Covid cases in Malheur County and continued opposition to government-mandated mask-wearing in Adrian.

Purnell has said he is not in favor of Governor Kate Brown’s mandates, but he was described in comments by Adrian residents as a “rule follower” who would enforce them anyway.

Purnell has been an educator for 37 years, and an administrator for 19 of those.

Across Oregon, school boards have been angered by Governor Brown’s mandates, including the requirement that everyone in a school building wear a mask.

Two other local superintendents, Alisha McBride in Vale and Darren Johnson in Nyssa, have publicly come out against the mask order since it was announced in July, but their districts have been complying.