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041318-adh-nws-School Board Candidates01-jm

Seven Oak School interim principal candidates Courtney Murphy, left, Laurel Kash and Mike Hillman answer questions Wednesday at a community forum.

LEBANON — A candidate for the position of interim principal at Seven Oak Middle School has withdrawn from consideration after questions arose about a lawsuit against her involving a previous school district.

Laurie Kash was director of special education and student services, among other positions, at the Rainier School District in Rainier, Oregon, from 2010 to early 2017. The $1.85 million lawsuit, filed in November 2017 in U.S. District Court, accuses Kash, Superintendent Michael Carter and the school district of attempting to prevent two people then employed as instructional assistants from reporting on a suspected case of child sexual abuse and alleges the assistants were harassed after they filed the report anyway.

Kash's attorneys, Karen Vickers and Beth Plass of Mersereau Shannon LLP in Portland, filed an answer to the complaint this past January that denies the allegations. The suit is moving through court channels and has a discovery deadline of June 29.

Kash was one of three candidates for the principal's job to participate in a community forum Wednesday at Seven Oak. In a brief phone conversation Thursday in which the Democrat-Herald asked questions about the suit, she said Superintendent Rob Hess was "aware of the situation."

Kash directed all further questions to her attorneys. Shortly afterward, she told the Democrat-Herald via text message she was withdrawing from consideration for the position.

In an email to the Democrat-Herald, Karen Vickers enclosed a copy of a letter from the state Teachers Standards and Practices Commission, which had received a complaint on Kash but had found insufficient cause to charge misconduct. "We plan to vigorously defend the lawsuit against Ms. Kash," Vickers wrote.

Hess did not respond to a question about whether Kash's lawsuit would affect her candidacy and said via text message he could not comment on any of the candidates during the hiring process.

Maura Kwiatkowski, Hess' executive assistant, said all candidates at Wednesday's forum already had gone through background checks with the district. A decision on the job was expected to be announced sometime early next week.

Lebanon is hiring an interim principal to complete the school year for Seven Oak Middle School. Kash was competing for the job with Lebanon Director of Alternative Education Mike Hillman and with Courtney Murphy, who has held administrative positions in Sweet Home, Salem, Boring and Sandy and who was once softball coach at West Albany High School. All three said Wednesday they had also applied for the full, permanent position.

A search of Oregon’s online court database and the United States online court database revealed no significant civil or criminal cases against Hillman or Murphy.

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