Openly gay principal ousted from job early by school district

GRESHAM, Ore. - Thursday will be the last day on the job for the principal of North Gresham Elementary School, and he claims the reason he's losing his job is because he's gay.

The Gresham-Barlow School District last year announced it would not renew Tom Klansnic's contract. The district said the reason was a personnel matter, but many parents and students don't understand the decision.

Some people believe it has to do with the fact that after his divorce, Klansnic revealed that he was gay.

Klansnic was supposed to work until the end of the school year, but Wednesday he notified students and staff at a school assembly at his last day will be Thursday. The district issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

"The Gresham-Barlow School District has been working with Principal Klansnic to resolve our differences. The district has reached a tentative agreement with Principal Klansnic.

"Both the district and Principal Klansnic believe this tentative agreement is an important step toward keeping the District and North Gresham Elementary School focused on meeting the needs of our students.

"As a part of the agreement, beginning next week, Principal Klansnic is going on paid leave for the rest of the school year. The agreement currently being finalized will show that the dispute was resolved without an admission or finding of liability or wrongdoing on the part of the school district."

After Wednesday's assembly, Klansnic hugged parents and students. "I am very impressed with all this support," he said. "And I can't talk to you today, but I certainly will when I can."

KATU received a letter sent to school parents that said Klansnic's last day would be Thursday.

The following is an excerpt from the letter:

"Today, at an afternoon assembly, Mr. Klansnic had the opportunity to inform his staff and students that Thursday will be his last day at North Gresham. During the assembly he wished them well and told them to have a great end of the school year. Both Mr. Klansnic and the district desire that the focus continue to be on teaching and learning, and ensuring that staff and students have a positive conclusion to the school year."

Klansnic's attorney, Judy Snyder, said when her client revealed he was gay "his relationship with the district changed almost immediately." She believes the district is discriminating against her client because of his sexual orientation.

The school board denied the claim and issued the following statement earlier this month:

"The Gresham-Barlow School district has a Nondiscrimination Policy. We follow that policy and we are committed to providing a work environment free of discrimination.

"Any accusations that the district has discriminated against an employee due to their sexual orientation are false.

"The district is unable to share with the community why Mr. Klansnic's contract was non-extended due to state law. Oregon law deems an employee's personnel file to be confidential. Because of this, the district is unable to share information from Mr. Klansnic's personnel file with the community."

Klansnic isn't speaking about the district's decision. His attorney told him not to talk much to the media because they are planning on filing a lawsuit against the school district this summer.

The district said it plans to name an interim principal soon.

KATU's Bob Heye and Erica Nochlin contributed to this story.