In an interview with OPB, 2014 Oregon Teacher of the Year Brett Bigham said the Multnomah Education Service District is tarnishing his character.
MESD spokeswoman Laura Conroy told OPB on Friday that Bigham was fired because the special education teacher was missing too much class time to conduct his Teacher of the Year activities.
“It is in the best interests of our students and staff and our mission to part ways with Mr. Bigham, as he is not choosing to focus on his classroom and his students,” said Conroy.
Asked by OPB’s John Sepulvado if he put his personal ambition ahead of his students, Bigham said “absolutely not.”
“If you look at my schedule…you can see exactly where I spoke,” Bigham said. “And I can also show you that several of those days where I did miss, I was assigned to by my district.”
Bigham has said that his long-running conflict with the MESD stems from his public disclosure that he’s gay. Bigham has talked openly and proudly about his sexual orientation in speeches related to his Teacher of the Year duties. However, in his interview with OPB, Bigham said he didn’t think he was fired because he was gay, but rather as retaliation for him speaking out against his supervisor.
“I believe I was fired because I refused to sign their non-disclosure agreement, and to stop the BOLI investigations,” he said, referring to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
“The ball started when them threatening me to stop saying I was gay in public,” Bigham said. “I wish I came forward sooner.”
Editing note: This web story has been updated to include additional quotes from the audio interview, and to spell out the Bureau of Labor and Industries, or BOLI, acronym.