Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith put chief operating officer Tony Magliano and environmental manager Andy Fridley on leave Thursday as the district continues to investigate elevated levels of lead in school water.
“The Board and I know that mistakes were made and I encourage this investigation into our systems and protocols as well as a related personnel review,” Smith said in a press release.
The district also announced it would be hiring the Portland law firm Stolle Berne to carry out an investigation into why there were delays in shutting off water sources at two schools after tests showed the presence of lead.
“We need to know — and the public deserves to know — what happened,” said Board Chair Tom Koehler.
However, how much the board knows remains unclear.
Three board members who spoke to OPB said they had not heard about the administrative leaves before Smith and Koehler issued a press release.
"There's been almost no communication to the Board except for occasional calls from Tom Koehler," board member Paul Anthony said in a text message exchange.
Board Vice Chair Amy Kohnstamm also indicated she was unaware of the personnel moves before the media informed her. Kohnstamm said she checked her email only moments before the first news reports went out about the two moves but had not received any advance confirmation of the decisions from the district.
Board member Steve Buel said he was also in the dark before the public announcement.
According to the release, the "charge from the Board" is for Stolle Berne to complete the investigation within 30 days.
“I also look forward to a swift conclusion and recommendations from the investigation to provide an independent assessment of where we can improve our internal systems and communications," Smith said in the release.
Magliano spoke for the district at two contentious community meetings this week. Some parents at those meetings called for Smith's resignation or firing. Several board members have said they either stand behind Smith or think it's far too early to make that sort of decision.