NORTH BEND — When former North Bend High School Principal Bill Lucero was demoted, he got a raise.
At least, he is budgeted to receive more money in the upcoming school year as a middle school vice principal than as the high school principal.
When The World asked the district why, there was still no response by Tuesday evening.
Lucero was slapped with the demotion after the North Bend School District reached two settlements with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon in May, following an investigation conducted by the Oregon Department of Education. That investigation revealed a teacher who compared same-sex marriage to bestiality, discrimination toward LGBTQ students, and showed that Lucero instructed at least one student to read the Bible as punishment.
The settlements between the district and the ACLU of Oregon included five years of ODE oversight, new policies to protect students from future discrimination, and also included a demand for the district to remove Lucero from his position at the high school. According to the settlement, Lucero was not allowed to be reassigned anywhere at the high school or become the principal at North Bend Middle School.
So the district made him the vice principal at NBMS.
When the announcement was made last month, The World asked what his new salary would be. The district refused to give that information.
Because Lucero is paid through taxpayer dollars, The World filed a Freedom of Information Act request for not just his new salary but what the district paid Lucero over the past seven years.
The district filled that request on Tuesday not once, but twice.
“We are giving a second set of numbers because the first copy didn’t include FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act), Medicare, and PERS,” explained NBSD Superintendent Bill Yester.
The first copy also didn’t include Lucero’s salary for the 2018/2019 school year, though the second copy did.
According to those numbers, Lucero started 2011 with a salary of $95,345 and $46,062 in benefits. He received a steady raise every year, making $106,150 in the 2017/2018 school year and $60,401 in benefits. That was his last year as NBHS principal.
Budgeted for the 2018/2019 school year, Lucero is slotted to earn $107,444 and have $61,721.44 in benefits.
However, since the demotion, Lucero hired two attorneys to fight for him to regain his position at the high school, as well as damages.
In response to the June 12 letter of intent to sue sent to the district, Yester said, “As far as we’re concerned, the letter is a notification.”
“Our lawyers are working on this and there were students involved in this, so because of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), we couldn’t say anything,” Yester said.
When asked if the district responded within the letter’s requested two weeks, Yester said, “I think our lawyer responded within the first two weeks.”
However, when The World asked one of Lucero’s attorneys if the district had responded in time or if the issue would move on in court, no official comment was given.
“We will not comment about potential litigation,” wrote attorney Roland Iparraguirre in an email. “We will say, however, that we are deeply concerned about the North Bend School District’s actions related to Mr. Lucero and about the Oregon Department of Education’s investigation of this matter.”
ACLU of Oregon responds
In the wake of Lucero’s letter of intent to the district, Kelly Simon, staff attorney for the ACLU of Oregon, wrote an email to The World that “It is understandable that some in the community feel empathy for him, but it is misguided to continue to debate whether or not he did anything wrong — he did.”
“Mr. Lucero is one of the rare people in power who is being held accountable for his abuses of power,” Simon wrote. “He admitted to wrongdoings on multiple occasions and the Oregon Department of Education investigation substantiated many of the numerous accusations against him.”
Simon explained that it is a school district’s responsibility, by law, to protect its students. Because of this, she said that Lucero’s demotion was a fair outcome “based on his actions and inaction.”
“Students who faced discrimination or proselytization under Mr. Lucero’s watch, and sometimes at his hands, suffered greatly,” she said. “Our clients were among them.”
She reiterated what even Lucero’s letter of intent to sue said, as well as the ODE investigation, which was that Lucero admitted to having Student 3 read the Bible as a form of punishment.
“That is a blatant violation of the Constitution, and it does not matter if a parent or student consented, especially under inherently coercive circumstances,” she said.
Simon also pointed out that the ACLU of Oregon’s clients, Liv Funk and Hailey Smith, never sought money damages in their lawsuits.
“Instead, they sought justice through acknowledgement of their harm with an apology, the removal of Mr. Lucero as principal, and policy changes to protect future students,” Simon wrote. “They were fair-minded and judicious in their requests, and kept in mind the hope that Mr. Lucero could grow and change from his mistakes.
“The entire North Bend community now has an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and create a learning environment where all feel welcome and safe.”
ODE also issued its first response to Lucero's letter of intent to sue. In an email to The World, ODE Communication's Director Marc Siegel wrote, “As this is a legal matter, we’re not able to provide comment.”