Controversial Former Principal Joins School Board | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

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Controversial Former Principal Joins School Board

The Redmond School Board appointed a former Summit High School principal who some parents accuse of pushing Christianity on students

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On July 27 the Redmond School Board appointed Alice DeWittie to serve the remainder of Jill Cumming's terms after she resigned, citing personal reasons. DeWittie and four other finalists had been whittled down from a list of 24 applicants.

DeWittie is a former principal of Summit High School, departing in 2017 after six years in the role. At the time, DeWittie was involved in developing small "strand" high schools and was a leading candidate to serve as a principal at what would become The Academy, The Bulletin reported in 2017. She faced some controversy over the Christian overtones in an email sent to the private Seven Peaks School from her personal email and in a blog post in Pneuma33, a faith-based creative agency that consults clients on web optimization, brand strategy and marketing.

"God is shifting from direct leadership to shared Presence at 7 Peaks. Being His light means walking in forgiveness and not revenge, moving in the direction of love, peace, and joy not fear, anger, and gossip," she wrote in an email addressed to a Seven Peaks staff member.

The since-removed blog post, recovered via web archiving tools, titled Engaging Our Nation's Children, outlines a model of education that advocates for more individualized education—informed by DeWittie's Christian faith.

"Then one day God said, 'Everything you have physical responsibility for you have spiritual responsibility for as well.' I had physical responsibility for this school, therefore I had spiritual responsibility," DeWittie wrote in the blog post.

COURTESY OF THE REDMOND SCHOOL DISTRICT
  • Courtesy of the Redmond School District

Bend-La Pine Schools investigated DeWittie over a complaint made by Stewart Fritchman, who said DeWittie promoted creation theory to his child's classroom. The investigation concluded DeWittie hadn't violated district policies, but regardless, four days after Fritchman sent his email, DeWittie announced her resignation without going into detail as to why.

Since leaving public education DeWittie's started 511 Impacts, a Christian blog that says its mission, "is to equip the Body of Christ for leadership through encouragement and building one another up." She also wrote a book called "The Exchange: The Parable of the Seed" that derives Christian lessons from short fictional stories.

"Jesus taught in parables, allegories that illustrate the truth of the Kingdom. Creating a world where these truths are explored in a different setting, The Exchange introduces us to the Heart of the Father," a description of the book says on Amazon.

During DeWittie's interview with the Redmond School Board she listed her 20 years of experience in public education and experience working with boards as her biggest motivators seeking the seat. DeWittie has more experience in public schools than her competition, serving as an assessment, curriculum and instruction specialist, building administrator and principal.

Her application mirrors the individualized approach to teaching outlined in Engaging Our Nation's Children, without the overt Christian themes, stating, "Not all students thrive in a comprehensive model, Redmond is big enough to provide alternative options for students. These would include those developed by the district, charter school options and support for homeschool families."

Superintendent Charan Cline said he wasn't aware of the controversy surrounding DeWittie until after she was selected as a finalist. He doesn't foresee any issues stemming from DeWittie's appointment.

"There's 100 different reasons people run for boards, right," Cline said. "When people come to a board, I work with them and do the best I can to bring them together to create a single voice and understand that we all have to follow the laws and the rules of the state of Oregon."

Only one person appeared to oppose DeWittie's appointment on July 27. Scott Brees opposed the appointment based on a series of antagonistic episodes he experienced while setting up Summit High School's robotics team. He says her religion doesn't factor into his complaint.

"Those are completely irrelevant to me. I'm referring very specifically to supervisory managerial and leadership ability," Brees said.

He added that he believes the Redmond School District failed to adequately communicate the vacancy and appointment. Cline, however, says the process worked both as outlined in the school's board policies, and in attracting a wide range of candidates.

"We advertised widely. The sessions for selecting people were held in public," Cline said. "He may not have been aware of it because it is a Redmond issue not a Bend issue. So, I don't know that I know what he would have wanted different in terms of transparency. We did have a huge slate of candidates, that's the most candidates I've ever seen for something like that."

DeWittie did not respond to a request for comment. Her term expires on June 30, 2023.

About The Author

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...

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