By Ben Olson
More than 120 residents showed up to the Priest River Lamanna High School for a packed agenda before the West Bonner County School District Board of Trustees on Sept. 20, but the meeting was canceled as soon as it began due to lack of quorum.
The meeting would have been the first since former-Chair Keith Rutledge and former-Vice-Chair Susan Brown were recalled in a special election Aug. 29. Trustees Margaret Hall and Carlyn Barton both attended, but Trustee Troy Reinbold was absent.
Along with Rutledge and Brown, Reinbold was the third trustee who originally voted to hire former-Idaho Freedom Foundation senior education policy analyst Branden Durst as superintendent. The IFF has stated on multiple occasions its desire to see public education eliminated in Idaho, and Durst’s hiring — despite lacking a critical certification from the Idaho State Board of Education — has caused widespread opposition in the district and was a major contributing factor to the successful recall election in August.
The agenda published before the meeting contained several action items, including an executive session that would, “consider the evaluation, dismissal or disciplining of … a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent,” followed by another that would, “consider hiring a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent … in order to fill a particular vacancy.”
The latter item was followed by a “Possible Action Item to temporarily retain a Certified Professional Employee.”
Durst was asked by reporters after the meeting about the recent Idaho Education News story reporting on the Idaho State Board of Education’s inability to approve emergency certificates for administrators — including for Durst.
“They didn’t deny it, I think that’s important,” Durst said. “They said they didn’t have the authority to offer it, so it was never actually rejected on its merits. I think that’s an important distinction to make. I came here to do the right thing for the students of this district and will continue to do that.”
At that point, audience members looking on replied with a chorus of statements, including, “No, no you didn’t.”
West Bonner County resident Roy Fisher told the Reader that he was disappointed another meeting had been canceled.
“You have to have three members to have a quorum, so all they have to do is keep their guy staying home and we can’t accomplish anything anymore,” Fisher said. “To say it was an accident he wasn’t here for three meetings in a row, no, it’s on purpose so we can have no vote. But he can only miss so many meetings, so it’s just going to take some time.”
Fisher continued, saying the real victims were, “The kids and the schools of West Bonner County, because all the people who have moved in and are doing this, they’re all making bunches of money and they’re all giving themselves big fat contracts at the kids’ expense.”
After the cancellation, Trustee Hall apologized to all those who attended and said, “We’re looking at postponing it until Wednesday, Sept. 27.”
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