Tina Dean, a West Ada trustee facing recall Tuesday, criticized Gov. Butch Otter Thursday for supporting the move to turn her out of office as an example of the “politically elite protecting their inner circle.”
“I’ve never met Gov. Otter,” she said. “I am sure he is a very nice man.” The support of Otter and others like him is an example of the politically powerful not wanting people in policy-making roles who will raise questions, she told the Idaho Statesman.
Otter and First Lady Lori Otter top a list of 18 lawmakers, education leaders, politicians and organizations backing the recall of two West Ada School District trustees, recall backers announced Thursday.
The list of supporters includes former State Board of Education members Milford Terrell and Rod Lewis. The legislative delegation from District 21, which includes parts of the West Ada School District — Sen. Cliff Bayer and Reps. Thomas Dayley and Steven Harris — also say that Trustees Tina Dean and Carol Sayles should go. The Boise Regional Realtors is also supporting the recall, said Concerned Citizens for West Ada School District Trustee Recall. The Meridian Chamber of Commerce endorsed the recall last month.
West Ada School District has played a role in helping Meridian recently top a list of America’s 50 best cities to live in, Otter said.
“It is important to keep building on, rather than disrupting, the success that West Ada School District has achieved through years of hard work and dedication,” Otter said in a statement released by recall supporters. “For this reason, Lori and I support the recall of Tina Dean and Carol Sayles and urge residents to vote for the recall on May 17.”
Otter was not available for further comment.
Dean said she has taken a lot of criticism for asking tough questions on issues such as the Hillsdale Elementary School’s 40 percent increase in construction costs, or making tough decisions such as about the lighting at the Victory Middle School now under construction south of Interstate 84, which saved $60,000 in building construction costs.
“It’s very clear to me that even though voters chose me to be in this position, I don’t have approval from other elected officers who see themselves as more important,” Dean said. She and Carol Sayles, the other trustee facing recall, come from education backgrounds. “I think people think we stepped out of place,” Dean said.
Sayles did not return an email and no message could be left on her phone.
Also on Thursday, Mayor Tammy de Weerd and her husband Jan announced their support for the recall.
“We are concerned about the actions of the board and their lack of transparency over the last year as well as the impact it is having on our community,” she said in a statement. “I am sharing my opinion with you now because I feel it is my duty to let my citizens know where I stand on large issues facing our city.”
In July, Otter chose then-West Ada Superintendent Linda Clark to serve on the State Board of Education. The announcement caught West Ada trustees off guard and some raised questions about whether Clark could balance the demands of serving both the state and the district.
Sayles said Otter’s surprise announcement selecting Clark broke trustees trust with Clark, who resigned as superintendent three months later and was subsequently fired by trustees, who rejected her resignation.
Four board members originally faced recall. But Julie Madsen and Russell Joki, both elected last May, resigned. A fifth board member, Mike Vuittonet, is not up for recall.
Many of the people endorsing the recall could not be reached for comment. But Rep. Harris told the Statesman the board seated last July has created “chaos and dysfunction” that will take years to recover from.
“Under the leadership of Linda Clark, West Ada School District developed a reputation for being fiscally responsible, keeping the focus on students, and maintaining respect and good working relations with staff and administration,” he said. “To what end would they rush to fire a highly-acclaimed superintendent with 37 years of experience? What did Ada West students get in return for tens of thousands of dollars spent on legal fees?”
Recall supporters say they are proud of the widespread support the recall has received.
“Elected and appointed officials realize the importance that school board trustees have in controlling an annual budget of more that $400 million that has a direct impact on our children’s education,” said Christine Donnell, co-chair of the group supporting a recall.