The West Ada School District Board of Trustees is providing a teachable moment to the entire Treasure Valley: how to not win friends and not influence people.
A duly elected coalition of four trustees (two of them brand-new) on the five-member panel appears to have a point: The one-year contract extension for Superintendent Linda Clark is technically invalid.
Though the method of giving Clark an extended contract with a raise might have crossed a procedural line, who better than the previous board to award it? That body saw value, as we do, in Clark’s efforts for the district, and it had the good sense to do what was necessary to retain her.
Whether it was the intention or not, the move by the new board to remove the extension looks personal and punitive — just like many other incidents in West Ada since July. Clark has been continually second-guessed.
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As the Statesman’s Bill Roberts reported Thursday and previously, trustee Russell Joki criticized her for speaking out about education issues in other districts — this from a newly elected trustee who is managing an ongoing lawsuit against his own district over school fees charged. The new board has rejected a testing director’s position Clark sought. We took it as a sign of accomplishment when Gov. Butch Otter appointed Clark to the State Board of Education. Not this board. It questioned whether she could do both jobs, even though Clark has served on Otter’s commission to improve education for years.
We know what Clark has been up to for 10 years and we are very happy about it. We shudder at the mostly anti-Clark/anti-former board agenda this new group has pursued in the last 100 days. Beyond the unnecessary drama it has created, this group has managed to alienate a whole bunch of people in the district who should be friends, transforming them into enemies. Therefore a recall effort of four members — Joki, Carol Sayles, Julie Madsen and Chairwoman Tina Dean — is underway.
We worried about the tone and tactics after this group’s very first meeting in July, and hoped the “no more rubber stamp” mandate could be transformed into a more measured, collaborative mission that began with fact-finding and a listening tour. Instead, this board projects an attitude that it already knows everything and that the procedures and practices of the administration it inherited in Idaho’s largest school district have no value. Good luck with that approach.
We recognize that the new board has many supporters and that it believes in the transformative mission underway. Our immediate concern for the West Ada district is whether the uncertainty created by the recent turmoil will affect the outcome of the supplemental levy the district has on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Though Clark will support this initiative just as she has been the champion for so many others, we wonder whether voters will have second thoughts about turning over money and commitment to the new board — especially with a possible recall election in March.
It’s not too late for the new board to reconsider some things and tone down the pace and rhetoric. We would be the first to agree this district needs guidance. Yes, West Ada has its struggles, but it knows how to survive — with or without these four.
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