After two new members of the West Ada School District Board of Trustees were sworn in and seated at Tuesday’s meeting, Philip Neuhoff set the optimistic tone that we hope defines this new group going forward:
“We look forward to working with you in the best interest of our children.”
It was just the right thing to say to launch a new era of a board that barely resembles the one seated just about a year ago. After months of mostly rancorous relations with segments of disapproving patrons, the unfortunate resignation/dismissal of Superintendent Linda Clark, and the departure of four of those trustees by either resignation or recall, this board resembled the calm after a storm.
The only surviving member of the five-person panel, five-term member Mike Vuittonet — who was at odds with the departed four for most of the year and who participated in the recall of two of his colleagues — seemed totally at ease with the makeup of the new board. Though he was serious when discussing the serious issues facing the state’s largest school district, Vuittonet managed to crack the occasional joke, perhaps an indication the new body will forge a way to work together.
One could sense the page-turning transformation as the two newest members, appointed earlier this month following the recall of Tina Dean and Carol Sayles — Ed Klopfenstein and Steve Smylie — were sworn in and seated with Vuittonet, Neuhoff and Rene Ozuna. Neuhoff and Ozuna were appointed recently as well, after the resignations of Julie Madsen and Russ Joki earlier this year.
But all of that dysfunction seemed a lifetime ago Tuesday as the new board got down to the business of tackling a $4 million budget deficit and the uncomfortable issue of having to deal with too many students in classrooms. Though these issues were certainly on the previous board’s radar, they seemed lost as a result of infighting and the chasm in the district created by the impact of the recall election.
Based on what we know about the trustees to date, the West Ada School District ought to thank its lucky stars it landed on its feet with this group — and a competent and calming superintendent in Mary Ann Ranells.
The West Ada children and their parents deserve this apparent return to normalcy, a new day and an infinite potential to succeed amid constant challenges presented by insufficient funding and rapid growth.
Paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin about our once-new republic — we look at this new order, collegiality and focus and say: If only they can keep it.
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