New Plymouth principal put on administrative leave after rescinding resignation

New Plymouth High School principal Clete Edmunson has been placed on paid administrative leave while an investigation into a parent complaint takes place — a decision made by the school district’s board of trustees at a special meeting Wednesday night.

The board announced the decision after coming out of an executive session that lasted for more than an hour as dozens of students, teachers and parents packed the district’s administrative building and lawn.

The reason for the investigation, which must be completed in 60 days, is largely a personnel matter, Superintendent Kevin Barker said. The board voted 5-0 on the motion, he said.

“The board took one action in open meeting,” Barker said. “‘Employee A’ was placed on paid administrative leave, pending the completion of the investigation, based on parent complaint and other matters.”

Edmunson said he can have no contact with the school.

“I can’t be on school grounds until they conclude the investigation,” he said. “They’ll start that right away. They sent me a letter from the school board after the meeting with the details.”

Barker confirmed the investigation will begin immediately, but he said who will conduct the investigation is a private personnel matter.

“Everything from that point (are) personnel matters and personnel issues, and I can’t speak anymore on it,” Barker said.

The day after Edmunson said he was pressured to resign, he changed his mind.

Edmunson sent a letter Wednesday to the district’s superintendent and board of trustees rescinding his resignation — which he said was pressured upon him by Barker and the district’s attorney in a private meeting Tuesday.

That’s a charge Barker denies.

“The official statement is that I received a voluntary resignation from Mr. Edmunson yesterday afternoon,” Barker said Wednesday. “He indicated that he wanted to have the opportunity to pursue some other opportunities that he couldn’t pass up at this point.”

Meanwhile, more than 60 students walked out of their third-period class at 9:37 a.m. Wednesday to protest Edmunson’s resignation.

No public explanation for the reasons behind the situation were available Wednesday, and several teachers whom the Idaho Statesman talked to about the matter were concerned about possible repercussions for their jobs if they spoke on the record.

Edmunson served in the Idaho House of Representatives for three terms from 2003 to 2008 before serving as a special assistant for education and transportation for Idaho Gov. Butch Otter.

“I was in the middle of politics for so long, and I thought I got away from that,” Edmunson said. “But politics are everywhere. I’m just going to keep a positive attitude.”

The protest, organized by several students including basketball team members Kenzie White and Aidrie Voile, lasted one hour and included students leaving the school to walk across the street to protest in front of the school district’s administrative office.

“When I hear that Mr. Edmunson has been fired, forced to resign, whatever … I don’t appreciate that my school year has been affected,” White said. “I’m a senior in high school. What a way to go out.”

Voile and White agreed that among students, parents and teachers, Edmunson was well-liked because he always ensured students had access to everything they needed to continue their education. They said they walked out of class and encouraged others to do so because of the lack of communication about the situation from district administrators.

“It’s good for the educational process,” Barker said of the protest. “It’s good for kids to be able to protest and participate in this civil process.”

Barker said he received Edmunson’s resignation letter Tuesday afternoon. The resignation letter will come before, and needs to be accepted by, the New Plymouth School District’s board of trustees, Barker noted.

The news that Edmunson was no longer with the school became public at a teacher inservice day on Tuesday, and Barker said he held a faculty meeting at about 8 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the matter. He said the principal position likely will not be filled until the beginning of the 2018-19 school year this fall.

“I wanted to let them know as a staff that I, as a superintendent, and our administration team at the district, in cooperation with other members of the building’s leadership team … would absolutely take care of the administration of the building, the management needs and the education,” Barker said.

Several of the students said Edmunson loved the school, and it didn’t seem like he would leave it anytime soon.

“He wanted his grandchildren to graduate from this school,” Voile said.

Edmunson, who has been principal at the school for two and a half years, served as a government teacher before taking on the leadership role. The school has about 310 students.

The school’s teachers were not present for the walkout, a decision the students said they respected.

“If they were to come out, who knows what would happen,” White said. “They could be next.”

White and Voile encouraged students to also attend a special meeting of the school’s board of trustees on Wednesday night.

“I am super proud of those kids,” Edmunson said. “We have a great school and a great staff and great bunch of parents. We talk a lot about standing up for ourselves and each other. They stood up for me today, and that meant a lot to me.”

Christina Lords: 208-377-6435, @ChristinaLords