New Plymouth superintendent has ‘no intention’ of resigning after 2nd no confidence vote

The New Plymouth Education Association, the district’s teachers union, on Tuesday held a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Kevin Barker, citing a hostile work environment and urging him to step down immediately.

The vote by the education association comes on the heels of a district-wide vote of teachers and staff held last week to express a vote of no confidence in the superintendent.

Barker said Wednesday he will not resign.

“I have absolutely no intention whatsoever of resigning,” he said. “I am absolutely moving about the district and in every building and enjoying observing the outstanding education that is taking place.”

A news release from the education association said members overwhelmingly approved the vote of no confidence. The tallies from the vote and the number of members that make up the education association were not immediately available.

“I’m afraid we have reached the point of Mr. Barker creating an environment that is no longer conducive to student learning,” Pierrette Madrid-Harris, a 13-year employee of the district and a member of the NPEA Executive Committee, stated in the release. “If Mr. Barker truly has the best interests of the students, staff, and community in mind, he will step down as Superintendent.”

The executive committee was formed after several members of the education association recently left the union’s leadership positions.

One member of the education association and former president of the union, Roy Gasparotti, said in an email that he didn’t support the union’s current action and said Barker has expressed a “willingness to compromise” and communicate when it comes to the issues raised by the association. Gasparotti, a teacher of 25 years, said he’s been discussing the issues brought forward by the education association with Barker since November.

“This ongoing war of words and ‘she said/he said’ accusations has absolutely no positive effect on the students and patrons of our district,” Gasparotti stated. “The original intent of the NPEA was to identify and solve problems … not cause problems.”

He said he and two other members of the education association met with Barker on Dec. 19 for more than five hours to discuss the problems and find solutions.

“No one’s ever asked me (about the concerns) to that point,” Barker said. “No one ever said, ‘Hey, what about this?’ We had a wonderful exchange, and after they took that information back, all of a sudden there was new union leadership that you’re hearing from now.”

Gasparotti challenged the district-wide vote of no confidence, saying he knows of several employees who were not given the chance to vote.

According to a letter provided to the district’s board of trustees, of the employees who participated in last week’s vote:

  • 73 employees voted to declare no confidence in the superintendent
  • 13 voted that they do have confidence
  • 14 chose to abstain from voting

Barker said the district has about 125 employees, including 55 teachers.

Barker’s behavior has divided the district’s staff, Madrid-Harris stated. Students have also protested recent changes in the district, including the rescinded resignation of the high school’s principal, Clete Edmunson.

“Unfortunately, those who receive favoritism don’t always understand how difficult the working environment is for their colleagues,” she stated.

Madrid-Harris said many of the education association’s members will be in attendance at the next regularly scheduled board of trustees meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 12 at the district’s office, 103 SE Ave. in New Plymouth.

“If there is not a letter of resignation from Kevin Barker for the Board to accept, we certainly call on the board to take action to remove Mr. Barker from his position so this school district and community can start to get back on track,” Madrid-Harris said.

Christina Lords: 208-377-6435, @ChristinaLords