New Plymouth High School principal again submits resignation midway through investigation

More than a month after New Plymouth High School principal Clete Edmunson initially resigned from his position, Superintendent Kevin Barker said the district has received Edmunson’s resignation again.

The district’s board of trustees on a 5-0 vote accepted Edmunson’s resignation and settlement agreement at a meeting Tuesday after the principal was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 17. The district’s school board voted 5-0 last month to place Edmunson on leave pending the completion of an investigation based on “a parental complaint and other matters.” The board stipulated the investigation was to be completed within 60 days.

“This is an opportunity (for healing),” Barker said. “It’s been a highly emotional event that’s impacted the district, employees and the community. I think it’s time for everybody to take a deep breath and move forward in the best interest of the education of the students.”

Edmunson could not be reached for comment.

Barker said investigators from a law firm began gathering information and questioning district staff and community members on Feb. 13. Investigators planned to interview about 15 people, Barker said, and they made it through about half of those interviews.

“Halfway through the list of interviews is when (Edmunson’s) counsel contacted our legal counsel, and they were seeking a resolution if we would stop the investigation,” Barker said.

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

Edmunson sent a letter to Barker 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. Barker has denied those claims.

Clete Edmunson’s wife, Shelly Edmunson, who also worked at the high school, has also resigned, citing a stressful work environment and concerns for her health, according to the Argus Observer.

Both Edmunson and Barker have been in their respective positions for about two and a half years.

In the wake of Edmunson’s placement on leave, two votes of no confidence in Barker’s leadership of the district — one from district employees at large and another from the district’s teacher’s union — were organized in late January and submitted to the school board. The teacher’s union also called on Barker to resign — something he said he will not do.

The employees, in the first letter to the district’s board of trustees, said Barker “abuses his power by bullying and creating a culture of fear,” and said he creates a hostile work environment while refusing to communicate with staff members whom he disagrees with.

Barker said he has maintained an open-door policy to anyone in the district with concerns or problems.

“The Board and the District Administration now intends to move forward with the business of the district which is to continue to provide the outstanding education that the community has come to expect,” Barker said in a statement. “It is time for district and community to come together and focus on the educational environment for our students.”

Christina Lords: 208-377-6435, @ChristinaLords