West Ada trustees nix idea of testing job in district

At a time when school testing is taking on increased importance throughout Idaho, trustees in the state’s largest district voted 3 to 2 on Tuesday not to approve a director’s position that is already included in this year’s budget.

The West Ada School District vote came after administrators, principals and one parent pleaded with trustees to fill the job that had been held by Jackie Thomason, who has been named the district’s chief academic officer. The job pays about $100,000 annually.

New trustee Russ Joki opposed the position, saying the district must show restraint in hiring to prove to patrons that they are carefully watching taxpayers dollars. The decision whether to fill this job comes as the district could be turning to residents for more money in a supplemental levy to cover operational costs.

“You are going to have to be mindful” of how dollars are spent, Joki said.

Carol Sayles, a trustee who is a second grade teacher in Middleton, said the West Ada district is short 70 teachers from what the state allots. The district can’t afford to pay them.

“I am opposed to this (position) because we need teachers,” she said.

Trustee Mike Vuittonet said administrators, who have had to assume more jobs through the recession, can’t continue to take on multiple roles.

District staffers said the position is vital given the amount of testing students undergo each year, from reading exams to the test associated with the new Idaho Core Standards.

Parents, teachers and administrators said they count on the testing director to help them understand results.

“I can’t think of any position except for superintendent that touches more people than this position,” said Geri Gillespy, former principal at Peregrine Elementary.

Parent Val Tidwell said the job is important because testing has become such a major part of schools.

“We can’t get away from it,” she said.