Three days after former trustee Julie Madsen resigned from the West Ada School Board Friday, the remaining trustees faced demands to slow down the replacement process. Among the developments Monday:
▪ A Monday night meeting called to interview and possibly name a new trustee was canceled by Board Chairwoman Tina Dean because the district had fallen short of properly notifying the public of the meeting under the state’s open meeting law.
▪ Several former trustees and a former superintendent sent an open letter urging the board to slow down the process of appointing Madsen’s replacement so the community could get to know and vet the candidates.
“Anything short of an open, transparent process that involves all of the district’s stakeholders will be a continuation of the dysfunction that initiated the recall efforts¸” the former trustees wrote.
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Dean said she was “not looking to make a determination” for filling the vacancy at the Monday night meeting. The cancellation puts the decision off for likely a week or more, which is where she wanted it in the beginning, she said.
The trustees meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the District Services Center, 1303 E. Central Drive, Meridian, but the agenda is mostly routine district business.
The open letter from the former trustees called for the West Ada trustees to widely advertise the vacancy and give people at least a week to submit applications. The letter also asked the board to establish a committee with administrators, teachers and the public to review the candidates. The letter also sought an open forum where trustees and the public could question the candidates.
Russ Joki, a board member facing recall, said it was not right to criticize the board for rushing into a Monday meeting when the backers of a recall rushed to try to get trustees out of office almost from the day they were elected.
He also said trustees should be allowed to serve a year before they are faced with recall.
Trustee Carol Sayles, also facing possible recall, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Christine Donnell, a former West Ada superintendent and chair of the recall effort, said the recall effort did not rush but began only after the board voted to take a year off then-Superintendent Linda Clark’s contract.
Some of those who signed the letter are Donnell and former trustee Reid Olsen, co-chairs of the trustee effort; Louis Pifher, who was defeated by Joki in the May 2015 election; Anne Ritter, who was defeated by Madsen in the May election; and Loraine Hand, who was defeated by Sayles by nine votes in 2013.
HERE IS THE LETTER:
An Open Letter to Current West Ada School Board Trustees Tina Dean, Carol Sayles, and Russ Joki from Former West Ada/Meridian Joint School District #2 Superintendents and Trustees
February 22, 2016
Trustees Dean, Sayles and Joki,
As former Superintendents and Trustees in the West Ada/Meridian Joint School District #2, we have spent our careers dedicated to educating and caring for the children who have come through our schools. We also understand how important it is to work collaboratively with parents and taxpayers to try to find solutions to complicated issues that are in the best interest of the majority of patrons. Even in retirement, our commitment to the District and the children has not waned and we continue to care deeply about what is best for those still involved.
In light of Dr. Madsen’s Friday night resignation as Zone 4 trustee, we urge you to do the following:
<bullet> Properly advertise the newly-vacant position to a broad audience and allow potential applicants a minimum of one week to consider and apply for the position.
<bullet> Convene a small advisory panel comprised of teachers, administrators, and community members to provide input in the process of appointing new trustees, much like you did with the recent school boundary changes.
<bullet> Invite the top candidates to appear in an open forum to answer questions from trustees and patrons about how they would approach the role of board trustee.
We’ve heard your concerns about needing to maintain a quorum of the Board to conduct District business. We know from experience that with normal school board meetings only occurring twice a month, going a week or two without one trustee will not compromise your ability to fulfill the Board’s duties.
Anything short of an open, transparent process that involves all of the district’s stakeholders will be a continuation of the dysfunction that initiated the recall efforts. It is our hope that you will put the needs of our children first. This trustee will be one of five votes controlling an annual budget of more than $400 million dollars. This position is too important to not have a transparent, open selection process. Please take the time to consider our thoughts and do the right thing.
Sue Ann Baxter