Education

Update: West Ada School District settles with former Superintendent Linda Clark

Linda Clark resigns

Flanked by employees from the West Ada School District, Linda Clark announces her resignation as superintendent, effective immediately Friday, Oct. 23, 2015.
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Flanked by employees from the West Ada School District, Linda Clark announces her resignation as superintendent, effective immediately Friday, Oct. 23, 2015.

Two former West Ada School District trustees who were askedto sign a $160,000 settlement agreement between the school district and former Superintendent Linda Clark sought to clarify exactly what their signatures meant on the document.

The settlement document, released to the Idaho Statesman Friday afternoon by West Ada School District, included the signature of four of the five trustees serving at the time of Clark’s departure because they could have been possible targets in a lawsuit Clark and her attorney were considering.

Former trustee Russell Joki signed the settlement, but under his signature wrote: “My signature is not an admission of any wrong doing in law or in policy as a West Ada trustee.”

Julie Madsen, a second former trustee, wrote this on her signature page: “My signature above reflects the understanding that 100 percent of the funds paid in accordance with this agreement will be paid by ICRIMP, who independently developed the document with Linda Clark’s counsel. I was not consulted prior to its development and adamantly deny any allegations contained herein.”

Tina Dean and Carol Sayles, the other two trustees, signed the forms without comment.

Click below to read the entire document.

Here is our Friday story:

The West Ada School District has agreed to pay $160,000 to former superintendent Linda Clark to avoid any lawsuits resulting from the stormy relationship that led to Clark’s resignation and ultimate firing last fall.

Clark and her attorney, Erika Birch, revealed the settlement, completed on Wednesday, in an interview with the Idaho Statesman.

Birch would not provide the Statesman with a copy of the agreement, saying the district should decide whether the documents should be released.

Money for the settlement will come from the district’s insurance carrier and not from school funds, said Breck Seiniger, the West Ada Board of Trustees’ general counsel.

The district did not not acknowledge any liability by agreeing to the settlement, Birch said.

“The district has officially and formally resolved all matters relating to the employment of Dr. Clark,” new Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells said. “The administration strongly believes that it is in the best interest of education for this district that this matter comes to a conclusion and the district moves forward.”

The dollar amount is roughly what Clark would have made in salary from the time her contract was terminated last November through the end of the school year, plus a $29,000 retirement bonus that had been part of her contract and her attorney fees.

“It compensates Dr. Clark for a small part of the actual losses,” Birch said.

But it is also an agreement to bring peace, Birch said. In the deal, both sides agreed not to sue over past grievances.

Clark called the events of the past year “painful.”

“It has been very stressful,” she said.

Birch said the agreement was signed by Ranells. Four board members who served at the time of Clark’s departure also signed: Chairwoman Tina Dean, Carol Sayles, Julie Madsen and Russell Joki.

All four of the trustees were targeted for recall, in part over how the board treated Clark after two new members — Madsen and Joki — were elected in May 2015. Madsen and Joki have since resigned. Dean and Sayles face voters in the May 17 recall election.

Trustee Mike Vuittonet was not asked to sign the settlement because he was not going to be a party to the possible lawsuit Birch and Clark were preparing, Birch said. The suit would have alleged breach of contract, damage to Clark’s good name and reputation, and creating a hostile environment that forced her to resign, Birch said.

As the relationship between Clark and the board deteriorated, Clark resigned in October, saying she was the victim of a “witch hunt” and was being forced out.

A few weeks later, the board met, rejected her resignation and terminated her contract.

Trustees voted 3-1 to fire Clark. Sayles didn’t vote; Vuittonet voted against her firing.

The board alleged that Clark walked away from her job and contract and used institutional privileges to promote political candidates or political activities beyond local, state or national education association elections — violations of the Code of Ethics for Professional Educators. (Board members didn’t specify what actions they believed constituted improper political activity).

Clark said she has received a letter from the Professional Standards Commission saying it found insufficient evidence to pursue a complaint.

Timeline: How we got here

May 19, 2015: Two new members, Julie Madsen and Russell Joki, elected to the West Ada school board.

July: New board members take aim during their first meeting at then-Superintendent Linda Clark’s contract extension, saying the outgoing board should have left that vote to the incoming trustees.

September: Board voids the third year of Clark’s contract, saying it was approved at a meeting that violated the state’s open meetings rules.

October: Clark leaves the district in what she calls a “forced resignation.”

November: Board rejects Clark’s resignation and terminates her contract.

February 2016: Board opponents file recall petitions for election on May 17. Trustee Julie Madsen resigns, saying she won’t put her family through a recall.

March: 4th District Court rules against attempt by Joki and Carol Sayles to toss out the recall effort.

April: Joki resigns, citing personal reasons.

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