A dustup over Blaine County superintendent-trustee meetings

(UPDATED, 8:10 p.m. Friday.)

Blaine County school Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes tried to get out her side of the story Thursday — before the news even broke.

GwenCarol Holmes
GwenCarol Holmes

She used district email to respond to criticisms about her practice of meeting individually with Blaine County School District trustees.

“The headlines in the papers regarding the division on the board of trustees, the continued lawsuits and the accusations are far removed from the day to day success of students that I see in the classrooms during my weekly visits,” Holmes said in Thursday’s email to staff, parents, students and community members. “Tomorrow you will read an article about another accusation from Coalition BCSD, which is the same group that filed a lawsuit this summer.”

True to Holmes’ forecast, the Idaho Mountain Express published a story Friday on the one-on-one meetings. In the article, local patron Diane Barker questioned whether the sessions constituted “serial” meetings designed to circumvent Idaho Open Meeting Law.

Barker asked county prosecutor Jim Thomas to look into the issue, and he determined the one-on-one meetings were not necessarily illegal, the Mountain Express reported.

In her email, Holmes said such meetings were standard practice, and informal. “Individual meetings between the superintendent and trustees are opportunities to gather information and no decisions are made.”

In a manual outlining the state open meetings law, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says open meeting requirements “should not be evaded by holding smaller meetings with less than a quorum present.”

The dustup over the one-on-one meetings comes after the Coalition for Blaine County School District Accountability sued the district, seeking telephone and email records. In July, a judge ordered the district to reduce the $3,120 fee it had demanded for 704 district emails.

On Friday evening, Coalition for Blaine County School District Accountability member Pamela Plowman said Barker wasn’t a member of her group, and said she and Barker have demanded a retraction from Holmes.