Bonneville postpones hiring a deputy superintendent for financial and political reasons

IDAHO FALLS — The Bonneville School District will hold off on replacing its retired deputy superintendent in order to pay for a secretive six-figure payout for its former superintendent.

Scott Woolstenhulme

Bonneville will wait a year to replace Deputy Superintendent Marjean McConnell, who retired in June, new Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme told Idaho Education News.

Salary and benefits savings from holding off on the hire will replace the $191,657 in public funds paid to former Superintendent Chuck Shackett’s state retirement account. Shackett’s windfall was part of a secretive 2018 separation agreement with the district. Trustees never discussed the agreement in a public meeting. EdNews last year uncovered the document through a public records request.

Replenishing funds paid to Shackett’s retirement isn’t just a financial matter. It’s also a political one.

Shackett’s payout surfaced as a key talking point during Bonneville’s recent $42.7 million campaign for a new elementary school and other structural upgrades. Anti-bond issue patrons peddled flyers decrying the payout in the weeks leading up to the Aug. 27 election.

“D93 gave a ‘gift’ of $191k of your tax money to the retiring superintendent,” one flyer reads, “Did that raise test scores???”

The proposal failed with just 40 percent support. Woolstenhulme grouped the flyers with a number of other factors he considers influential to the outcome.

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Woolstenhulme acknowledged that those opposing the measure wouldn’t have known about the district’s plan to replace the funds by holding off on the hire. Still, he said opponents should have checked “before sharing information to try and discredit the district.”

Though the district is hoping for financial and political reparations, holding off on the administrative hire comes at a cost.

“We’re operating short (staffed) and everyone’s feeling it,” Woolstenhulme said.

Shackett last summer announced his plan to retire, initially telling EdNews he would be eligible for full retirement benefits at the end of the 2018-19 school year. But after being pressed about details surrounding his departure, Shackett acknowledged the existence of the separation agreement detailing the payout to his Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho account.

“I failed to mention more details about the separation agreement,” Shackett said last year, expressing worry that the district’s handling of the secretive agreement could jeopardize its request to renew a $5.8 million-a-year supplemental levy. Voters later approved this levy.

McConnell’s 2018-19 pay, with benefits, was $191,980, Bonneville Business Manager Guy Wangsgard told EdNews.

McConnell started as deputy superintendent in 2012. Her retirement rounds out more than 40 years in education.

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