West Ada: Dean, Sayles trounced in recall

In a pair of closely watched recall elections — which reverberated from the West Ada School District’s Meridian board room to the Idaho Statehouse — two trustees were voted out of office Tuesday night.

And despite the bitter, high-profile campaign, and a turnout that far exceeded normal school board elections, the outcome was in little doubt.

Carol Sayles
Carol Sayles

By the time all 145 Ada County precincts were reported, 2,242 voters favored recalling trustee Carol Sayles, while 1,315 voters wanted her to stay in office. In the other recall race, 1,849 voters supported recalling board chair Tina Dean; 1,125 voters wanted to retain her.

With the recalls, the district’s three remaining trustees will appoint two people to fill the vacancies now left on the board. That task will fall to Mike Vuittonet, a trustee since 2001; and newcomers Philip Neuhoff and Rene Ozuna, appointed in February and April, respectively.

The newest appointees will serve a one-year term, and would face re-election in 2017.

After the results became final, recall organizer Christine Donnell called the results an important step in ending the chaos that has plagued the state’s largest school district.

“As we’ve gone door-to-door and talked with our friends and neighbors, we heard a community who was ready to put an end to the politics and dysfunction that had overtaken our board during the past 10 months,” Donnell, the district’s former superintendent, said in a statement. “Tonight marks the first step in getting our district back on track and returning the focus to what’s best for the children in our classrooms.”

Tean Dean
Tina Dean

In order to succeed, Donnell and fellow recall organizers needed to clear two hurdles, and they accomplished both with relative ease.

First, they needed to get a majority of support from voters. The Sayles recall had 63 percent support, while 62 percent of voters supported recalling Dean.

Second, recall organizers were required to collect more votes for recall than the trustees received in their last election. Recall organizers easily passed this threshold; Sayles received 339 votes in 2013. Dean received 185 votes in a three-person race in 2013.

Tuesday’s recalls came after 12 months of turmoil in Idaho’s largest school district.

  • In May 2015, new trustees Julie Madsen and Russell Joki were elected to the board, with Madsen upsetting longtime trustee Anne Ritter.
  • In October, superintendent Linda Clark abruptly resigned in the middle of a contract year, after 11 years on the job.
  • At one point, all five trustees faced recall campaigns. Madsen and Joki resigned earlier this year, under the threat of a recall. Organizers eventually dropped a recall against Vuittonet — the district’s senior trustee, and Clark’s strongest backer on the board.
  • Led by Donnell, and with Vuittonet’s backing, recall organizers continued to press their case against Dean and Sayles. They eventually collected recall endorsements from Gov. Butch Otter and first lady Lori Otter, Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd and the Meridian Chamber of Commerce.

Bond issues, supplemental levies

In other school elections, voters approved more than $51 million in bond issues and supplemental levies Tuesday.

All told, 25 Idaho districts had bond issues or supplemental levies on the ballot. Bond issue results were a mixed bag; three received the two-thirds support needed to pass, while three measures fell short of the needed supermajority. Nineteen of 20 supplemental levies received the simple majority required for passage. The lone exception was the Wilder School District in Canyon County.

Here are the full, statewide results:

  • Kimberly: Voters approved two measures Tuesday. A $14 million bond issue to build a new elementary school and renovate the existing elementary school received 68 percent support, and a 10-year, $3 million plant facilities levy passed with 70 percent approval.
  • Potlatch: A $14.78 million bond issue to build a new junior-senior high school failed, receiving only 41 percent support.
  • American Falls: Voters here also voted down two bond issues: a $12.5 million proposal for a new elementary school and other projects, and $1.6 million for a new high school gymnasium. The proposals received 63 percent and 51 percent support, respectively.
  • Aberdeen: An $11.85 million bond issue to replace the high school squeaked through Tuesday with 67 percent support, barely clearing the two-thirds supermajority requirement.
  • Mountain Home: A two-year, $5.4 million supplemental levy was renewed with 58 percent approval.
  • Caldwell: A two-year, $5 million supplemental levy passed with 61 percent support. The money would go toward career-technical education and extracurricular programs.
  • Dietrich: A $2.5 million bond issue received 77 percent backing. The money will be used to build a new elementary school.
  • Wendell: A two-year, $1.2 million supplemental levy passed, receiving 56 percent backing.
  • Shelley: A two-year, $1.15 million supplemental levy passed with 68 percent support.
  • Troy: The renewal of a one-year, $995,000 supplemental levy passed with 73 percent support. In 2015, the supplemental levy issue divided this Latah County bedroom community; voters finally approved a $995,000 levy in August.
  • Whitepine: A one-year, $850,000 supplemental levy passed, garnering 65 percent of the vote.
  • North Gem: A two-year, $800,000 supplemental levy passed with 63 percent support, according to the Idaho State Journal.
  • Valley: A two-year, $600,000 supplemental levy passed with 76 percent of the vote.
  • Salmon River: A one-year, $545,000 supplemental levy passed with 70 percent support.
  • Wilder: A two-year, $500,000 supplemental levy failed, receiving only 42 percent support.
  • Highland: A one-year, $499,000 supplemental levy passed, receiving 67 percent approval.
  • Nezperce: A one-year, $475,000 supplemental levy passed, with a 71 percent majority.
  • Richfield: A two-year, $450,000 supplemental levy received 73 percent support.
  • Rockland: A two-year, $420,000 supplemental levy passed with a 77 percent majority.
  • Cottonwood: A one-year, $350,000 supplemental levy passed with 60 percent support.
  • Grace: A one-year, $300,000 supplemental levy was approved, with 75 percent of the vote, according to the Idaho State Journal.
  • Firth: A two-year, $260,000 supplemental levy passed with 73 percent support.
  • Council: Voters approved a two-year, $170,000 supplemental levy, with 61 percent support.
  • Cambridge: A two-year, $160,000 supplemental levy passed with 56 percent support.
  • Arbon: A two-year, $50,000 supplemental levy passed with an 86 percent majority.
Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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