Emails reveal support for outgoing charter commission director

BOISE — Most recent emails to Idaho Public Charter School Commission Director Tamara Baysinger, in response to her abrupt resignation announcement, include words of gratitude.

“Your guidance was appreciated over this past decade,” wrote American Heritage Academy founder Deby Infanger. “Please accept my thanks and best wishes for your future.”

Other emails outline frustration with the 14-year director’s seemingly sudden decision.

“Well, dammit,” wrote Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy principal Dan Nicklay. “Of course, I’m sorry that it’s come to this. I suspect that you’re simply tired of the circus.”

More than two dozen Idaho charter school administrators, trustees and other leaders showered Baysinger with support and gratitude following last week’s resignation announcement, according to emails EdNews obtained from the State Board of Education through a public records request.

Baysinger emailed her plans to more than 65 Idaho charter school leaders last Thursday, saying she would resign after the holidays. She didn’t respond to a request for comment from EdNews last week. She gave no reasons for calling it quits, but the announcement follows a season of palpable tension between the commission and several charters it oversees.

In June, leaked audio from a closed-door commission meeting revealed frustration among charter commissioners and staff over continued low performance of some schools, financial “malpractice” and the prospect of closing schools that continue to struggle.

Administrators at some of the schools accused the commission and Baysinger of “outright lies and blatant hypocrisy.” One advocacy group called for the immediate disbandment of the entire commission. (Since its inception in 2005, the commission has closed just one Idaho charter school.)

Baysinger’s announcement — and the lack of clarity over what fueled it — has sparked speculation.

The Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families last week released a statement demanding clarification.

“The (commission) appears to be in a dire crisis,” coalition president Tom LeClaire said in a letter to commission chair Alan Reed. LeClaire outlined a range of questions related to the resignation, including a timeline and process for replacing Baysinger.

The coalition augmented its calls for clarity with a tweet alleging wrongdoing by Baysinger.

“(Commission) director resigns,” the Sunday morning tweet reads. “Can’t wait to find out if it’s due to this vendor paying government staff for ‘consulting.’ $5k is a lot of money, and a crime.”

Other tweets from the coalition suggest that the purported payout came from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

LeClaire did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment about the tweets.

Emails related to Baysinger’s announcement include nothing about a consulting fee, though EdNews made this a part of its request.

“Ms. Baysinger has never worked as a consultant for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, paid or otherwise, so we have no responsive documents related to that part of your request,” State Board spokesman Mike Keckler told EdNews.

While some charter leaders tiptoed around Baysinger’s rationale for leaving, the emails lack the sort of details that would provide a full answer.

“I was on the telephone with (North Idaho STEM Charter Academy Executive Director) Scott Thomson this morning,” State Board Chief Research Officer Cathleen McHugh wrote to Baysinger. “He mentioned you had sent out an email this morning — I did not ask for particulars but if it was what I think it was about then I am so heartbroken and sorry.”

Baysinger responded, “Hey there – thanks so much. I’m afraid you aren’t wrong … the good news is that I really am excited to move on to new things.”

Another email hinted at the thorny relationship between the commission and some of its schools, and suggested a lack of support for Baysinger from state leaders after fallout from the leaked audio.

“The garbage you have had to endure this year, and the lack of political courage at the state level to stand up and defend you is tragic and sad,” said Thomson.

Keckler last week told EdNews that commission members and the State Board will evaluate future applicants hoping to replace Baysinger. State Board Executive Director Matt Freeman will use their input to make a hiring decision.

Nicklay speculated on a possible replacement.

“It’s hard to imagine what might be coming down the pike after your departure,” he wrote to Baysinger. “I fear that it will amount to a pile of extra work with no real standards — just more data. I hope I’m wrong.”

The seven-member charter commission serves under the State Board and oversees nearly three-fourths of Idaho’s 56 public charter schools.

Click here to read all the emails obtained by EdNews related to Baysinger’s announcement.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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