Emmett superintendent steps down

(UPDATED, 3:09 p.m., with corrected information on the separation agreement.)

Wayne Rush is stepping down as superintendent of the Emmett School District, effective June 30.

Wayne Rush

The resignation went public during a Wednesday night board meeting. But a week earlier, trustees accepted Rush’s resignation — and signed a separation agreement that could be worth more than $123,000. Those actions may have occurred in a closed-door executive session, in violation of Idaho Open Meeting Law.

Board members asked Rush to turn in his resignation, but said little about the move during Wednesday night’s meeting. Rush also was silent before the unanimous board vote.

But before the vote, trustees heard divided testimony from the public, as some speakers pushed for a change, while others defended the longtime superintendent.

Garth Frederick of Emmett said Rush should be held accountable for several chronic problems facing the district — from a backlog of unmet building repairs to declining test scores.

“Rush has spent the last nine years at the helm, and the failings of this district are squarely on his shoulders,” Frederick said.

In 2018, Emmett lagged behind state averages on the math and English language arts sections of the Idaho Standards Achievement Test. Emmett 11th-graders fell short of state averages on the April 2018 SAT. The district’s 2018 graduation rate slightly exceeded the state average.

While Frederick criticized Rush’s record, Pam Walker criticized the board for its secrecy. She decried a board investigation into Rush that yielded no findings of wrongdoing, but left the community divided.

“I urge the board to explain this decision as fully as they are legally able to do,” she said.

The Gem County Education Association urged trustees to keep Rush on the job, rather than spending money on a separation agreement that will breed mistrust. Rush received a vote of confidence from the teachers’ union in February, with 87 percent support.

But the union’s appeal to stay the course appeared to come a week too late.

On June 5, Rush and board chairwoman Jody Harris signed a separation agreement.

And according to a joint statement from the board and Rush, read aloud twice by Harris Wednesday, “Mr. Rush’s letter of resignation was accepted by the board of trustees during its meeting on June 5, 2019.”

Trustees did meet in a closed executive session on June 5 to discuss personnel issues — an exemption allowed under the Open Meeting Law. But public agencies cannot take any final action in an executive session, and according to minutes from the June 5 meeting, trustees took no action after coming out of the executive session.

In an email Thursday, Emmett trustee Jefferson Jenkins said the board took no action on June 5. Trustees did not want to act until Wednesday night’s meeting, “when the Gem community had a right and fair opportunity to attend.”

Rush made $116,390 as superintendent this year, and under the separation agreement, he could receive an identical sum in 2019-20.

Rush will receive $9,699.17 in monthly payments from July through December, and could receive similar payments from January through June 2020. If Rush takes a job that qualifies for a state pension under the Public Employees Retirement System of Idaho, his monthly payments would drop to $4,849.58 from January through June 2020.

Rush will also receive nearly $7,000 for unused vacation days.

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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