GwenCarol Holmes’ turbulent time as Blaine County schools superintendent ended abruptly Thursday.
Holmes submitted a brief letter of resignation, effective immediately. Trustees voted 4-0 Thursday to accept her resignation.
The reasons for her abrupt — and accelerated — departure are unclear. In her letter to trustees, Holmes praised the district’s leadership team, teachers and classified staff, and said she was proud to be part of the district’s continuing “quest for equity” in education.
Holmes in March announced plans to step down, but originally she said she would stay on until June 2021.
In a March email to staff, Holmes wrote, “I promise you that for the next 14 months, I will be all in as we continue to work together to fulfill the promise to all our students.”
Since then, trustees and community members began working with a national search firm to find a successor.
Holmes was hired in 2014, coming from Alexandria, Va., where she was chief academic officer of public schools.
However, Holmes’ time in Blaine County was beset by controversy — including a tort claim filed by a former human resources director, a civil rights lawsuit filed by two former students and a public petition, in 2019, calling for Holmes’ ouster. Shortly before Holmes submitted her resignation, 71 percent of respondents to a district survey expressed dissatisfaction with the superintendent.
The district hopes to select a new superintendent by the end of the year, and have Holmes’ permanent successor in place by July 1.
For the time being, Wood River Middle School Principal Fritz Peters will step in as acting superintendent. According to a district news release, Peters has expressed no interest in the position permanently.
Holmes was the state’s highest-paid superintendent, at a salary of $180,208. But Blaine County’s last two superintendents have stepped down under pressure. Holmes’ predecessor, Lonnie Barber, resigned after clashing with trustees over leadership style. Barber left in 2013 with a $600,000 settlement.