(UPDATED, 10:30 a.m., June 22 with comments from school board chairman Dave Brogan)
David Sotutu has been hired as the next superintendent of the New Plymouth School District.
Sotutu was hired from a pool of seven applicants, and his first day is July 9, school board chairman Dave Brogan said on Friday.
Sotutu most recently served as principal and superintendent of the North Gem School District in Bancroft. From 2013-14, he served an elementary principal for the Grace School District. Sotutu served as an elementary principal in Marsh Valley from 2014-15.
“My wife, four kids and I are a bit sad to be leaving Grace where we’ve lived for 11 years, but excited to be moving to western Idaho,” he told Idaho Education News.
Sotutu said he was offered the position Friday, June 15, after meeting with some administrators and being interviewed by a committee of trustees, teachers and community members earlier that week. The board approved his hire on Monday and he signed the contract Tuesday, Sotutu said.
Sotutu received a two-year deal from New Plymouth, and will make $93,000 per year, according to a copy of the contract Idaho EdNews obtained Friday under the Idaho Public Records Act.
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The school board approved the hire during a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, according to Brogan, a 23-year veteran of the school board. Prior to making the hire, the district put together its own search committee comprised of two board members, teachers and local patrons, Brogan said.
Trustees called in four of the seven applicants for face-to-face interviews, Brogan said.
“We just wanted somebody to take care of the superintendent duties — we’ve been without a superintendent for a while — and come in and take care of things and get back going in the right direction,” Brogan said. “I think that’s the way we are heading.”
Idaho EdNews has filed public records requests for minutes, draft minutes and agendas for the June meetings. Minutes and agendas are posted on New Plymouth’s website, but only through May 31.
Board clerk Shannon Reece said minutes from the June meeting won’t be available until July. Idaho Ed News has requested the draft minutes as well as Sotutu’s contract.
New Plymouth has been in turmoil for much of 2018 as a clash between a former principal and its departing superintendent played out in public. Plus, while most large districts in Idaho have settled teacher negotiations, New Plymouth has yet to agree to a master agreement with its teachers.
The New Plymouth turmoil came to light in January when outgoing Superintendent Kevin Barker told Idaho EdNews that high school principal Clete Edmunson resigned suddenly and voluntarily.
From there, the story took a series of bizarre left turns:
- A day after Barker’s announcement, Edmunson told Idaho EdNews that he was pressured into resigning and rescinded his resignation.
- Amid investigation, Edmunson eventually resigned for good.
- The New Plymouth Education Association then called on Barker to resign.
- On April 25, Barker announced he was resigning June 30 and taking a buyout.
- Shortly thereafter, Idaho EdNews obtained a five-page contract through a public records request that showed Barker would receive $400,000 from a private donor, a sum of money designed to encourage Barker to resign.
- On May 2, Idaho EdNews obtained bank statements through a public records request that indicated an entity controlled by local businessman Scott Moscrip transferred $400,000 to the New Plymouth School District the day after Barker announced his resignation.
“We’re trying to get past the last six months,” Brogan said. “We’re trying to get things ironed out and get the school year started off on a good note.”
North Gem officials have already posted their superintendent’s vacancy.
Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed research to this story.