Intrigue permeates three-way race for ISBA president

The turmoil in the West Ada School District has rippled into the race for president of the Idaho School Boards Association.

Former governor candidate and Boise School District trustee A.J. Balukoff has entered the presidential race to challenge two other candidates — West Ada’s Mike Vuittonet and Moscow Charter’s John Menter.

Mike Vuittonet
West Ada trustee Mike Vuittonet is running for president of the Idaho School Boards Association.

“With all the turmoil and controversy in the West Ada District, I think it will be difficult for the West Ada trustee to win the election, and even if he does, it will be very difficult for him to be an effective president,” Balukoff said. “As we witnessed the West Ada controversy develop, people asked me to consider running for president.”

West Ada board members have been embroiled in controversy, which drove Superintendent Linda Clark to resign abruptly last week. Vuittonet has been a vocal supporter of Clark and was the lone trustee to vote in favor of keeping Clark’s 2017-18 contract extension intact. Multiple recall drives have begun in West Ada.

But Vuittonet said he’s prepared to lead the ISBA because he’s been an active and supportive member of the organization for 15 years and he has served seven years on the governmental affairs committee.

“We are two different people with two different perspectives,” Vuittonet said about his new opponent. “I’m ready to do this.”

Balukoff is entering the race late so his name will not be on the ballot, but voters could write in his name or anyone else who wants to declare candidacy on election day.

Balukoff square
Boise trustee A.J. Balukoff is running for president of the Idaho School Boards Association.

The election will take place during the ISBA’s annual convention in Coeur d’Alene on Nov. 11-13. The election is Friday, Nov. 13. Trustees must be present to vote.

Balukoff won’t be voting for himself because he won’t be there. This will be only the second convention he has missed in the 18 years he has served on the Boise board. Months ago he committed to a 10-day family vacation in Hawaii.

“After considering the difficulty of a late start, as well as the fact that I am not able to attend the convention, I decided to run,” Balukoff said. “I love being with my family, but I am disappointed with the conflict that will keep me from attending the convention.”

Running on the Democratic ticket, Balukoff made an unsuccessful bid last year to unseat Gov. Butch Otter. Vuittonet made an unsuccessful Republican run for the state Legislature.

Vuittonet and Menter will be able to give a short pitch before voters make their selections. Balukoff will share his message over video.

“We’re excited — this election should be interesting,” said ISBA’s communications director Jess Harrison. “We usually only have one candidate.”

Menter enters the race with his own bit of intrigue.

He was on the Troy School District board for 11 years before losing an election earlier this year. He was then appointed to the Moscow Charter School board. Charters have only been full, voting members of the ISBA for one year.

“Charter and traditional school districts in Idaho will face many similar educational and funding challenges for the future and I will be the advocate that speaks on behalf of all Idaho students,” said Menter, who has served as vice president and president-elect for the ISBA the last two years.

Vuittonet and Balukoff, trustees from Idaho’s two largest districts, said they are running to support more balance between large and small districts in ISBA leadership. Three of the four current officers are from small districts and 12 of the 17 board members are from small districts.

“I hope to continue the good work of past leadership and advocate for all our districts, children, parents, teachers and employees,” Vuittonet said.

Over 500 are expected to attend the annual conference, but that includes board clerks, business managers and superintendents. About 400 board members are expected to attend and they are the only ones with voting rights.

Click here for more information on candidates Vuittonet and Menter.

Filling the four seats of ISBA’s executive committee

The ISBA is governed by a 22-member board, including four elected executive officers — president, president-elect, vice president and immediate past president.

Any trustee can enter a race on election day (Nov. 13). But as of now, only the president’s race has opponents (the three mentioned above).

Jim Stoor of Soda Springs is running unopposed for vice president. Weiser’s Marg Chipman is currently the vice president and is running unopposed for president-elect. Castleford’s Todd Wells is the current president and will become the immediate past president as part of the executive committee.