Sayles, Dean and Joki will not resign from West Ada board

West Ada School Board chair Tina Dean and trustees Russell Joki and Carol Sayles will not resign, and instead will fight a May 17 recall election.

Joki first announced the news early Tuesday afternoon, in a statement he emailed to Idaho Education News. Dean and Sayles made their announcements Tuesday night, during a regularly scheduled board meeting. About half of the 150 in attendance applauded the announcements.

“I’ll make this simple, I’m not resigning,” Dean said.

In his four-page statement, Joki said: “I am announcing that I will not be intimidated by people who refuse to tell the truth, who will not come clean on the big donors who paid for this recall. I will not resign. There is no transparency to the recall group. There is no honesty in the recall group leaders until they come clean and tell us who is funding the recall.”

Trustee Julie Madsen resigned Friday. Veteran trustee Mike Vuittonet is the only trustee who does not face a recall. A recall campaign against Vuittonet was dropped earlier this year.

A group of Meridian patrons — Concerned Citizens of West Ada School District for Trustee Recall — collected the necessary signatures to force recalls against Joki, Madsen, Dean and Sayles. The group is led by former Meridian district superintendent Christine Donnell and former trustee Reid Olsen.

Donnell said the recall was about “ending the dysfunction” and restoring transparency and sound fiscal management to the district.

But in his Tuesday statement, Joki says Vuittonet, Donnell and Olsen have not been transparent in their efforts.

“They refuse to give the parents and patrons and media the names of the big donors who are funding the recall with thousands of dollars,” Joki said. “I say to them: Give us the names!”

Joki’s announcement comes as trustees and recall organizers have sparred over the process of naming a successor to Madsen.

The board had scheduled a meeting for Monday night to interview candidates and fill the board vacancy, before Dean called off the meeting.

The decision was made “to ensure that the notice requirements of the opening (sic) meeting law have been met,” the district said on its website. Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells had recommended canceling the meeting, district spokesman Eric Exline said Monday afternoon, but Dean ultimately made the call.

The Concerned Citizens group suspected the board had other reasons for its decision.

“We think the cancellation reflects the board’s realization that it is not reasonable to advertise an open trustee position on Friday night and appoint a replacement the following Monday,” Donnell said. “Anything short of an open, transparent process that involves all of the district’s stakeholders will be a continuation of the dysfunction that initiated the recall efforts.”

On Tuesday night, the board agreed to schedule another special board meeting to “discuss the possibility of making an appointment” to fill the vacancy left by Madsen. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on March 1.

So far, four candidates have applied via the district’s website:

  • Steven Givens, owner of Givens Hot Springs and a former board member.
  • David Bell, owner of D.C. Bell Consulting Services.
  • Doug Gochnour, a U.S. Forest Service retiree.
  • Steven Purvis, a retired audit executive.

In other board news on Tuesday:

Idaho School Boards Association. Trustees delayed making a decision about West Ada’s future membership in ISBA.

Joki has in the past questioned whether the state’s largest district should maintain its membership, which costs about $35,345.

Dean emphasized that it is important the board readdress the costs and benefits of membership every year. But Dean put the decision on hold because membership payment is not due until July 1. Referencing the possible turnover from recalls and a resignation, she said, “There might be a new voting body at some point.”

All but one of Idaho’s 115 school districts are ISBA members. North Idaho’s Mullan School District hasn’t been a member for at least 10 years. The Boise School District pays the largest annual dues of $37,560.

Superintendent contract. The board approved a year-long contract extension for Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells through June 2017. Details of the contract were not immediately made available but Dean said Ranells would be paid at her current rate of pay. Ranells signed in December a $77,478 contract for January through the remainder of the school year.

Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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