New Plymouth buyout remains shrouded in secrecy

The New Plymouth School District has again refused to identify the donor who put up $400,000 to buy out Superintendent Kevin Barker’s contract.

The mysterious outside donation is the linchpin of the buyout, announced Friday.

“The donor wishes to remain anonymous,” said Shannon Reese, New Plymouth’s administrative assistant and clerk of the school board, in an email to Idaho Education News Monday.

Idaho Education News submitted a public records request for additional details about the buyout — including the name of the donor. Idaho Education News has since filed a subsequent records request, a copy of all district financial transactions for the month of April.

After months of turmoil — including calls for Barker’s resignation, and a recall campaign targeting trustees for their support of the embattled superintendent — Barker agreed to resign Wednesday night.

The district divulged some details of the buyout Friday, including the $400,000 private donation.

In addition, the district will continue to pay Barker through his June 30 resignation date, at his prorated salary of $89,849 a year. Barker also will receive $36,000 in consulting fees from July 1 through June 30, 2020 — even if he lands another job and does no consulting work. He also will continue to receive retirement contributions, life insurance benefits and full family health insurance, unless he finds another job that offers more lucrative benefits.

Barker’s health insurance comes to $414 per month, Reese told Idaho Education News.

The outside donor has been a source of mystery throughout the New Plymouth saga.

In March, New Plymouth First Baptist Church pastor Phil Pittman told Barker that a community donor was willing to pay for his buyout. At the time, Barker said he was uninterested in the buyout, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported.

Barker had been at the heart of a controversy that divided this rural community, near the Idaho-Oregon border about an hour west of Boise.

Barker clashed with New Plymouth High School Principal Clete Edmunson, who said Barker had pressured him into resigning. Students protested to show their support for Edmunson, who briefly rescinded his resignation. Edmunson resigned for good in February, and later accepted the superintendent’s job in Council.

The New Plymouth Education Association called on Barker to resign. Until Wednesday, Barker had resisted calls to step down.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this story.

 

Kevin Richert

About 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 KIVI 6 On Your Side; "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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