New Plymouth principal resigns for good this time

Clete Edmunson resigned – again – from the New Plymouth School District on Tuesday night after weeks of community turmoil and school politics.

“It’s ugly,” the former New Plymouth High School principal said Wednesday morning. “I am done.”

New Plymouth trustees were scheduled to decide Edmunson’s fate this week after putting the longtime educator on paid leave in mid-January. Instead, Edmunson voluntarily resigned and agreed to a “separation agreement” that keeps him on paid leave until July 1 and stops all district investigations into any allegations, he said.

“I can’t talk about the details at this time other than to say it’s done,” Edmunson said.

The New Plymouth drama began on Jan. 16 when Superintendent Kevin Barker told Idaho Education News that Edmunson suddenly and voluntarily resigned as principal.

The following day, Edmunson disputed Barker’s explanation, and told Idaho Education News he was pressured into resigning. High school students responded by walking out of class, staging a demonstration and chanting Edmunson’s name.

Edmunson then decided to rescind the letter of resignation and force the board to take action. At the time, Edmunson described the situation as the town being “in an uproar.”

In the days that followed, district employees sent a letter to trustees accusing Barker of “bullying” and “retaliation” and harassing personnel “to the point of severe mental anguish.”

According to this letter, 73 of 100 New Plymouth employees declared no confidence in Barker during a secret-ballot election, while 13 employees expressed confidence in Barker and 14 employees abstained. Barker dismissed the accusations and the numbers in the letter, and said he would not resign.

An attempt to reach Barker on Wednesday morning was not successful.

Shelly Edmunson also resigned in January from her job as New Plymouth High’s media specialist over the turmoil surrounding her husband. She now teaches at Nampa’s Columbia High School.

Clete Edmunson completed his educational specialist degree with the University of Idaho in December and said Wednesday he will start applying for a superintendent’s job in Idaho.

“I’m ready for a new adventure,” he said.

Edmunson served in the Idaho House of Representatives from 2003 to 2008. He also worked for Gov. Butch Otter, first as a field representative, then as Otter’s special assistant on education and transportation issues.

Edmunson left politics to return to the classroom, stopping first in Murtaugh before returning to New Plymouth. He took New Plymouth High’s principal’s job in 2015 when Barker was promoted to superintendent.

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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