School elections: A mixed bag on levies, a spate of school board upsets

(UPDATED, 10:56 a.m., with comment from Nampa School District.)

It was a night of razor-thin school levy elections and school board upsets.

On Tuesday, Lake Pend Oreille and Minidoka County voters narrowly passed supplemental levies. In Nampa, a supplemental levy failed by a mere handful of votes.

Meanwhile, Tuesday was a night of school board shakeups. Incumbents lost from Lakeland to Middleton, from West Ada to Teton County. All told, 23 incumbents survived election challenges, while 20 incumbents lost. Tuesday marked the first time school board elections shared a ballot with races for mayor and city council, under a 2018 state law that moved trustee elections from May to November.

Here are Tuesday’s results.

School levies

Nampa. Two-year, $24.15 million supplemental levy. Failed.

The state’s third-largest school district fell just 11 votes shy of the simple majority needed to pass a levy. The proposal — which would have maintained teaching positions, supported extracurricular programs, purchased curriculum and classroom technology and bankrolled an annual independent audit — received 49.9 percent of the vote.

“The board will discuss next steps at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. There are lots of options to pursue and we will consider several of them at the board meeting,” Superintendent Paula Kellerer and board Chairwoman Allison Westfall said in an email to district staff Wednesday morning. “Please be aware that no action regarding a possible levy election in March or May will be taken at that time; a decision for March would need to be made by January.”

Districts can pursue supplemental levies on four election dates, in March, May, August and November.

Another option is a recount. Tuesday’s results were not close enough to trigger a recount at Canyon County’s expense, so the district would need to cover the costs, county spokesman Joe Decker said Wednesday morning.

Nampa was hoping to replace a two-year, $18.75 million levy passed in November 2017.

Lake Pend Oreille. Indefinite supplemental levy, $12.7 million per year. Passed.

With a narrow 51 percent majority, the North Idaho district will be able to extend its levy beyond 2021. The levy covers more than a third of the district’s 300 full- and part-time positions, helps cover extracurricular programs, curriculum and classroom technology and school safety and accounts for 35 percent of the district’s budget.

If a district collects a voter-approved supplemental levy for at least seven consecutive years — and the levy accounts for at least a fifth of the budget — the district can seek an indefinite levy.

Minidoka County. Two-year, $4.5 million supplemental levy. Passed.

The Magic Valley district will use the money for a variety of capital projects and purchases — including video security upgrades, playgrounds and student laptops. Tuesday’s levy passed with a scant 51 percent majority.

Swan Valley. Five-year, $500,000 plant facilities levy. Failed.

The rural Bonneville County elementary district was pushing a plan to upgrade a heating system, replace a school bus and finish upgrades recommended by the state’s Office of School Safety and Security. The proposal received 40 percent support, six months after a larger measure received only 15 percent backing. This levy needed a 55 percent supermajority to pass.

School board elections

Arbon. Ashlee Fitch unseated incumbent Jake Evans by an 18-13 margin, picking up 58 percent of the vote.

Bear Lake County. In a battle of two write-in candidates, Richard Smart won with a 65 percent majority.

Blackfoot. Karen Clark Driscoll ousted Zone 2 incumbent Carlos Mercado by a 431-303 margin, collecting 59 percent of the vote.

Blaine County. Amber Larna won an open trustee’s race with 55 percent of the vote.

Bruneau-Grand View. Incumbent Allen Merrick was re-elected in an 86 percent landslide.

Buhl. Danielle Richardson unseated Zone 4 incumbent Anita Lara by a 98-47 margin, earning a 68 percent majority.

Caldwell. Andrew Butler unseated Zone 4 incumbent Charles Stout by 11 votes, garnering a 51 percent majority. In Zone 2, Manuel J. Godina won an open race with 52 percent of the vote.

Camas County. William Simon was re-elected with 75 percent backing.

Castleford. In a race between two write-in candidates, incumbent Jason Nunez won with 70 percent of the vote.

Challis. Trish Farr was re-elected with 57 percent support.

Dietrich. Incumbent Perry Van Tassell won with 81 percent support, while Dolly Power won in a three-person race, collecting 67 percent of the vote.

Emmett. In a 10-person race, voters selected a slate of five trustees: Mike Garner, Houston “Hoss” White, Michael Kimball, M. Ross Walker and incumbent Ronnie Weekes. Voters ousted two other incumbents: Terry A. Jones and Robert C. Teeter. The vote came five months after trustees pushed to replace longtime Superintendent Wayne Rush, violating Idaho’s open meetings law in the process.

Filer. K. Chuck Reinke defeated Zone 1 incumbent Bryce L. Bowman 84-66, earning 56 percent of the vote. Julie Koyle won an open, three-person race with 49 percent support.

Firth. Incumbent Brian Esplin won with a 66 percent majority.

Garden Valley. Incumbent Morris Morgan was re-elected with 59 percent support.

Idaho Falls. Elizabeth Cogliati ousted Zone 4 incumbent G. Larry Haws, winning a three-person race with 40 percent support. Zone 3 incumbent Lara Hill won with 61 percent support.

Kimberly. Incumbent Myron Nield was re-elected with 63 percent backing, while Chad Allen captured an open, three-person race with 58 percent of the vote.

Lake Pend Oreille. Incumbent Geraldine Lewis was re-elected with 76 percent of the vote.

Lakeland. Two incumbents lost Tuesday. Michelle J. Thompson unseated Zone 3 incumbent Tim Skubitz on a 198-180 vote, collecting 52 percent. Ramona Grissom ousted Zone 2 incumbent John Michael Shaffer on a 342-270 vote, earning 56 percent of the vote. Zone 1 incumbent Rena Olmstead was re-elected with 58 percent support.

Marsh Valley. Incumbent Don Nielsen was re-elected with 62 percent support, while Jill Gunter won an open seat with 85 percent of the vote.

Marsing. Deborah Holzhey won an open trustee’s race, with 65 percent of the vote.

Middleton. Three months after narrowly surviving a recall election, Tim Winkle was ousted in Tuesday’s election. Challenger Briggs L. Miller took the trustee’s race on a 376-319 vote, capturing a 54 percent majority.

Mountain View. Pam Reidlen unseated Zone 4 incumbent Michael Dominguez by a 296-281 margin, collecting 51 percent of the vote. In another close race, incumbent Casey Smith was re-elected, with a narrow 50.4 percent majority.

New Plymouth. Voters ousted two incumbents. In Zone 2, Dean Jones defeated David Brogan by just one vote, collecting 37 percent in a three-person race. H. Lane Austin defeated Zone 5 incumbent Darrell Brown, picking up a 53 percent majority in another three-person race. Zone 1 incumbent Mark Haws was re-elected with 56 percent support. The shakeup came a year after former Superintendent Kevin Barker took a $400,000 buyout from a private donor, and trustees violated Idaho’s open meetings law in hiring a successor.

Nezperce. Quinton D. Wemhoff won an open trustee’s race with 79 percent support.

North Gem. By a one-vote margin, MaLissa Barfuss won an open trustee’s race, getting 40 percent of the vote in a three-person race.

Oneida. Kirk Willie was re-elected with 68 percent support. In an open race, Chalae Cox Teeples won with a 54 percent majority.

Orofino. Greg Garot ousted incumbent Sarah McGrath by a 114-94 margin, good for a 55 percent majority.

Parma. Kurt Kaiser won in an open, five-way race, with 45 percent of the vote.

Pocatello-Chubbuck. Incumbent Paul Vitale won a three-person race with 70 percent of the vote, while James Facer took an open seat with 57 percent support.

Salmon. Chuck Overacker won an open trustee’s race with a 56 percent majority.

South Lemhi. Aleta M. Ries captured a 77 percent majority to win an open race.

Swan Valley. Incumbent Jessica Poole was re-elected, with 55 percent support.

Teton County. Alexie Schiess Hulme unseated Zone 5 incumbent Nan Pugh, collecting nearly 50 percent of the vote in a three-person race. In two open races, Shannon Brooks Hamby and Ticia Sheets won with 60 percent support and 57 percent support, respectively. This summer, Teton County trustees made statewide headlines when they voted to replace the high school’s “Redskins” mascot.

Troy. Kyle Osborn was re-elected with 70 percent support.

Twin Falls. Incumbent Paul McClintock was re-elected with 58 percent support. Heidi Casdorph won an open race with 66 percent of the vote.

Wallace. Anna Berger was re-elected in a three-person race, picking up 51 percent of the vote.

Weiser.  Justin H. Erickson unseated Zone 1 incumbent Cary Gibbs by a 176-136 margin, winning with 56 percent of the vote. Zone 5 incumbent Kerry W. Nyce won a three-person race, also with 56 percent.

West Ada. In the lone race in Idaho’s largest school district, Amy Johnson trounced incumbent Mike Vuittonet. Johnson won 2,960-1,656, collecting 64 percent of the vote.

West Bonner County. Challenger Troy Reinbold ousted Zone 3 incumbent Bruce Hollett on a 133-95 vote, collecting 58 percent support. Zone 1 incumbent Margaret W. Hall was re-elected with 59 percent of the vote.

West Jefferson. Andrea Rigby ousted incumbent Burton D. Allen on a 37-15 vote, collecting a 71 percent majority.


Kevin Richert

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 "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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