NEW PLYMOUTH — New Plymouth School District superintendent Kevin Barker is facing a vote of “no confidence” and calls from employees to resign immediately.
In a letter written to the New Plymouth School Board Sunday, district employees outlined a number of complaints against Barker, from claims of “bullying” and “retaliation” to harassing personnel “to the point of severe mental anguish.”
The letter states that 73 of 100 New Plymouth employees declared no confidence in Barker during a secret-ballot election last week. Thirteen employees expressed confidence in Barker, the letter states, while 14 abstained from voting.
On Monday, Barker dismissed the accusations and the numbers in the letter, and said he has no intention of resigning.
“Several employees have communicated to me that they had no part of this and didn’t know about it,” Barker told Idaho Education News.
New Plymouth Education Association Executive Committee member Pierrette Madrid Harris defended the letter’s math. She said the pool of 100 respondents clearly reveals a lack of confidence, since the district only employs 120 to 130 people.
The vote and claims of impropriety come almost two weeks after New Plymouth’s school board voted to place high school principal and longtime educator Clete Edmunson on paid administrative leave.
Barker had told Idaho Education News that Edmunson suddenly and voluntarily resigned his position. The following day, however, Edmunson rescinded the letter of resignation and said Barker had forced him to pick between “two unpleasant options” and wasn’t given time to think things over.
Several people sent Idaho Education News videos showing New Plymouth students walking out of class, staging a demonstration and chanting Edmunson’s name following news reports about the principal’s resignation.
The Argus Observer has since reported that Edmunson’s wife, Shelly Edmunson, another New Plymouth High employee, has resigned over concerns for her own health stemming from the situation.
Harris and other employees said the issue between Barker and Edmunson is just one of several factors resulting in the no-confidence vote and calls for Barker’s resignation.
“There are countless concerns that have been ongoing in the past two and a half years, but recent events and actions taken by the superintendent have escalated to the point that we can no longer remain silent in an environment where we do not feel valued, respected or safe,” the letter states.