Klopfenstein abruptly resigns as West Ada school board chair

Ed Klopfenstein resigned as chairman of the West Ada school board late Tuesday night, following a lengthy discussion about the district’s response to the coronavirus.

Ed Klopfenstein

Although he is vacating his position as chairman, he intends to continue to serve on the board, district spokeswoman Char Jackson said Wednesday afternoon.

The abrupt move comes in the wake of ongoing fallout over West Ada’s reopening plan, and a recall campaign against trustees. When Klopfenstein resigned as chairman at the end of a Tuesday night meeting stretching more than four hours, he cited relationships among the board.

Earlier in the night, Klopfenstein was caught off guard when fellow trustee Amy Johnson offered her own COVID-19 response proposal. Johnson’s motion failed and Klopfenstein expressed surprise that she did not share her plans with him or other board members so they could consider the proposal before being asked to vote.

Johnson responded by saying that Idaho’s open meeting law prevented her from bringing a motion to board members outside of an open meeting.

“I can’t continue like this, this is ridiculous,” Klopfenstein said at the end of the meeting. “To be very frank I have risked my business. I have risked my family. The internal conflicts that I have had, the time investment that I have had, and I can’t get a phone call that there’s an emergency, some sort of surprise?”

Ultimately, trustees could not pass a motion regarding Central District Health’s decision Tuesday to move Ada County schools to red, the highest COVID-19 risk classification rate. The lack of action means current operations will continue.

Johnson’s proposal was, in part, to continue with the current hybrid model for the next two weeks, undertake a health and safety validation and medical review across the district and implement a longer-term plan that parents and patrons could count on.

Trustee Philip Neuhoff said he was caught off guard both by Johnson’s proposal and a district proposal to allow hybrid learning to continue in the red classification instead of moving to remote online learning. Neuhoff said he didn’t see how the board could consider either proposal. Trustee Rene Ozuna requested a followup meeting to consider more information.

Klopfenstein is a businessman with software and tech management experience. He was appointed to fill a vacant board seat in 2016 after patrons recalled two trustees earlier that year.

“I feel that obviously the board does not appreciate the work that I am doing and you would prefer to work by yourselves. And so, I give that back to you,” Klopfenstein said as he dropped the gavel signaling the end of Tuesday’s meeting.

In a resignation letter provided by Jackson on Wednesday, Klopfenstein said he appreciates and respects board members but looks forward to a change in leadership.

“However, since the pandemic, the level of distrust between the board and district has reached a level that is unhealthy,” Klopfenstein wrote. “This obviously reflects the distrust we face from the community. Just at a time when we should be getting together and working together, we’re not. By changing leadership, I hope we can achieve that.”

West Ada is the state’s largest school district based on enrollment, serving about 40,000 students. Klopfenstein’s term runs through January.

West Ada’s next regular board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 27, though it could call a special meeting to discuss board leadership before then.

West Ada’s shakeup isn’t the only recent upheaval within Idaho’s large school districts. Former Boise trustee Troy Rohn resigned Sept. 25 after saying the state and federal governments have shirked their responsibilities for managing the pandemic.

In West Ada, a parents’ group launched a recall campaign last week targeting all five trustees. The group says it wants to see schools fully reopen, and says trustees haven’t listened to parental concerns.

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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