West Ada fills final open school board seat

Following a year of upheaval, the West Ada School Board is back to full strength and looking to regain residents’ trust.

On Thursday evening the district’s three school board members appointed former lawmaker Steve Smylie to the vacant Zone 3 school board seat.

“The process was very thorough,” Smylie said after the meeting. “I was very impressed. And I have to tell you, I am a little humbled because some of the other candidates gave absolutely wonderful responses, and they have expertise in areas I don’t have.”

Steve Smylie
Steve Smylie

The board vacancies were created May 17 when district patrons voted to recall trustees Tina Dean and Carol Sayles. The recall followed a year of turmoil that reverberated throughout highest levels of district leadership and oversight.

Within the past eight months, longtime Superintendent Linda Clark resigned, and four of West Ada’s five school board members either resigned or were recalled.

Smylie praised new Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells and pledged to help the district put controversy behind it and look to the future.

“You have to be open, you have to go to the people, you have to listen, and it takes time and there is no magic formula,” Smylie said.

“I’m not going to come in and try to turn a battleship around.”

Applicants interviewed Thursday included:

  • Trudy Anderson, a former vice president and CEO of the University of Idaho’s Boise campus. Anderson is also the former state administrator of the Division of Professional-Technical Education.
  • Loraine Hand, a former school board member who was defeated by Sayles by just nine votes in 2013. Hand works as the assistant to the dean at Boise State University’s college of Business and Economics.
  • Clay Hatfield, a 13-year veteran teacher from the Wilder School District who has children who attend West Ada schools.
  • Smylie, a former state legislator and who ran unsuccessfully for the position of state superintendent of public instruction in 2006. Smylie, the son of late Idaho Gov. Robert Smylie, is an adjunct professor of education at Boise State University.

The board voted to appoint Smylie following a public interview where all four applicants took turns answering the same set of questions. Interview questions touched on an array of topics from school finance to standardized testing, schools choice and building relationships with the existing board and Ranells.

Although the vote to appoint Smylie was unanimous, one board member initially favored another applicant. Mike Vuittonet, the longest tenured board member, first sought to appoint Anderson. His effort failed for lack of support, and trustee Rene Ozuna led the effort to appoint Smylie.

“This group was exceptional,” Vuittonet said. “It was kind of like a photo finish. Several of them are just absolutely incredible.”

On Tuesday night, the board voted unanimously to appoint Ed Klopfenstein to fill Dean’s unfinished term. Klopfenstein, a software developer who has lived within the district for 13 years, was among seven applicants who interested for the Zone 1 seat.

Klopfenstein and Smylie will be sworn in Tuesday night. Both new appointees’ terms expire in 2017.

Smylie and Klopfenstein told district leaders they plan to seek reelection next May.