West Ada selects new trustee

 

A management consultant who last year fought to make masks optional in Idaho’s largest school district will now fill the district’s vacant Zone 4 seat.

Trustees in the West Ada School District chose David Binetti over another finalist for the position during a special meeting Monday. Binetti, whose Smile West Ada campaign accompanied the district’s decision to ease up its mask requirements in 2021, replaces former trustee Rusty Coffelt, who stepped down in February, citing family matters.

Trustees interviewed Binetti and fellow finalist Brad Ehrlich Monday night. The board probed their views of a trustee’s role in the district, how they might handle decisions they don’t personally support and how they would balance funding needs with taxpayers’ burden of funding public schools.

Binetti boiled down his goals for the district to managing population growth, increasing and retaining educators and improving trust with the community. He stressed working with patrons to “make the right decision” and  spending school resources “appropriately.”

“If the public has the trust, then kids benefit,” he told board members.

Trustee Angie Redford nominated Binetti after the round of questions, pointing to both candidates’ “good resumes” and “articulate and impressive responses.” Trustee Rene Ozuna cast the only opposing vote to Binetti’s nomination.

Monday’s decision follows a rash of trustee resignations that left Coffelt’s 16-month tenure the second longest on the board behind Ozuna, who has been in office since 2016. Trustees Lori Frasure and Angie Redford were sworn in in January of this year. Trustee Lucas Baclayon was appointed to the five-member board last month.

Binetti will be sworn in at a later meeting, with a term ending January 1, 2024. The swearing in will be the fourth for the board so far this year.

Click here to watch Tuesday’s entire meeting. 

Teachers push back on proposed policy change

Also Monday, West Ada teachers railed on a proposed policy change that would bar them from asking students a range of personal questions — including inquires about their sexual orientation and their gender identity.

Trustees took input and a first reading of proposed additions to the district’s Duties & Responsibilities policy for certified staff. Over a half dozen teachers used the public input portion of the meeting to blast the potential changes, written in red.

The proposed changes are rooted in the controversial 2021 House Bill 377, which deals with school nondiscrimination and targeting critical race theory. Gov. Brad Little signed the bill into law last year, after questioning the narratives of some lawmakers who pushed for it.

West Ada’s proposed changes would align local policy with the law, and address concerns some local parents have with surveys teachers send out to get to know their students.

A first reading of the changes Monday revealed several of the changes, including a requirement for teachers to obtain administrative approval for “student inventory or similar such” surveys at the start of the year or of a given course.

Several changes echoed wording from the law itself, including barring teachers from asking about a student’s “religion or religious beliefs, political affiliations, sex/sexual orientation or gender identity, ethnicity, race, color, national origin.”

The proposed changes include a caveat tied to the restrictions: “Nothing stated in the above subsection shall prevent a teacher from instruction.”

Still, at least seven West Ada teachers criticized the first reading of the changes, calling them “limiting” and “negative.”

One teacher said she relies on surveys to connect with her students. Another said not being able to identify a students’ preferred pronouns or name would be “disrespectful.”

Trustees reiterated that Monday’s meeting included only a first reading of the proposed changes, and that more input would be considered before a final decision is made.

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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