West Ada trustees cancel Monday’s meeting

(UPDATED, 6:15 a.m. Tuesday, with comment from Joki.)

West Ada School District trustees canceled a special board meeting that was scheduled for Monday night. Trustees will hold their regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the District Service Center, 1303 E. Central Drive, Meridian.

The abrupt cancellation comes as trustees look to fill one vacancy on the board — and three other trustees face a possible recall election.

The reason for and circumstances surrounding the cancellation are points of contention.

Monday’s meeting was canceled “to ensure that the notice requirements of the opening (sic) meeting law have been met,” the district said on its website.

Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells recommended canceling the meeting, district spokesman Eric Exline said Monday afternoon. Ultimately, board chair Tina Dean made the decision to cancel the meeting.

But a group of Meridian patrons — Concerned Citizens of West Ada School District for Trustee Recall — suspects other motives. The group said the decision stems from trustee Julie Madsen’s resignation Friday night.

“We applaud Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells’ leadership in cancelling tonight’s hastily arranged special meeting,” said Christine Donnell, former superintendent of Meridian Joint School District. “We think the cancellation reflects the board ‘s realization that it is not reasonable to advertise an open trustee position on Friday night and appoint a replacement the following Monday. It is our expectation that the trustees will now employ an open, transparent process that invites public input in appointing a replacement trustee.”

Trustees had scheduled Monday night’s meeting to interview candidates to succeed Madsen and appoint a replacement. Madsen decided Friday to step down, rather than face a May 17 recall election.

Donnell’s group has led the recall against Carol Sayles, Russ Joki, Dean and Madsen.

Recall organizers suspected Madsen’s resignation represented the first step in an orchestrated effort to stack the five-member board through the appointment process.

Sayles and Joki appeared to face a Monday deadline; both must decide whether to resign or stand for a recall.

But in an email to Idaho Education News, Joki said he has been told by Dean that he actually has until Friday to make his decision, since county elections officials had not sent recall notices by registered mail. “I have a statement I will provide when I make a decision,” he said Monday night.

In a separate email to Idaho Education News Monday, Sayles said she will announce her intentions at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Tuesday’s agenda does not include taking action on replacing Madsen. The agenda does include taking action on continuing its membership in the Idaho School Boards Association.

Earlier Monday, before the special board meeting was canceled, Donnell and eight others sent a letter to West Ada trustees asking for a more involved and transparent process when replacing a trustee. The letter asked for the following:

  • Properly advertise the newly vacant position to a broad audience and allow potential applicants a minimum of one week to consider and apply for the position.
  • Convene a small advisory panel comprised of teachers, administrators, and community members to provide input in the process of appointing new trustees, much like you did with the recent school boundary changes.
  • Invite the top candidates to appear in an open forum to answer questions from trustees and patrons about how they would approach the role of board trustee.

“Anything short of an open, transparent process that involves all of the district’s stakeholders will be a continuation of the dysfunction that initiated the recall efforts,” said the letter, signed by Donnell and eight others, including former trustees Reid Olsen and Anne Ritter.