West Ada trustees discuss levy, no mention of leadership

The West Ada School District’s Board of Trustees met in open session for nearly two hours Tuesday night — with no mention of the fact that the district has no leader, or of Superintendent Linda Clark’s abrupt resignation Friday.

All testimony, discussion, questions and statements were focused on the district’s two-year, $28 million levy that goes before voters on Nov. 3.

At least in open session, trustees did not discuss a plan to replace Clark, who said the board had been “militating” against her and waging a witch hunt.

Julie Madsen
West Ada trustee Julie Madsen

The board followed the public meeting with an executive session. Before entering the closed meeting, Vice Chair Julie Madsen told the crowd of about 100 to go home because she did not expect action to be taken afterward.

During the open session, about 14 people, most invited by trustees to speak, stuck to the topic at hand — the levy.

Board Chair Tina Dean, who missed most of the board meeting because of a family emergency, closed the conversation by saying the board doesn’t like to ask the community to support supplemental levies, but has no choice.

“Once the state restores funding, we will discontinue asking for levies,” Dean said.

The meeting was conducted by Madsen, who asked district employees to “provide information and educate but to not take a position” on the levy.

Three school officials spoke.

Alex Simpson, director of finance, presented the levy’s fiscal impacts. Eric Exline, director of community relations, discussed West Ada’s levy history. Assistant Superintendent Barb Leeds talked about the possible impacts of losing $14 million a school year. She said cutting instruction time has historically made it impossible for teachers to get through required curriculum.

“They just didn’t have time,” Leeds said. “If you cut instruction time, a kindergartner would lose about 1.5 years of instruction by the time they graduated.”

Trustees asked a handful of community members to talk about other aspects of the levy. Speakers included Meridian Chamber of Commerce members, business leaders and representatives from Boise State and Idaho State universities.

The chamber’s board strongly supports the levy, Board Chair Rob McCarvel said.

After 90 minutes, the board opened the forum to comments and questions from the audience. Only a handful of people came to the podium and spoke largely in support of the levy. Meridian mayoral candidate Monty Palmer said it was important that the board be unified in the coming days if the trustees want the levy to pass.

Voters will the fate of the levy Tuesday. This levy would replace a $14 million-a-year levy that expires next year.

“I don’t anticipate a large turnout in this election,” Exline said.