West Ada trustees reject assessment director’s job

A divided and sometimes testy West Ada School Board voted to reject an approximately $100,000-a-year assessment director’s position.

The move came over the objections of several principals, teachers and parents — who argued that the job is needed to help stakeholders interpret the results from a battery of mandated exams. Superintendent Linda Clark also opposed the move, saying she will have to parcel out the assessment director’s duties to other administrators.

Joki and Clark, 8.11.15
Superintendent Linda Clark addresses West Ada district trustees Tuesday night. School board member Russell Joki is at left.

The vote rejecting the position marked the latest clash between Clark and district trustees — who have questioned extending her contract to June 2018, and have questioned her recent appointment to the State Board of Education.

Tuesday’s debate over the assessment director’s job was far-reaching, foreshadowing a looming debate over renewing a supplemental levy in Idaho’s largest school district. West Ada’s two-year, $28 million levy expires next year, and district officials are expected to seek a new levy next spring.

New trustee Russell Joki led the opposition to the assessment director’s job, saying the district should be “mindful” of public concerns over administrative costs.

“I think there’s an opportunity for this district to make a statement back to the moms and the dads,” he said. “I think this is an opportunity for us to show restraint.”

Carol Sayles said she wasn’t necessarily opposed to the position, but would rather see the money put toward hiring teachers. During the depths of the recession, West Ada hired 120 fewer teachers than the state funded, and still has about 70 unfilled teaching jobs.

New trustee Julie Madsen called the assessment director’s job “problematic,” since it ran counter to public opposition to high-stakes student testing.

Clark argued for the hire, saying the district has had an assessment director for 11 years. And she pointed out that testing will begin again within a matter of weeks, as the 2015-16 school year opens. “I think there are some significant misunderstandings about this job.”

Clark got some support from principals and patrons — such as Ustick Elementary School principal Jennifer Fletcher. On the verge of tears, Fletcher argued that the assessment director is a needed resource at her Title I school, since it helps her explain test results to parents. “It’s probably one of the most critical roles at the district office.”

Trustee Mike Vuittonet sided with Clark, saying the job would help ease an overburdened administrative staff. “This is a very important position. … At some point in time, our administration has to be given some relief.”

Tuesday night’s vote was 3-2, with Joki, Madsen and Sayles opposing the hire, and with Vuittonet and board chairman Tina Dean supporting it.

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