West Bonner superintendent’s background investigation is cleared

Weeks overdue, West Bonner superintendent Branden Durst’s background investigation is completed, according to Tracy Rusho, the district’s human resources coordinator.

Durst’s superintendent contract was approved on June 28 but his background application — to include fingerprints — did not officially reach the State Department of Education until about Aug. 14, according to a letter written to West Bonner trustees from Cina Lackey, the director of Certification and Professional Standards.

The state requires background applications to be submitted five days after employment.

It’s unclear why Durst’s original fingerprint card had not reached Lackey’s department, because, according to Durst, his fingerprints were done soon after being hired, so it appears that his card was somehow misplaced or lost during the process.

But as of last Friday, his standard background investigation has been cleared, Rusho confirmed.

The issue of Durst’s unfinished background check surfaced during a school board meeting two weeks ago. Trustee Carlyn Barton claimed that Durst had previously stated to trustees that his background investigation was done and approved, when it wasn’t.

Durst discussed the issue with Idaho Education News and also provided documentation to support his explanation. EdNews has been unable to reach Barton.

“I will restate that I completed my responsibility to have my fingerprints done within days of being hired,” Durst said.

But the previous staff apparently did not submit the paperwork, he said. “I am very frustrated by the lack of action by former staff, but I can’t undo their dereliction.”

In an email sent to the school board, Rusho told trustees that Durst’s fingerprints could not be located in the office, nor were they processed by the state.

So what happened?

The following timeline of events was taken from Rusho’s letter to the school board.

  • Rusho started working in the human resource department on July 17. 
  • A week later, she discovered, at the bottom of a stack of papers, that Brandy Paradee’s set of fingerprints had not been sent to the state.
  • Believing that Durst’s had also been done at the same time, she searched for them but was unable to locate them.
  • Without locating them, she assumed they had been mailed.
  • On Aug. 7, Rusho was given access to a file folder that listed the district’s background checks but it was empty.
  • Later she gained access to fingerprint records for those sent in before she took over, but Durst’s fingerprints were not in the state’s data system. 
  • On Aug. 10, she was officially notified that Durst’s did not reach the state, so they were redone.
  • The new fingerprint card was mailed on Aug. 10 and likely received by the state on Aug. 14.

“When we heard nothing back, I assumed it meant that everything went through as expected. It was not until a much later date did I become aware that my fingerprints had even been received,” Durst said.

Barton noted that Durst’s paperwork was submitted well past the state’s five-day grace period. Idaho code requires certificated and non-certificated employees to undergo a criminal history check submitted with a fingerprint card no later than five days following the first day of employment or unsupervised contact with students, according to the code.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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