West Bonner trustees say recall election is an ideological, partisan fight

Board Vice Chair Susan Brown

Two Republican school board trustees facing recall election in northern Idaho say next month’s vote is a referendum about liberal and conservative values in education.

As they prepare for their Aug. 29 recall election, West Bonner School District chair Keith Rutledge and vice chair Susan Brown submitted written rebuttals to the county clerk’s office this week.

Last month, more than enough signatures were collected to launch recall elections against both trustees, after weeks of discord between patrons and trustees over the selection of new superintendent Branden Durst, a former Democratic lawmaker and Republican state superintendent candidate, who most recently was an analyst for the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

“Since being elected I have dedicated hundreds of hours to holding our district administration accountable to its residents and keeping woke liberal agendas out of our district,” Brown wrote in a prepared statement.

Brown pointed to the Sandpoint organization Idaho Moms as evidence that the school board election is an ideological, partisan fight. Groups like Idaho Moms are allied with the Bonner County Democrats to recall conservative board members, she wrote. 

EdNews spoke to an Idaho Moms spokesperson who said the group is politically active but non-partisan. Their board includes members of both parties, as well as unaffiliated voters, too.

The group’s website says, “We aim to elect officials who represent ALL Idahoans. Idaho Moms expect elected officials to protect and strengthen the systems that we depend on to thrive like libraries, schools, and public lands.”

The Idaho Moms website does include a section titled “Why recall Keith Rutledge and Susan Brown?” which includes recent news articles and bulleted paragraphs exposing the negative decisions of both trustees.

But Brown defends her decisions.

“I led the investigation into the Wonders K-12 curriculum recommended by Susie Luckey which was riddled with (critical race theory) derived teaching methods and was 20% over budget. When we found out that the (social emotional learning) being pushed by the recall organizers was a backdoor through Idaho law to promote CRT and LGBTQ+/- agendas, I led the effort to send it right back to its publishers,” Brown said.

Among her accomplishments, Brown notes her push for financial transparency by means of a forensic audit, “before any more levies so that you can know how your tax dollars are actually being spent,” she wrote. “If you want a board member who will fight for financial transparency, work to keep our schools free of woke agendas, and demand educational outcomes better than 60% competency for our children, vote against the recall.”

Board Chair Keith Rutledge

Rutledge also asks voters who reject CRT in education but who support the financial audit and improved academic outcomes to keep him on the school board.

“Your no vote will enable this board to keep building better outcomes for our district’s children, their families, and all the residents who support it,” Rutledge wrote in a statement.

In his statement, Rutledge asks voters to keep a conservative majority on the school board. If he’s successfully recalled, control will be given back “to the very same people that are responsible for 60% reading competency rates and call that ‘a success.’”

“They want to keep you and the whole country from seeing how a conservative led school district can improve poor educational outcomes and give our children a better chance at actual success,” he said.

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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