Moving forward: West Bonner board welcomes new trustees

The West Bonner school board welcomed two new members Wednesday night: from right, Paul Turco and Ann Yount.

As the West Bonner school board welcomed new trustees and a new interim superintendent, the atmosphere at Wednesday’s meeting was noticeably genial and relaxed.

“Multiple people that were there said, and I noticed too, that the atmosphere has changed and it really feels like we are starting to rebuild now,” said Kylie Hoepfer, a parent and member of a group that worked together to recall the two trustees who were replaced Wednesday. 

Unlike previous meetings where patrons directed frustration and anger at trustees, those who spoke were positive and appreciative that “the community is feeling heard.” Much of the past discord stemmed from hiring Branden Durst as superintendent in June, a decision that created months of contention between the community and board. The board accepted Durst’s resignation last month.

“It’s time to come together,” said interim superintendent Joe Kren.

For the first time since the August recall, the board had five trustees present. Paul Turco and Ann Yount were sworn in Wednesday to serve out the term of recalled trustees Keith Rutledge and Susan Brown. Current trustees Troy Reinbold and Margaret Hall were reelected Nov. 7, but Carlyn Barton lost her bid to newcomer Kathy Nash.

The board members then got right down to business, addressing a forensic audit, self-curing several open meeting violations, and meeting in executive session about student and employee matters.

The forensic audit

Trustee Margaret Hall said the district’s forensic auditor, Eide Bailly, has all necessary documents for phase one and their results “should be forthcoming.” Trustees hired the firm in July to conduct the audit, which has faced delays because of the district’s inability to acquire bank statements.

Kren said, “They have done everything they need to do at this point. And they have assured us that they’re working hard to get things done. So the fact that they’re on the agenda, but they’re not here tonight, I own that, that’s part of my transition.”

Open meeting violations

The board self-recognized two open meeting law violations and passed motions to self-cure or re-do the action:

  • The first violation occurred at the Aug. 22 meeting. Trustee Carlyn Barton said proper 24-hour notice was not given for a meeting that did “not necessitate an emergency.” An emergency meeting was called in response to a letter from the State Board of Education that outlined several compliance violations. The board declared an emergency and directed Durst to apply for an emergency provisional certificate. They unanimously declared their action to be null and void.
  • The second violation occurred at the Sept 5 meeting. The board failed to hold a public meeting to approve changes in the amended contract addendum of an employee “that do not comport with prior board decisions.” They unanimously declared their action to be null and void.

Kren noted the district office is without both a clerk and business manager, which complicates their ability to submit state reports in a timely manner. 

“No applicants applied for the open business manager position. A school business official is a rare breed and the only ones you find are either employed or retired,” he said.

Executive session

The board made a motion to recess for executive session. They remained in executive session for more than an hour and half before making a motion to take action. At that time, trustees:

  • Unanimously passed a motion to approve early graduation for student A.
  • Unanimously passed a motion  to accept the resignation of employee A.
  • Unanimously passed a motion to approve district legal counsel to work on an agreement for employee B.
  • Unanimously passed a motion to approve a legal agreement concerning former employee A, “as revised as discussed in executive session.”
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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