West Bonner slow rolling Durst’s emergency certificate

Branden Durst

PRIEST RIVER — The state hasn’t decided whether superintendent Branden Durst can officially lead West Bonner — because the district hasn’t asked.

Twenty-one days after a divisive West Bonner School Board meeting ended with the hiring of superintendent Durst, the district hasn’t applied for his emergency credentials. To be fully qualified, he is missing one requirement: four years of full-time, certificated employment in a school.

Therefore, Durst told EdNews last month, he’ll begin the position with a provisional certificate — still an unfulfilled promise. EdNews was unable to reach Durst for comment about when they will file the application. The next filing deadline is in 28 days.

According to Idaho law, applications for provisional certificates must be reviewed and approved by the State Board of Education. As of Wednesday, an application for Durst’s provisional certificate had not yet been filed.

The application allows a school district to request a one-year endorsement in an “emergency situation.”

At the June meeting, Trustees Margaret Hall and Carlyn Barton opposed that emergency declaration, because the district had qualified employees who could serve as interim superintendents. According to the Department of Education, there are two West Bonner certified staff who hold superintendent endorsements — a school principal and special education director.

Board chair Keith Rutledge, vice chair Susan Brown and trustee Troy Reinbold voted in favor of the emergency declaration.

A provisional certificate provides the authority to fully act as a superintendent. Without the certificate, Durst cannot conduct evaluations for certified employees. Another certified district administrator could be assigned to do the evaluations. He can still evaluate classified staff.

Durst can continue to serve as the district’s leader under another title, such as director, without the provisional certificate to be superintendent. 

There are three more Board of Education meetings this year:

Application Deadline               Meeting Date

June 21, 2023                                  Aug. 23, 2023

Aug. 16, 2023                                  Oct. 18, 2023

Oct. 11, 2023                                    Dec. 13, 2023

Durst is a former Democratic lawmaker and Republican state superintendent candidate, who most recently was an analyst for the Idaho Freedom Foundation. His hiring was controversial and created an uproar during several board meetings.

Durst’s contract is not posted on the district’s website, as required by Idaho Code. To see a copy of the contract, use this link

The first draft of his contract included several unusual line items that were removed: a vehicle, housing allowance, free meals, the ability to work remotely during school breaks, and a limit on the board’s ability to terminate the contract.

Below are some of the items that do appear on the finalized contract:

  • 12 days leave for illness, injury, or emergency
  • At least the same medical, dental, vision, retirement and benefits as the district provides certificated employees
  • Paid membership fees for the Idaho Association of School Administrators, the American Association of School Administrators, and other groups
  • 20 days of paid vacation
  • Reimbursed for mileage
  • $2,000 relocation reimbursement

Durst scheduled three town hall meetings

Durst has scheduled two consecutive town hall meetings and one more in August: July 25 at 6 p.m. in Priest Lake Elementary; July 27 at 6 p.m. in Idaho Hill Elementary; and Aug. 12 at 10 a.m. in Priest River Lamanna High School. The regular school board meeting is rescheduled for July 26 in the high school, also at 6 p.m.

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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