The State Board of Education was out of line when it previously issued three emergency certificates for administrators and is vulnerable to legal consequences, according to an analysis Attorney General Raúl Labrador’s office provided to state superintendent Debbie Critchfield Thursday.
The opinion came a day after the State Board said it could not consider Branden Durst’s application for such a certificate, effectively stripping him of any chance to become the official superintendent at West Bonner County School District.
“We understand that, historically, the board may have approved provisional certificates for a superintendent candidate in a manner that effectively waived the endorsement requirements for that candidate,” the attorney general’s analysis reads. “However, this practice does not appear to be consistent with the statue or the board’s regulations … This means that the State Board could face legal liability for issuing provisional certificates for administrators and superintendents.”
The analysis goes on to say the prior certificates could “create some risk” for the State Board.
Since 2015, the State Board has issued two emergency certificates to principals and one to a superintendent — Teresa “Susie” Luckey, who served as West Bonner’s interim superintendent from March to June, when Durst was hired.
Mike Keckler, spokesperson for the State Board, said all three emergency administrator certificates — including Luckey’s — are expired and not in use.
In a statement Durst provided EdNews Thursday, he questioned the State Board’s motives for not considering his application, and said it was “odd” that the State Board did not rescind Luckey’s certification after learning it was in the wrong.
“They will be held accountable for their discriminatory actions,” Durst wrote.
Durst had previously delayed applying for his emergency certificate because he said two superintendents could not hold emergency certificates at the same time in the same district (Luckey’s expired in August). However, the State Board said that was not true, and chastised West Bonner trustees in an Aug. 16 letter for employing “a non-certified individual as superintendent,” which it said “violates Idaho law.”
Durst is missing at least one requirement to hold a superintendent endorsement: four years of full-time, certificated employment in a school. In Durst’s emergency application, attorney Chris Yorgason argued that the state could waive any missing requirements because Durst met “certain minimum emergency requirements,” including having passed a background check, having two years of college training (Durst has a master’s and an education specialist degree from Boise State University), and the district having declared an emergency.
The West Bonner School Board will meet Wednesday and plans to address the recent ruling on Durst’s certificate at that time, according to acting chair Margaret Hall.
EdNews Data Analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report.