Durst plans to lead West Bonner under a provisional certificate

Updated June 9, 6:55 p.m., with additional details from the State Department of Education regarding a potential provisional certificate. 

In the days since Branden Durst was selected as the next leader for West Bonner schools, rumors have been swirling about whether the controversial former state superintendent candidate is qualified for the position.

The answer: yes and no.

Branden Durst

Technically, Durst said he is missing one required qualification: four years of full-time, certificated employment in a school. But, some workarounds mean he still may be able to serve as superintendent. 

Durst, a senior analyst of education policy research for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, told EdNews he’ll begin the position with a provisional certificate but “will not be limited in any way from completing all aspects of the position.” 

According to Idaho law, applications for provisional certificates must be reviewed and approved by the Professional Standards Commission and the State Board of Education. As of Friday, an application for a provisional certificate for Durst had not yet been filed. He was just selected two days ago. 

Once it is filed, Durst would be allowed to fill the position of superintendent while awaiting a decision. If the provisional certificate were approved, it would take effect Sept. 1. If it were not approved, he would not be able to serve in a superintendent capacity, according to the State Department of Education. 

Durst was chosen as the district’s superintendent by a 3-2 vote Wednesday night, ousting interim superintendent and longtime school administrator Susan Luckey for the role. The vote came after opposition to Durst’s hiring — including a website, dontdodurst.com, that encouraged West Bonner constituents to urge trustees to choose another candidate. It’s unclear who created the website. 

In a written message to EdNews, Durst said his need for a provisional certificate “points to a larger issue in Idaho related to school leadership. The reality is Idaho has a shortage of superintendent candidates and more must be done to provide district’s the flexibility they need to make the right hiring decision for them.” 

He said he hopes to work with Idaho education leaders to broaden access to superintendencies across the state. 

Here’s his statement in full:

I have completed all aspects of superintendent training including internship and evaluation coursework.  However, administrative rules require a superintendent to have four years of full time certificated employment. It is that last component that I do not meet. While I have taught at the post secondary level and prior 2017 that would have satisfied the requirement, it no longer does. Subsequently, I will begin with a provisional certificate, but because I have completed all aspects of the superintendent training, I will not be limited in any way from completing all aspects of the position. This situation points to a larger issue in Idaho related to school leadership. The reality is Idaho has a shortage of superintendent candidates and more must be done to provide district’s the flexibility they need to make the right hiring decision for them. Idaho Code is very clear that the hiring of the superintendent is a central responsibility of the local boards. To that end, I hope to begin working with SDE, legislators, IASA, ISBA,  and our university partners to craft minor changes to ensure that would-be superintendents candidates can access the position, should a school board feel they are the best fit for their district.

According to Idaho code, superintendents must hold an administrator certificate with an endorsement as a school principal, superintendent, or director of special education. 

An administrator certificate with a superintendent endorsement requires the following:

  • Doctorate degree or comparable education: An education specialist or doctorate degree OR having completed a comparable post-Master’s sixth year program at an accredited college or university
  • Four years spent working in a school: Four years of full-time certificated/licensed experience working with students while under contract in an accredited school setting
  • Administrative internship: Completion of an administrative internship in a state board approved program for the superintendent endorsement, or have one year of out-of-state experience as an assistant superintendent or superintendent
  • Completion of a post-master’s, school superintendent program: Provide verification of completion of an approved program of at least thirty (30) semester credit hours, of post-master’s degree graduate study for the preparation of school superintendents at an accredited college or university. This program in school administration must include demonstration of proficiency in conducting instructional and pupil service staff evaluations based on the statewide framework for evaluation, and demonstration of competencies in the Idaho standards for superintendents and the Idaho Standards for School Principals.
  • Recommendation: Receive an institutional recommendation for a superintendent endorsement.

Durst does not have a contract or a set salary yet. He said negotiations are ongoing and the process “still has a long way to go.” 

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report. 

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro

Carly Flandro reports from her hometown of Pocatello. Prior to joining EdNews, she taught English at Century High and was a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. She has won state and regional journalism awards, and her work has appeared in newspapers throughout the West. Flandro has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and Spanish from the University of Montana, and a master’s degree in English from Idaho State University. You can email her at [email protected] or call or text her at (208) 317-4287.

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