Three West Bonner trustees select a temporary superintendent

PRIEST RIVER – West Bonner trustees appointed a temporary superintendent Wednesday night following their acceptance of a resignation of an unnamed employee. It was presumed to be Branden Durst’s resignation, but trustees never said his name in the open meeting.  

The trustees appointed Joe Kren to a 90-day contract as superintendent and agreed to hire legal counsel to negotiate the terms of the resignation with the unnamed person.

Kren is a former Priest River Lamanna High School principal and superintendent of the St. Maries School District.

The decision to accept a resignation came after a 15-minute executive session. The resignation dates referenced were Sept. 19 and Sept. 25. Durst, who attended the meeting by video, publicly announced on Sept. 25 on social media he would resign from his role as West Bonner’s leader and seek an “amicable and fair exit.” Durst did not set a departure date when he made the announcement a month ago and said he’d leave that decision to the board.

Wednesday’s developments follow months of tumult in the North Idaho district, including the August recall of two trustees and the state’s decision to block Durst’s path to an emergency certification to be a superintendent.

Following their cryptic resignation announcement and while trustees prepared to go back into executive session to consider hiring an employee, someone from the audience yelled: “Hold on. There’s something missing here. Is there a name that goes along with that?”

Trustees ignored the question, walked out of the room and back into executive session. There was muted applause, because many in the room assumed it was Durst. His apparent resignation is effective immediately.

Trustees came back after a second executive session and agreed to appoint Kren.

A quorum established

The board held its first meeting since the August recall with all three remaining trustees attending in person. 

The five-member board was reduced to three following the August recall of two board members. The board needs three for a quorum to meet. The Bonner County Sheriff’s Office received a criminal complaint against trustee Troy Reinbold for nonfeasance as a public official, because the board has been unable to meet due to his repeated absences. Reinbold was there in person Wednesday. 

The board scheduled a follow-up meeting Monday at 6 p.m. in the high school cafeteria to interview candidates for the two vacant trustee positions. Monday’s agenda indicates that a selection of new trustees could be made.

The State Department of Education could temporarily withhold a portion of funding because last year’s financial audit is not done, business manager Melissa Reilly told the board. The district is not losing any funding, just facing a delay, she said.

The 2022-23 financial audit is not done because their forensic audit is also not finished. The board voted last summer to conduct a forensic audit. But that’s been delayed by their inability to obtain bank statements from their financial institution. The accounting firm handling the 2022-23 audit would not move forward until the forensic audit is done.

In other action Wednesday, Christina Kenny was hired as the special education director; Alyssa Meyn for English language arts at the junior high school; Steven Bowden as a facilities custodian; and Nicole Cupp as the junior high secretary. The board also accepted the resignation of Reilly, the business manager.

Under new business, the board voted on the following items.

  • Approved — develop a notice for the request for quotes for general legal services.
  • Approved — develop a notice for the request for quotes for an interim district general legal services.
  • Approved — develop a notice for the request for quotes for an interim 2022-23 auditor to pick up where the previous auditor stopped. The district wants to have its audit done by January so they don’t miss the next funding cycle for state money.
  • Approved — hire two temporary accountants to help pull together documents to complete the 2022-23 audit.
  • Approved — the draft of a continuous improvement plan and community engagement process.
  • Approved — an amended 2023-2024 classified salary schedule.
  • Approved — amended 2023-2024 administrative salary schedule.
  • Approved — funding of winter and spring extracurriculars and co-curriculars up to $250,000. Trustees agreed that this discussion warrants further discussion.
  • Tabled — a transportation waiver because the district is having trouble finding bus drivers to help transport students to sporting events. This topic will be discussed at the Monday meeting.
  • Approved — add a new contracted cleaning service and district custodial positions. The staff is lean. The district is down by five positions. Five buildings should have 13 workers. There are floors, carpets, 100 toilets, plus urinals and more. Bathrooms are not getting cleaned and this is affecting student and teacher morale. They are overworked and understaffed and it’s really starting to show. There’s a mice problem at the elementary school and mice running over children’s feet.
  • Approved — IRWA agreement with a rural water system to be a water operator.
  • Approved — community use of school facilities policy, with an added work session in November to review the policy.

The board approved meeting minutes for the following dates:

  • June 28, Minutes 
  • June 28, Budget Hearing
  • July 5, Minutes
  • Aug. 16, Minutes
  • Aug. 25, Minutes
  • Sept. 27, Minutes
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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