I learned of a fledgling recall effort when I attended the September 27 West Ada School District Board of Trustees meeting. I was there to offer support to the board to have the courage to listen to a vocal, color coordinating group of patrons and then to have the fortitude to decide what is best for the education of the vast majority of children of West Ada. I believe government works best when it’s local so it can better hear from all concerned citizens. Once the concerns are out there, however, the board must make difficult decisions on what is in the best interest of the whole district.
I knew a group of anti-mask parents was likely to attend the meeting. I did not know they were going to bring protest signs. They brought several signs, too many in fact, as one member of their group asked if I would hold one of her many extras. I politely declined. They held the signs up high while the Board was hearing from the school bus company on the plan to improve service given the current labor market.
The signs had nothing to do with bussing or anything else on the agenda that night. One sign said, “Recall Amy Johnson.” Another said, “Pick Amy: Blue Cross or WASD.” You’d think Trustee Johnson mandated masks. But I knew she didn’t. At the August 24th meeting, this group testified en masse “masks don’t work,” and “masks make your brain foggy,” and “masks are like diapers.” But no, Amy Johnson voted for the Opt-Out policy (full disclosure I was disappointed in opt-out because if masks work 1%, then they’re probably worth it in my book, but I also believe public health is about the Public). That’s right: Amy Johnson did not vote for everyone to wear masks. The current temporary pause on allowing opt-out came from the superintendent who has the authority from the board to make changes to policy with the emphasis of keeping the most kids in school for the most time. But if Trustee Johnson didn’t vote for masks, why the recall effort?
It wasn’t until David Binetti kind of launched a recall effort by letting the local news know he was strongly thinking about sort of doing something. His reasoning for recalling Amy Johnson- she works at Blue Cross (a health insurance company) which creates a conflict of interest. I don’t know if Binetti realizes whether we like it or not, COVID has required most of us to adjust our focus. Restaurateurs want to focus on food and customer experience, but COVID forces them to make decisions on the health precautions of their staff members and patrons. Binetti posits that Trustee Johnson is making decisions for WASD that are unduly influenced by her employer. Like Blue Cross is suddenly selling masks to the schools. If I had to guess, Binetti’s group has no problem with a local pathologist making money testing for COVID while serving on Central District Health, an actual conflict of interest.
By Binetti’s logic, no one should be on the school board. Insurance salesmen have a conflict of interest because school districts purchase insurance. Police officers have a conflict of interest because schools have School Resource Officers the district partially funds. Farmers grow food, which the schools buy for lunch, so they can’t be on the board either. Even Mr. Binetti himself can’t serve — he’s a UC Berkeley grad who has helped start several tech companies. His current gig is consulting and giving workshops on innovation management. What if Mr. Binetti wanted to pay himself to give one of these workshops to a West Ada high school Business or Econ class? Wouldn’t happen? We don’t know that, which is why he would have a conflict of interest. Ludacris you say? Well now you get the point as to why this recall is ridiculous. Of course insurance salesmen, cops, farmers, and innovation management consultants can serve on the School Board. Just like Trustee Johnson, an employee of a local insurance company, should be able to serve.
Based on how I’ve seen Trustee Johnson chair recent WASD Board meetings while a highly charged, very angry, very matchy group of patrons let their displeasure be known, I think WASD would be hard pressed to find anyone else who can calmly, professionally get the work of the Board completed. I have no doubt the current board, Johnson included, considers all input before making decisions. To recall her for the reasons Binetti offers would be wrong and a disservice to the patrols of West Ada.