The West Bonner School District #83 Board of Trustees selected Branden Durst, a senior analyst of education policy research for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, as its next superintendent. (Courtesy of the West Bonner School District)
This story was originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on June 14, 2023.
North Idaho’s West Bonner School District trustees voted Wednesday afternoon to table action on an employment contract for Branden Durst — the board’s controversial pick for district superintendent. In an eight-minute meeting, trustees also struck an agenda item calling for Durst’s appointment to be rescinded.
Both votes passed on a 3-2 vote, with trustees Margaret Hall and Carlyn Barton opposing.
The moves are the latest development in a contentious debate around the board’s June 7 decision to appoint Durst to the superintendency.
Durst, a senior analyst of education policy research for the Idaho Freedom Foundation (a conservative Idaho think-tank), is a former Republican state superintendent candidate, Democratic state lawmaker and a controversial political figure. And Durst is currently lacking a qualification required for the superintendent job: four years of full-time, certificated employment in a school.
Durst plans to apply for and obtain an emergency provisional certificate — a workaround that would allow the superintendent appointee to work in the position for up to a year, after which he would have to apply to extend his emergency authorization or reach the minimum qualifications for an administrator certificate with an endorsement as a school principal, superintendent or director of special education.
Neither of Wednesday’s votes received much explanation from trustees.
The board quickly struck Durst’s recall from the agenda, and moved on to consideration of the contract. Board Chair Keith Rutledge called for a vote to table the contract discussion, citing concerns of “improper and unprofessional” conversations from within the district with legal counsel. The specific nature of the improprieties mentioned by Rutledge were unclear.
Wednesday’s votes occurred over eruptions from the audience.
Audience members loudly admonished the board for “ignoring freedom of speech” as trustees attempted to adjourn the meeting. One onlooker shouted at trustee Troy Reinbold to “sit up in his chair.”
“Man up and look up,” she said. “You’re a coward.”
“You work for us,” shouted another audience member.
Over a chorus of objections, Wednesday’s special meeting quickly adjourned minutes after it started. Future discussion of Durst’s contract will occur at Chair Rutledge’s discretion — a date has not yet been set.
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 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.
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