Education: Why the Caldwell School Board Acted

by Judy Ferro

The current turmoil over the removal of Tim Rosandick as Caldwell Superintendent of Schools could be the poster child for open meetings. I think I know the gist of what happened, but, then, so do former Associate Superintendent Chuck Randolph and Russ Beardsley, leader of the effort to recall Trustees Amy Rojas and Leif Skyving.

And we don’t agree.

I have a lot of respect for Randolph, Beardsley, and others who’ve spoken out on this issue so I’ll set out what I do know and invite response.

-As Randolph pointed out, no firing offense, criminal or financial, was involved. If so, Rosandick and Asst. Supt. Asumendi would not be receiving pay for the coming year.

-The fact that the announcement was not expected, doesn’t mean that the decision was a hurried one. Agendas indicate that, in the six months prior to Rosandick’s dismissal, there had been six regular board meetings and 12 special ones, most of which had gone into executive session. In hindsight, these numbers suggest a serious, on-going concern.

-A mutual decision was reached. Rosandick and Asumendi agreed to the change in assignment. Legally, they can speak out, but they have chosen not to. This could be to protect their own reputations and/or to minimize the damage to morale in the Caldwell schools.

-None of the trustees have spoken out on the reason for the decision, but Amy Rojas has stated that “all five trustees were unanimous before the public vote.” (IP-T, July 24, 2015.) Trustees Sandra Dodson and Chuck Stout have not disputed this. Rojas’s truthfulness has been established during nearly eight years on the school board.

-When the Northwest Nazarene faculty were upset about a decision by their administration, they met and voted no confidence. The lack of similar action by Caldwell administrators and teachers suggests either that they are not greatly upset or that they have a greater fear of retaliation than those at NNU. The fact that not a single current district employee has spoken out is surprising.

-Discussing personnel issues publicly can lead to lawsuits every bit as expensive as the board’s agreement with Rosandick and Asumendi. It can also ruin careers. Neither public nor private enterprises make such matters public. One can wonder if anyone would want to work for a school district that did so.

-On-going recall movements against two of the trustees that supported the change will make it more difficult to recruit a new superintendent. Do we want someone desperate enough to walk into such a volatile situation?

Mr. Beardsley has imagined a scenario where the contract change was engineered overnight by two trustees. He recently told KBOI TV that Skyving and Rojas got rid of Rosandick and Asumendi “for no reason.” Did he somehow attend all the board’s closed executive sessions? Or did he use a crystal ball.” A Ouija board?

And are we to assume that Trustee Tom Briten went along with the pair “for no reason” at all? Although Idaho law forbids filing a recall until 90 days after a person’s election, Beardley’s failure to mention Briten’s involvement suggests that he wishes to attack only the two senior members of the board.

Is that really more logical than accepting that the board reacted to a situation they felt would damage Caldwell schools?

Was there a crisis in the Caldwell School District? I challenge you to ask someone who works for the Caldwell School District. Ask someone who trusts you and is willing to speak openly with you.

You might be surprised by what you learn. I was.

Education: Caldwell School Board Controversies

by Judy Ferro

School board elections are often low profile. A Wilder man was once elected to the school board by four votes. Not a four-vote margin, but four write-in votes. (I still wonder if the man was totally surprised or if he had told a couple friends he was willing to serve.)

Today we don’t have a trustee election if there aren’t two or more candidates. Melba, Notus, Parma and Wilder had no elections this year even though each district had two or three seats open. If one person had filed, he or she got the seat without contest. If no one had filed, board members had to find someone who would accept an appointment.

The dearth of lively contests is not surprising. Serving on a school board requires training and time, offers no fiscal compensation, and attracts critics.

Still, Caldwell had active campaigns for all three seats this year. One challenger, Travis Manning, won; another, Toni Waters, might have won if election officials hadn’t allowed five out-of-zone voters to cast ballots.

Caldwellite Russ Beardsley believes all three contests were battles for and against Supt. Rosandick. Few know why board members relieved Supt. Tim Rosandick and Asst. Supt. Luci Asumendi of their duties. Idaho law forbids board members and staff from revealing anything occurring during executive sessions. Quite possibly, this change has been discussed for months.    

But Beardsley, who has started a recall campaign against two board members, has a theory. “I believe that once the election was concluded and Travis had been declared the winner, I believe that Amy and Leif approached (Tim) and told him that the writing was on the wall.”

I can’t accept this imagining. I not only doubt that Rojas and Skyving instigated the change, but also that they’d assume Manning would go along. I attended Travis’s campaign planning meetings, proofread his literature, called and e-mailed voters, and drove him as he worked to get out the vote. I never heard him say a word against the Superintendent. His issues were a “high quality pre-school,” strong programs across the curriculum, “multiple measures of assessing student learning,” and “providing schools with the necessary resources to excel.” Manning ran for a trustee position so he could help move the district forward, not because he shared a vendetta against anyone.

Moreover, the Tim Rosandick I know would not have folded before such a threat. And he didn’t. A majority removed his power; Trustee Tom Britten joined Rojas and Skyving in voting for the change.

Many questions remain, but we shouldn’t allow this controversy to overshadow that surrounding the five extra ballots in Caldwell’s zone two.

Many of us, including those in the Elections office, assumed that, since there were five ineligible votes cast in a race with a four-vote margin, there would be a revote. I was stunned to find that it was not enough for the losing candidate, Toni Waters, to file a complaint. She was to hire an expert in elections’ law and sue some defendant. First, she was told to file against the county clerk; then the election victor, Tom Britten; and, later, the two precinct level officials who had issued the ballots.

The lawyers Waters talked to did not want to touch an issue so political.

Then Waters learned that she had to pay the cost of the new election IF SHE LOST. After she proved that the actions of the election officials invalidated the election, she would still have to win or pay the wages of all the election workers, including those who had wronged her.

That isn’t just, logical or democratic. It’s wrong, and we need to change it.