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.

 

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