Sunday, September 24, 2023

ID: West Bonner Tries To Fight Back, But Fake Superintendent Still In Place

The saga of the West Bonner School District and its completely unqualified and unlicensed superintendent continues, with more twists and turns and fairly spectacular dysfunction.

The board had hired Branden Durst, a noisy political wanna-be with a checkered past and zero qualifications, to be superintendent. But his highly unusual contract depended on his procurement of an emergency superintendent certification, and the state board decided that A) he met zero of the qualifications and B) they didn't have the power to do that anyway.

Some of the story echoes other districts where a conservative group managed to commandeer the school board. People simply became complacent about board elections, not paying attention to what the board was up to, or not bothering to vote because they assumed the reasonable candidates were shoo-ins. 

In the case of West Bonner, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, yet another of those far right groups that wants to do away with public schools entirely, pounced. Dropped textbooks and a curriculum replaced with the far right Hillsdale curriculum and a defeated levy to fund things like books and salaries--those were the prelude to installing Durst as superintendent.

Now, you might think that would be the end of the story, but you'd be wrong.

About the time Durst was hired, a recall effort was under way to remove two of the most right wing board members. Despite any number of nasty tricks, the recall succeeded at the beginning of September. Those seats will be filled in November, but in the meantime, Durst and the board have tried some last minute antics, like moving to dissolve the school board at a board meeting scheduled at the last minute for a Friday evening of a three day weekend. It took a court ordered injunction to stop that nonsense.

The recall has created another problem. It leaves three board members, which means all three must be present to conduct business, and one member, the other third of the conservative coalition, decided not to attend last week's board meeting, which would have been the first since the state board said that there is "no path" for Durst to become credentialled to fill a superintendent spot. But with only two members present, the meeting was canceled for lack of a quorum.

That means, among other things, that Durst is still in the superintendent's post and that the district, not the state, will have to pay his salary. One would think he can't be superintendent on account of, you know, being unqualified and uncredentialed, but Durst has other thoughts.

But, Durst told KREM 2 he still is the superintendent.

"They don’t make the law," Durst said. "They aren’t the law. How many people could say that? That they don’t have to follow the laws of Idaho.”

The state board's action, says Durst, was "pretty discriminatory." Durst says a lot of things, although nothing about what, other than his ideological bent, qualifies him to be a school superintendent.

There's a lot riding on the next election for West Bonner, but folks are awake and paying attention now. We'll see what the next chapter holds.

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