West Ada chooses a new trustee

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A management consultant who fought last year to make masks optional in Idaho’s largest school district will now fill the district’s vacant Zone 4 seat.

West Ada School District trustees chose David Binetti over another finalist for the job at a special meeting Monday. Binetti, whose Smile West Ada campaign accompanied the district’s decision to relax its mask requirements in 2021, replaces former administrator Rusty Coffelt, who resigned in February, citing family issues.

Directors interviewed Binetti and fellow finalist Brad Ehrlich on Monday night. The board surveyed their views on the role of an administrator in the district, how they might handle decisions they do not personally support, and how they would balance fundraising needs with the burden of taxpayers to fund public schools.

Binetti summarized his goals for the district to managing population growth, increasing and retaining educators, and improving trust with the community. He insisted on working with clients to “make the right decision” and spend school resources “appropriately”.

“If the public has confidence, the children benefit,” he told board members.

Administrator Angie Redford named Binetti after the round of questioning, noting both candidates’ “good resumes” and their “articulate and impressive responses.” Administrator Rene Ozuna cast the only vote against Binetti’s nomination.

Monday’s decision follows a series of director resignations that made Coffelt’s 16-month term the second-longest on the board behind Ozuna, who has served since 2016. Directors Lori Frasure and Angie Redford were sworn in in January of this year. Administrator Lucas Baclayon was appointed to the five-member board last month.

Binetti will be sworn in at a later meeting, with a term ending Jan. 1, 2024. The swearing-in will be the fourth for the board so far this year.

Click here to watch the full meeting on Tuesday.

Teachers push back on proposed policy change

Also on Monday, West Ada teachers denounced a proposed policy change that would prevent them from asking students a range of personal questions, including questions about their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Administrators gathered feedback and a first reading of proposed additions to the District Duties and Responsibilities Policy for Certified Personnel. More than half a dozen teachers used the public comment portion of the meeting to blast potential changes, written in red.

The proposed changes are rooted in the controversial 2021 House Bill 377, which addresses non-discrimination in schools and targets critical race theory. Gov. Brad Little signed the bill into law last year, after questioning the accounts of some lawmakers who pushed it.

West Ada’s proposed changes would align local policy with the law and address some local parents’ concerns about the surveys teachers send out to get to know their students.

A first reading of the changes on Monday revealed several of the changes, including a requirement for teachers to obtain administrative approval for “student inventory or similar” surveys at the start of the year or of a given course.

Several changes echoed the wording of the law itself, including prohibiting teachers from asking questions about “religion or religious beliefs, political affiliations, sex/sexual orientation or gender identity, ‘ethnic origin, race, color, national origin’ of a student.

The proposed changes include a caveat related to the restrictions: “Nothing in the above paragraph shall prevent a teacher from teaching.”

Still, at least seven West Ada teachers criticized the first reading of the changes, calling them “limiting” and “negative.”

One teacher said she relies on surveys to connect with her students. Another said not being able to identify a student’s favorite pronouns or name would be “disrespectful”.

Trustees reiterated that Monday’s meeting only included a first reading of the proposed changes and that more comments would be considered before a final decision was made.

About Devin Bodkin

EdNews associate editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and the education of students living in poverty. He lives and works in eastern Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be contacted by email at [email protected].

Read more stories by Devin Bodkin »

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