Three school elections held in east Idaho on Tuesday had varied results.
Voters overwhelmingly approved American Falls Joint School District’s request for a $1,798,108 supplemental levy, but they narrowly denied North Gem School District's request for a $5 million bond and voted against recalling a Blackfoot School District trustee..
Here’s a closer look at the election results:
Blackfoot School District
In Blackfoot, 180 people voted to keep School District Trustee Peter Lipovac in office, while only 101 voted to kick him out.
Lipovac, who will retain his position as the Zone One Trustee, said he felt vindicated by the results of the recall that impugned his integrity.
“I would like to thank all of my constituents both on and off the (Fort Hall Indian) reservation,” he said, adding that he’s particularly grateful to members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes who have spoken on his behalf in recent months.
They also rallied behind him in the election; the Fort Hall precinct was responsible for 135 of the votes that kept him in office.
Those behind the recall wanted Lipovac ousted for allegedly violating board policy by not getting pre-approval to attend a National Indian Education Conference in New Mexico, for which he was later reimbursed $1,075.
But Lipovac has contended that School Board Chairman Scott Reese knew about the trip in advance, as did administrators and other members of the school board, who unanimously approved the reimbursement. And he said the board policy that petitioners referred to doesn’t even apply to school board members.
Those behind the recall also accused Lipovac of advocating for the proposed Chief Tahgee Elementary Academy, a charter school that would emphasis Indian culture and native language.
They said he was actively involved in the development of the charter school and should have recused himself from the January vote, in which board members decided to send the charter school’s application to the state for review.
But Lipovac said that his involvement with the proposed school was based on written guidance from Michelle Clement Taylor, school choice coordinator for the Idaho State Department of Education in Boise. She encourages school board members to get involved in the planning, development and oversight of charter schools, he said, adding that he didn’t do anything wrong.
“I didn’t expect to be penalized for carrying out the role of a board member as recommended by the charter commission in Idaho,” he said.
Lipovac feels the recall was a “distraction that served nobody well” and forced him to spend time defending his legitimate actions rather than focusing on his responsibilities as a school board member. And he’s glad to be moving on.
“The board has articulated some very good goals for the district this year, and I am looking forward to improving education and meeting those goals,” he said.
North Gem School District
North Gem School District’s request for a $5 million bond failed by just two votes on Tuesday, said Denise Horsely, Caribou County’s election officer.
Although 216 people voted for the bond and only 111 voted against it, Horsely said the request fell just shy of the two-thirds majority required.
“There had to be 218 ‘yes’’,” she said.
District officials requested the bond in order to replace the century-old portion of the district’s lone school for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. That part of the building houses 85 percent of the student body, Superintendent Jamie Holyoak said this week, adding that there are some vertical cracks in the walls and other issues that show the foundation is weakening.
Although the building isn’t in dire condition yet, officials decided to ask for the bond so they could take care of the problem before it gets worse, and take advantage of low construction costs at the same time.
School Board Chairman Carl Hatch said officials went to the public to find out what the voters wanted, and the election results showed that.
“We want to do what the patrons want us to do,” he said, adding that they’ll now decide where to go from here.
Hatch said he was grateful for those who participated in the election on Tuesday.
“We appreciate people getting out and voting. It gives us an idea of where we need to go from here,” he said.
American Falls Joint School District
Voters in Power and Cassia counties overwhelmingly approved American Falls Joint School District’s request to renew a $1,798,108 supplemental levy for two years on Tuesday.
Of the votes cast, 319 were in favor of the levy while only 53 were against it.
Although efforts to reach officials failed on Tuesday, Superintendent Ron Bolinger said earlier this week that the levy plays a crucial role in the district, making up 19.3 percent of the budget.
The district, which has lost $1.6 million in state funding over the past four years, uses the supplemental money to help with book, technology, library and school supply costs, as well as salaries for teachers and support personnel.