Embattled School District 25 trustees Dave Mattson, Jackie Cranor and Janie Gebhardt survived a bitter recall election and voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots in favor of the district’s $9.25 million annual supplemental levy.
Clearly Tuesday was a good day for School District 25’s leadership and its supporters.
However, we would caution the district from doing anything resembling a victory lap.
Several things are clear from this episode in School District 25’s history and staying the course cannot be the response from Superintendent Doug Howell or the school board in regard to Tuesday’s outcome.
For starters, amid all the relief of having survived Tuesday’s recall, the school board should not feel proud of itself in any way for upsetting so many district parents that they mounted an organized effort to oust most of the board.
We’re fairly certain that if Tuesday’s recall would have been successful it would have been history making in Idaho because we can’t find any evidence that any recall effort in the state’s past has ever resulted in three trustees being removed from the same district at the same time.
As far as attracting the best teacher and administrator candidates, the recall put District 25 in at best a questionable light in the eyes of future applicants.
School districts and school boards are no strangers to controversy, but it seems District 25 can’t stay out of trouble. If it’s not a school board recall, it’s an ugly high school mascot debate or a contentious school boundary change.
School District 25’s leaders need to look themselves in the mirror as far as assigning blame as to why the district is often unable to navigate difficult issues without dividing the community and causing an uproar.
Controversies are often avoidable via thoughtful leadership and District 25’s leaders definitely need a new approach to dealing with the pitfalls of educating children in 2021 America.
We would hope this new mindset would include district officials not getting overly defensive when someone questions their plans. District officials need to expect the public to have concerns and they must be able to respond to those concerns in such a way that turns critics into friends rather than enemies.
Community input is not a bad thing and makes for better decisions and projects. Constantly ignoring community input leads to public outrage and, as we’ve just seen, school board recall elections.
The recall that was decided on Tuesday put the inadequacies of District 25’s leaders on full display. The district’s leaders failed to reach out to the parents pushing for the recall, listen to their concerns and respond in a way that could have brought both sides together.
A better school district would have opened a thoughtful dialogue with those parents rather than paint them as antagonists who just don’t understand that the district knows best.
This brings us to our last piece of advice for District 25’s leadership. The recall showed us that district parents definitely need a bigger voice in district decisions and we fear unless that happens the school board will increasingly find itself out of touch with many of its constituents and Tuesday’s recall vote might not be the last.
Anything the district can do to not just welcome but to incorporate input from district parents would make for a better school district as well as community.
On Wednesday following the unsuccessful recall effort of the three school board members, District 25 issued a press release in which it said, “If the outcome of this process is a community that is deeper engaged in public education, that is a win for all of us, with the greatest potential impact for learners.”
We totally agree with that but would like to add that the outcome of this unfortunate chapter in School District 25’s history also needs to be a district administration and school board willing to look inward as to why many district residents supported the recall.
District 25’s logo contains the words “think more, learn more and be more together.”
Uniting the community, making all of us feel like we’re part of District 25’s mission, and chartering an intelligent path forward are what we demand from Howell’s administration and the school board.
That being said, we hope Tuesday’s vote totals result in introspection rather than celebration among the victors.