Idaho’s District 26 delegation met with constituents in Hailey last week to discuss the Blaine County School District, as an outspoken group opposed to district leadership continued to elevate its criticism in advance of November’s school board elections.
Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, Rep. Muffy Davis, D-Sun Valley, and Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, each attended the invitation-only listening session planned by Debbie O’Neill, which also included several members of I-Care, the opposition group.
“We wanted to keep them apprised of some of the details of why all this hullabaloo and noise is coming from their constituents about the BCSD,” O’Neill said. “Mainly, they will now be paying very close attention to district happenings, and of course to upcoming elections.”
In interviews with the Idaho Mountain Express, O’Neill, Davis and Stennett were quick to acknowledge that school districts’ practices are outside the jurisdiction of state legislators—that they are up to its trustees. But the meeting touched topics ranging from teacher morale to possible state-level issues, including public-records and open-meeting law, according to Barbara Browning, who attended the sit-down.
“We are hoping that Michelle, Muffy and Sally will look into some possible things they can do on the state-law side, and maybe speak with the attorney general about a couple of issues,” O’Neill said.
Such meetings are common this time of the year as lawmakers prepare for the 2020 legislative session, Stennett said. When it comes to school operations, though, legislators have little room to intervene. Those operations are governed by the State Board of Education and enacted by local school boards, she said.
“We want to hear what’s going on,” Davis said. “[I-Care] knows this is out of our jurisdiction. The ball is in their court, as far as a course of action. There’s a school board election coming up—it’s up to the voters what happens next.”
Davis added that she’s open to meeting with any constituents when she’s in the district. The delegation is planning a public meeting to hear from other officials on Oct. 2 at the Blaine County Annex, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The agenda hasn’t been set, but Stennett said Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes has been invited to speak about the state of the district.
“We try to hear as many sides of something as we can,” she said. “We’ve listened to Debbie’s group, and, on Oct. 2, [Holmes] will have a chance to respond. I’m hoping that she’ll take an hour to let us know how things are going.”