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Two Bills Introduced in West Bonner Aftermath

January 27, 2024

Two bills their sponsors say are aimed at keeping recalled school board members from committing their districts to significant policy and financial actions before leaving office are making their way through the legislative process.

The legislation comes after last year’s appointment of anti-public education activist Brandon Durst as West Bonner School District’s superintendent and a messy recall election of his allies on the school board by the community. Those trustees tried to call a special meeting of the school board hours before recall election results throwing them out of office were to be certified.

READ MORE ABOUT WEST BONNER HERE

House Bill 420, introduced by Rep. Mark Sauter (R-Sandpoint) on Jan. 22, would block recalled school trustees from participating in board meetings. In essence, it makes it illegal for recalled school board trustees to vote on school district business between a successful recall election and its official certification. The bill also clarifies that a recalled trustee is officially removed from the board when the results are certified — meaning, no board action would be required to remove the trustee.

It awaits a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee. Three North Idaho lawmakers — Reps. Elaine Price (R-Coeur d’Alene), Dale Hawkins (R-Fernwood, and Tony Wisniewski (R-Post Falls) — opposed the introduction of Sauter’s bill.

The school district is still working to recover from the chaos of Durst’s tenure, the turmoil created by the recall election and its aftermath, including Durst’s resignation in October. Only last week did the West Bonner Education Association finally reach a tentative contract agreement with the school district for the 223-24 school year.

Senate Bill 1239, sponsored by Sen. Scott Herndon (R-Sagle), clarifies the definition of a board quorum.

Current law requires a majority of elected school board members be present to conduct school district business. This can be challenging when a board has multiple vacancies, as occurred last summer after the West Bonner recall election.

Herndon’s bill redefines the definition of quorum as a majority of trustees in office, excluding trustees who’ve resigned or been recalled by voters from the calculation.

The Senate Education Committee was introduced on Jan. 19 without debate and awaits that panel’s full hearing.

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