Friday, July 17, 2009

Surprise for Bates, Guthrie: 4-year terms

New board members sworn in, Dahlgren elected chair

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District won't hold elections next year, a surprise to some.

Blaine County School District Attorney Adam King made it clear at Tuesday's school board meeting that district trustee elections won't be held.

The reason—House Bill 372, a so-called "election consolidation reform" measure that requires school districts to hold trustee elections in conjunction with city elections, which are held on odd-numbered years. That means the district's next elections won't be held until 2011.

"Steve and Paul, who ran thinking they had three-year terms, now have four-year terms," King said.

King was referring to newly elected Trustees Steve Guthrie and Paul Bates, who took their board seats Tuesday after being sworn in by board Clerk Laurie Kaufman.

Following that, the board voted 5-0 to elect Trustee Julie Dahlgren board chairwoman and Trustee Daniel Parke vice chairman.

Dahlgren, who previously served as vice chairwoman, replaces Alexandra Sundali, who was defeated in May by Bates in the Zone 4 west Ketchum area election. Guthrie defeated incumbent Kim Nilsen in Zone 2, which encompasses the south Hailey area.

Bates came dressed for his first school board meeting as a trustee wearing suit jacket and tie and his trademark shorts and flip-flops.

Bates and Guthrie seemed initially nervous after taking their school board seats, but later warmed up to the occasion and asked numerous questions as various presentations were made to the board. Commenting on a proposal that the district provide scholarships for exchange students, Bates said the money would be better spent on programs benefiting more students.

Superintendent Lonnie Barber attended his first school board meeting as superintendent, having replaced retiring Superintendent Jim Lewis on July 1.

In other business, the board voted 5-0 to approve reappointment of Mike Chatterton as district business director, Kaufman as board clerk and King as attorney. The board also approved Debi Gutknecht as director of student services.


Gutknecht replaces Blake Walsh, who retired from the position effective July 1 but continues to work this summer as the district's summer school principal. Walsh brought a moment of levity to the board meeting when he added his impromptu vote for Gutknecht's unanimous appointment.

The board also voted 5-0 for a new principal at Woodside Elementary School and a director for Silver Creek High School, formerly known as Silver Creek Alternative School. Bradley Henson, previously an elementary school principal in Hamilton, Mont., will head Woodside this coming school year and Lynn Seifert, a former district superintendent from the Nashville, Tenn., area, will serve as director of the Silver Creek school.

Election consolidation

HB 372 was approved by the Idaho Legislature earlier this year and signed in May by Gov. Butch Otter. The bill became law on July 1.

At Tuesday's board meeting, attorney King explained that Bates and Guthrie, who were elected in 2009, won't have to run again until 2013.

The legislation not only affects the terms of office of Guthrie and Bates but also of incumbent Trustees Parke and Mari Beth Matthews. Parke, who represents south Blaine County, and Matthews, representing the north Hailey area, started their present school board terms in 2007. Now, King explained, their board seats won't be up for election until 2011.

Dahlgren, who represents the Sun Valley and east Ketchum area and whose current term started in 2008, will serve a regular three-year term. Her Zone 5 seat will also be up for election in 2011.

Dahlgren commented at the board meeting that the new law puts the district in the potential position of having three new board members at one time.

"I'm not sure that they really thought that through," King said. "But the Legislature's done what they've done."

Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, and interim Sen. Jon Thorson, D-Sun Valley, voted against the bill.

Terry Smith:

Legislative 101

A workshop on the legal responsibilities of school board trustees is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, July 20, at the Blaine County School District office at 118 W. Bullion St. in Hailey. District Attorney Adam King will present information on ethics in government and Idaho's open meeting laws. The workshop is open to the public.

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