Last week’s election in which Blaine County School Board Chairman Steve Guthrie lost to newcomer Kathy Baker by a vote of 248 to 171 in the southern Hailey district was a referendum that signaled public concern about district operations.
Guthrie had been on the board for a single term. He also defeated an incumbent when he was elected in 2009.
During her campaign, Baker called on the district to be more transparent in letting the public know not just what, but how and why it makes the decisions it does. She promised to be open and to return phone calls from constituents and reporters, while Guthrie said his practice of speaking through intermediaries ensured the board speaks with “one voice.”
Baker could keep her promise by insisting that next year the Blaine County School Board conduct its annual consideration of a new contract with teachers at its regular meeting instead of at a special meeting hastily called for that purpose.
Contract negotiators finalized a new contract on Friday, May 17.
On Monday, May 20, teachers voted overwhelmingly to approve the new contract that will cost the district $1.14 million for salary and benefit increases next year, in addition to the estimated $750,000 annual increases in salaries the district pays to teachers for longevity and educational advancement.
The same day, the district provided notice of a meeting for the following day in which trustees voted 4-0, with one member disqualified, to approve the contract.
The public needs time to understand things such as teachers’ contracts and to weigh in on where the district is headed—before board members vote. Time is not of the essence when it puts the public into a losing game of catch-up. It’s a game in which no one wins.