Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chance to heal

    The Blaine County School District’s selection of a new school superintendent last week is a major step forward on a path that could heal the rift between the district and the public it must serve.
    Beginning in 2009, trust in the district was battered by lawsuits and allegations of mismanagement of a $15.1 million con-tract between the district and engineering firm McKinstry Essention for heating and ventilation systems and other improve-ments at local schools. The lawsuits were finally settled last fall.
    The contract was part of a $59.8 million plant facilities levy approved by voters in 2009 when they took a leap of faith in the beginning of the worst economic down-turn most had ever experienced in their lives and voted to invest in the future when the present wasn’t looking so hot.
    The lawsuits shook that faith. It was also shaken when the Blaine County School Board unanimously approved a separation agreement with former Super-intendent Dr. Lonnie Barber and saw him out with a $600,000 golden parachute—three years before his contract was up.
    The board itself was shaken by the res-ignation of board Trustee Paul Bates, who admitted that underage drinking had oc-curred at his home.
    In searching for a new superintendent, the board reached out to the public and to teachers in a series of well-attended public meetings and online information gather-ing in a unique effort to align patron ex-pectations with a new superintendent.
    The board and new Superintendent Dr. GwenCarol Holmes now have a chance to heal the district’s wounds and to restore the trust of a normally generous public in the district’s ability to manage the biggest public budget in Blaine County for the benefit of our kids and our communities.

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