The Blaine County School District board of trustees on Tuesday officially declared a vacancy for the Zone 4 trustee position, setting a 90-day clock in motion for the district to find a new trustee living within the zone.
Zone 4 has not had someone volunteer to serve as trustee since 2009, when former Trustee Paul Bates defeated former board Chair Alexandra Sundali in a hotly contested race. No one opposed Bates for reelection in 2013, and no one volunteered from Zone 4 position after Bates resigned in January.
Instead, as allowed by Idaho law, the school board ended up choosing a non-Zone 4 resident for the post. Hailey resident Richard “Rick” Roberts was selected for the position in May, officially became a trustee in June and resigned in September following a misdemeanor battery charge filed against him for an incident with a 16-year-year-old boy at a concert at River Run in August.
Roberts has pleaded not guilty to the charge and his case is scheduled for a jury trial before Judge R. Ted Israel in Blaine County Magistrate Court on Dec. 4.
“We’d like to thank Trustee Roberts for his service with the board and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” board Chair Shawn Bennion said at a Tuesday board meeting, prior to a unanimous board vote officially establishing the vacancy.
Zone 4 includes the west Ketchum area and areas west of state Highway 75 from just north of Hailey to the Custer County line.
Bennion explained at the Tuesday meeting that by law the board has 90 days from the time the vacancy was declared to find a Zone 4 resident for the trustee position.
Idaho Code further provides that if a resident of a trustee zone in question is not found for the position within 90 days of the declaration of vacancy, a school board then has 30 days to find someone for the post who lives anywhere within the boundaries of the district. If no one is selected after 120 days from the date the vacancy was declared, the appointment of a new trustee becomes the responsibility of the board of county commissioners in the county in which the school district is situated.
With state law in mind, the school board hopes to appoint someone living within Zone 4 to the position in December.
The school board actually has until Jan. 14 to find someone living within the zone for the post, but Bennion said it would be preferable to make the appointment before then.
“My fear is that over the Christmas holidays we would lose the traction, lose momentum,” he said.
Accordingly, the board intends to officially begin advertising for the post on Friday, Oct. 24. The deadline for submitting a letter of interest to Clerk of the Board Laurie Kaufman will be 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 21. The board then plans to hold a special meeting Thursday, Dec. 4, to interview applicants and select a new trustee, who would be sworn in for the position at the board’s regular December meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 9.
“It is my anticipation that we’ll get that filled and get a full quorum by the Christmas break,” Bennion said.
A new member would serve out the term of office originally established for Bates, who was last elected, by default, in 2013. His term of office would have extended to July 2017.
“I’m hoping there is some excitement out there in Zone 4 for filling that vacancy and that we will have members of that zone step forward and apply to join us on the board,” Bennion said. “There’s not much in life more fulfilling than helping our students, helping our kids.”