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Blackfoot residents reacted mostly with anger and disbelief to the news that Blackfoot School District trustees violated Idaho Open Meeting Laws and spent over $220,000 of taxpayer money on a separation agreement between the district and former superintendent Scott Crane; with many questions still unanswered.
The issues became public Monday when the school board conducted a special meeting admitting that they violated open meeting laws on March 13, 2012 and April 24, 2012 by straying off he proposed agenda and making decisions regarding Crane behind closed doors. The board signed a proclamation apologizing for their mistakes and vowing to educate themselves on open meeting laws.
The documents specifying the details of Crane's separation with the district also became public following a court order in the Joyce Bingham/The Post Register vs. Blackfoot School District court case. They are posted at www.am-news.com.
While the district is standing firm in a statement released Monday that they believed the 'separation agreement' was a personnel issue and therefore was exempt from disclosure under the Idaho Public Records Act, District Judge David Nye stated upon ruling in favor of Bingham and The Post Register that "everything about the case smacks of a public agency trying to hide its decision-making from the public."
Patrons openly voiced their opinions, questions and concerns on the subject on social media sites and 'letters to the editor' and many are wondering "where to go or what to do from here."
Lori Mecham asked, "Why did Mr. Crane leave? Why did the school district pay him a huge amount to leave?"
Josh Christiansen said: "Chairman Reese said, 'the resolution cures the mistake.' "I don't think these people understand how 'p***** off' the parents are that they are giving Crane almost a quarter million to go away while the teachers of this district suffer."
Kathy Jones Rhead asked, "Does anyone know for a fact that the board's hands 'weren't' tied with all of this due to a contract signed by old members of the board? Do we know if there was any stipulation regarding certain things such as 'retiring early' on his contract? Yes, it sucks to see our money go to something like this, but I hate assumptions. Let's get 'all' the facts."
Leah Rigby said, "The district has an attorney who most likely advised them to make this agreement with Crane because it was better than a costly lawsuit against the district and individual board members for whatever actions took place while he [Crane] was on contract. It's likely there is more to the story than we know. I do know that there are some members on the board that have high integrity and are trustworthy but were probably put between a rock and a hard spot due to the actions of other board members."
Beccy Wujcik Joyner said, "I think we need to start fresh with our school board and honesty should be at the top of the list."
Dawn Bates Davidson said, "I believe the school board knowingly did what they did hoping to not get caught. We need a new school board, period. This event is the ultimate betrayal of the public's trust. I will admit, that I don't know how to move to move forward to get this issue resolved. How do we oust the school board members and start anew?"
Lloyd Williams remarked, "MAD like I am....get involved! This happened because people like us weren't watching."
While the public now knows that the payout of $105,428, originally questioned by Joyce Bingham, is ultimately almost a quarter million dollars, some of the questions still being asked by the public include, "Why did Crane 'really' leave? Who drafted the separation agreement and when did they do it? Whose idea was it to hide the agreement from the public? If laws were broken, is Crane's separation agreement still legal and binding? (Another payout of $105,428 is due to Crane on July 1, 2013). Should there be a recall of the current board members or should they be asked to resign? How does the district now move forward for the benefit of the students?"
Bingham, who will not pursue the issue any further, said, "If people are concerned they need to start attending the board meetings, sign up to speak at the public forum and start asking hard questions."
Patrons are also urged to contact members of the Blackfoot Education Committee and the Idaho Education Association with their concerns. The next Blackfoot school board meeting is scheduled for Dec. 20.
View the contract between Crane and the board of trustees at http://www.am-news.com/content/agreement-between-scott-crane-and-bsd-no-...