August 7, 1997 in Nation/World

Embattled Special Ed Chief To Quit Howman Won’t Say Where He’s Going After He Leaves Bonner County District

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Bonner County School District’s controversial special education director, who was chastised by state officials for how he ran the department, has announced his resignation.

Bob Howman sent a one-sentence letter to the school board saying he’s quitting his post Aug. 18. Howman gave no reason for his departure.

Trustee Jerry Owens said Howman has accepted another job but did not tell the board where he was moving.

“It was strictly a one-line deal and he doesn’t want to tell anyone where he is going or anything else,” Owens said. “He just resigned.”

Howman could not be reached for comment.

Howman has been under fire much of the school year for how he managed the department. Teachers and patrons complained about him spending about $91,000 to send one student to a drug treatment center in Montana. They also questioned his background after he told staff he was a former Supreme Court clerk, professional football player and Olympic weightlifter. Howman later clarified those embellished statements in a letter to staffers.

The state Department of Education also reviewed Howman’s department this year. The team found he was not in compliance with state guidelines for evaluating special education students.

Students referred to the program are supposed to be evaluated and put in a program within 60 days. In some cases the district was more than 150 days past the deadline.

The district “is seriously out of compliance with respect to the 60-day time line requirement,” a state report said.

The state also noted Howman was nearly six months late in filing federal reports. Partly due to the turmoil in Howman’s department, 16 of his employees quit at the end of this school year.

“There have been some concerns throughout that department and I hope this (Howman’s resignation) might settle that down some,” Owens said. “But then we were not in full compliance before he came either.”

Howman worked for the district two years, earning $55,000 annually. Despite his problems, trustees renewed his contract several months ago.

Earlier this year a state lawmaker even called for a review of Howman’s department after hearing a tape of a telephone call Howman made. During the call Howman wanted some of his staff to help him get his books in order. He said they needed to match the books at the central office and if they did not, the numbers at the central office needed to be changed.

“If we don’t straighten this out we are all going to be in deep (expletive deleted), big time,” Howman said on the tape.

He clashed with union members at the end of the school year. He escorted a private detective to the library that doubles as union president Joan Head’s office.

Howman reportedly told the middle school principal that Superintendent Max Harrell gave him and the investigator permission to go into the locked office. The two took samples from a typewriter on Head’s desk.

Harrell has said he gave no one permission to enter the locked room. The investigator apparently is working for a family contemplating suing the district over a special education issue.

“The special education department has been in turmoil all year and it’s time for healing. I do believe that can happen now,” Head said of Howman’s resignation.

Trustees are looking for applicants both inside and outside the district for Howman’s post. They also will be hunting for a new school board member.

Newly elected trustee Tom Fuhriman has accepted a job offer in Boise. He’s held the seat only since July.

“It’s one of those things that popped up suddenly,” Fuhriman said. “If I had any inkling I was not going to be here I wouldn’t have run.”

He plans to stay on the board until a replacement is found or until the end of October. The trustees will appoint a replacement from Fuhriman’s zone. An election for the post will be held in May.

, DataTimes


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