Despite a deficit, a hiring freeze and advice from state officials to cut spending, Superintendent Max Harrell asked Bonner County School District trustees to hire a central office administrator Tuesday.
The new area director, who would be paid at least $50,000 a year, would replace a part-time employee and join two other area directors, including one who earns more than $65,000.
The proposal infuriated a handful of residents and two newly elected board members who helped convince the board to delay hiring decisions until July.
“I’m frankly having a hard time believing you are going to add more to the administration after what’s gone on the last few months. I’m getting angry,” said trustee-elect Tom Fuhriman.
He and Jerry Owens don’t take their seats on the board until July.
The district is already in debt $159,000, has no money to run a new school, and is being scrutinized by the Idaho Department of Education for how it spends its money.
About 1,300 outraged residents demanded cuts in central office staff months ago, and teachers took a vote of no confidence in Harrell.
The state has also questioned why the district wants to hire another administrator when it clearly doesn’t have the money. The district’s reputation is embarrassing, Fuhriman said.
“It would be a serious mistake to add another administrator,” he said. The current board has no plan to cut the deficit, and Fuhriman called the few token cuts “total bull.”
“What is being reduced? Absolutely nothing. It’s paper.”
Harrell said administrative cuts are being made. But the ones he noted were in schools, not the central office. Two principals and one assistant principal resigned this year. Those positions may not be filled, or they may be filled with a teacher-principal.
Trustee Teresa Asbill said she was not comfortable with that idea for Priest River or Idaho Hill schools. Neither was resident Ingrid Cipriano.
“The public input was clear. By cuts they meant in the central office, not in the schools, because that affects the kids,” Asbill said. Asbill pushed to have the hiring decision delayed until the new board is seated, in part because Tuesday’s meeting was a hastily arranged special meeting and few people were aware of it.
The meeting was held in a conference room in the central office. Doors to the building were locked once the meeting began.
The only board members openly supporting Harrell’s proposal were Bill Osmunson and Blaine Stevens. Osmunson wants to hire the administrator immediately. He said one candidate has already pulled out because he was offered another job.
Stevens said the district has typically had three assistant superintendents and needs them. The new hire could also be a badly needed public relations liaison for the district, he said.
“I would not like to see this position voided. I don’t think we need to take a step backward.”