The Nine Mile Falls School District board of directors will interview prospective new members during a special meeting Wednesday after allegations emerged that officials initially failed to make the application process public.
Superintendent Jeff Baerwald said he was notified on Feb. 2 by letter that board member Bill McBride intended to resign. The district quietly began accepting applications for the vacant position for two weeks, putting only a small notice to that effect online. McBride publicly announced his resignation at the Feb. 22 board meeting. By that time, the application window already had closed.
“This is where I made an error in reading policy,” Baerwald said of the initial quiet application process. “It was supposed to be louder than that.”
The application period was reopened publicly, with multiple public notices made, and closed noon Monday.
Tara Brown, who ran a write-in campaign for a school board seat last year, said she called the district on Feb. 23 to ask about the application process, and she was told it already was too late to apply. She believes the application window was reopened because she and others complained.
“So, they got caught,” she said. “Basically, I called them out on it. They did a 180.”
Brown said she heard about McBride’s resignation in January and spoke to him about wanting to serve on the board. She said he told her that he already had a replacement in mind.
“Bill said, ‘We have an understanding. The board will put in my position who I select,’ ” she said. “This is a public position to be voted on, not a private position to be coveted and selected.”
She said she waited for a public announcement of the vacancy so she could apply and was upset to learn that the application process had already closed. Doing it that way is in violation of the board bylaws, Brown said, which say that applications must be accepted for two weeks after the vacancy is publicly announced, not before.
“I get the feeling they didn’t want me to apply,” she said. “I’m not a yes man and I think they wanted a yes man in that position so they can continue the way they’ve been. I challenge them on things.”
Brown said she would like to see a woman on the board, which is currently all-male. None of the current board members has children in district schools, and Brown said she does.
McBride, when questioned about the series of events surrounding his resignation, denied having any knowledge of what had happened.
“In other words, you’re prying,” he said. “I have no idea. I wasn’t involved in that.”
McBride, who has served on the board for 10 years, said he thought it was time that someone younger took his seat.
“I’m 85 years old and I’ve got a lot going on,” he said. “I just want the best for the school district.”
He said he’s also been frustrated by outside groups telling the board what they have to do.
“My goal was that we had no such things at Black Lives Matter or CRT,” he said, referring to critical race theory. “I just wanted reading, writing and arithmetic.”
The special board meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday at 10110 W. Charles Road in Nine Mile Falls. The meeting also will be broadcast via Zoom, with the link available at www.9mile.org.
The applicants will draw numbers when they arrive and be interviewed in the order of the numbers drawn, Baerwald said.
“The others can stay and watch,” he said. “It is an open public meeting.”
The board is scheduled to vote to select the newest board member after the interviews Wednesday.
In an unusual move, Baerwald said he has invited two school administrators to observe the interviews so they can give their input on the candidates during an executive session with the board. Baerwald said he asked the board if they would like impartial, outside input when making their decision, and they said yes. He invited Educational Services District 101 Assistant Superintendent Mick Miller and former ESD 101 Superintendent Rich McBride to participate in the process. Baerwald said Rich McBride is not related to Bill McBride.
Baerwald emphasized that the two men would not have a vote in the board’s decision, and no decision would be made in the executive session, which is closed to the public.
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