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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

West Bonner school board briefly meets, but Branden Durst remains superintendent

West Bonner County School District Superintendent Branden Durst answers questions from reporters last earlier this month at Priest River Lamanna High School.  (Colin Tiernan/The Spokesman-Review )

The West Bonner School Board approved an application process to fill the seats left by two recently recalled trustees during a rushed meeting Wednesday that failed to address the employment status of the district’s embattled superintendent, who has indicated his willingness to step down.

Trustee Troy Reinbold, who works in construction, called in to the meeting from the side of the road.

Many district parents wondered if Reinbold would attend the meeting after he no-showed last Wednesday, causing the meeting to be canceled due to lack of a quorum. Some parents believed it was an intentional stall tactic to prevent Superintendent Branden Durst from being fired. Reinbold voted along with the recalled trustees – Chair Keith Rutledge and Vice Chair Susan Brown – to hire Durst in June.

Durst tweeted Wednesday morning that Reinbold informed him on Monday that he would not be able to attend.

Durst, a controversial politician and former education policy analyst for the conservative-libertarian think tank Idaho Freedom Foundation, has no prior experience working as an educator and lacks a superintendent certificate.

The Idaho Board of Education earlier this month declined to consider Durst’s application for an emergency certification following an opinion by the state attorney general that the Board of Education only has the legal authority to give emergency certificates to teachers. Board of Education Executive Director Matt Freeman told the school board on Aug. 16 that employing uncertified teachers, supervisors and administrators is illegal under state law. Since Durst is uncertified, the school district is fully responsible for funding his more than $100,000 salary.

Durst announced his intention Monday to seek “an amicable and fair exit” from his job.

At the beginning of the meeting, Reinbold asked to amend the agenda to remove several items, including an executive session that was expected to address Durst’s employment status and an interim replacement.

It was the first meeting since two trustees were recalled a month ago. The remaining board members voted unanimously to name Margaret Hall interim chair and Carlyn Barton vice chair until the full five-member board is restored.

The board will appoint replacements from the two vacant trustee zones. Applications for the positions are due Oct. 13, the board decided.

Reinbold asked to be dismissed from the meeting before the public comment section, which was moved to the end.

“I’m soaking wet and covered in mud and want to get home,” he said.

The meeting lasted about 30 minutes and allowed the board to approve important but routine items like approving employee contracts.

Reinbold is up for re-election in November, along with trustees Hall and Barton.

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.