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Blaine schools

Barbara Browning, front, presents a petition to remove the Blaine County School District superintendent during a Tuesday school board meeting.

HAILEY — A petition to remove the Blaine County School District superintendent was submitted to school board trustees.

The petition contends “questionable ethics” and “financial mismanagement” atop of Blaine County School District and was presented with more than 1,000 signatures by community member Barbara Browning during the board’s meeting Tuesday.

“The community is speaking. Are you listening?” Browning asked the board during public comment.

Browning also verbally submitted a formal request to the board to meet with them privately to discuss the petition without interference from administrators.

Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes did not address the petition during the meeting and refused to comment to reporters after, but district spokeswoman Heather Crocker issued a written response on Holmes’ behalf to the Times-News.

“From the beginning, I’ve heard that the people of Blaine County don’t trust how decisions are made and believe that a vocal minority disproportionately impact decisions,” the statement reads. “I’ve worked to ensure that all voices are heard and to provide transparency in decision making.”

Last week, local advocate groups I-Care and Put Kids First rallied support for the petition at a “community crisis” meeting. Several teachers and parents spoke during the event about a culture of intimidation and retaliation fostered by Holmes within the school district.

They expressed frustration with the grievance process that requires them to report to their direct superiors, who report to Holmes.

A proposal to change that process was discussed at the meeting and would allow grievances against the superintendent to be presented directly to the school board. The grievant would be required to present their complaint to the board and superintendent in person.

The petition contends Holmes positioned herself as the overseer of financial and policy committees and withheld information from board trustees.

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Holmes usurped the board’s power and intimidated trustees into inaction, John Galgano, a community member, told the board during public comment.

“Make no mistake, the superintendent has successfully orchestrated a huge power grab, but it was the board who allowed it to happen,” he said.

The petition also accuses the district of financial mismanagement and excessive administrative salaries.

The 2019-20 budget approved by the school board during the meeting shows district administrator salaries will go down about 15% next school year, but the board separately approved raising administrative salary schedule by 2.36% and increasing a variety of benefits.

Prior to the budget vote, trustee Kevin Garrison proposed eliminating the position of director of curriculum, teaching and learning, a position held by Angie Martinez with a salary of $136,000 plus benefits in 2018-19.

Trustees have a financial responsibility to the district, and salary increases are not equitable, Garrison said.

“For me it’s just not acceptable,” he said.

The proposal was denied, but trustees said they could consider it again later.

The district could also face rising legal fees as it fights a federal suit filed by two former students and a pair of tort claims filed by human relations director Shannon Maza.

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