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West Ada shakeup continues with another school board resignation

West Ada School District
Posted at 10:39 AM, Dec 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-09 12:42:50-05

MERIDIAN, Idaho — This article was written by Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News.
West Ada School Board Chairman Philip Neuhoff announced he will resign rather than face a voter recall, marking the latest shakeup for the state’s largest school district.

Neuhoff resigned at the end of a nearly three-hour meeting Tuesday night, moments after an angry parent testifying during the meeting encouraged him to do so.

Neuhoff said he was tempted to stay and fight the recall organizers, who he called bullies. But without elaborating, Neuhoff said something happened Tuesday that convinced him he needs to attend to other areas of his life.

“I think it’s the right time now for me to step aside and take care of the rest of my things, so after the meeting I am going to hand the clerk a letter of resignation that goes into effect at 11:59 this evening,” Neuhoff said.

It’s the third major shakeup on the West Ada school board this fall.

  • On Oct. 13, board member Ed Klopfenstein resigned as chairman but retained his school board seat.
  • On Oct. 27, board member Steve Smylie resigned after saying volunteer trustees are under enormous pressure because high-stakes reopening and closing decisions have been kicked to local school boards.

Neuhoff was appointed board chairman Oct. 15. He was first appointed to the school board in February 2016.

Neuhoff’s resignation means the West Ada board operated at full strength for almost six hours Tuesday. New trustee Sheena Buffi, who replaces Smylie, was sworn in shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday.

West Ada’s board will need to meet again to name a new chair and outline procedures for filing the new vacancy.

Frustrated parents launched a recall aimed at all trustees this fall after expressing several concerns, including that the district has not put forward a plan for full in-person learning for high school students.

Had he been able to fight off the recall, Neuhoff’s term was not scheduled to expire until January 2024.

Before Neuhoff’s abrupt resignation, the board spent more than two hours discussing a draft of a revised school operations plan and recommendations from Dr. David Pate, the retired president and CEO of St. Luke’s Health.

Board members elected not to vote on the draft, partially because they said district officials only provided some last-minute details at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Instead of voting, board members called for a special meeting to consider the recommendations.

At this point, West Ada has not announced the date for the special meeting.

It’s been a difficult fall overall for West Ada, as it attempts to navigate the pandemic.

The district delayed the first day of school and started the school year remotely, only to see equipment issues and technology problems hamper the effort.

From there, district officials began moving West Ada’s youngest students back to in-person learning gradually.

Hundreds of teachers who said they do not feel safe teaching in-person participated in a massive sickout that forced the district to abruptly cancel school Oct. 19 and 20.

Now West Ada’s K-5 students attend school in-person and students in grades 6-12 are on a hybrid learning plan where the students are split into two groups and attend in-person on alternating days.

West Ada is the state’s largest school district based on enrollment, serving more than 38,000 K-12 students.