‘This is ridiculous:’ West Ada school board chairman abruptly resigns at meeting

Is COVID-19 in your school? Many Treasure Valley schools won’t tell you.
Posted at 1:40 PM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 15:40:46-04

This article was originally published by Clark Corbin in Idaho Ed News.

West Ada school board chairman Ed Klopfenstein resigned late Tuesday night following a lengthy discussion about the district’s response to the coronavirus.

Klopfenstein resigned at the end of the four-hour-plus meeting after citing relationships among the board. Earlier in the night, Klopfenstein was caught off guard when fellow trustee Amy Johnson offered a surprise proposal regarding the district’s COVID-19 response. Johnson’s motion failed, and Klopfenstein expressed surprise that she did not share her plans with him or other board members so they could consider the proposal before being asked to vote on it.

Johnson responded by saying that Idaho’s open-meetings law prevented her from bringing a motion to board members outside of an open meeting.

“I can’t continue like this, this is ridiculous,” Klopfenstein said at the end of the meeting. “To be very frank I have risked my business. I have risked my family. The internal conflicts that I have had, the time investment that I have had, and I can’t get a phone call that there’s an emergency, some sort of surprise?”

Ultimately, West Ada trustees could not pass a motion regarding Central District Health moving Ada County schools to red, the highest COVID-19 risk classification rate, earlier Tuesday. The lack of action means the district’s current operations will continue.

Johnson’s proposal was, in part, to continue with the current hybrid operations model for the next two weeks, undertake a health and safety validation and medical review across the district, and implement a longer-term plan that parents and patrons could count on.

Trustee Philip Neuhoff said he was caught off guard by both Johnson’s proposal and a district proposal to allow hybrid learning models to continue in the red classification instead of moving to remote online learning. Neuhoff said he didn’t see how the board could consider either proposal. Trustee Rene Ozuna requested a follow-up meeting to consider more information.

Klopfenstein is a businessman with software and tech management experience. He was appointed to fill a vacant board seat in 2016 after patrons recalled two trustees earlier that year.

“I feel that obviously the board does not appreciate the work that I am doing and you would prefer to work by yourselves. And so, I give that back to you,” Klopfenstein said as he dropped the gavel signaling the end of Tuesday’s meeting.

West Ada is the state’s largest school district based on enrollment, serving about 40,000 students. Klopfenstein’s term was scheduled to end in January.

The next regular meeting for West Ada’s board is scheduled for Oct. 27, though it could call a special meeting to discuss the board vacancy before then.

Klopfenstein isn’t the only trustee from a large district to resign as the school boards grapple with managing the pandemic and reopening schools. Former Boise trustee Troy Rohn resigned Sept. 25 after saying the state and federal governments have shirked their responsibilities for managing the pandemic.