School District Integrity Depends On Board


In late 2015 and throughout 2016, Blaine County School District’s lightning-rod superintendent GwenCarol Holmes was exposed, variously censured, and even considered for contract non-renewal. Yet, by means both fair and foul, she and her supporters suppressed opposition and evidence, further filled the school board with rubber-stamps, and survived.

The fact that unhappy citizens are again loudly protesting Holmes and her team’s opaque, self-serving, authoritarian tendencies is no surprise for many. It’s also no wonder that more than 1,000 people (that’s right—1,000-plus!) signed, in short order, a no-confidence petition calling for Holmes’ removal:

What is surprising, however, is the collection of former outspoken Holmes defenders and promoters—retired political figures, members of the business community, prominent local education voices—who are now publicly opposed to their one-time hero.

Better late than never, I guess, even if one surely must question the judgment of such people. Yet, in this era of extreme polarization, true conversions are rare—and thus, immensely telling.

After two decades of ethics-challenged superintendents, other administrators, and various school board members, BCSD seems long overdue for highly ethical, broadly respected leadership.

Granted, such an outcome depends largely on the people who constitute our school board; board members choose and supervise the district’s superintendent, who hires and oversees all other district employees; board members also shape governing policy and fill board vacancies. (Unelected, vacancy-filling appointees represent a whopping 60 percent of BCSD’s current board!)

Yet, it is us—rank-and-file citizens*—who ultimately put forth, select and supervise our school board members. Said another way: great, well-vetted candidates for school board elections—coming up again in November—and constant, rigorous public oversight are always essential for any school district’s success.

(*Note: never again should BCSD’s publicly funded resources and personnel, or the administration’s or boards’ proxies, be used to cultivate and advance board candidates.)

Jeremy Fryberger

Ketchum resident

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