West Ada School District Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells will earn $162,000 during the 2016-17 school year. The district's school board approved the contract at a special meeting Feb. 19.

The salary is about $19,000 higher than former Superintendent Linda Clark's, who, like Ranells, had a doctorate degree and more than 40 years of experience in education. Clark's salary and benefits divided the board, and former Trustee Julie Madsen called the perks "bloated."

District spokesman Eric Exline said a value-based comparison, including salary and benefits, of Clark and Ranells' contracts is not yet available.

Ranells, hired in December, is earning $77,478.26 for the second half of this school year. Her 2016-17 contract affords her three weeks of vacation, five paid personal days, health insurance benefits, life insurance coverage, one day of accruable sick leave per month, use of a district-owned vehicle for district business, and business-related mileage reimbursement.

Clark earned $143,475.29 and had perks including the discretionary use of a district credit card for business-related expenses, a district-owned vehicle for business or personal use and a 20 percent salary bonus upon retirement, which was not paid out because the board terminated the contract.

The board met in executive session for about 40 minutes Feb. 19 before voting unanimously to extend Ranells' contract. The vote couldn't wait, Chairwoman Tina Dean said, because four of the five trustees were facing the choice to either resign or stand for a recall election.

“If two or more trustees resign this evening, we would not have the four members necessary to move into executive session," Dean said Feb. 19. "That's why we had to make sure to move this to tonight's agenda to make sure the district has a superintendent for the following year.”

Later on in the meeting, Madsen resigned. The three other trustees facing recall — Dean, Carol Sayles and Russell Joki — said Tuesday they will not resign.


The board met for a regular meeting Tuesday and discussed whether or not the district should renew its annual membership to the Idaho School Boards Association.

“In the past we've always just renewed, but I felt it was appropriate to talk about the benefits and the cost associated with ISBA membership," Dean said.

The membership expires in July. The board ultimately decided to table the decision until after the recall elections.

ISBA Executive Director Karen Echeverria spoke to the board about the benefits of ISBA membership, including advocacy in the state Legislature, property and liability insurance, legal assistance and training. Only one of Idaho's 115 districts is not an ISBA member, Echeverria said. Board members from the districts make up a governmental affairs committee, which guides Echeverria on which bills she should support at the Capitol.

"Advocacy around the state is one of the biggest things we do," she said.

Membership fees vary by district. West Ada's membership fee this school year was just over $35,300. Part of the fee is sometimes offset by the insurance dividend the district receives from ISBA when statewide average claims are lower than expected. The district has been a member since ISBA's founding in the early 1940s, Echeverria said.

Trustee Mike Vuittonet supports West Ada continuing its membership, saying ISBA is influential in the education realm and in advocating for legislation.

During the discussion, Trustee Russell Joki asked Vuittonet if he had proposed a bill to legislators that would have a negative impact on the other trustees. When Vuittonet asked him to explain, Dean encouraged Joki to speak carefully.

"Did you meet with legislators this year and propose legislation that would have a negative impact on other trustees?" Joki asked.

"I hope I'm not in a courtroom here," Vuittonet responded.

Echeverria informed Joki that ISBA has opposed all four election-related bills this session.

One of the bills, proposed Feb. 8 by Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, would have prevented boards from choosing replacement trustees when a majority of members are up for recall. The bill would not have passed in time to affect West Ada, but Winder withdrew his proposal because of claims he was trying to interfere with the district, where he is a patron and has helped collect recall signatures.

Vuittonet and other leaders of the "Concerned Citizens" recall committee emailed Winder and Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, on Jan. 21 with concerns that the law allows trustees to resign one at a time and still maintain a quorum so that they can "select candidates with their same leaning and affiliations," according to the email, posted to the "West Ada Concerned Parents" Facebook page.

"We believe that this would proceduraly [sic] circumvent the will of the electorate," the email reads. "Statute appears to be silent on this matter. We would like to meet with you both as soon as possible."

Vuittonet confirmed the email.

"Obviously any citizen has the right to contact their legislators and say, 'hey, I have a concern,'" he said. "We didn't have any sponsorship of the bill. Once we did that, we left it with them."


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