Sunday, January 24, 2021

Cd'A school board faces daunting year

| January 10, 2021 1:00 AM

Patrons of Coeur d’Alene School District should learn this week if the leader of more than 10,000 students is leaving.

With the future of Superintendent Steve Cook in limbo as he’s one of two finalists for a similar job with a larger school district in Bend, Ore., the Coeur d’Alene School Board also has seen its leader step aside. Casey Morrisroe, the trustees’ chair for more than four years, surrendered that responsibility last week.

The good news is that Morrisroe is staying on the school board — just not as board chair. That honor and responsibility went unanimously to former vice chair Jennifer Brumley. While Morrisroe’s decision is certainly understandable, the board has its hands full — perhaps more than it ever has before.

• There’s a 50-50 chance they’ll be in the market for a new superintendent just two and a half years after Cook came aboard.

• They’ll soon put together details of a big ask of district voters on March 9: To continue what likely will remain the state’s largest “supplemental” levy. We put quotes around “supplemental” because it is not an optional budget line item or wish list. The current $20 million, two-year levy makes up 25 percent of the district’s entire operations budget.

• The November school board election already is shaping up as a potential political powderkeg, with speculation running strong that local Republican Party officials will do their best to make the nonpartisan election completely partisan.

• The same group is in attack mode on the district, with a potential lawsuit stemming from the November election and a rally planned tomorrow calling for the firing of a school guidance counselor.

• And if that weren’t enough on the plate of school board members, the pandemic rages on, rendering long-range planning and sometimes day-to-day basic functioning herculean tasks.

While we respect the job Cook has done and might continue doing, his willingness to seek employment elsewhere after so little time in this job indicates a level of discontent that should not be ignored.

Morrisroe has at times been outspoken about the hostility that has found a target in public education, with roots in the political temperature of the room and a reaction to the ways the district has responded to the COVID crisis. We do not believe it’s coincidental that Cook is seeking a good job elsewhere and Morrisroe is tired of holding the hot reins of leadership.

Standard operating procedure and Coeur d’Alene School District have little in common for 2021. With that in mind, patrons who appreciate the excellent educators, administrators and trustees of District 271 are welcome to stand up and speak out on their behalf. A little support will go a long way — longer than usual this year.