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ISDE yet to see Durst provisional certification request

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | July 19, 2023 1:00 AM

PRIEST RIVER — The Idaho State Board of Education has yet to receive an application from Branden Durst or from West Bonner County School District for an emergency provisional certification to serve as the district's superintendent.

Durst did not respond to a phone call or email seeking comment on the status of his application, including when it had been submitted.

Per Idaho law, superintendents must hold an administrator certificate and an endorsement as a superintendent. That certificate requires a doctorate or comparable education, four years spent working in a school, time spent as an administrative intern, and completion of a post-master's degree in an approved school superintendent program. In addition, Idaho law requires that an individual receive an institutional recommendation for a superintendent endorsement.

Durst was hired by the WBCSD board on June 28 in a 3-2 vote with trustees Troy Reinbold, Susan Brown and Keith Rutledge voting in favor. Trustees Margaret Hall and Carlyn Barton voted against.

An emergency declaration, which allows the district to hire a superintendent without the appropriate certification pending emergency certification by the state also passed on a 3-2 vote with Rutledge, Brown and Reinbold voting aye and Hall and Barton voting no.

Durst does not have the credentials to serve as superintendent and must receive provisional certification from the Idaho Board of Education in order to act in that role.

In reporting by the Idaho Education News, Durst said he is missing only one required qualification — four years of employment in a school. He told the news organization that he would begin the position with a provisional certificate but did not anticipate it would limit his ability to lead the district.

Review and approval of provisional certificates are under the sole purview of the State Board of Education.

"Next steps for this process will proceed when/if the provisional certification reaches our office," Maggie Reynolds, ISDE public information officer, wrote in an email to the Daily Bee. "At that point, the State Department of Education will package the application for a vote by the State Board of Education."

Critics say Durst lacks the qualifications to run a school district and understanding of the community.

While longtime district educator Susie Luckey also initially lacked a provisional certification after being appointed as interim superintendent after former superintendent Jackie Branum stepped down unexpectedly in mid-March. However, individuals who hold an administrative certificate are eligible to do an alternative authorization to add a new endorsement area. Luckey's request to do so was approved by the state in June.

Supporters applauded Durst's hire, saying change is vital to improve the schools and rebuild trust between the community and the district. They said Durst has a clear view of the district's troubles and that an outside view was necessary to move forward.

However, many in the community criticized the move, calling Durst's hiring an inherently political vote that makes pawns of the community's children. They said his selection is hurting their community and their children

Durst's selection was the catalyst for a recall of WBCSD board chair Keith Rutledge and vice chair Susan Brown, with organizers saying it shows the pair are out of touch with the community, its values and its wishes.