Just when you thought things couldn’t get stickier down in Darby, they did.
Many observers expected a lawsuit from parents in the district, who are concerned about the adoption of anti-evolutionary theory. But the first party to file suit, on Friday, was the local newspaper Ravalli Republic, over a series of closed meetings.
“We were concerned that the public’s right to know was being violated and we had to take action to stop that,” Republic editor Wayne Adair said.
The meetings stem from a superintendent search that went awry when the same three members of the school board who are pushing for Intelligent Design also became interested in recruiting a superintendent candidate with faith, though the board had already offered the job to someone else.
Current superintendent, 13-year Darby veteran Jack Eggensperger, is leaving because he has “a different philosophy” on Intelligent Design than the board.
“I felt we clearly had the best candidate in the state of Montana, Gerald Pease,” board member Mary Lovejoy said. “We voted 4–1 to offer him the job. He accepted, and days later three members of the board moved to rescind the offer. They wanted to interview Clair Garrick. Throughout his portfolio is a sense of strong spirituality.”
During the course of interviewing three candidates, the board closed parts of those meetings to executive session. One meeting was closed when the board directed the Montana School Board Association’s Bob Vogel to rescind the offer to Pease. According to Lovejoy, no official motion was made, either.
Lovejoy feels that rescinding the offer to Pease, which allegedly occurred without proper process, was unethical, let alone the closing of that decision to public scrutiny.
“I want to choose the path of least resistance and open up the minutes from those meetings,” Lovejoy said. “I believe the public has a right to know. We work for the taxpayers. Keeping secrets is not an option.”
Ironically, faith-based candidate Garrick was passed over for claiming he had a Ph.D. when he didn’t, and the search for a superintendent has been reopened.
Darby’s Intelligent Design proposal has yet to pass a second reading, and the make-up of the board may be different by the time it does. Elections are May 4.