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Nearly 40 people apply to fill North Idaho College board vacancies

The campus of North Idaho College, Coeur d'Alene.
North Idaho College
The campus of North Idaho College, Coeur d'Alene.

Thirty-seven people have applied to be selected for three seats on the North Idaho College Board of Trustees.

The list, released Monday by the Idaho State Board of Education (SBoE), includes former state lawmakers, Kootenai County business leaders, a former newspaper reporter and a current professor at the Coeur d’Alene-based community college.

Each of the three seats drew about a dozen applicants, according to the SBoE list. To qualify, the applicants must live in the district each seat represents. Applicants also had to submit a resume, proof of residency and a letter explaining their interest in serving on the board.

A three-person panel made up of SBoE President Kurt Liebich, Vice President Linda Clark, and Board Secretary David Hill will evaluate the applicants’ materials and come up with a list of finalists. They will travel to Coeur d’Alene on May 5 to conduct interviews at the NIC campus. The interviews will be open to the public. The full SBoE is expected to vote on the nominees in a special meeting at NIC on Friday, May 6.

Even before the application window closed, Board of Trustees Chair Todd Banducci alleged without proof that the trustee appointment process was already largely decided.

“FYI. They are moving at lightning speed to cram it down our throats!!” Banducci wrote on Facebook on April 12. “They are trying to take it out of the hands of the voters. Pushing thru [sic] their agenda via bureaucratic fiat.”

Banducci has also said he interpreted Idaho law differently than the State Board of Education. He believes the SBoE should appoint only one trustee. That would bring the board back to the bare minimum necessary to conduct its business – and leave Banducci as the head of a two-person majority.

A peer review panel dispatched by the Northwest Committee on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) found Banducci’s behavior – particularly since his elevation to board chair in late 2020 -- created an atmosphere of distrust at the school, eroded the credibility of the board, and prompted patrons to remove millions of dollars in donations or pledged donations. The NWCCU decided to put the school on warning status, during which it retains its accreditation.

Banducci ally Michael Barnes resigned in January over questions about residency. After the deadlocked board failed to confirm a fifth trustee to fill Barnes’ seat this month, trustees Ken Howard and Christie Wood announced they would resign in early May.

“As long serving trustees who understand the opportunities that higher education brings to our community[,] we feel we have done all we can do to resolve the existing problems with Board leadership, specifically our Board Chair,” Howard and Wood wrote in a letter explaining their decision.

Banducci has turned the criticism back to his critics. At a March 23 Board of Trustees meeting, he used a routine update slot to deliver an eight-and-a-half-minute-long defense, casting himself as a man of integrity who came into the crosshairs of “cancel culture” and character assassination. He blamed the controversy on others and placed responsibility for fixing the board’s problems on the people who disagree with him.

How the three new interim trustees will affect the board’s turmoil is unknown.

The trustees will serve until an election can be held in November. The interim trustees may run for full terms then, if they wish.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for fifteen years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.