Our Voice: Superintendent's resignation gives Ki-Be School District opportunity for fresh start

January 30, 2014 

The Kiona-Benton City School District has lost its superintendent.

And as far as we're concerned, that's a good thing.

We've long advocated for the removal of Rom Castilleja if for no other reason than he has been a divisive presence in his years at the district.

Castilleja submitted his one-sentence resignation letter in a closed-door school board session last week. His resignation is not effective until June 30, but he has been placed on sabbatical leave and has no further duties with the district.

As part of the settlement agreement with the district, Castilleja will continue to be paid until that time. His salary last year was $129,844. He'll also collect a check for 20 days of vacation worth $10,195.

That's not a bad deal for Castilleja but it is for the district, which will have to pay an interim superintendent as well. We're guessing school board members thought it was better to be rid of Castilleja than fight about the settlement terms.

Castilleja also scored in the agreement by having three recent letters of reprimand removed from his file. Those letters are supposed to be kept at the office of the school district's attorney and available for public records requests. Our newsroom is working to obtain copies so we can report the contents.

We sure are curious. But no one is talking, because the settlement also requests that neither the district nor Castilleja disparage the other. And while Castilleja is not permitted to pursue any legal action against the district connected to his employment, we're guessing this isn't the end of the story.

Another oddity in the agreement is that any employment inquiries for Castilleja be referred to former school board member Dan Raap, who was defeated in his re-election bid in November.

Despite the expensive and cumbersome settlement terms, this is a good thing for Ki-Be.

The district has been mired in labor disputes, theft scandals and other drama that has distracted from what's important: educating our children. And more often than not, Castilleja has been a hindrance, not a help. He surely proved that he could not work with the teacher's union. And he wasn't providing adequate supervision or checks and balances for administrative staff. The school board eventually became divided between those who supported him and those who didn't.

But enough about Castilleja. He's out and it's a new day for the district.

Wade Haun, who had been elected to the school board in November after beating Raap, has resigned to take the role as interim superintendent. Haun worked in banking and as an accountant and print specialist for the Big Print Shop. We're not quite sure, however, how that qualifies him to run a school district.

But we liked his campaign platform. Haun wanted to create more transparency in the district and mend relationships between the administration and teachers. And make a better environment for students and teachers.

He and whoever is named permanent superintendent have the opportunity to create unity in the district by listening and working to do just the things Haun proposed during his campaign for the school board.

We'd be willing to guess just the removal of Castilleja from the district's daily workings has already created a better environment for some.

Ki-Be has the chance now to make things better for all the stakeholders and return its focus to education.

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