School board trustee named

Jim Hightower picked to fill most recent vacancy

COEUR d'ALENE - The Coeur d'Alene School District's newest trustee is Jim Hightower, owner of several Domino's Pizza franchises in Kootenai County.

Hightower, one of five candidates who sought appointment to the Zone 5 seat on the district's board of trustees, was selected for appointment Monday, during a special meeting of the board.

He will complete Sid Fredrickson's term, which ends June 30. Fredrickson resigned from the board in July.

Trustee Jim Purtee, who, like Hightower, is a restaurant industry veteran with decades of corporate experience, said he has a good understanding of what Hightower brings to the table.

"He knows the kids in the (employee) applicant pool, and if it's a fraction of what I experience, he'd be desperate to change the system, because something is broken," Purtee said. "I think he has the budgetary experience that will also be helpful because we have some serious financial issues staring at us."

During the interviews prior to voting on an appointee, trustees asked the candidates what kind of expertise they have that will come in useful as a trustee.

Hightower cited his experience overseeing large budgets with a focus on cost-effective spending. In his application packet, Hightower wrote that he has managed annual budgets in excess of $15 million and overseen all aspects of employee management for as many as 600 workers at a time.

"I think this is a terribly great community. I've lived in a number of places and I love the people of Coeur d'Alene ... I believe that the only thing that we really own in this life, unlike money, unlike property, unlike your assets, is your integrity," Hightower said, during the interviews. "I think that's what we have to value the most. I think that's what we have to protect the most, and I think that if we can convey that to our kids we'd have gone a long way toward helping them be prepared for the world."

Hightower received the votes of three of the four board members: Purtee, Tom Hamilton and Ann Seddon.

Terri Seymour said Hightower was her second choice, but she voted for candidate Shelley Woodard, a retiree who has been a regular attendee at school board meetings for about 18 months. Woodard said he became interested in school district issues when controversy regarding the district's International Baccalaureate program began appearing in the news. Board members voted recently to discontinue the program in Coeur d'Alene.

In his application, Woodard noted that his wife will be working for KTEC, a new professional technical high school opening this fall. KTEC operates as a cooperative service agency of the Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls and Lakeland school districts, with its own, separate governing board. Woodard said he didn't think there would be a conflict of interest, and that if one should arise, he would recuse himself from voting on those particular issues.

Attorney Marc Lyons, counsel for the North Idaho College Board of Trustees, was invited by school district board chair Tom Hamilton to attend Monday's meeting and share his thoughts on whether a conflict might exist.

Lyons said he could not say whether there is a conflict, but he did caution that unlike other government agencies, the law regarding school boards does not allow board members to recuse themselves.

"If this decision were easy, I'd be disappointed, but the quality of everybody that has come forward is excellent, and I appreciate your willingness to step into a hornet's nest with us here, so to speak," said board chair Tom Hamilton prior to the vote.

The other candidates were Tom Hearn, Kathleen Tillman and Matt Robinson.

Tillman congratulated Hightower as she filed out following the trustees' selection.

"I know you'll do a good job," Tillman said.

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