IM this article to a friend!

April 23, 2004

From: Twin Falls Times-News -

From: Twin Falls Times-News - Twin Falls,ID,USA - Apr 23, 2004

By Holden Parrish
Special to The Times-News

COEUR d'ALENE -- Attorneys for the State Board of Education and Angel Ramos made mostly the same arguments they have for months during Thursday's state board meeting.

Before voting to delay a decision on the fate of the embattled superintendent of the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind, the board heard testimony from Deputy State Attorney General Brian Benjamin and Keith Roark, one of Ramos' attorneys. Each was limited to 20 minutes.

Roark presented final arguments to the board via conference call, while Benjamin was present to speak to the board.

Benjamin urged the board to fire Ramos because he was retaliatory and uncooperative. He also cited ever-increasing divisiveness between Ramos and school staff members.

Benjamin's comments contradicted the recommendation of Charles McDevitt, a former Idaho Supreme Court chief justice whom the board selected to review the case. After four days of testimony in January, McDevitt advised the board to reinstate Ramos, saying it lacked adequate cause to fire him. State attorneys asked McDevitt to reconsider, a suggestion he rejected March 3.

"It's mind-boggling that the state attorney would question the judgment of a former chief justice of the Supreme Court," Ramos said.

As proof of what he called Ramos' vindictiveness, Benjamin referred to the dismissal of two parent advisory board members who had complained about some of his policies. Roark countered by saying the two dismissed were "just plainly disruptive."

"They needed to be replaced," he told the board via telephone.

Benjamin said Ramos' criticism of a corrective action plan from the board indicated an unwillingness to cooperate. Ramos admitted to openly criticizing some of the plan's facets, but nevertheless said he intended to support it.

"It's one thing to honestly express disagreement," Roark said. "It's another thing to not support that plan."

Benjamin said several factors have led to division in the school, but contended it was fueled by Ramos' comments to staff. Roark said there was "no question" Ramos, staff members and Stivers could have handled themselves better, but added that should hardly be grounds for termination.

Roark said Stivers and Ramos were relatively new to their roles at the time and now should be better able to work together.

The board's next scheduled public meeting is June 17-18 at the University of Idaho in Moscow, but the board could call a special meeting to make a decision before then.

Holden Parrish is a reporter for the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello. Times-News writer Karin Kowalski contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2004, Lee Publications Inc.