Magic Valley superintendent receives buyout after disagreement with trustees

The superintendent of a small Magic Valley school district will receive nearly $100,000 after she resigned last week following a disagreement with the board of trustees. 

Former Valley School District superintendent Jennifer Jacobson “agreed to terminate” her employment “due to a disagreement with the school board over interpretation of applicable law,” according to a separation agreement and Jacobson’s resignation letter, which Idaho Education News obtained through a public records request. 

Trustees agreed to pay Jacobson’s salary and benefits through the end of the school year. Jacobson, who had a two-year contract through 2025, will receive a lump sum payment that includes seven months’ salary and cash for the value of health benefits, the agreement said. 

It’s unclear what the legal disagreement between Jacobson and the trustees was about. School board Chairman Jim Ritchie, Jr., declined to explain, saying he couldn’t discuss a personnel issue. 

“She’s a capable person, and it’s unfortunate that we parted company,” Ritchie said. “Sometimes, things just aren’t a perfect fit.”

Agreement spells out separation payment

Jacobson, who previously served as a principal in the nearby Filer School District, resigned on Nov. 28, and her last day was Friday, according to the agreement.

Former Valley School District Superintendent Jennifer Jacobson. Filer School District

The district will pay her $98,937, which “she would have received had she not resigned,” the agreement said. That includes $58,333 for seven months’ salary and $2,917 for supplemental salary owed as well as $14,391 for the value of health benefits. 

The payment also includes a “lump sum consideration” of $23,295 “to offset lost retirement benefits and the adverse tax consequences of the lump sum payment.” 

Ritchie noted that Jacobson had another full school year on her contract, and the agreement pays her for the remaining school year, through June 30. He said the school district’s attorney told trustees that this situation isn’t uncommon. 

“We had no reason to terminate her, no reason to put her on leave or anything like that,” Ritchie said. “But once two parties decide something’s not working, what’s the point in continuing?”

In 2021, the latest available data, Valley School District spent about $6 million in total expenditures, according to Transparent Idaho, the state’s online public spending database. The district serves 500 K-12 students in a rural area east of Twin Falls. 

Ricthie said the school board hasn’t yet decided how it’ll move forward but will likely appoint an interim superintendent before conducting a candidate search.

Trustee reelected after initial results voided

In other Valley School District news, a Tuesday special election for an open trustee seat has reversed prior results that a judge tossed.

Ahead of the Nov. 7 election, two district voters in the same home were mailed incorrect ballots, the Twin Falls Times-News reported. Challenger Michael Lakey defeated incumbent trustee Matthew Kimmel by a single vote, but a judge voided the results after the mistake was discovered. 

On Tuesday, voters went back to the polls, and unofficial results from Jerome County show Kimmel won the special election by three votes.

Ryan Suppe

Ryan Suppe

Senior reporter Ryan Suppe covers education policy, focusing on K-12 schools. He previously reported on state politics, local government and business for newspapers in the Treasure Valley and Eastern Idaho. A Nevada native, Ryan enjoys golf, skiing and movies. Follow him on Twitter: @ryansuppe. Contact him at [email protected]

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