Governor names his task force

Gov. Butch Otter named his Task Force for Improving Education and scheduled its first meeting for Jan. 11 in Boise. The task force includes teachers, superintendents, parents and business leaders.

The first meeting will be include a welcome from the governor and task force chair Richard Westerberg. The next meetings are Jan. 25 and Feb. 28. The governor said in his State of the State address that he wanted to see results from his task force before taking legislative action in education reform.

Friday’s meeting begins at 9 a.m. at the Yanke Research Center (220 ParkCenter Blvd) and is scheduled to run until 3 p.m. Check back here for coverage of the meeting.

House Education Chair Rep. Reed DeMordaunt and Sentate Education Chair Sen. John Goedde are on the task force as is superintendent Tom Luna.

Richard Westerberg, Chair State Board of Education
Doug Baker University of Idaho
Laurie Boeckel Idaho Parent Teacher Association
Roger Brown Governor’s Office
Cheryl Charlton Idaho Digital Learning Academy
Linda Clark IASA, Joint School Dist. No. 2 (Meridian)
Penni Cyr Idaho Education Association (IEA)
Reed DeMordaunt (R) Idaho House of Representatives
Karen Echeverria Idaho School Boards Association (ISBA)
Ken Edmunds State Board of Education
Wayne Freedman ISBA Past President
John Goedde (R) Idaho State Senate
Steve Higgins IASA, Grangeville School Dist.
Mary Huff ISBA, Melba School Board Member
Teresa Jackman IEA, Pocatello
Alex LaBeau Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry
Mike Lanza IEA, ID Parents & Teachers IPATT
Rod Lewis State Board of Education
Bob Lokken Idaho Business for Education
Tom Luna Superintendent of Public Instruction
Alan Millar Idaho Charter School Network
Phyllis Nichols Counselor, New Plymouth School Dist.
Katie Pemberton Coeur d’Alene School Dist.
Roger Quarles Idaho Leads Project
Mary Ann Ranells IASA, Lakeland School Dist.
Anne Ritter ISBA President, Meridian School Board Member
Brian Smith IEA, Sandpoint
Geoffrey Thomas IASA, Madison School Dist.
Janie Ward-Engelking (D) Idaho House of Representatives
Cindy Wilson IEA, Meridian
Rob Winslow Idaho Association of School Administrators (IASA)



  • Melinda Bodine-Stevens

    ONLY ONE representative for PARENTS on this taskforce?! There are SEVERAL representatives for the teachers/IEA, the school boards, business leaders …. disappointed in the Governor that a MAJOR stakeholder like parents/children are underrepresented on this important task force.

    • Victoria M. Young

      In early December, I called the governor’s office to inquiry about being considered and was basically told the decisions had already been made and regular old citizens, like myself, need not apply. The exact words were “all major stakeholder groups are represented.”

  • Kali Kurdy

    Where are teachers represented on this board? I realize that the union is included, but what about teachers that are not union members? It looks like three teachers, one from each part of the state, are on the committee as representatives of the IEA. I know Cindy and know her to be absolutely trustworthy and informed. That was a good choice.

    • Steve Berch

      I concur in regard to Cindy Wilson and have confidence in her ability to be trustworthy and informed. I know that she is actively engaged with her students, especially on the issue of education reform and I trust her to represent a balanced perspective from a student’s perspective. While that is not the same as having a student on the task force, Cindy is the next-best thing.

      Keep in mind that there is a lot of work that this Task Force must do – not just to attend meetings but to do the work between meetings. I’m not sure it is practical or appropriate to have a student be actively participating on this committee for several months while also attending school.

      An alternative would be to have the task force schedule some “listening tour” events at a few high schools where input from many students can be captured without disrupting or over-burdening the time of any one of them. Just a thought.

  • Ed DePriest

    I have talked to many teachers and parents about the need to have a serious part of the “reform” be the requirement for parent accountability and responsibility for the effort and behavior of their child. Especially in the early elementary years, it is vital that parents be responsible for the child coming to class prepared (paper, pencil, books, homework, etc…) that the child does not disrupt the learning environment or disrespect the teacher or anyone in the learning environment, and that they try their best.
    I don’t care how much you tweak curriculum or teaching methods, how much merit pay you offer, or whatever changes you make. Until parents are held accountable for their children, not much will change. The population of student who is dropping out and failing, etc… is primarily from situations with poor parenting and home life. The highly motivated and successful kids parents are most likely involved and accountable already.
    Teachers are there to teach the subject matter, not be surrogate parents. We have the child roughly eight hours five days a week. The most important responsibility a parent has is to raise and educate the child. It is child neglect for a parent not to ensure that their child gets a good education, and the parent is part of the triangle (Student / Teacher-School / Parent). So much of the blame is getting thrown at the schools and teachers. I’m all for parent involvement, but along with that is accountability.
    If the child does not meet the three criteria mentioned above, call the parent and have them take the child home that day. If it happens again, call the parent again. I don’t care if they work. How long do you think that it will take the parent to impress upon the child that they better start meeting the criteria if the parent tells the child that they won’t have that ipod, or cell phone, or food on the table because the parent will lose his or her job if they have to continually leave work to pick up the child? If the parents don’t pick the child up, file a misdemeanor child neglect action that requires them to take a parenting class at their expense. If it continues, then start a graduated fine scale. If it continues, and is habitual, then maybe bring in Child Protective Services.
    So, for those who are asking where are the parents on the task force; I hope the parents are there to ensure not only involvement, but also accountability. As I said earlier, and I honestly believe it; those students who are the majority of low achieving or failing students are so because their parents have failed to do their job.
    Yes, there are poor teachers, but the overwhelming problem is poor parents.

    • Steve Berch

      So ”the overwhelming problem is poor parents.” Where’s the data? Where’s the data that shows the percentage of poor parents in Idaho today is greater than in any other state today? There isn’t any data – just opinion and anecdotes. It is more likely that the percentage of poor parents in Idaho is the same as in Arkansas, New York, Oklahoma, Alaska, you name the state. Statistically, performance across a large group of people will plot along a normal distribution curb, be the group be teachers, administrators, or parents.

      Without any data, it is more realistic to assume that the percentage of poor parents is probably the same across the country, and thus in all the states. That being the more likely case, then we need to look for other reasons than “poor parents” to explain why public education in Idaho ranks at the bottom COMPARED TO OTHER STATES.

      Under Mr. Luna’s tenure, Idaho went from being ranked 46th to 49th in the nation for the number of high school students that went onto college. And for those that did, Idaho ranks 49th in the percentage that made it past their freshman year. Did the number of “poor parents” in Idaho dramatically increase in four years? Maybe the fact that the Meridian School Board spends the least per student than ANY OTHER school district its size in the nation is a more likely factor.

      Please. Let’s stop looking to unsubstantiated, emotion-based opinions to explain the challenges facing public education in idaho. And please insist that your Idaho legislators not do the same either. I have heard more than one accept Mr. DePriest’s argument, thus shifting the responsibility from themselves to their constituents.

  • Ed DePriest

    You are probably correct about the percentage as it relates to a national issue. My point was not one of Idaho vs. the rest of the country, rather the population of students who fail and are the low achievers on the tests that are used to evaluate student achievement throughout the country. The overwhelming problem, from my experience, is that the parents of these kids do not do their job as it relates to holding their children accountable for effort and behavior.

    The motivated student, with involved parents from early elementary through 12th grade are not usually those who fail or score low on tests. Parents who are involved in the education of their children make sure that their children learn to read, that they master grade level skills in Math and English, and that they do not disrupt or disrespect the learning environment. I have been in the schools for 30 years and have watched the decline, and it is commensurate with the decline in the family unit.

    Are there poor teachers? Sure. Just as so many scream that the teachers need to be accountable, I, along with many others, am simply asking for equal accountability for the parent in the triangle of education of our children.

  • Steve Berch

    Thank you, Ed for your clarification. I agree that poor parenting contributes to the problem and is probably the major factor in regard to those students that perform very poorly. My point is that poor parenting is not the reason for overall poor performance of the state’s entire public education system. That is not the first thing to point to when trying to determine the root cause of dissatisfaction with the performance of Idaho schools (which some state legislators are unfortunately starting to do).

    That’s where comparing Idaho to other states is relevant. From an overall education system level, poor parenting is a hygene factor common (and likely equal) across all states, and thus not a causal factor for Idaho’s relative poor performance.

    The root cause is most likely a combination of multiple factors, but the one factor that impacts quality of education the most, and that all credible sources seem to agree with, is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. I would argue that this also extends to the quality of the administrator/management in the building. If you believe in capitalism, you have to believe that you have to pay more to get a better product or service. We need hiring and management processes that allow Idaho to obtain and retain the best talent. And we have to pay for it – you don’t get quality on the cheap. And to your point, if there are ways to minimize disruption in the classroom or help parents learn how to better support their child’s efforts in school, then we should embrace those ideas.

  • Kali Kurdy

    Who is representing the students? Where is atudent representative on the board?

  • Ted L. Popplewell

    I know Phyllis Nichols personally. She will be a fantastic commitee member! Another five gold star member is Mary Ann Ranells! Having these two folks on the board gives me more confidence in what the board might produce for the future of education in Idaho.