Celebrating success stories in Idaho K-12 education

Lakeland School District Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells said she has been blessed to be an educator for 40 years and that being a part of the Idaho Leads Project made her feel special.

McCall-Donnelly Superintendent Glen Szymoniak credited his district’s success to his staff and to help from the Idaho Leads Project.

Those were just some of the many positive comments shared on Monday night at the Idaho Leads Project’s Showcase Event at the Egyptian Theatre in downtown Boise.

“I can’t think of another event where we have been able to share successes stories in education,” Szymoniak said.

P1000775The first-of-its-kind event was designed to share bright spots in Idaho K-12 education. Nearly 500 people attended, representing 49 districts and charters from Coeur d’Alene to Boise to Idaho Falls. Also attending where nearly 200 family, friends, Boise State University staff and lawmakers, including Superintendent Tom Luna, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and House Education Chairman Rep. Reed DeMordaunt and Senate Education Chairman Sen. John Goedde.

“This was an exceptional event and I’m so proud to have had the opportunity to work with these districts,” said Idaho Leads Project co-director and program host Roger Quarles.

The event began with Quarles explaining the goals of the Idaho Leads Project and the objective of the evening — celebrating successes in seven districts.

Garden Valley, Lapwai, Lakeland (Rathdrum), Gooding, McCall-Donnelly, Bonneville (Idaho Falls) and Anser Charter (Boise) were honored for their innovation in education in hopes that Idaho educators begin to share these ideas and work with each other.

The six districts and one charter each were highlighted with three-minute videos and brought on stage for their unique or effective teaching practices. (See another video of the event at this KTVB link. The entire Showcase Event will be posted later today.)

Garden Valley was featured because of the way it integrates technology so that 100 percent of seniors are graduating and all of them leave high school with college credits, most with more than 15 credits.

“I’m living the dream in Garden Valley,” said Superintendent Randy Schrader, who gave the credit to his staff and thanked his wife for her support over the last two years.

Bonneville School District in Idaho Falls was highlighted because of its Professional Learning Communities (PLC), which build strong relationships on campuses. All 13 of Bonneville’s schools, which cater to 11,000 students, were named Four- or Five-Star Schools by the State Department of Education.

“I love my job and I want every teacher to love their job and every student to love coming to school,” Superintendent Chuck Shackett said.

Also honored was Gooding for the way it cultivates leaders, Anser Charter because students drive their own education, and Lapwai, which capitalizes on strong community relationships.

“I am a proud superintendent today,” said Lapwai’s leader David Akin.

P1000770Gooding Superintendent Heather Williams said: “We have a lot of fun building a culture of non-judgment where we’re not afraid to try new things.”

The Idaho Leads Project culminated 18 months of work with a half-day conference at the Boise Centre on the Grove and a Showcase evening event. All the day’s activities were focused on sharing and celebrating bright spots.

The Idaho Leads Project has worked with staff, parents, trustees and students from the 49 districts and charters to promote innovation, develop leadership capacity, support effective practices and continuous improvement. The districts and charters represent every region of the state and range in size, demographics, and per-student funding.

Boise State University’s Center for School Improvement and Policy Studies launched the Idaho Leads Project in January of 2012 with a $3.85 million grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. The foundation agreed to contribute another $2.85 million to support the project’s continued work through June of 2014. The project’s next primary efforts will be on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

“Our district has been empowered by the process,” Williams said. “Because of the Idaho Leads Project, we have been able to further break down and overcome the barriers to closing the achievement gap in Gooding.”


Disclosure: The Idaho Leads Project heads Idaho Education News. A J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation grant funds the Idaho Leads Project and Idaho Education News.

Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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