Linda Clark named to State Board vacancy

(UPDATED, 12:49 p.m., with comments from Clark.)

The head of the West Ada School District will take on a second high-profile post, as she takes over a vacancy on the State Board of Education.

Linda Clark was named to a five-year State Board term Friday, as Gov. Butch Otter filled a pair of spots on the eight-member panel.

Linda Clark Nov 20
On Friday, Gov. Butch Otter named West Ada school Superintendent Linda Clark to fill a State Board of Education vacancy. “It’s a very high honor,” Clark said Friday. “I think the State Board has done a terrific job of shepherding the (education) task force recommendations.”

Clark has worked for 11 years as superintendent of the state’s largest school district, and will continue in that role. “I think our district benefits from having administrators involved at the state level,” Clark told Idaho Education News Friday afternoon.

Clark is no stranger to statewide education debates. She was a member of Otter’s education task force in 2013, which issued a series of 20 recommendations on topics ranging from teacher pay to mastery-based learning to the Common Core state standards.

In a news release, Otter said Clark “embodies the passion and dedication of Idaho’s professional educators.”

Said Otter: “Linda’s work and leadership on the Task Force were invaluable.”

Clark also was a prominent supporter of a controversial tiered teacher licensure proposal — a task force recommendation billed as a component of a plan to boost teacher pay. The licensure plan was widely criticized by teachers and the Idaho Education Association, and the 2015 Legislature scrubbed the proposal before approving a five-year, $125 million “career ladder” to boost teacher pay.

Clark will assume a State Board seat vacated by Rod Lewis, a 15-year board veteran and attorney for Micron Technology. Lewis also was an outspoken supporter of the tiered licensure plan.

There is nothing in state law that would preclude Clark from serving on the State Board and continuing on as West Ada superintendent. Clark said she discussed the dual role with Otter during the interview process — and told trustees that she doesn’t believe the State Board responsibilities will be any more time-consuming than her two years of work on the task force recommendations and the tiered licensure plan.

Clark said the appointment has been in the works for a few weeks. She declined to say whether she had been approached and encouraged to apply.

Emma Atchley
Emma Atchley

Last month, West Ada trustees voted to extend Clark’s contract — a one-year renewal that will keep Clark under contract through June 2018, at a $143,475.29 salary for 2015-16. The vote was anything but routine; a divided board voted 3-2 to extend Clark’s contract, and two of the three trustees who supported the extension are no longer on the board. Russell Joki, one of the two new members of the board, has suggested the district revisit the contract decision, the Idaho Statesman reported earlier in July.

On Friday, Otter also reappointed Emma Atchley of Ashton to the State Board. The businesswoman and potato farmer currently serves as the board’s vice chair.

The five-year board terms begin immediately and runs through June 30, 2020. Both appointments are subject to Senate confirmation in 2016.

Idaho Education News has requested a list of applicants for both board vacancies, as well as applicants’ resumes.