Superintendent’s coverage: access

It seemed like a simple enough request.

As we prepare to profile the four Republican candidates for state superintendent this spring, we want to spend time with them in their schools — to see how they interact in an education setting, and get a sense of how that experience informs their campaign for statewide office.

Sherri Ybarra
Sherri Ybarra

We have times lined up with three of the candidates — but Mountain Home educator Sherri Ybarra declined to be interviewed in her school or at her home. Jennifer Swindell will be interviewing her at a neutral site of sorts: a Mountain Home park.

I emailed a request to spend some time shadowing John Eynon of Grangeville, a music and drama teacher at Cottonwood’s Prairie Junior-Senior High School. Here’s his response, in full:

“Thank you for your gracious request to visit with us in Grangeville.
 
“I have to send you my regrets.  My school administration and I agreed when I announced my candidacy for this office that the school district and my classroom activities would be off limits to the press.
 
“I have lived up to that ethical consideration, and have gone above and beyond in not addressing the campaign or issues with students, parents, and faculty within the Cottonwood S.D.
 
“Also, I have a contractual obligation to fullfill which includes supervising and directing my music students in District II Idaho Music Educator festivals which are scheduled for the last two weeks of April and the first week of May.  My students really do come first.
 
“I would be glad to have my campaign manager provide you with a write up and some photos in the event that would satisfy your story.”

John Eynon
John Eynon

There are two sides to this question. On the one hand, the candidates’ educational backgrounds are a big piece of their stories. On the other hand, Eynon sees it as an ethical matter: separating politics from his day job.

Of course, there is also more than one way to write a candidate profile.

I’ve since suggested spending time with Eynon on the campaign trail. I haven’t yet heard back. Either way, I think it’s important to talk to the candidates about their education background — and also talk to stakeholders who know about the candidates’ credentials firsthand. That should be a component of all of these profiles.

As for the other Republican candidates, Swindell has already interviewed Melba superintendent Andy Grover in his district office, and Clark Corbin has an on-site visit scheduled next week with Randy Jensen, an American Falls principal.