A school trustee’s learning curve

Shauneen Grange is launching into a new public policy role, with an uncertain future.

Shauneen Grange, pulled from her Linkedin account
Shauneen Grange

So she is stepping aside from her public service role. Appointed to the Boise School Board in February 2013, she is not running in the Sept. 2 Boise elections.

It wasn’t an easy decision. “Being on the School Board has been really important to me,” Grange said in an interview Thursday.

Ultimately, though, she said she wasn’t sure she could make a long-term commitment to the board — as she had hoped to when she pursued an appointment to a vacant board spot 18 months ago.

Grange recently became outreach coordinator for Close the Gap, a campaign which advocates expanding Medicaid to cover the 77,000 Idahoans who cannot obtain health insurance anywhere else. It’s a controversial topic and the position is only funded through April.

When Grange joined the School Board in February 2013, she had already amassed a full political resume.

In 2011, she was a member of the bipartisan citizen’s commission that redrew the state’s congressional and legislative districts. She had worked in Boise City Hall, as a House Democratic staffer at the Statehouse, and was involved in two successful voter campaigns — the effort to create the College of Western Idaho and the 2012 Boise schools levy.

Sitting on the School Board — like working on the redistricting commission — was a chance to go from work behind the scenes to a more public role. For Grange, she said, this pushed her out of her comfort zone.

But it also provided her an education in Idaho schools, and the Boise district. It was an education to hear from trustees in other districts, to better understand the issues facing rural schools. It was an education in Boise’s various academic offerings, from the Montessori method to dual-language programs to the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, or AVID, designed to prepare junior high school and high school students for college.

It was, she said, a chance to hear heartbreaking and inspiring individual stories from Frank Church High School, the district’s alternative school. And a chance to experience her daughter’s 2013 high school graduation from a different perspective.

“I also got a chance to speak at my daughter’s graduation,” she said. “I’ll never forget that.”

Grange’s departure opens up an intriguing race for a two-year seat on the school board. Former state Rep. Brian Cronin and Idaho Grain Producers Association executive director Travis Jones are squaring off in a race with plenty of political overtones. Cronin, a Democrat, was a spokesman in the successful 2012 campaign to overturn Propositions 1, 2 and 3. Jones, a former aide to Republican ex-U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, has labeled Cronin a defender of the status quo.

Grange won’t be endorsing in the Sept. 2 elections. But she praised the two board incumbents seeking six-year terms, Nancy Gregory and Doug Park, and says she has known Cronin for 12 years. “I would love to see him succeed.”

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