Andy Grover has been preparing for this moment all of his adult life.
The Republican candidate for state superintendent of public instruction has accomplished his checklist of tasks to place him where he is today — campaigning to oversee K-12 education in Idaho.
“I’ve always wanted to run,” Grover said. “I don’t do anything that’s not planned. We have a direction we’re going and we know why we’re doing it.”
Grover is a fifth-generation Idahoan who joined the Marine Corps reserves, went on a Mormon Church mission to France and returned to marry a girl from his small hometown.
He graduated from college, taught, coached and moved into school administration, eventually becoming the Melba School District superintendent.
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He joined multiple organizations and volunteered or has been elected to leadership and legislative roles.
He has working and personal relationships with lawmakers and the endorsement of more than 18 fellow superintendents.
“They have assured me this is the time,” Grover said of his supporters. “That’s what sets me apart — I’ve worn every hat and I’ve accomplished every goal.”
Grover’s wife Candice affirms the journey.
“He has been so determined and so committed,” she said. “He serves and works hard — he amazes me.”
Who is Andy Grover?
Grover grew up in Ririe in rural eastern Idaho. His mother was a teacher and his father a lawyer. He graduated from Boise State University in political science and once dreamed of law school before deciding to follow in his mother’s footsteps.
He married Candice, a fellow Ririe High graduate, and they have three teenage daughters. They are lifelong Republicans who have maintained a strong faith in their Mormon religion. All decisions, including the one to run for state superintendent, are made in family circles and supported by prayers.
“If we do something, we do it full force as a family — that’s how we are,” Candice said. “A lot of talking and prayer are involved.”
Once Andy committed to education, he has worked his way through every job and every graduate-school requirement.
He taught and coached for eight years in the Bonneville School District in Idaho Falls before starting his path into administration. Bonneville Superintendent Chuck Shackett endorses Grover.
He left Bonneville for the Melba district, where he was high school principal before being selected superintendent.
His daughters attend Melba schools. Grover can see his house from his office.
“We work here, live here and are highly involved in the community,” Grover said.
Grover has multiple degrees — diplomas are displayed in his office — and he’ll complete his doctorate over the next 12 months. When their three daughters entered school, Candice entered college. She’s now a teacher in Melba.
“We show our kids how important education is to us,” Grover said.
Grover’s accomplishments include:
- Serving on the National Schools Superintendents Association’s governing board.
- Serving on the Tiered Licensure Technical Advisory Committee.
- Serving as regional president for the Idaho Association of School Administrators.
- Longstanding membership on the Idaho Human Rights Education Committee.
Andy Grover’s track record leading Melba
When Grover took over in Melba, academic scores were dismal and Idaho was about to hit the economic downturn of 2008. Melba was forced to cut one quarter of its $1 million budget.
A month into the job, Grover’s first orders of business were to switch to a four-day school week, bump up class sizes, lose a principal and two teachers and increase professional development time.
“It was crazy — the changes were uncomfortable,” said elementary principal Sherry Ann Adams. “At the time I thought we could have taken things slower, but I wouldn’t go back and do it differently.”
Grover has not always been the most popular man in town.
His swift changes were hard for some veteran teachers to embrace, Adams said.
Under Grover, a community with a strong history of voting in favor of levies, passed a $410,000 levy by a single vote.
“I remember a lot of sleepless nights,” Grover said.
And Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue publicly criticized Grover last year, calling him “stubborn” for failing to work with law enforcement on a school safety plan.
“I have always had and will continue to have an open-door policy with any member of our community in regards to the safety of our schools, including our local sheriff’s department,” Grover said. “My graduate thesis work has been directed to the issue of school safety.”
But over the last six years, Grover has seen huge academic growth and developed a manageable budget. The district didn’t need to run a supplemental levy this year.
“Even the farmers like me now,” he said.
Melba High School was in “academic jail,” before what Grover made what he called “easy curriculum changes” to help the school reach the federal benchmark of Adequate Yearly Progress six of the past seven years. ISAT proficiency scores nearly doubled from 37 percent to 68 percent over the last five years. The district’s college go-on rate is 63 percent, above the state average of 54 percent.
The growth is attributed to two things, Grover said:
- Student-based project learning.
- Devoting Fridays to teacher training.
“We work on good teaching practices,” Adams said. “It’s amazing to watch.”
How will Grover lead Idaho education?
Grover says the State Department of Education will look vastly different if he succeeds the retiring Tom Luna.
Grover said he would move forward with the following changes:
- “I would set standards and hold people accountable in an uplifting way.”
- “I would collaborate with school districts and the education community.”
- “I will build up schools on their successes and find ways for them to continue to improve, focusing on the positive.”
- “I would set standards high while allowing local control. If districts are not meeting the standards, we would share examples of what works.”
- Grover vows to put more educators on his staff than Luna has today: “I will build a team of educators from around the state.”
Grover also said he would involve all stakeholders in decision-making. “In Melba, everyone is part of our leadership team from food service, to janitors to principals,” he said. “We are all in the business of teaching kids.
“I’m always trying to get better. That’s what I bring to the table.”
- All of our stories on the superintendent’s race, click here.
- Grover’s answers to questions from our followers, click here.
- Coverage of the first of three debates between superintendent candidates, click here.
- Grover’s website, click here.