Diverse resume made him Bonneville’s best bet

IDAHO FALLS — Scott Woolstenhulme built a diverse resume in his nine years with the Bonneville School District.

His past jobs include:

  • Building principal
  • School improvement coordinator
  • Technology director
  • Assessment director
  • Human resources director
  • Assistant superintendent
  • Father of five Bonneville students

Those positions — plus his family experience — shaped Woolstenhulme into a likely replacement for longtime Bonneville Superintendent Chuck Shackett, who will retire in September.

Trustees agreed. Last week they chose Woolstenhulme to replace Shackett and become the next leader of East Idaho’s largest — and growing — school district.

Yet despite all the titles, Woolstehnulme says his time as a teacher has been most foundational to his leadership at Bonneville.

“I still think of myself as a teacher,” Woolstenhulme said. “At the end of the day, it always comes back to teaching and learning.”

Woolstenhulme is also looking ahead by identifying top priorities for the district. These include:

  1. Establishing a greater emphasis on student learning.
  2. Managing student population growth.
  3. Ensuring students are safe.

Student learning

Bonneville’s 2017-18 standardized test scores came back near the state average, which means many students are not proficient in math, English and science, according to Idaho’s Standards Achievement Test.

  • On the math portion, 43 percent of Bonneville students scored proficient, compared to the statewide rate of 44 percent.
  • In English, 55 percent of Bonneville students were proficient, falling near the statewide rate of 54 percent.
  • And in science, 62 percent were proficient, compared to the statewide rate of 61 percent.

Bonneville already has “the right people” to improve the district’s learning outcomes, Woolstenhulme said. But he feels the district can do more to identify key things kids need to learn — and figure out what to do if they don’t learn.

Woolstenhulme says he’s also mindful of things that can distract from student learning. For example, he’s leery of overemphasizing technology. He pointed to a past state initiative to give a laptop to every student. While computers can be good, Woolstenhulme said, the plan lacked a framework for boosting student outcomes.

Student growth

Another priority for Woolstenhulme is weathering Bonneville’s continued population growth.

Woolstenhulme has helped lead the district through several years of growth — and demands for infrastructure equipped to absorb it. A year ago, Bonneville patrons approved a $35.3 million bond issue for a new middle school. Three months later, the district’s new $63.5 million Thunder Ridge High School opened its doors. Trustees are now mulling a 12-year, $151.6 million plan to build and upgrade other facilities across the district.

Yet securing local revenue to fund structural upgrades in Bonneville has not been easy. Due largely to its rural and agricultural tax base, the district generates less local revenue than other districts its size. As a result, Bonneville patrons pay one of the highest levy rates in Idaho.

“We have a high levy rate,” Woolstenhulme said.

Woolstenhulme stressed a commitment not to raise the district’s levy rate, despite the continued population growth. He pointed to added annual local revenue of almost $4 million since 2014 — added revenue from the district’s still-developing tax base.

“That’s going to help us a lot,” Woolstenhulme said.

Student safety

Woolstenhulme said student safety is another top priority.

He stressed the need for “caring adults” ready to help bullied students and those struggling with suicidal thoughts.

“I’m also invested here,” Woolstenhulme said, referencing his five children, all of whom attend schools in the district.

Achieving these priorities won’t come sitting behind a desk, Woolstenhulme added.

He glanced at a sign on the wall above his three computer screens that reads, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world.”

“I believe that,” he said. “You gotta be out, boots on the ground and visible to the people to be an effective leader.”

Woolstenhulme’s two-year contract as superintendent includes a $155,000 annual salary. An addendum to the contract includes:

  • The full cost for health, dental and vision insurance for Woolstenhulme and his family.
  • An $8,000 annual travel stipend in lieu of providing a district vehicle for local travel.
  • All education expenses for Woolstenhulme, including tuition, registration fees and books.

Did you know?

  • Woolstenhume’s older brother, Monte Woolstenhulme, is the superintendent of the Teton School District, where the two grew up. Monte is two years older than Scott, but the two completed their undergraduate and graduate educational degrees simultaneously.
  • Scott Woolstenhulme loves to travel with his family. His favorite vacations have included visits to England and France.
  • Though he says he has few hobbies outside of education, Scott Woolstenhulme is an avid reader. Stephen King is the former English teacher’s favorite writer. When not reading King, Woolstenhulme says he often has the latest education leadership book in his hand.

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