Forty-five and counting: Little’s growing field of State Board applicants

Shawn Keough wasn’t the only late — and under-the-radar — applicant for two State Board of Education vacancies.

The list includes two former State Board members, and one of state superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s top aides. All told, seven people applied sometime after Gov. Brad Little’s publicly announced June 17 deadline.

This is Little’s first chance to put his imprint on the State Board — a powerful eight-member panel that holds broad sway over K-12 and higher education policy. But the ongoing State Board search has been uneven and shrouded in mystery.

On June 18, the day after his stated application deadline, Little’s office released a list of 38 applicants. But this list was not all-inclusive — a fact that became apparent in late September, when Little appointed Keough, a former state senator with 22 years of Statehouse experience.

Keough applied in August, and neither she nor the governor’s office will say whether she was approached about the post. Little’s office had never disclosed the fact that Keough had applied before appointing her to a five-year board term.

Little’s office had never released an updated applicants’ list until late Monday afternoon, when it provided Idaho Education News with a list of 45 names, in response to a public records request.

The list included the 38 original applicants, and seven new names: Keough, Neal Clinger, Michael Law, Laird Stone, Chuck Zimmerly, Jim Hammond and Betsy Katsilometes.

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Little’s office would not release the candidates’ application materials. Idaho Education News had asked for the applicants’ resumes.

But the list includes several familiar names, in addition to Keough.

Stone and Hammond are both former State Board members. Stone, of Twin Falls, now sits on the College of Southern Idaho’s board of trustees. Hammond, of Coeur d’Alene, is a former state senator and a former chair of Idaho’s Public Charter School Commission.

Zimmerly is the State Department of Education’s community relations officer, a contract worker who is in Ybarra’s inner circle. The elected superintendent of public instruction has an automatic seat on the State Board; the governor fills the other seven positions, subject to Senate confirmation.

One name was conspicuously absent from the updated applicant list: Brad Rice. The longtime Lewiston school trustee says Little offered him a State Board seat in August, but Rice turned down the post.

Little is still shopping for a second State Board appointee.

Longtime board members Don Soltman and Richard Westerberg announced their plans to step down in May. Keough will take Soltman’s place. Westerberg is remaining on the board in a temporary role, while Little seeks a successor.

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