Shon Hocker is coming to Coeur d’Alene from North Dakota, but he is far from new to Idaho.
After nearly 15 years away, Hocker has returned to the state where he started his career in education, taking the position of superintendent in north Idaho’s largest district.
“It was time to come back,” Hocker said.
Coeur d’Alene trustees offered the position to Hocker on April 19, after Steven Cook resigned to become the superintendent of Oregon’s Bend-La Pine School District.
Hocker’s commitment to the district impressed trustees, said Coeur d’Alene Board Chair Jennifer Brumley.
“Shon made it clear he wanted to be in Coeur d’Alene,” Brumley said, adding that this was the only superintendent position that Hocker applied for, and he also applied for the job during a previous vacancy.
Hocker comes to Idaho after three years as superintendent of North Dakota’s Dickinson Public Schools. Prior to that, he spent 11 years at Big Horn School District in Wyoming, where he was recognized as the Wyoming Association of School Administrators Superintendent of the Year in 2016.
Before working at the district level, Hocker taught at Ririe High School. He then moved to Dietrich High, where he took a job as principal. Hocker was also the assistant principal of Bonneville’s Hillcrest High and principal of Shelley High.
Hocker received all of his post-secondary education, including his doctorate in educational leadership, from Idaho State University.
Teaching wasn’t always in the cards for Hocker, who previously ran a drafting and design company and designed homes in Idaho. He slowly got more involved with students through coaching youth sports in Bonneville.
“I loved giving back to the community and working with kids,” Hocker said, adding that he got the idea for teaching when a colleague told him he could teach a technology course. He went to Idaho State to get certified and started teaching at Ririe High.
Hocker originally taught during the school year and focused on his company during the summer, but he decided that was too much work and eventually turned to education full time.
‘Primed for newness’
Two new assistant superintendents accompany Hocker’s arrival in Coeur d’Alene.
Libbi Barrett moved to the position of assistant superintendent of secondary education and curriculum after spending two years as the principal of Coeur d’Alene High. Patty Morrison was brought to the district in July as the assistant superintendent of elementary education and instruction after previously working as an administrator in Lakeland.
“We’re primed for newness,” Hocker said.
Brumley said she was sad to see the previous administration, made of “quality people,” leave the district, but she’s excited to see what a set of fresh eyes can do with Coeur d’Alene.
“These three individuals love kids and want to do all they can to improve the education of our students,” Brumley said.
Hocker said his team will meet with people across the district to ask the “why” questions, looking for areas of improvement. His first goal as superintendent is to embed himself in the community. That includes involvement with school and city activities. On top of the new job, Hocker and his wife are empty-nesters and are avid walkers.
“I don’t want to be seen as an outsider,” he said. “I can’t wait to truly explore the area.”
A market on fire
Hocker is also keeping an eyes on Coeur d’Alene’s hot housing market.
In April, the Wall Street Journal listed the city as the country’s “hottest emerging housing market.” And the school district is feeling the effects of the rapid growth.
“Coeur d’Alene has been progressively growing over the years. But recently it’s on fire,” Hocker said. That growth has become a double-edged sword for the school district. An increase in enrollment means an increase in funding and growth opportunities for the district. But the competitive housing market means the district is working to keep teachers from moving to neighboring Washington.
With many school districts relaxing COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-2022 school year, Hocker said the pandemic-affected school year was a “great history lesson” for educators.
“This should be more of a traditional year. A return to normalcy,” he said. “But the unknown is still there.”
Read more on Idaho’s new superintendents:
Vallivue: Lisa Boyd wants to see more career and technical education available.
West Ada: Derek Bub has big goals in mind for the state’s largest district.
Superintendent shuffles: Idaho is welcoming 23 new superintendents.