Trustees, education leaders converge in Coeur d’Alene

A plethora of “who’s who” in the Idaho education world swooped into Coeur d’Alene this week for the Idaho School Boards Association’s annual convention.

More than 500 board members, superintendents, education leaders and guests gathered to meet, greet and learn Wednesday through Friday at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. The convention reached an all-time attendance record, according to ISBA staff.

ISBA Otter
Gov. Butch Otter speaks to attendees of the Idaho School Boards Association annual convention.

Featured attendees included Gov. Butch Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra.

Otter addressed board members during Wednesday night’s dinner and told them he was starting another campaign — not for another term as governor, but to “campaign for the completion” of the 20 recommendations made by his Task Force for Education. The rollout of the recommendations is expected to take four more years and $350 million.

“We are following those to the letter,” said Otter, asking for support from board members. “We must improve our education system in Idaho.”

The governor asked board members for three more things:

  1. Focus on student achievement
  2. Engage in the process of continuous improvement
  3. Collaborate with fellow board members to improve student achievement

“With your help, we can achieve,” Otter concluded.

But most of Wednesday was spent in classes on a variety of topics, including:

  • Open meetings laws and Idaho public records
  • District policies required by Idaho law
  • How to pass a bond
  • Public school finance
  • How to hire a superintendent
  • Media relations

These classes and more were conducted by experts from the State Department of Education, State Board of Education, the Attorney General’s office, the Governor’s Office, ISBA staff and the Legislature.

“Each year our staff works hard to bring in a myriad of workshops in hopes there is something for everyone,” said Karen Echeverria, executive director of the ISBA.

West Ada trustees took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about Idaho’s open meeting laws and attended a class offered by Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane. Two months ago, West Ada trustees voted in favor of voiding a contract extension given to former Superintendent Linda Clark because they said they violated open meeting laws. Their actions ultimately resulted in Clark’s resignation and subsequent firing.

Thursday is another day loaded with workshops on more topics from school data to school safety to community engagement. One of the most intriguing workshop titles is “Insights from an Elections Junkie” conducted by Ada County Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane, a former Republican candidate for Secretary of State.

Friday is when the real work is done.

The morning begins with an interactive meeting when ISBA members will be able to ask questions of their officers and Echeverria.

Also Friday is the most-important business session when members decided on what issues they want lobbied before the 2016 Legislature, and they elect officers. This year sports an unusual three-way race for president — Moscow Charter’s John Menter, West Ada’s Mike Vuittonet and Boise’s A.J. Balukoff.

Echeverria attributed the all-time high in attendance to the resolutions to be voted on during the business session and because the Legislature awarded districts $4,000 to reimburse board members for professional development.

ISBA Thursday Night
Board members visit during Wednesday’s dinner at the annual ISBA convention.