Idaho’s Board Chair of the Year offers advice from her 20 years of experience

Angie Robison has served on Jefferson County Joint School District’s school board — where she is currently the chair — for more than two decades. This year, her peers nominated her as Idaho’s Board Chair of the Year.

“During a challenging time in the district, Angie navigated each circumstance by gathering information, listening without judgment, and understanding her role,” nominators wrote. “She … acts as a model for other board members (on) how to respectfully interact. She models how to disagree without being disagreeable.”

Angie Robison is Idaho’s Board Chair of the Year.

EdNews asked Robison what she’s learned from her time as a board member. Read her unedited responses below.

Q: Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up, and what is your professional and personal history in Idaho? 

I grew up in Archer Idaho. I was the oldest of 7 kids. My family farmed in Archer. I then married a farmer and we farm out west of Roberts. We have 4 children and 15 grandchildren.

Q: You’ve been on the Jefferson Joint School District Board since 2000. What made you want to become a board member initially? What has kept you on the board all this time?

Initially I wanted to be a voice for our small community of Roberts. I also wanted to be more involved in my children’s education. I quickly learned that I loved being engaged in the school district. My grandchildren are now going to school in the district and I have enjoyed staying up on what is happening in their education.

Q: What most surprised you about being on a school board when you were starting out?

The most surprising was how a school district is ran. It is nothing like a regular business. I have learned so much about the operations of a school board.

Q: In your time being on the board, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in education?

The biggest changes I’ve seen in education is the advancement of technology. Trying to keep up with technology and providing it for our students is an ever changing challenge. Safety is another big change. We are trying to keep our schools as safe as possible which can be challenging in this day and age.

Q: Over the years, what have you learned/what are some of your key takeaways about Idaho’s education system?

I feel that we offer a good education for our students. It is difficult because I feel our funding is small compared to other states. We have to think outside the box to keep our students advancing.

Q: How would you describe the ideal relationship between a school board and district administrators (superintendent, education directors, curriculum directors, department heads, etc.)? 

A school board is there to set policy. The administrators are there to do the day to day work. I have had amazing people that I have been able to work with over the years. I have worked with many different people and they all try hard to put the students first and make decisions that will benefit the students in our district.

Q: During the height of the pandemic, school boards had to make tough, sometimes contentious decisions. In some cases, board trustees even stepped down due to the stress they experienced. How do you manage stress, keep interactions respectful, and make hard decisions in times like those? 

We were very lucky in our district. Everyone wanted what was best for the kids. We all worked together to come up with solutions. If you are willing to listen to people you can usually work out your differences.

Q: Which accomplishment(s) are you most proud of as a board trustee?

We have Spanish and Chinese immersion in our school district. I think this has been one of our greatest successes. We are giving the children in our district a way to expand their educational opportunities by offering them the chance to be fluent in a second language when they leave our district. I also think it is pretty amazing that we can offer our students a great education without a supplemental levy. We have to work hard to make all the amazing things that happen in our district possible.

Q: What advice would you give to new school board members?

To remember who you are representing. Don’t come in with a personal agenda. Be open minded and always put the students first.

Q: What qualities should the public look for in school board candidates and trustees? What makes a great trustee?

People that care about kids and are willing to listen and learn.

Q: Looking forward, what do you think are some of the greatest obstacles and challenges boards will face in the next 5-10 years?

I think here in Idaho growth will be a huge factor. Being able to build schools to keep up with the growth. Safety will continue to be very important.

Q: In the grand scheme of things, why do school boards matter? What role do they play in their communities and districts? What do they do for kids? 

I think school boards are important because you connect people from all different backgrounds and different occupations to bring their perspectives and work together for the best interest of the school district.

Q: Finally, what should we know about serving as a leader in Idaho’s public education system that I didn’t ask?

I would just like to say that serving on the school board has been a great opportunity.  I have learned so much and I have been given so many opportunities to learn and grow personally.  It is an experience that I will always treasure in my life.

Carly Flandro

About Carly Flandro

Reporter Carly Flandro works in EdNews’ East Idaho bureau. A former high school English teacher, she writes about teaching, learning, diversity, and equity. You can follow Flandro on Twitter @idahoedcarly and send her news tips at [email protected]

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