IEA undergoes leadership shakeup as election looms

The state’s teacher’s union is experiencing a leadership shakeup in the runup to Tuesday’s general election.

The Idaho Education Association confirmed in a statement Wednesday that Sue Wigdorski is no longer the organization’s executive director.

Sue Wigdorski

“We can confirm that Sue Wigdorski is no longer acting in the role of executive director of the Idaho Education Association,” IEA President Kari Overall wrote. “This is a personnel matter, and IEA policy prohibits us from commenting further on such matters. The IEA remains fully committed to its mission of advocating for professional educators, students, and public schools.”

While Wigdorski’s departure is unexplained, the timing appears abrupt.

The IEA is running a TV advertising campaign criticizing Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, saying the Republican incumbent “can’t be trusted to manage our schools.”

The closing seconds of that ad indicate the content was paid for by the IEA, and lists Wigdorski by name as the treasurer.

Campaign finance reports posted by the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office indicate the National Education Association sent the IEA $249,000 on Oct. 18 to pay for broadcast television ads mentioning Ybarra. The ads do not mention Democratic challenger, Cindy Wilson, who has the IEA’s endorsement.

Overall said the IEA will continue to run the ad.

“The IEA continues to run the superintendent accountability ad,” Overall said in a follow-up statement. “The content of the superintendent accountability ad has been approved by the IEA and is completely supported by the organization. The IEA steadfastly stands behind its work to elect pro-public education candidates in the 2018 election.”

The IEA is also helping to fund a second round of ads supporting Wilson. Those ads come from a fledgling third-party group, Our Schools, Our Future, which lists Jim Shackelford as campaign treasurer.

Wigdorski was a longtime IEA employee. She was promoted to executive director in April 2017 after serving as  interim director for three months. Wigdorski joined the IEA staff in 1995 as director of school innovation. She served as the IEA’s associate executive director from 2010 to 2017.

The IEA’s executive director oversees staff, and works with the IEA president and board to implement policy as determined by membership. The executive director also plays a public role, helping to represent the union at the Statehouse during legislative sessions.

Idaho Education News editor Jennifer Swindell contributed to this report. 

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