It’s business as usual at the SDE, despite impending transition

State Department of Education leaders claimed Wednesday to be conducting business as usual, with only five months until a new state superintendent steps in for two-term officeholder Sherri Ybarra. 

Ybarra finished third in a three-person May Republican primary, losing to nominee Debbie Critchfield and second-place finisher Branden Durst. Voters will elect a new superintendent in the November general election, either Critchfield or Democrat Terry Gilbert. The new superintendent begins a four-year term in January, and will lead an SDE staff of over 130.

But today, Ybarra and her staff are still responsible for overseeing the education of 312,000 Idaho students.

“We are focused on the tasks at hand,” said Deputy Superintendent of Communications and Policy Marilyn Whitney.

The Content and Curriculum Department is reviewing math curriculum and preparing to present new physical education and health standards to the State Board of Education in August. It’s also gathering resources and conducting professional development regarding dyslexia, following a law signed by Gov. Brad Little in March. 

The federal programs department is “treading water” with emergency relief funds and reporting requirements for the money. 

The SDE also is busy reviewing budget requests, and preparing for a school year more in line with pre-pandemic policies on child nutrition and meals, Whitney said.

Public information officer Kristin Rodine said there have been only three staff changes since late June. A communications specialist will retire at the end of this month, a move planned before the primary loss, and two employees have resigned from the state office to take federal jobs. 

Days after Ybarra was sworn into office in January 2015, she introduced a new five-person executive team. Ybarra was taking over for then-superintendent Tom Luna, who did not run for re-election. After winning the general election in November 2014, Ybarra worked with Luna and a 19-member transition team that included several lawmakers and school district superintendents.

In early June, Ybarra declined to interview with EdNews about her future professional plans and her possible involvement in a transition of leadership and staff at the SDE.

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

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