Jeff Dillon wants public schools to be the first choice

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Idaho Education News’ second multimedia report introducing readers to the candidates running for superintendent of public instruction in 2018. A report covering incumbent Sherri Ybarra is available here.

All of our 2018 campaign coverage will be published and archived at our Election 2018 special section.

WILDER —Jeff Dillon says he’s running for superintendent of public instruction to change the state of public education in Idaho.

With the state investing about $1.7 billion in general fund spending on education each year, Dillon believes Idaho’s children and taxpayers deserve more than the current system produces.

“When a majority of our parents in our state — if money were not an issue — would send their child to a private school or a charter schools (that) tells me that we’re not doing the job we need to do in education,” Dillon said. “Our overall grade as a state, nationally, is in that D-range, D-plus range and that’s a disservice to our kiddos.”

Dillon believes he has the leadership experience and the coalition-building skills to help Idaho achieve “A” results.

The Idaho native lives in the house his grandfather built. He also serves as superintendent of the school district where he received his public school education between grades K-6, the Wilder School District. (Dillon’s family sent him to nearby Greenleaf Friends Academy, a private Christian school, for grades 7-12).

After graduating Northwest College (now Northwest University, near Seattle) Dillon entered the ministry for 17 years before launching his education career.

He served as a middle school science teacher in central Washington.

After becoming an administrator, Dillon heard of a job opening through is mother and returned home in 2007 to become principal of the elementary school in Wilder.

In 2012, he became superintendent, and continued serving as a principal.

“It comes down to leadership, and it comes down to bringing that skill set as an effective leader to the table and the ability to bring stakeholders together and synergize around areas of change and improvement,” Dillon said. “I had many years of experience doing that, and that’s what I bring to this position.”

Located in Canyon County, the Wilder School District is a high-poverty rural district that serves about 475 students. Wilder is situated along U.S. Highway 95, just a few miles east of the Oregon border.

So far, Dillon hasn’t pushed forward many specific policy positions or plans for revamping education. When asked to name his priorities from a list of hot-button education issues — teacher pay and retention, improving elementary students’ literacy rates, school funding, graduation and go-on rates — Dillon took a page from Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education. Four years ago the task force traveled the state seeking feedback before issuing 20 public school reform recommendations. Dillon is pledging to travel around the state, meet with citizens and education groups and develop an Idaho plan that’s based on local control.

At the same time, Dillon also called for elevating the teaching profession, saying he would ensure teachers have the tools to be effective and are “empowered to be educators.”

“Teachers are the heroes of our community,” Dillon said.

Dillon was the first candidate to formally launch a campaign to run for superintendent of public instruction in 2018. He faces off against incumbent state superintendent Sherri Ybarra, who launched her re-election campaign earlier this month, in the May 2018 Republican primary.

So far, no Democrat has filed to run for the position.

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