Pete Koehler is coming out of retirement to help lead state superintendent-elect Sherri Ybarra’s administration on a temporary basis.
Koehler, promoted to interim superintendent in 2013 to help lead the Nampa School District out of a fiscal crisis, will serve as Ybarra’s interim chief deputy.
Koehler starts Jan. 5, but said he will leave the post in May or June, because of Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho rules.
“I will be here through the end of spring, and at that point then I cannot go beyond what PERSI allows,” Koehler said.
Under that timeline, Koehler will likely be able to help Ybarra’s team through the 2015 legislative session and nearly to the end of the current school year – when the new Common Core-aligned tests are administered for the first time.
After that, Koehler will return to retirement and Ybarra will presumably hire a long-term chief deputy.
Koehler said he and his family loved retirement, the time it afforded them and the opportunity to fish for trout and steelhead. But Koehler said he was impressed with Ybarra’s sincerity and the vision she outlined. Additionally, Koehler views this interim position as one final opportunity to serve schools and children before retiring for good.
Ybarra approached him in late November, asking if he would be interested in meeting with her and working with the administration. Koehler was at his cabin for a fishing trip when the call came, and needed to meet with Ybarra and process his options before agreeing.
The most important factor for Koehler was learning her vision for the State Department of Education.
“The more and more time I spent with Sherri I realized our visions are very, very close together and the vision is that the State Department truly operates as an instrument of service for school districts, kids and parents,” Koehler said.
Koehler believes Ybarra, a longtime educator and administrator in the Mountain Home School District, understands the education system and its inner workings, the way budgets connect to the classroom and the roles played by the executive and legislative branches and the State Board of Education.
“If I had felt I was just being told rigmarole, I would not agree to do this job,” he said.
Koehler said he and Ybarra are committed to running a transparent administration and working with school officials, education stakeholders, parents and the news media.
“I’m aware of a great deal of negative press (Ybarra) received, and I’d say I’m not sure people really understand the real person out here,” Koehler said. “I don’t see a figurehead in any sense of the word.”
Koehler has already set up an office at the State Department of Education’s Boise headquarters, where Ybarra and former Republican Mountain Home Sen. Tim Corder are beginning the transition to office.
Koehler said he is volunteering his time, and won’t be paid for work until Ybarra is sworn in.
Ybarra will be sworn in during private ceremonies Jan. 5. The 2015 legislative session kicks off on Jan. 12.