Melissa McGrath, the State Department of Education’s communication director and a member of Tom Luna’s senior staff, is leaving the department at the end of this month.
McGrath, a graduate of Eagle High School, has accepted a job as communication director for the Council of Chief State School Officers, she announced Tuesday.
She expects to transition to the new job in Washington, D.C., on May 27.
McGrath, who covered education policy and Congress while studying at the University of Maryland, said it was important for her to remain involved with education.
Luna’s decision not to seek a third term played a role in her decision.
“I think the communications position at the department should be up to the new superintendent to hire,” McGrath said. “If the new superintendent had asked me to stay I’m sure I would have considered it, but this opportunity came up and I felt I needed to take it.”
McGrath started with the department as a public information officer in January 2007, shortly after Luna’s election. She was later promoted to communications director, where, along with Luna, she serves as one of the department’s public faces. She conducts television and news interviews, helps organize presentations and speeches, meets with concerned parents and advises public school administrators about communications strategies.
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She also helps run the department’s website, and launched the office’s social media campaigns during Luna’s first term.
“You can’t replace a Melissa McGrath,” Luna said. “In education, the children of Idaho are far better off because her work.”
After McGrath leaves, Chief of Staff Luci Willits will handle media inquiries for Luna’s office.
McGrath said the highlight of her career has been helping implement and share information about the new Idaho Core Standards and visiting classrooms where children are engaged.
“I think what I’m most excited about is we’ve done a lot of work here in Idaho to raise standards, work to improve teacher preparation and improve the accountability system,” she said.
The CCSSO is a nationwide nonprofit organization made up of the state leaders of elementary and secondary education programs. Luna served as president of the CCSSO in 2012.
Districts hire new superintendents
In other job changes, two southern Idaho districts have filled superintendents’ vacancies as the school year comes to a close.
The Hagerman School Board hired Jerome High School Principal Eric Anderson to succeed outgoing Superintendent Ty Jones. Anderson is set to start work July 1, while Jones has been tapped to serve as executive director of the Idaho High Schools Activities Association, the Twin Falls Times-News reports.
Anderson — who worked in Jerome for 22 years, including five years as principal – beat out a pool of nine applicants for the position, the paper reported. A search committee selected him from a pool of four finalists.
About 20 miles away, Gooding School District trustees hired Strasburg Public School Superintendent Mary Larsen of Strasburg, N.D., the Times-News also reports. Larsen will succeed Heather Williams, who resigned Jan. 16 but will continue working at the district part-time through the end of the school year.
Williams is working part-time as a teaching consultant with the Idaho Leads Project.
In western Idaho, Horseshoe Bend trustees are searching for a replacement for former Superintendent Vickie Renfro, who resigned in February. Dan Arriola has been named interim superintendent.
In an email to Idaho Education News Wednesday, Horseshoe Bend School Board Chairwoman Tina McDonald said there is no new information to share about the search. The board’s next meeting is set for Tuesday night.
Disclosure: Idaho Education News and the Idaho Leads Project are funded by a grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.