Meet Terry Gilbert, Democratic nominee for state superintendent

Terry Gilbert, a Boise resident and former teacher, is the Democratic nominee for superintendent of public instruction.

If elected, he plans to draw upon his experience as a teacher and a teachers’ union leader to keep public money in public schools, support early literacy and vocational programs, and address aging school facilities. He wants to collaborate with teachers, students and parents to forward the idea that “public education is the cornerstone of democracy.”

Gilbert will face Republican Debbie Critchfield in the Nov. 8 general election. The two candidates are competing to replace Sherri Ybarra, who’s served in the position for nearly eight years.

EdNews will closely cover the superintendent’s race. To learn more about Gilbert’s opponent, Debbie Critchfield, visit this link. For information about both candidates’ campaign strategies, click here. The general election will occur on Nov. 8. Absentee ballots are available now, upon request. Visit to learn more.

Born in Oregon, Gilbert graduated from Northwest Nazarene University with degrees in English and curriculum development. He began his career in rural Marsing, where he taught alongside his wife Carolyn. The two later moved to rural Washington, where Gilbert taught English, and then moved back to Nampa. He taught in the classroom for 14 years.

Shortly after their move back to Idaho, Gilbert was elected president of the Idaho Education Association, the state’s teachers union.

During his one-year term, he served as a spokesperson for teachers across the state and traveled to most school districts to speak with educators and administrators. He later became a regional director of the IEA after a brief stint working with the teachers’ union in North Dakota.

Gilbert is an active member of Rotary, and often refers to the international club’s “four-way test.”

Here’s what Gilbert has on his superintendency to-do list

Gilbert advocates for vocational programming in schools, and wants to see students leave high school with more options. He wants to collaborate with parents and students, and support districts as they expand to new programs.

At a campaign ‘house party’ last week, Gilbert mingled with attendees before launching into a discussion of his platform.

He says he wants to “increase and protect” public education funding. He’s concerned about a push among some parents and lawmakers to implement school vouchers, a system that would allow parents to use all or part of the public funding set aside for their child to fund private school enrollment.

Gilbert’s also concerned about Idaho’s literacy scores and learning loss that occurred during the pandemic. He hopes to support districts in their efforts to improve third-grade reading scores. One idea, he says, is to create a volunteer program for retired teachers and others throughout the state to read to young students.

“I don’t want to put the burden on our current teachers,” he told a group of friends and neighbors at a campaign event. “They have enough to do, but we should be able to find people to help them.”

Gilbert acknowledged that facing a conservative Legislature as a Democrat would be difficult. But he hopes to involve parents, students and teachers in his deliberations over education policy and funding through what he calls the “Cornerstone Movement,” named for his belief that public education is the cornerstone of democracy.

“In the role of superintendent, I’m just one person,” Gilbert said. “But if I have 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 or more people who are willing to pick up the phone and write to the legislators, suddenly it’s not just the superintendent talking.”

The movement is also part of Gilbert’s goal to facilitate effective communication between districts and the state office, and to be a services center for local school boards, educators, administrators and community members.

EdNews asked Gilbert to fill out a candidate questionnaire. Read his answers here.

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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