Melba leader joins superintendent race

Melba Superintendent Andy Grover announced this week he will join three others in the GOP race for state superintendent of public instruction.

Andy Grover
Melba Superintendent Andy Grover

Grover has worked for the Melba School District for seven years, the last four as superintendent. Under his leadership, Melba’s elementary and secondary schools each received four stars in Idaho’s five-star rating system.

“It’s time for a state superintendent to have been a district superintendent,” Grover said.

Grover will run in the May GOP primary against at least three other candidates — Sherri Ybarra of Mountain Home, John Eynon of Cottonwood and Randy Jensen from American Falls. Jana Jones of Idaho Falls is the only Democrat on the ticket.

Grover grew up in the Ririe School Distict. He earned his first degree from Boise State University, a master’s from the University of Phoenix and an education specialist certificate from the University of Idaho. He is currently working on his doctorate from Northwest Nazarene University. He was in the Marine Corps reserves and is a veteran of the first Gulf War.

“My biggest reason for running is my desire to see students learn,” Grover said. “We need to continue to make opportunities for kids.

Grover’s wife, Candice, is a teacher in the Melba School District. They have three daughters.

The other candidates

  • Sherri Ybarra. The Mountain Home educator who has worked in several educational capacities over 17 years, as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, federal programs director and curriculum director. Ybarra says she will focus on three areas in her campaign: providing students with 21st century abilities, not overtesting students, and providing students with a safe and supportive environment.
  • John Eynon. A former Constitution Party officer in Idaho, Eynon left his third-party position and filed as a Republican. Eynon, a Cottonwood teacher, is running on an anti-Common Core platform.
  • Randy Jensen. The principal of William Thomas Middle School in American Falls is running as a Republican. During his formal campaign announcement on Jan. 24, Jensen pledged to be “the No. 1 kid advocate” and voiced support for the recommendations from Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education.
  • Jana Jones. An Idaho Falls Democrat with 40 years of education experience, Jones was nearly elected in 2006. The former chief deputy superintendent of public instruction earned nearly 49 percent of the vote in a narrow general election loss to Luna.

Who’s out

  • State Superintendent Tom Luna. After two terms, Luna said he won’t seek re-election so he can focus on the process of implementing the 20 proposals of the governor’s Task Force for Improving Education. He will remain in office for the rest of 2014.
  • Roger Quarles. When Luna announced he would not seek re-election, Quarles resigned as the state department’s chief deputy and returned to his previous job at Boise State University.
  • Melinda Smyser. The Parma Republican and former state senator quashed rumors last month, saying she is happy working for United States Sen. Jim Risch.
  • Heather Williams. The Gooding superintendent considered joining the race but decided against it for this term but said “it is  still on my radar for the future, now is just not the time for me.” She resigned as the Gooding superintendent, effective July 1.

 Who is still undecided

  •  Jeff Thompson. The third-term House member, who sits on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, said his constituents and supporters have convinced him to consider a run. The Idaho Falls Republican doesn’t sit on an education committee, but he has helped set and carry the public school budget on the House floor each of the last two years. On a side note: Thompson was in the news this week for running up more than $15,000 in taxpayer-funded travel over the past year. House Speaker Scott Bedke has asked Thompson to dial back the travel.
  • Steve Smylie. The Boise Republican and former House member had said he planned to step out of the political arena, but started gauging support by surveying his Facebook friends about a run. Smylie ran for the job in 2006, narrowly losing to Luna in the Republican primary.
  • Steven Thayn. The Emmett Republican has had a hard time making up his mind. He was out, then switched to “considering” a run when Luna stepped aside. Less than a week later, he swung back, saying, “I am not planning on running for state superintendent.” Still, Thayn left the door open: “There is a very small chance I could reconsider.” Thayn is a member of the Senate Education Committee and JFAC.



Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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