New lawmaker embarks on second career

Ryan Kerby should be headed down the slide to retirement. But after 43 years in teaching, including 21 years as the superintendent of the New Plymouth School District, Kerby is starting a second career as an Idaho lawmaker.

“My brain would beat me up,” said the 62-year-old about relaxing during his senior years.

Kerby and other lawmakers are at the Statehouse this week for newbie orientation and to settle on committee assignments. The 2015 session begins January 12. Kerby is hopeful to find a spot on the House Education Committee but said “leadership can put me where they need me the most.”

Kerby was last month elected to the Idaho Legislature, representing District 9, and he’s already started writing bill proposals. He retired as the rural-school district leader (effective June 30, 2015)  and is anxious for his next challenge.

“I’m excited to try and solve some of the programs we have in front of us,” Kerby said. “I’d like to spend 16 years in the Legislature to see our education system vastly improve and our economy vastly improve. I’m real sure it’s going to happen.”

Ryan Kerby
Ryan Kerby

He’s already started scheming, plotting and lobbying just a month after winning his first general election. He’s drafted a bill that finances dual credits and he talks regularly to constituents, administrators, Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, and GOP leadership.

“He just loves to go to coffee shops and talk issues,” said his brother, Dave Kerby, a principal in Weiser. “He really enjoys the process. He’s like a pig in mud — he just loves it.”

And though education is Kerby’s expertise, he’s passionate about other issues, including jobs and the economy.

“I’m going to work real hard on keeping more roads open for recreation and getting more logs cut — I’m a multi-use person,” said Kerby, a member of the Payette Forest Coalition. “I’m also very interested in helping out the agriculture community.”

Kerby grew up on a dairy farm near Lapwai. He left rural Idaho on a basketball scholarship to Biola University in Southern California. He taught in private Christian schools in Southern California for eight years before returning to Idaho because he missed its great outdoors, fishing and hunting.

He and his wife, Kathy, live on 13 acres by the Payette River, just a five-minute ride to work,  “it’s a very peaceful place,” he said.

Kerby used to run cattle on his land, while raising two kids, coaching sports and teaching upper-level math classes at New Plymouth High.

He became the superintendent in May of 1984 where he launched some of the most progressive leadership models in Idaho. Kerby was a vocal supporter of Superintendent Tom Luna and his ideas, including the defeated Propositions 1, 2 and 3. Kerby was one of the first and only superintendents to implement an annual merit-pay plan for teachers. It has been in practice for 12 years and Kerby said it is successful. The district’s go-on rate (58 percent) is above the state average of 52 percent and the high school’s SAT scores also are above the state average.

“Every principal and teacher has measurable goals,” Kerby said. “They set their goals as a group and the collaboration is fun for them.”

Kerby said he is frustrated the state doesn’t set goals for education.

“We implement ideas and we don’t measure if they are working,” Kerby said. “I’m supportive of the governor’s 20 recommendations, but not much will impact students without goals.”

Kerby said he has the heart and desire to improve conditions in Idaho education and the economy.

“He has a lot of experiences besides education — he’s even spread cow manure and moved pipe,” said Dave Kerby. “He’s high energy and loves to figure out stuff — how to improve.”


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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