Powerful trio sends an invite to Ybarra

The leaders of Idaho’s three most powerful education groups sent Sherri Ybarra a letter Wednesday morning inviting her to their next meeting. The letter was mailed to her Mountain Home address just a few hours after she secured enough votes to become Idaho’s next superintendent of public instruction.

The letter was signed by Karen Echeverria, executive director of the Idaho School Boards Association; Penni Cyr, president of the Idaho Education Association;  and Rob Winslow, executive director of the Idaho Association School Administrators.

The longtime leaders of groups representing trustees, teachers, principals and superintendents said they don’t know Ybarra very well. They don’t want to wait to begin a courtship.

“We look forward to working with her and hope to see her soon,” Echeverria said. “I don’t know her very well at all.”

Echeverria, Cyr and Winslow have been meeting regularly all year to discuss their own agendas and initiatives, seeking to find common ground that could lead to legislation.

“We asked to meet with her and we asked how we can help as she goes about filling her staff,” Cyr said.

The IEA endorsed and financially supported Ybarra’s opponent, Democrat Jana Jones.

“We liked and respected both candidates but the committee thought Jana Jones had more experience,” Cyr said. “We do not know Sherri very well but we’re excited about having an educator back in the office. “

Education’s power trio united behind recommendations issued by Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Eduction during the run up to the 2014 Legislature. During the session, they testified together on several issues, including support for the task force recommendations.

Winslow said his group is hoping Ybarra considers giving more local control on some line items of the education budget, which accounts for nearly half of all state dollars.

“We are glad to have someone with the background of a teacher and an administrator,” he said. “I don’t know her very well so we are certainly curious about how her staff will be set up.”

The superintendent’s race was the closest of the night in the seven statewide competitions and wasn’t settled until Wednesday morning.

Ybarra said in a statement that she would immediately begin working with outgoing State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna on her transition to office. She did not talk to media Wednesday morning and instead sent an electronic release thanking family and supporters.

“We will be urging Sherri to fill committees with classroom teachers and administrators because they are the professionals,” Cyr said. “The voices of teachers need to be heard.”

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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