Superintendent’s candidates: comparing education resumes

(UPDATED, 6:44 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, with statement from Ybarra campaign.)

Sherri Ybarra is 18 credit hours short of her doctorate in education, the Republican state superintendent’s candidate said in a statement Thursday evening.

The Mountain Home school administrator issued a two-paragaph statement about her academic status — the latest controversy to plague her campaign.

On Wednesday, Idaho Education News and the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported that Ybarra had not received her doctorate from the University of Idaho; during much of the campaign, Ybarra had said she expected to receive her doctorate by August. Ybarra instead received an educational specialist’s degree from the U of I in August.

“Ybarra currently maintains a 3.82 GPA and needs 18 credit hours in her dissertation toward completing her doctorate degree,” the campaign’s statement said.

Ybarra says she was admitted into the U of I’s Educational Leadership Program in the fall of 2009. “The U of I’s doctorate program is research-based and flexible.”

This week, Idaho Education News looked into the academic backgrounds of both candidates for the open state superintendent’s seat, contacting the candidates’ schools for verification. Here’s a summary of our findings:

Sherri Ybarra

She received a bachelor of arts degree in May 1995 from West Liberty State College, West Liberty, W. Va. The school, now known as West Liberty University, verified this degree Tuesday.

She received a master’s degree in education from the U of I in 2007; the U of I verified this degree Tuesday.

Ybarra’s educational specialist’s degree has an emphasis on superintendency. In essence, it gives Ybarra an endorsement to work as a district superintendent, where a master’s of education qualifies its recipient to work as a school principal, said Jeffrey Brooks, a professor of educational leadership and chairman of the U of I’s Department of Leadership and Counseling in Boise.

An educational specialist’s degree is beyond a master’s degree, but not as advanced as a doctorate. Like a master’s degree, it normally takes 18 months to two years to complete. It is not uncommon for educators to seek this degree and work as a superintendent while pursuing a doctorate. “The route she has taken has been pretty common,” Brooks said Tuesday.

Ybarra decided to change her course of study within the doctoral program, campaign spokeswoman Melinda Nothern said Monday. When that happened, some of her credits did not transfer. Ybarra instead decided to apply the credits toward the educational specialist’s degree, Nothern said.

Ybarra still needs to reschedule a data class for her doctorate and complete her dissertation, Nothern said Monday.

Jana Jones

The Democratic candidate’s received two degrees in special education from Utah State University — a bachelor of science degree in 1974, and a master of education in 1981. Utah State verified both of these degrees Wednesday afternoon.

Jones received her doctorate in educational leadership from Idaho State University in August 2001. ISU verified this degree Tuesday.

The candidates’ educational backgrounds stand in contrast to outgoing state superintendent Tom Luna. The first non-educator to hold the elected state superintendent’s post, Luna holds a degree in weights and measures. During his eight years in office, Luna’s academic background was a recurring talking point — and, for his opponents, a point of criticism.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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