EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the first in an ongoing series profiling influential or interesting members of Eastern Idaho’s educational community. If you’d like to suggest an educator or administrator to be profiled, please email EdNews editor Jennifer Swindell at [email protected].
REXBURG — The job of a school board trustee isn’t just approving budgets and managing school district resources.
Brian Pyper, vice-chairman of Madison School District 321’s board, believes the role is far more all-encompassing.
“As a board member it’s easy to get lost in keeping track of all the transportation issues or teacher negotiations,” Pyper said. “And sometimes you lose track of the strategic vision of what we are trying to achieve with public education.”
That’s why the first-term trustee takes every opportunity for training and professional development. And it’s paying off.
Pyper recently was awarded the Idaho School Boards Association Trustee Award of Boardsmanship with mastery recognition. The four-tiered award recognizes board trustees who have spent upwards of 100 hours at trainings, conventions, seminars or workshops.
Mastery, the third tier, also requires a trustee serve on a board committee, attend 90 percent of board meetings, and write articles for the ISBA. Only 14 percent of Idaho’s approximately 500 school board trustees have received mastery or above.
Training topics range from budgeting and parliamentary procedure, to teacher negotiation and open meeting laws.
“I wouldn’t feel right just being on the board,” Pyper said. “I want to do the best I can and if that means learning government budgeting or how to effectively conduct labor negotiations I’m going to do it, because I want to do this right.”
He attributes the current cordial relationship District 321 has with the Rexburg Education Association to improved training among board trustees.
Madison Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas has been impressed by Pyper’s ability to understand curriculum changes.
“He’s worked really hard to understand Common Core and the new curriculum coming down the pipe,” Thomas said. “He has a real drive to understand how curriculum will work for students and teachers. It’s an area he’s really set himself apart in.”
Pyper’s drive to learn and grow professionally isn’t limited to the boardroom. He has a strong belief in providing professional development opportunities for others.
As a physics education professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho, Pyper has a long history of educational advocacy with American Association of Physics Teachers.
He’s served twice as president of the Association’s Idaho-Utah section. In that role he organized two professional development conventions at BYU-Idaho for secondary and post-secondary physics educators.
“When I started, these conferences opened my eyes to the cool things going on in other people’s classrooms and that people cared and were paying attention to the same stuff I was,” Pyper said. “These conferences are stimulating, intellectually interesting and full of networking opportunities.”
Pyper also has served on committees organizing national AAPT conventions and worked on a task force to evaluate next generation science standards. Idaho is considering these standards for adoption into Idaho Core Standards in 2016.
AAPT Past-president Jill Marshall said Pyper is always engaged in doing the necessary things that don’t garner lots of attention, but are essential for organizations to run.
“He’s truly dedicated to teaching and to students,” she said. “His willingness to keep learning is part of his commitment to people around him, it’s related to his faith and it’s about how he sees his path in the world.”
Reporter Nate Sunderland can be reached at [email protected].