Wilson kicks off campaign in Preston

PRESTON — Cindy Wilson pulled her blue Audi sedan into the Preston public library’s empty parking lot a little after 4 p.m. Saturday.

A gaggle of red and blue balloons bobbled in the backseat, props for the Capital High School government teacher’s hometown announcement of her Democratic candidacy for superintendent of public instruction.

“Preston is home and a special place for me,” said the 33-year educator as she approached the doors of a library conference room reserved for her announcement.

Wilson’s husband, Wayne, walked ahead, balloons flailing overhead.

“I’m not the kind of person who puts up balloons,” said the barrel-chested corrections officer and former logger, “but I fully support her in this. I believe she’s actually overqualified for the job.”

Cindy Wilson is one of two Boise Democratic candidates vying to be Idaho’s next public schools chief. She officially entered the race in late February but made an early campaign stop in Preston, a rural Southeast Idaho town nestled against the Utah border.

“My family homesteaded here in 1878,” she said.

Some 25 people attended the event, including family, friends, local business owners and educators and State Board of Education trustee Richard Westerberg, of Preston.

Wilson addressed the crowd a little after 5 p.m., touting her career in both Idaho’s rural and urban school districts. Decades teaching in a variety of districts helped convince her of the need for more equitable opportunities for Idaho’s rural kids, she said.

“We have to get out of the State of Ada to meet the state’s constitutional mandate of equal and thorough education for all,” she said, using an apparent reference to Boise and its political milieu. “We have to visit schools.”

Wilson said she would work closely with Idaho’s school funding formula committee, charged with updating how the state carves up K-12 dollars, to close teacher pay gaps between the state’s urban and rural districts.

“Good teachers are the No. 1 contributor to effective education,” she said.

Westerberg asked about her views on state testing, including Idaho’s K-3, statewide reading test, which found itself at the center of a political debate this legislative session.

Gov. Butch Otter last week vetoed a bill that would have removed the Idaho Reading Indicator from a list of tools that can be used for measuring student achievement and growth — and determining teacher pay raises.

The longtime government teacher responded to Westerberg by saying state tests should include a broader range of subjects, including civics, but added that tests are “needed to make comparisons to see who’s being successful.”

“Good answer,” Westerberg said.

After the speech, Cindy Wilson took a jab at current state superintendent and Republican candidate Sherri Ybarra.

“I’m disappointed that the current leadership isn’t visiting our schools like they should,” Wilson said, “at least that’s what I’m hearing everywhere I go.”

Wilson joins Allen Humble of Boise in the May 15 Democratic primary. Humble filed his preliminary campaign paperwork in February. Incumbent candidate Ybarra and Wilder district Superintendent Jeff Dillon will meet in the May 15 Republican primary.

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