Wilson talks school improvement in Idaho Falls

IDAHO FALLS — Cindy Wilson swiped through photos on her phone while waiting to greet locals at the Idaho Falls Public Library Monday.

The Idaho schools chief candidate acknowledged that her round of morning meet-and-greets at the library and a nearby popular pancake and steakhouse had been “slow.”

However, a familiar face had caught Wilson’s attention at the restaurant earlier that morning.

“Here it is,” she said, pointing to a picture on her phone of film star Harrison Ford, a frequenter of nearby Jackson, Wyo., who had stopped in for breakfast. “It’s definitely him.”

Wilson, the Democratic nominee for state superintendent of public instruction, has spent much of July touring East Idaho to drum up support for her challenge to Republican incumbent Sherri Ybarra.

Capturing public interest in the campaign mid-summer has been a challenge, Wilson admitted. Despite Monday’s slow start, a handful of local parents and patrons showed up at the library.

Wilson, who recently ramped up her criticism of Ybarra, greeted the locals and again took aim at the incumbent.

“I’m concerned that we’ve had no increase in student achievement in the last four years,” Wilson said. “My opponent says her record speaks for itself. I think it does.”

Wilson pegged “improving student performance” as her top priority. She offered some suggestions, from improving student-teacher relationships and early childhood learning to more individualized instruction and improved teacher training.

“Teachers are the No. 1 factor in student achievement,” said Wilson, who retired earlier this year following a 33-year teaching career.

Wilson also walked attendees through her plan to put a “CAPE” on Idaho schools. The acronym includes an emphasis on improving four areas: 

  • Civic education. 
  • Equal access to opportunity, no matter where students live.
  • Partnerships within communities to help kids learn and find “meaning after graduation.” 
  • Early childhood learning. 

Local parent Michelle Price called the meet-and-greet “helpful.” Though typically supportive of GOP candidates in highly Republican Idaho, Price said she is “less inclined” to follow party lines when it comes to education.

“I definitely liked some of the things (Wilson) had to say,” Price said.

Local parent Jessica Cefalo said she’s not affiliated with any party. Though “disheartened” over the current state of education in Idaho, Cefalo said she’s not yet sure which candidate to vote for come November.

“I still need to do a little bit of research, but I’m definitely trying to do my due diligence to learn about each candidate.”

Wilson most recently taught advanced-placement government and politics at Boise’s Capital High School. Throughout her career, she has received several honors, including Idaho Humanities Council’s outstanding teacher of the humanities in 2013 and Idaho Education Association, Region Two friend of educators award.

Wilson will spend time next month campaigning in North Idaho, according to a calendar posted on her campaign webpage.

Idaho Education News reached out to Ybarra and a campaign spokeswoman several times requesting a campaign schedule and has not yet received a response.

More information about Wilson is available online at her campaign website and Facebook page. Click here for an in-depth Ed News profile of Wilson from earlier this year.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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