Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra announced Thursday she has hired Marilyn Whitney to serve as her deputy superintendent for communications and policy.
Whitney is a familiar face in education circles. She currently serves as Gov. Butch Otter’s deputy chief of staff and senior special assistant for education and government services. Prior to that, Whitney served as chief communications and legislative affairs officer for the State Board of Education.
“Marilyn’s keen insight and extensive relationships with legislators and education leaders will further energize my department’s efforts to keep Idaho students safe, attract and retain great teachers and ensure schools have the resources they need,” Ybarra said in a news release.
Whitney has served as Otter’s deputy and education liaison since January 2015. During her tenure with Otter, Whitney has helped implement a series of education reform initiatives issued by Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education. As part of that work, Whitney worked with education groups and legislators on issues such as teacher pay, an early elementary school reading initiative, the state’s mastery-based education pilot program and the launch of the STEM Action Center.
“I share Superintendent Ybarra’s commitment to providing enhanced opportunities and improving outcomes for Idaho students,” Whitney said in a news release. “I’m committed to building on the momentum we have seen in recent years to support strategic investments and encourage innovation in our education system to help ensure student success.”
The hiring of Whitney is significant for Ybarra as she begins her second term in office and prepares for the opening of the 2019 legislative session in January.
Last month, Ybarra terminated former communications director Allison Westfall. Over the summer, Ybarra’s former chief policy advisor, Duncan Robb, resigned. Her new job title indicates Whitney will work on both communications and policy issues.
Whitney starts Jan. 2, and will receive an annual salary of $124,800, according to the SDE. That means Whitney will make about $17,000 more than Ybarra, who is earning $107,356 this year.
Whitney earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in education from Boise State University. She began her career as an educator and went on to work in the technology sector for 20 years. Whitney has worked at Micron Technology and Idaho National Laboratory on employee, investor, community and media relations.
An Idaho native, Whitney and her husband have four grown children and six grandchildren who all live in Idaho.