Editor’s Note: This multimedia report is part of a series taking a closer look at the 2018 state superintendents’ race. A report covering challenger Jeff Dillon is available here. Multimedia reports and analysis spotlighting the 2018 gubernatorial and congressional race are available here.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra says she has grown as a candidate and a leader since winning her first term in 2014.
Ybarra, who launched her 2018 re-election campaign last week, will face off against Wilder Superintendent Jeff Dillon in the May 2018 Republican primary.
Ybarra, a former principal, teacher and federal programs director, stopped by Idaho Education News’ office Monday to discuss her new campaign, her goals for Idaho students and her experience in office.
“I’m just excited for my next campaign to get started,” Ybarra said. “It’s not my first rodeo any more, it’s my second, and I’m excited this time around.”
Ybarra said she has learned from some of her rookie campaign mistakes from 2014, when she was criticized after Idaho Education News used public records to show she had not voted in a stretch of 15 of 17 primary and general elections after she moved to Mountain Home in 1996.
“I’m an example of sometimes not getting involved, and we talked about that in first campaign, my lack of voting, and I think it will be a great learning experience,” Ybarra said. “I tell kids to learn from my mistakes and get involved early.”
Ybarra said one of the leadership lessons she has learned is the public expects transparency from its government.
Several legislators criticized Ybarra in 2016 after she sat on a taxpayer-funded outside review of teacher evaluations and did not release the review until Idaho Education News published it through an Idaho Public Records Act request.
“We used state money to have a company come in and look at the evaluations, and people want to know what’s going on,” Ybarra said. “The approach next time around will be go to the public often and early, and let folks see that.”
Ybarra reiterated that she chose to put her re-election campaign on hold this summer until she finished assignments at the State Department of Education — including developing a budget recommendation for the next fiscal year and helping finalize Idaho’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
She said her husband, Matthew, and son, who attends public schools, support her and the family jointly decided she should seek re-election.
“They knew this was a dream of mine, and I didn’t just want to serve one term,” Ybarra said.
As for her campaign goals, Ybarra said they are aligned to the strategic plan she developed at the State Department of Education.
Her goals are:
- Attracting and retaining great teachers.
- Helping students persevere in life and be ready for college and careers.
- Accountability is everyone’s shared responsibility.
Ybarra said her experience in education and politics taught her not to suddenly change up the goals on people and to allow time for strategies to show progress toward those goals.
“We’ve had three goals since I stepped into office, and we’re continuing to work on those three main goals,” she said.