Schools chief Sherri Ybarra helped kick off the first House Education Committee meeting of the year Wednesday by pledging to work closely with lawmakers.
“Loud and clear, one of our main goals this session is strengthening communication and continuing to build on that relationship,” Ybarra told the committee.
Wednesday marked the first meeting of House Education this legislative session. In December, legislative leaders promoted Rep. Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, to serve as chairwoman of the committee.
Ybarra, a Mountain Home Republican, said VanOrden and other lawmakers told her to focus on the issues of academic standards and teacher evaluations. Teacher evaluations are the subject of a recent controversy, and will be tied to a teacher’s ability to earn a raise beginning with the 2015-16 evaluations data.
“With the recent attention to teacher evaluations, we will bring you several options to choose from, because that’s what an effective state superintendent does.”
This year’s House Education roster features a new look. Starting at the top, VanOrden replaces former Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, who did not seek re-election last year. In addition to that change, seven of the committee’s 15 members are new to the committee.
The majority of the committee’s members have education experience. Six of the committee members are current or retired teachers:
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- Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, who also served as superintendent of his local district.
- Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise.
- Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley.
- Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City.
- Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding.
- Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise.
On top of that, VanOrden and Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, used to serve on their local school boards. Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, was a member of the State Charter School Commission and a founder of North Star Charter School. She is also married to the committee’s immediate past chairman, Reed DeMordaunt, and successfully won his old legislative seat last year.
“This is a great committee here that has a lot of knowledge on it,” VanOrden said. “We have a few new ones, but a lot of them come from the education field.”
VanOrden said she agreed with several points that Gov. Butch Otter made Monday during his State of the State address.
“I liked the parts where the governor talked about funding the existing programs that we have in place, making sure those have adequate funding that we envisioned,” VanOrden said.
“I am going to review the budget with my committee before I go before the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee to talk to them, because I really want this committee to be a part of that process,” VanOrden continued.
Ybarra announced she will begin making good on her pledge to build relationships by hosting a State Department of Education open house from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday in the second floor rotunda at the Statehouse. Ybarra said the open house will offer legislators a chance to get to know her and her staff, and review priorities for the session. Lawmakers, educators, the public and press are all welcome to attend the event, Ybarra’s spokesman said.