Ybarra replaces two top staffers

Major changes are coming to state superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s office this summer, as she replaces two top members of her executive staff.

Will Goodman

Duncan Robb, Ybarra’s chief policy officer, is leaving his position Aug. 17 after about two years on the job. Longtime Ybarra ally Will Goodman will succeed Robb. Goodman previously served as Ybarra’s chief technology officer before returning to the Mountain Home School District in 2015 to serve as director of operations and technology.

Unlike Robb, Goodman will be classified as a salaried state employee, SDE spokeswoman Kris Rodine said. Robb was employed by an out-of-state temp agency, DePaul Industries, which won a no-bid contract for the arrangement in 2016 after Ybarra ran out of money appropriated for salaries.

Goodman’s annual salary is $100,000, according to a SDE news release.

As previously announced, chief deputy Pete Koehler retired in June. The former Nampa School District superintendent became one of Ybarra’s first hires after her 2014 election victory.

Duncan Robb

This summer, Ybarra hired former Challis district Superintendent Peter McPherson to succeed Koehler. McPherson started in June, and Ybarra introduced him to a large group of education leaders Wednesday morning in Boise.

The chief deputy and chief policy adviser positions are two of the most important — and visible — positions in Ybarra’s SDE. Both play key roles during the legislative session and are responsible for helping implement Ybarra’s policies, proposed legislation and budget initiatives. Additionally, those positions occupy two of the four spots on Ybarra’s executive team (the others are held by community relations officer Chuck Zimmerly and Tim McMurtrey, the deputy superintendent for federal programs and academic performance).

“I’ve learned a great deal from my time with Superintendent Ybarra, and I look forward to bringing that experience to the next step in my journey,” Robb said in a SDE news release.

Peter McPherson

As with their predecessors, McPherson and Goodman would likely play very public roles during the 2019 legislative session — if Ybarra is re-elected. The Republican Ybarra faces Cindy Wilson, a retired teacher and Meridian Democrat, in November’s general election.

If Ybarra is re-elected and her team enters 2019 intact, Goodman and McPherson would need to develop relationships with a variety of lawmakers, education advocates and officials from the next governor’s office.

“I’m thrilled that Will (Goodman) is re-joining the team,” Ybarra said in a SDE news release. “He is a talented administrator who was instrumental working with a diverse group of legislators, districts and other stakeholders to find a successful solution when Idaho transitioned to a new Internet service model for schools.”

Those aren’t the only two recent changes at the SDE. Former director of academics Scott Cook, a longtime SDE director, is no longer with the department. According to the latest SDE organizational charts, Kelly Brady is now director of academics and mastery-based education. Previously, Brady served as mastery-based education director.

Also, Aaron McKinnon replaced former science and STEM coordinator Scott Smith after the 2018 legislative session.

Smith and Cook played big roles in the recent three-year debate over science standards, a process which ultimately led to the Senate Education Committee adopting a new, unredacted slate of standards earlier this year.

It is not unusual for government officials to experience turnover during the summer, as the state’s new budget year begins July 1.

SDE organizational chart, July 2018 (Click to enlarge)

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