Ybarra sworn in as state superintendent

Today is Sherri Ybarra’s first official day on the job.

Ybarra Sworn In
Judge Michael McLaughlin administers the oath of office to new Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra on Monday morning. Photo courtesy of Brady W. Moore, Idaho State Department of Education.

Ybarra was sworn in as Superintendent of Public Instruction during private ceremonies Monday morning at the State Department of Education office in Boise. Ybarra was joined by her husband, Matthew, her son, Matthew Jr., staff members and close friends during the ceremony.

One of her first orders of business will be to meet with the media and outline priorities for her administration. On Tuesday afternoon Ybarra is set to conduct her first press conference in office.

A public inauguration ceremony for Ybarra and the state’s other constitutional officers is scheduled for noon Friday on the steps of the Statehouse.

Ybarra succeeds outgoing Superintendent Tom Luna, who was first elected to the post in 2006 and reelected in 2010.

Luna opened a door for Ybarra last January, when he announced that he would not seek a third term in office. With little name recognition and fundraising, Ybarra was able to emerge from a four-way Republican primary race after securing almost 29 percent of the vote.

In November, Ybarra edged out Democratic challenger Jana Jones, winning the election with 50.6 percent of the vote, claiming a 5,566 vote-margin in a race where more than 228,000 ballots were cast across the state.

Although Ybarra didn’t begin working officially until today, she moved into an office at State Department of Education’s headquarters in November, taking advantage of Luna’s offer to begin transitioning early. Since then, she has worked with a 19-person transition team that includes several state lawmakers and school district superintendents.

During an interview with Idaho Education News last month, Ybarra revealed that Nampa School District’s former interim superintendent, Pete Koehler, will serve as her interim chief deputy. Former Republican Mountain Home state Sen. Tim Corder, who helped lead Ybarra’s campaign, has also accepted a full-time job as special assistant to the superintendent.

Pete Koehler
Pete Koehler

Koehler said he is coming out of retirement to take the job, but only plans to stay with Ybarra’s administration through May or June – when he will go back into retirement.

“I will be here through the end of spring, and at that point then I cannot go beyond what PERSI allows,” Koehler said. “It is a relatively short period of time, not quite half a year.”

Ybarra won’t have to wait long for her first big assignment in office. Later this month, she is scheduled to present her K-12 public school’s budget request to the Legislature’s budget-setting Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Thus far, Ybarra has declined to reveal her budget priorities, but said she has been preparing.

“Right now, I am still studying that, working with the governor’s office and JFAC,” she said last month. “I will be ready for my presentation on (Jan.) 28th.”

The 2015 legislative session opens next Monday, Jan. 12, with Gov. Butch Otter’s State of the State address and Otter’s own budget recommendations.

Like Otter, Ybarra was elected to a four-year term that will run through 2018.

Check back with Idaho Education News on Tuesday afternoon for full coverage of Ybarra’s first official press conference.

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