Ybarra wants flexibility with board for the deaf and blind

(Updated, 2:45 p.m., Feb. 9 to reflect Ybarra’s appointee will serve only when Ybarra cannot attend a meeting).

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra is seeking permission from the Legislature to appoint a replacement to serve on the board for the Educational Services for the Deaf and Blind.

Sherri Ybarra square
Sherri Ybarra

The state superintendent traditionally chairs the eight-member board, which is charged with overseeing the agency’s programs for people with sensory impairments. The agency operates the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind and offers services to help school districts and other state entities.

Tim Corder, a former Republican state senator and Ybarra’s special assistant, pushed for the bill Monday morning.

“The superintendent is assigned to many, many positions in and around education, and she takes each and all of them very seriously,” Corder said. “The reality is her time doesn’t always allow her to participate fully in each of those activities.”

If the new bill passes, Corder said Ybarra would appoint her special education director, Charlotte Silva, to the board for the deaf and the blind.

Before joining Ybarra’s administration, Silva served as the Boise Independent School District’s special education director.

On Monday afternoon, Ybarra spokeswoman Melinda Northern emphasized that Silva would only serve on the board in times when Ybarra could not attend meetings.

“The effort here is not to get (Ybarra) out of a job, but to give the superintendent the ability to appoint that person who has expertise in that particular field,” Corder said.

Silva would serve on the board for the duration of Ybarra’s four-year term.

Corder told the House Education Committee that past superintendents’ attendance at board meetings was part-time or irregular, and it would benefit the board to have a full-time advocate.

Previously, a non-voting substitute could attend a board meeting in the superintendent’s place. Under Corder’s bill, Ybarra’s appointee would become a full voting member.

Ybarra spokesman Kelly Everitt said the board typically meets once a month.

The House Education Committee voted to introduce the bill, which likely will head back to the same committee for a full hearing.

Corder’s bill contains an emergency clause, which would make the change effective as soon as the bill is signed into law. Normally, new laws become effective July 1, the first day of the state’s fiscal year.

Melissa McGrath, the former spokeswoman for past state superintendent Tom Luna, said Monday that Luna chaired the board for the Educational Services for the Deaf and the Blind during his time in office.

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