Ybarra’s out. Here’s what happens next.

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra

Debbie Critchfield ousted Idaho schools chief Sherri Ybarra Tuesday, guaranteeing a shakeup at the State Department of Education.

But hold your ponies — it doesn’t mean Ybarra’s out just yet.

Or that Critchfield’s in.

Debbie Critchfield

The former State Board of Education president’s May 17 GOP primary win secures fellow Republican Ybarra’s ouster, eventually. And a Democrat still stands between Critchfield and the job.

Ybarra stays in office while Critchfield stays on the campaign trail. Ybarra won’t have to pack her things until January, when her replacement officially steps in.

So here’s what we know: 1) Ybarra’s out, but she’s in for the rest of the year; and 2) either Critchfield or Democrat Terry Gilbert, a former state teachers union president who ran unopposed in the primary, replaces her.

Idaho’s mostly red, but it’s widely known that a Democrat in the schools chief chair isn’t a pipe dream. Ybarra narrowly defeated Democrat Cindy Wilson in the 2018 General Election. Ybarra’s predecessor, Republican Tom Luna, succeeded Democrat and longtime Idaho educator Marilyn Howard as state superintendent in 2007.

Terry Gilbert

It’s hard to say if Gilbert will bring the same tenacity Wilson brought in 2018, but either he or Critchfield will grab the baton come November.

Critchfield’s primary race showed that she can campaign heavily, for months on end — and amass a hefty war chest to sustain it.

One unknown: what the forthcoming shakeup will mean for a state department responsible for Idaho’s biggest budget (over $2 billion), and for the 100-plus people it employs.

Employee turnover follows political changeup. Different leaders serve up different flavors of Kool-Aid, so staffing changes are usually a thing when a new leader steps in.

How deep the changes can go depends on the leader, but it’s hard to imagine some of Ybarra’s top staffers, who campaigned against Critchfield in the primary, sticking around — or Ybarra’s replacement keeping them around.

What we can expect: at least some changeup among higher-ups.

Rewind to 2014, when Ybarra spent six months building her administrative team with several people she already knew — including her former boss at the Mountain Home School District.

Other hires from her Mountain Home connections:

  • Former district IT director Will Goodman, who served as the state’s chief technology officer. He resigned after five months on the job to return to Mountain Home.
  • Tim Corder, a member of Ybarra’s campaign team who worked as Ybarra’s special assistant at the SDE. He was also a Republican state senator from Mountain Home and served in the Idaho Legislature for eight years.
  • Kelly Everitt, a former Mountain Home newspaper editor who’s still a public information specialist at the SDE.

EdNews tracked the changeups closely seven years ago and even created an organizational chart of top administrators, along with their job descriptions and salaries.

Expect similar updates when Ybarra’s replacement steps in in 2023.

We just have another election to get through first.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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