Coeur d’Alene candidates offer views on policy, gender rules

Candidates vying for seats on the Coeur d’Alene school board on Nov. 7 answered community questions Saturday, briefly discussing their views on a range of topics.

Four of the five Coeur d’Alene candidates attended Saturday’s forum, hosted by Kootenai County Republican Women Federated: Zone Two candidates James “Jimmy” McAndrew and Yasmin Harris, Zone Three incumbent Heather Tenbrink and challenger Matt Blatt. It’s unclear if Zone Two candidate Mike Stavish is still running.

Yasmin Harris and her family.

Harris is married to a retired Marine and has two boys attending district schools. She says she intends to be a strong voice for parents, students and taxpayers; elevate student achievement, bring budget clarity to the district and fight back against bullies. Parents’ rights in education is a “heavy topic on my heart,” she said. She has a background in business operations. To read more about Harris, use this link.

McAndrews spent all of his life in North Idaho and has two children in the district. He has extensive management experience in real estate and sales with a local bank. He’s active as a leader and community volunteer. Improving student achievement is one of his priorities; another is the issue of affordability and increasing growth. He believes the school district should have a seat at the table so it can be proactive rather than reactive. To learn more about McAndrews, use this link.

Jimmy McAndrews and his family.

Tenbrink moved to the area 19 years ago. All four of her children have attended Coeur d’Alene schools. She has a background in science and accounting. As the only incumbent, she’s proud of the new strategic plan that focuses on academic achievement. “I am excited about this plan. I want to make sure our community understands what they are getting from it and sees results from it,” she said. To learn more about Tenbrink, use this link.

Blatt is retired from a career in the military. He described the district as a “rudderless ship that is drifting around the lake.” He’s opposed to the exploitation of children, and says adults should not have discussions about personal politics, beliefs in how a family should be structured or issues related to sex. “These are not topics adults should have with children. That needs to stop,” he said. “We need to take some responsibility. Take charge of our school system and make sure that our children are given a better education.” To learn more about Blatt’s campaign, use this link.

For this story, Idaho Education News selected two topics discussed during the forum. Here are the candidates’ responses.

Should males participate in girls’ sports, and what are your thoughts on the bathroom issue?

Tenbrink. “Students need to use the bathroom that corresponds to their sex at birth or a single-use facility. Everyone needs to be able to come to school and everyone needs to be able to use the bathroom. We need to make sure that all of our students are comfortable and safe.”

Matt Blatt and his family.

Blatt.The first part is absolutely not. So children are asexual. There’s a reason why children aren’t allowed to buy alcohol or join the military or buy a gun. There’s a whole host of things that minors are not permitted to do, yet somehow adults think it’s OK to talk to them about things like sex and sexual confusion. And the next part of this is really simply propaganda. So, as you’re trapped in this little buzzword game — trans and pronouns — and all this silliness by engaging in counter propaganda, all we do is continue to perpetrate this same conversation, which detracts from our education system. We shouldn’t be having these conversations with our children. It’s very clear — if you’re a biological boy, you don’t play girls’ sports and you don’t go into their restrooms. If there’s a child who has issues with this … it must be addressed at a church, in a medical community or at home. It is not supposed to be addressed in the school.”

Heather Tenbrink and her husband.

McAndrews. “Boys are boys and girls are girls. They should go to their bathrooms. It’s a distraction that needs to stop. I’ve got a daughter and there’s not gonna be any boys in her restroom. Furthermore, people who violate this policy should be given some severe punishment. Out of the integrity of women , boys play boys’ sports and girls play girls.’”

Harris. “This ideology is from the devil. This is not who God is and how he created us. I think the better question is why are we even entertaining it? It’s beyond me. It is important to keep our children safe. This is one of the most vulnerable places when we use the bathroom. To feel that you don’t have (safety) is absolutely ridiculous. It comes back to us adults, and what we are allowing. We have lost sight of our roles in the school.”

Should the superintendent unilaterally make policy decisions without input from the board?

Harris. “The board is made up of community members who are the voice of the schools and these kids. He works for us. We need to work together to bring forth the best policies.”

McAndrews. “Trustees are elected by their constituents and the superintendent is hired, fired and held accountable by the board. It only makes sense for policies and procedures that the trustees have a seat at that table. And we don’t have a seat at the table in so many ways here in Kootenai County. To have more positive outcomes that reflect the parents’ wishes and the students’ wishes, there’s nothing wrong with five or six people putting their heads together to come up with the best outcome. If I were a superintendent, I can’t imagine thinking any way differently.”

Blatt. “Majority vote makes decisions. Last year, the board ceded its responsibility to the superintendent by passing a policy that allows him to write procedures to any policy that the board writes. And he doesn’t need to go to the board for review. If you ever watch a board meeting, it is quite clear that the superintendent imagines himself to be in charge. He provides the agendas on Thursday nights without any supporting documents and expects the board to answer all the questions for all the decisions they’re supposed to make over the weekend. Frankly, he’s sandbagging them. He needs to be brought to heel and have consequences for his defiance and the board needs to resume its role of being in charge.”

Tenbrink. “So the board as a whole, we hire and can fire a superintendent. Currently, in the Coeur d’Alene School District we have directed our superintendent to make procedures for our policies. He and his administrative staff make the procedures. Those come back to us in our consent agenda and certainly if anyone has a problem with the procedures, I hope they would bring it to the attention of the board. We meet regularly with the superintendent and we know the issues that are being worked on.”

Only two of the six Lakeland trustee candidates attended Saturday’s forum, so EdNews did not include their comments in this article. Check back for more coverage of Lakeland’s election.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday