Boise hires its first female superintendent

Long-time Boise educator Lisa Roberts was named superintendent of Idaho’s second largest school district during a special board meeting Wednesday night.

Roberts, who was serving as the deputy superintendent, will be the first woman to lead Boise public schools in its almost 160 year history.

“I work with incredible people in the district,” Roberts said. “I love the Boise school district … and I am so incredibly honored to serve as the superintendent.”

Boise’s board of trustees unanimously selected Roberts, and several trustees became emotional while praising her.   

“Lisa Roberts is a trailblazer and an inspiration to women everywhere,” said board president Dave Wagers. “She is a strong, motivational leader who is well-qualified to take our schools to new heights.”

Lisa Roberts

Roberts has spent over 30 years in the Boise School District, which includes 23,000 students at 46 schools. Her professional background includes serving as an elementary school teacher, elementary principal, administrator and area director. She also has served on the district’s negotiations team for 18 years. Additionally, she is on the Board of Directors for the Women’s and Children Alliance and on St. Luke’s Community Health Board.

Trustee Nancy Gregory, suppressing tears, explained, “she creates a culture where people feel valued and welcome, a culture that allows people to be successful and feel supported.”

One man, a carpenter in the Boise School District who has worked with Roberts for many years, expressed, “I want someone who’s going to pick up the broom if they have to. I want someone that cares about the students and the district. Someone that is all in, and that is Mrs. Roberts.”

He spoke of how impressed he was seeing her on a Friday night in November before the opening of a new Boise elementary school, helping unload paper boxes and set up for the big day.

Roberts and her predecessor, Coby Dennis, were both hired after serving as deputy superintendent in a district that often hires from within. He too clocked over 30 years of work in the BSD. Dennis was the second-highest paid superintendent in the state, earning $204,337 per year. Of Roberts, Dennis said, “it’s her caring for kids, staff and teachers that sets her apart.”

Superintendents run their school districts, carrying out plans for improvement created in conjunction with school board trustees, principals, other administrators and teachers.

In a 2022 report produced by RAND and the American School District Panel, over 95% of superintendents agreed that the job has gotten more difficult over the past decade. Researchers predicted this was in part from challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dennis and Roberts navigated that pandemic and the resultant virtual learning during their service together. In a radio interview with Boise State University, Robert’s explained how part of their strategy included calling every family in their school district and evaluating their virtual learning needs.

They also addressed other issues like student mental health and declining enrollment. This year, their district focused on “Educating Today For A Better Tomorrow.”

Despite challenges faced by superintendents, in the same RAND report, 85% of survey responders nationally replied they were satisfied with their jobs.

The upcoming superintendent will start her new position on July 1, 2024.

Katie McGuire

Katie McGuire

Katie McGuire is a freelance reporter for EdNews. She lives in Meridian with her husband and their two children. She has a bachelor's degree in secondary education social science teaching from Brigham Young University and a master's in history from Kent State University.

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