‘Continue to help us’: Critchfield, Little address school trustees

As the one-time chairwoman of a school board in Cassia County, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield was responsible for signing high school diplomas, including her son’s. 

“It really made me stop and think…’Did I back up that diploma? Did that piece of paper mean something? Did I contribute to my local board?’” Critchfield said Wednesday, speaking to roughly 500 Idaho school trustees. 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield

Critchfield told the trustees, who are gathering in Boise for the Idaho School Boards Association’s annual convention, that they’re responsible for setting the tone and direction of their schools.

“I know that Idaho can be a national leader, and the real work takes place with your local boards,” the first-term Republican superintendent said. “Take advantage of this opportunity. Don’t waste the time that you have to serve.”

Wednesday kicked off the three-day convention at the Boise Centre, where trustees are participating in workshops, crafting a legislative platform and networking. 

The first day included a keynote speech from motivational speaker Kyle Scheele on teachers that shaped his life. The trustees also received training on everything from the basics of school law, finance and policy to communicating with patrons and using data to hold administrators accountable to achievement goals. 

Trustees also heard from Idaho Gov. Brad Little. In a pre-recorded video, the Republican governor touted the state’s recent education investments, including a 16.4% increase in public school funding this year, and asked trustees for their  “support to advance our shared goal in education.“

“I need you to share your experience and advocate for the needs of our students, teachers and school staff,” Little said. “Please continue to help us by having conversations like these and giving us advice on how we can improve literacy rates, address mental health challenges and motivate our students to succeed.”

In addition to more training, attendees in the coming days will vote on a legislative platform and elect regional and statewide leaders, including ISBA president and vice president. 

Brian Pyper, a physics professor and trustee for the Madison School District, and Jason Sevy, a Marsing School District trustee and dairy quality specialist, are running unopposed for ISBA president and vice president, respectively. 

“This organization helps school board members so much. I want to be a part of that,” Sevy told Idaho EdNews. “When you start looking at the people that are here and the experience and the high-level trainers that are here, it’s really encouraging to see these board members accepting that leadership.” 

On Friday, the trustees will vote on seven resolutions that will guide ISBA lobbying during the upcoming legislative session. 

The proposals include an updated stance on the long-debated K-12 school funding formula as well as giving districts more flexibility when communicating with voters about bond and levy measures and allowing schools to limit open enrollment transfers when there are program or building capacity issues. 

All the resolutions carry “do-pass” recommendations from the ISBA’s executive board.

Ryan Suppe

Ryan Suppe

Senior reporter Ryan Suppe covers education policy, focusing on K-12 schools. He previously reported on state politics, local government and business for newspapers in the Treasure Valley and Eastern Idaho. A Nevada native, Ryan enjoys golf, skiing and movies. Follow him on Twitter: @ryansuppe. Contact him at [email protected]

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