I have, in my capacity of representing Idaho State University’s College of Education and the Intermountain Center for Education Effectiveness, had the privilege of working with both Sherri Ybarra and Jana Jones. Both are candidates for the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction. I met Jana Jones over 10 years ago when she was representing the Idaho State Department of Education at the Region VI Superintendent’s monthly meeting. More recently, I have worked with Sherri Ybarra and the Mountain Home School District delivering district wide teacher /administrator professional development on integrating the Idaho Core Standards into classroom instruction.
I was immediately impressed with Sherri Ybarra’s leadership ability in identifying the professional development needs of Mountain Home and implementing effective professional development to prepare, motivate, and rally her teachers in understanding the core standards, the Smarter Balanced assessment, and a methodology for assisting teachers in addressing the core standards in their instruction. It was evident, after working closely with the district, that Ms. Ybarra was articulate, knowledgeable, well-respected and approachable. Furthermore, over the course of many conversations and discussions, it became apparent to me that she has a very strong foundation in understanding the culture, the needs, the politics, the threats, and concerns involved in delivering K-12 public education in Idaho. With her role as curriculum director for Mountain Home School District she has navigated federal programs, district administrations, and she is well aware of the burden of unfunded bureaucratic mandates being heap on the already strained backs of Idaho local school districts, as well as other state directives impeding local districts’ discretion in decision making.
I have discerned that throughout Sherri Ybarra’s educational career, past through the present, she has been on the floor of the K-12 education arena working, implementing, and striving to create the best possible effective and efficacious environment for Idaho’s children. As an administrator of the Mountain Home school district her team was successful in promoting a one-star school to a four-star school in a year’s time. This is the direction of progress she desires for Idaho Schools and her track record of working with her district indicates success.
On the other side of the ticket is Ms. Ybarra’s opponent in this race who, for the last 10 years, has been sitting in the bleachers on the periphery of K-12 education working as a vice-president of a for-profit global corporation. Where will her allegiance lie? What was practiced in the K-12 education field 10 years ago is no longer germane in the current paradigm of public education. While we should be appreciative of the opponent’s contribution and service, the public education train has long since left her at the station and concerned with the big business of the corporate world…not the model Sherri Ybarra aspires to for public education in Idaho.
Dr. Chuck Zimmerly, MA, MPA, Ed.D, is the interim director of the Intermountain Center for Education Effectiveness at the College of Education at Idaho State University.