Sherri Trusts Teachers, An Interview by the Idaho Statesman

sherri ybarra idaho statesman

What makes you a better choice for voters than your opponent(s)?

idaho superintendent of public instructionIdaho is looking for a Superintendent with a vision for the future to make positive changes in education. With nearly 20 years of experience in in all phases of education --- such as classroom teacher, Vice Principal, Principal, Federal Programs Director and Curriculum Director added to the extensive leadership training that includes a B.A. in Elementary Education, an M.A. in Educational Leadership, an Ed.S. with an emphasis in the Superintendency, and current Doctoral work, will equal a formula for success. My deep commitment and passion for education is proven through being the kind of leader who is an advocate for students, proven by taking a failing school (with a challenging population of high poverty students and English-Language Learners) to four-star status in one year. Idaho is looking for this type of leader, one who knows every dime counts, someone who is in the trenches and not removed from the actual education of our children. Someone who will look after education and can move us forward to start seeing a return on our investment. I am someone who listens, and knows how to improve the educational lives of our students-- by standing up for them.

If elected, what are your top three priorities? How will you accomplish them?

Idaho is looking for a leader with practical experience in doing what is best for students. I have already proven this, by taking a failing school with a challenging population of high poverty and English language learners, to four-star status. I am that leader with a strategic plan that will focus on 21st century abilities, safety and support, and not-over testing our students. By focusing on higher standards that implement strong speaking skills, strong writing skills, and incorporates technology, we are preparing our students for the real world of college and jobs, with 21st century skills. As a parent of a child in the current educational system, I will advocate for trainings and programs that help keep kids safe, away from drugs, and ensures each student has a highly qualified and trained teacher. Our current testing regimen needs to be examined to ensure developmentally appropriate practices and student learning remains the center of our focus, and that business-like outputs and the practice of manufacturing students is eliminated. I am a leader who will address the whole child, advocate for students, and make us proud- the Idaho way.

For challengers: How have you prepared to run for this office? For incumbents: What have been your contributions to your office this term?

My nearly 20 years of experience in all phases of education such as classroom teacher, Vice Principal,Principal, Federal Programs and Curriculum Director, added to my successful leadership achievements, is the formula for success. With my practical experience, I can oversee education and move us forward. I am an advocate for students who knows what is right, and what we need to get rid of. Someone who understands that the top-down approach has its place, but gathering information from professionals,  parents and students, prior to a decision is what really works. I am a leader who knows it “takes an entire  village” to raise a child. I am prepared, I listen, and I have made positive contributions to this office. I am positioned and ready to serve the taxpayers and students of Idaho.

Do you favor or oppose Idaho Core Standards? Would you advocate changes in the associated Smarter Balanced Assessment test? Explain.

The Idaho Core is the consistency our students needed, and we are already doing it. My concerns lie more with our current testing regimen, which needs to be examined. As future Superintendent, I would be a leader who “taps the brakes” when it comes to this part. My track record proves that I believe in accountability, but the standards are what holds us accountable. Tests are part of the learning and teaching process and we will not avoid that; however, tests invented as a method to “police” the standards, simply do not have the best interest of our students in mind. It also shows a distrust for teachers who are continually monitoring progress all along the way, which contributes to the over-testing of our children. It also shows we are treating students with a business-like approach of measuring outputs and manufacturing kids. I will advocate for assessments that show growth, are time-sensitive, and address the whole child. We need to evaluate students as individuals, meeting them where they are at, and then proceeding to help them grow. I am a leader who understands- what we know about our children and how they learn, is critical to their development and their achievement.

What specifically do you support or oppose in recommendations from Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education? Explain.

The task force has spent considerable time looking at education, and we should take advantage of their insight; however prioritizing items in the order to be implemented and including teachers and schools in this process, is the only way to ensure these items are not forgotten and these recommendations become a reality. My experience with leading a failing school to four-star status is proof, that if you include teachers in the job, they will get it done.

The Legislature increased spending for K-12 schools by 5.1 percent for the 2014-15 school year to $1.3 billion. But accounting for enrollment growth, spending is still more than $100 million behind support in the 2008-2009 school year. What percentage increase will you support should you be elected for the 2015-16 school year?

My experience with Federal Program monies has given me the knowledge in advocating for appropriate funding, greater equity, and fairness, whatever that looks like. I am a proponent of using the dollar that you already have, effectively. Effective budgeting includes knowing what you have to spend, how you will spend it, involving all stakeholders, evaluating, and letting everyday reflect your plan of accountability and vision for students. This type of responsible leadership will help us to avoid cutting programs, frees up resources, and helps us see that money does buy a good education. I like to compare the budget to a rocket: if you have a good base and you have planned for enough fuel, you will reach the stars. 

As a member of the Idaho Land Board, would you support ending the state's ownership of commercial real estate and divesting itself of those enterprises that compete with the private sector? If so, how would you shed those properties?

As a member of that board, my job will be to seek maximum returns on state school lands, while protecting endowment funds for their intended use --which is mainly public schools and students. Nobody wants government competing with local businesses; therefore, part of my job will be to come up with reasonable options that work for everybody. 

Have you been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, a misdemeanor or felony or had a withheld judgment? If so, what, when and where?


Have you or a company you owned filed bankruptcy? If so, when and where?


Read more articles about the Sherri Ybarra Idaho education platform from the Idaho Statesman.

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