Guest Opinion: Jensen: Idaho needs proven educational leader


May 17, 2014 

Randy Jensen

The position is called state superintendent of public instruction but the most important role of that position is being the educational leader of Idaho.

When the Idaho Statesman considered making an endorsement it had the choice between an education administrator with superintendent experience or an educational leader who is one of the best in the United States.

Administrative skills are important, but Idaho needs an educational leader who can inspire, motivate and, most importantly, lead. The success of the next educational leader will be dependent on the ability to bring people together.

When considering this endorsement decision the Statesman spent one hour conducting a group interview with all four candidates. Candidates were given the opportunity to give one-minute answers to a dozen questions. With this limited amount of information it is not surprising the Statesman had to base its decision solely on one candidate's experience as a superintendent.

Had candidates been given quality time to truly share their strengths I believe that a different endorsement would have been made. The Times-News in Twin Falls gave each candidate up to an hour each in conducting a thorough interview. The Times-News' conclusion was that Idaho needed a proven educational leader.

The Statesman said "Jensen's stellar career has been parked for a long time in the principal's office." While it is true that I have been a principal for 25 years, I have an extensive list of accomplishments that I have made while being "parked" in the principal's office:

Before the endorsed candidate had even started his educational career I had a decade of leadership over the Idaho Middle Level Association. IMLA is an organization that brings middle level educators from across the state to share successful ideas and programs (one of the Governor's Task Force recommendations).

As president of IMLA I worked closely with the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation in the organization of weeklong workshops where the top middle school leaders in the country trained teaching teams from all of Idaho in best practices.

I personally have provided in-service training in over 30 school districts across Idaho, from Post Falls to Malad.

I have also served for six years on the Board of Directors of the National Middle School Association. This national leadership opportunity allowed me to work with the greatest leaders in the United States. In this position I trained educators throughout the United States.

I have been a featured speaker at National Middle School Association Conferences, National Association of Secondary School Principals Conferences and at a National Parent Teacher Association Conference.

After receiving the award of National Principal of the Year the opportunities to share my leadership abilities grew even greater. One of the most rewarding opportunities I had was as a Fulbright Scholar where I trained school leaders all across the country of Brazil.

All of this was done while being "parked" in the principal's office.

Idaho deserves a proven educational leader that has the skills to bring people together. The only way we can truly implement the needed changes in Idaho's education system is with everyone working together. This will take serious leadership and not just administrative skills.

On May 20th Idahoans will have the opportunity to elect the best educational leader. Hopefully they will put more effort in doing their homework than the Idaho Statesman did in making its endorsement.

Jensen, of American Falls, is a 25-year principal of William Thomas Middle School and GOP candidate for Idaho superintendent of public instruction.

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