In the Classroom

Longtimers lacking on Idaho school boards

Nearly half the school district trustees serving in Idaho have no more than four years' experience on their boards, according to a survey done by the Idaho School Boards Association.

That’s a worrisome number to Karen Echeverria, Idaho School Boards Association executive director.

High turnover on school boards means a lot of new people taking the oath of office and the need to train them in everything from open meeting laws to union negotiations.

“It’s not an easy job,” said Echeverria. Trustees — volunteer elected positions — can consume up to 25 hours a week. “I don’t think there are a lot of folks out there that have that much time in their schedule,” she said.

Echeverria is backing Gov. Butch Otter’s proposal to boost training for administrators and trustees from more than $326,000 a year to $1 million as the state starts down the road of education reform stemming from his Task Force on Improving Education.

The survey was sent out to 549 trustees and 265 responded to all the questions.

Increasingly, new trustees are ousting incumbents, Echeverria said. Often new trustees come with a fervor to reform the system because they believe taxes are too high or they are going to shake up and change the system.

Many times new trustees don’t understand their job is to look at the district from a 30,000-foot level. “They want to get involved in the nitty gritty,” Echeverria said. “It’s not your job to go to a teacher and see what is going on in the district.”

Often, after four years, new trustees get burned out and leave, she said.

Districts are using the money from the state this year to train boards. About 80 boards are on the list. But another round of elections could bring in a new crop of trustees and the need to do more training.

Link to the association's full survey.