Guest Opinions

Cindy Wilson: I’ll take conservative approach to protecting, helping Idaho’s schoolchildren

The Idaho Statesman asked the candidates in major statewide races to submit guest opinions explaining their stances and why they should earn your vote. Their columns will run throughout this week. Read opponent Sherri Ybarra’s guest opinion here.

Who’s the fiscal conservative when it comes to public school safety? Apparently, it’s me, Cindy Wilson, a 33-year veteran teacher and candidate for Idaho superintendent of public instruction.

Sherri Ybarra is proposing that the state throw $20 million at a school safety program she’s calling “KISS.” This expensive pet project, announced suspiciously late in her term, should show signs of collaborative planning and stakeholder buy-in. But it doesn’t. In fact, the state’s existing experts — especially the Office of School Safety and Security — were never consulted about Ybarra’s $20 million program.

The Office of School Safety and Security was created by the Idaho Legislature in 2016 with the charge to “Promote the safety and security of the students... (33-5902),” yet Superintendent Ybarra claims that this office is only concerned with buildings and that she is the one in charge of occupants. This simply is not true and undermines the good work our Legislature and safety experts are doing for kids.

These experts regularly visit our districts and audit how they’re doing on school safety. They know how to work as a team, bringing together public safety officials and district stakeholders to design the very best protections for children and educators.

It appears that Ms. Ybarra is repeating the missteps of Tom Luna, who learned well the importance of stakeholder buy-in. Parents, teachers, schools boards and administrators must have a place at the table when making decisions that will affect Idaho’s most precious resource, our children.

My plan to protect our schools, teachers and children is being developed in partnership with safety experts and stakeholders. They have identified three key principles in threat assessment:

  1. Detection. This is pre-emptive work to identify those who may be under many or unusual stressors.

  2. Communication. Threat assessment teams should meet regularly to assess potential problems. Also, districts across the state should speak a common language about threats, even at the student level, where it is critical to understand emergency drill language.

  3. Response. Leveraging partnerships with our public safety professionals and subject matter experts, we intercept threats as a community.

I’m committed to investing in school safety, but I don’t like to see taxpayer dollars wasted on duplications and political maneuvering before an election. I’d rather keep that money in our classrooms, where it’s desperately needed.

Our goal is to prevent violence in our schools. As superintendent, I will be a leader who collaborates with Idaho’s strong communities to do just that.

Cindy Wilson is a teacher at Capital High with more than three decades of experience, and has received many accolades, including Idaho Humanities Council Outstanding Teacher in the Humanities. She’s running for Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction.
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