By RODNEY D BOAM
Richard Westerberg didn’t have much time to sit idle after vacating his County Commission seat in January. The State Board of Education chairman was thrust into Idaho Gov. C.L. Butch Otter’s Task Force for improving education.
The November election made it clear Idahoans were not fond of Otter’s polices on improving the state’s education system.
Bruised but not broken, Otter spent the next several weeks reaching out to educators, business leaders and the people of Idaho about staying engaged in the process.
“I’m optimistic we have a critical mass of interest. I’ve asked the State Board of Education to shepherd a statewide discussion about school improvement,” Otter said in an a column after the election. ”I’m asking the board to guide the work of a broad representative group of concerned Idahoans in studying best practices in school districts around the state and using data and experience to drive sound decision making.”
Besides his regular duties as a member of the Board of Education, Westerberg was asked by Otter to chair the 31-member task force which included representatives from University of Idaho, PTA, Governor’s Office, Idaho Digital Learning Academy, Idaho Business for Education, several school districts, Idaho Educational Association, Idaho Charter School Network and more.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna is also on the board.
Otter said he knew the group would be large, but it would need diversity of opinion to properly study the state education issue.
Westerberg’s mission is to gather the information concerning the education in the state of Idaho, crunch it and produce some data which will put the state system on track with tight budgets and more regulations.
“The Governor specifically asked me to do this,” Westerberg said from his cell phone on his way to Boise for the last of his hearings. “After the public meetings we will have a bunch of data gathering sessions and by fall be able to take some recommendations to the Governor.”
“I’m not sure it’s an honor or a curse,” he said. “It’s been a busy time, but it is good.”
The former Preston School Board trustee said they’ve been holding the meetings in clusters.
Westerberg and the Task Force held a series of community forums criss-crossing the state in April. Starting in Nampa, the Task Force then went on to Twin Falls, Lewiston, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and back to Boise.
Otter said he wanted participants to speak openly and candidly and to bring ideas.
“The goal is to move education in Idaho forward for our students, our educators, and the businesses, colleges and universities that receive the product of our K-12 system,” said Otter.
This story is sponsored by The Preston Citizen Copy Center.
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