Let’s empower Idaho’s leaders in education

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Local entrepreneur Brent Regan opened the door to a healthy discussion about improving public education recently with a three-part series in The Press. His key point was that the tools to learn and the learners themselves have changed dramatically, yet public education has not kept pace in the digital age. He proposes rewarding successful innovators by allowing some public education dollars to follow motivated students.

Then on Wednesday, The Press published another opinion piece, this one penned by a state senator and the head of a consortium of Idaho business leaders intent on improving education. While there’s certainly some benevolence in Idaho Business for Education’s DNA, the organization’s underlying mission is to help prepare Idaho students for the challenging — and rewarding — jobs that will power the state’s economy.

Wednesday’s op-ed called for the use of existing resources to create an Idaho Leadership Academy. Now, hold on just a minute. This isn’t just a rehash of the smorgasbord of educational leadership programs at colleges and universities across the country, nor is it another pie in the face to legions of dedicated, talented educators.

What Rod Gramer of IBE and Sen. Dave Lent of Idaho Falls are proposing is a statewide effort to replicate some of the successful actions of other states taking the lead in this critically important arena. They’re urging Gov. Brad Little’s education task force to lay out how Idaho could create an effective, game-changing leadership academy.

At the risk of over-simplifying because of space limitations here, the objective is to focus on school superintendents and principals, helping them reach their full potential as educational leaders. As Gramer and Lent put it:

“A great superintendent-leader hires and develops great principal-leaders and great principal-leaders create a school culture where great teachers flourish. Great teachers in the classroom develop flourishing students. It has been said more than once that ‘as the superintendent or principal goes, so goes the district or school.’”

The majority of administrators and school board members we’ve talked to over the years would overwhelmingly agree with that assessment.

Any polished proposal must not punish educators but rather, provide the best tools for them to succeed. That’s what Gramer & Co. have in mind, and it’s our hope that the idea gains momentum statewide. The stakes are far too great to believe status quo in public education is the best Idaho can do.

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