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Olson wants chance to chart his path

by David Cole
| April 19, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Stan Olson, superintendent of the Boise School District, said he is running to become Idaho's top school official because he wants to put together a cohesive plan for educators in the state to follow.

Right now, he believes, there is no such plan under Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. Olson, a Democrat, stopped by the Coeur d'Alene Press recently as he campaigns to overtake Luna, a Nampa Republican.

"For the last four years, public education has been a rudderless ship," said Olson, 60.

He said school districts are facing many challenges, whether in larger class sizes, deep program cuts, and increasingly diverse

student populations.

When he became superintendent in Boise in 2002, those schools had challenges similar to the ones the state must now deal with, he said.

"One of the first things I did was to start a districtwide planning effort involving teachers, parents, administrators, as well as leaders from across the community," Olson said. "We built a strong vision and an effective strategic plan."

Olson knows facing a Republican in Idaho will be a challenge, to say the least. He said that although he's running as a Democrat, he's got a fierce independent streak, and believes the office he now seeks should be nonpartisan.

The Boise School District is the second largest in the state, behind Meridian, and has 25,000 students, a staff of 3,900, and a $200 million annual budget.

From 1997 to 2002, Olson was the superintendent of schools for Natrona County in Wyoming. From 1991 to 1997, he was assistant superintendent for administration and school-community relations in Kalamazoo, Mich. He also has had other public education administration positions, and has been a teacher and coach.

He has a doctorate in educational leadership from Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo.

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