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VanderSloot endorses Democrat for state school superintendent


IDAHO FALLS — In a surprise announcement, Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot announced Monday that he is endorsing Democratic candidate Cindy Wilson for Idaho superintendent of public instruction.

VanderSloot is a major donor to the Republican Party and known to be a conservative, but he believes Sherri Ybarra, the incumbent state school superintendent who is also seeking reelection, should be replaced by Cindy Wilson.

“Idaho students deserve better,” VanderSloot said. “It’s time to improve our education system by electing a strong, results-oriented leader. I have been impressed with Cindy’s vision for our schools, her ability to listen to teachers and to work across the aisle with Republican lawmakers to create a better system and to solve problems that have long plagued our Idaho schools.”

Wilson’s platform focuses on increasing literacy rates by third grade and improving teacher retention by investing in competitive salaries. VanderSloot said he supports Wilson’s proposals to support successful vocational-technical programs as well as aligning education with the needs of future employers.

Although he is known to primarily support conservatives, VanderSloot has previously endorsed Democrats. In the 1994 governor’s race, he endorsed Democrat Larry EchoHawk. In 2006, VanderSloot endorsed Jackie Groves Twilegar, who was running as a Democrat for state controller. Neither candidate won in the general election.

He said he does not consider himself a Republican or Democrat. He said his views would be considered conservative on social and economic issues but liberal on most environmental issues.

VanderSloot’s endorsement comes after a lengthy meeting with Wilson and several conversations with Idaho’s top leaders across the state.

“After talking to state leaders who are a lot closer to the situation than I am, I think it is extremely important and urgent to get a new leader as superintendent of public instruction,” VanderSloot said. “Many mentioned concerns of work ethic, enthusiasm and transparency as areas of concern with the incumbent. I was taken aback by how many Republican leaders feel that Cindy Wilson would be much better in the position. In fact, they feel that Cindy would be a substantial improvement. The past several years, Cindy has demonstrated her leadership and her ability to bring all sides together.

“We’ve got to make changes in education if we want our kids to get good jobs and be competitive in the workforce. We need to pay our teachers much better. We are losing many of our best teachers to other professions because they cannot make a decent living in teaching our children. Wages in all industries have increased dramatically in just the last 12 months. Teacher salaries have to keep up, or we will continue to lose them to other professions. Our children are our most precious natural resource. They deserve our investment. We need new leadership in the position of superintendent of public instruction in order to bring legislators and educators together to find a fiscally responsible solution to this critical issue. I believe that Cindy Wilson is that leader.

“It takes great leadership to get great results. We need less bureaucracy and more accountability for results and a system that rewards our better teachers and gives them the freedom to do their best work. There needs to be a brighter financial future for our great teachers. There is a sense of urgency here. Not fixing it will rob our children of the opportunity of a great education.”

Wilson recently retired from a 33-year teaching career, having taught courses in the social sciences and humanities in both urban and rural school districts. She has taught in Pierce, Orofino, Shelley, West Ada and Boise. Among the honors she has received are the Idaho Humanities Council Outstanding Teacher in the Humanities, Orofino teacher of the year, and Centennial High School teacher of the year.

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