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Here’s who’s running for the Blackfoot School District 55 board

East Idaho Elects

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BLACKFOOT — There are three openings on the Blackfoot school board this upcoming election, and six candidates are running for the positions.

Kevin Callahan currently represents zone one but is facing Lee Griffin for the seat. In zone four, incumbent Sonya Harris is being challenged by Cleon Chapman. In zone five, Mary Jo Marlow, who currently oversees zone five, is running against Ronda Cheatham.

You can learn more about the candidates below.

Zone 1

Lee Griffin
Lee Griffin | Courtesy Lee Griffin

Kevin Callahan – Callahan did not respond to to participate.

Lee Griffin — Griffin majored in English literature at Utah Valley State College, studied computer science at Brigham Young University and graduated with a BBA in computer information systems from Idaho State University. He married a woman from Blackfoot, and they moved to Blackfoot over 20 years ago. They have seven children and three grandkids.

He taught basic computer workshops at ISU, and has taught high school, middle school and served as a principal at Lillian Valley Elementary School. Griffin is currently the director of information technology at Chief Tahgee Elementary Academy, where he also writes educational software. He also provides hosting services and technical support to businesses and individuals in the community.

If elected, Griffin hopes to not only magnify the successes of students but also focus on students who suffer from learning impairments. He said a few of his children suffered from severe dyslexia and other learning disabilities and were homeschooled because their needs weren’t being met in traditional public and charter schools. He wants to help the district excel beyond expectations in order to fill that gap.

To learn more on Griffin, visit his website or Facebook page.

Zone 4

Sonya Harris vs. Cleon Chapman
Sonya Harris and Cleon Chapman (left to right) | Courtesy Sonya Harris and Cleon Chapman

Sonya Harris — Harris has 10 years of teaching experience in both special education and as an elementary teacher, which she feels gives her a unique perspective on the school board. She has served on the board for the past four years, and during that time, she believes she’s proactively represented parents and taxpayers. She said she’s insisted that parents are involved in curriculum choices and that she’s helped strengthen the curriculum policies.

Harris testified to the Idaho legislature in favor of parental rights regarding sex education and has supported the adoption of a stronger policy in the district regarding such content.

She was appointed by the Idaho State Department of Education to help in revising the Idaho Content Standards and spent this past summer studying how to keep Critical Race Theory out of the schools in Blackfoot. During her time on the board, she said the district went from a $1 million deficit to a $1 million surplus.

More on Harris can be found on her Facebook page.

Cleon Chapman — Chapman and his wife have nine children. He’s taught welding for 30 years at Blackfoot High School and is a nationally certified AWS welding educator and inspector. He’s a former president of Career Technical Educator of Idaho and former president of Idaho Technical Trade Teachers of Idaho.

If elected, Chapman wants to retain and recruit highly qualified teachers. He would work to continue to increase the rate at which students who graduate “go on” to post-secondary programs. He said this would include focusing on improving test scores and providing opportunities for students to develop their interests.

Chapman also wants to work to foster relationships of trust and respect among educators, parents, students and the community. He feels that in order for students to learn, they need to feel safe, valued as individuals and know their teachers care about them and the community wants them to succeed.

Visit Chapman’s Facebook page for more information.

Zone 5

Mary Jo Marlow
Mary Jo Marlow | Courtesy Mary Jo Marlow

Mary Jo Marlow — Marlow is a lifelong resident of Blackfoot, mother of four children, grandmother of 18 and great grandmother to 10. She said she’s been actively involved with education in the Blackfoot School District for over 45 years.

She’s served on over five education committees and is proud to be involved in the passage of the latest bond. Marlow was the PTA president for several schools, including Wapello Elementary School and Blackfoot High School. She was also the District PTA president.

Marlow has a desire to see all the projects completed that were included in the recent bond and is excited to be part of creating a technical education center for high school students. She strongly encourages parent involvement in their children’s education because that “is one of the best ways for children to be successful in school.”

Ronda Cheatham — Cheatham did not respond to to participate.

The 2021 General Election is Nov. 2. For more election coverage, click here.