After San Francisco scored twice early in Super Bowl XXIX, commentator Dan Dierdorf said: “I’m in favor of rewinding back to the `National Anthem’ and starting over.”
The same can be said of Idaho Superintendent of Schools Anne Fox’s administration.
Controversy dogged the Republican’s first month in office, ending in chief deputy Terry Haws’ firing last week following disclosure of a drunken driving charge and past criminal allegations.
Education Department credibility has been undercut by snafus, which include leasing a luxury car, firing financial expert Marian Hylen, requesting a 36 percent increase in her office budget and searching telephone logs for disloyal staffers. Friends and foes alike now wonder if Fox’s office has the expertise to handle disbursements next month under the complicated school aid formula.
Fox, a former Post Falls school superintendent, needs to start over.
She can begin by replacing Haws with someone who can win the confidence of state legislators and communicate with educators, too. Fox seems to have surrounded herself with conservative ideologues like former legislator Bob Forrey whose mere presence antagonizes school administrators and teachers.
House Speaker Mike Simpson, R-Blackfoot, correctly observed that Fox needs to build bridges to the education community. Meanwhile, educators who fume at the mere mention of her name should give Fox a chance.
Fox’s easy victory over an Idaho Education Association-financed opponent was a direct repudiation of business as usual. She won 57 percent of the vote because her back-to-basics platform hit home.
Many Idahoans are tired of seeing test scores drop while education appropriations increase by double digits. They appreciate Fox’s commitment to discipline, academic excellence and fiscal accountability. They want a superintendent who challenges social experiments, like outcome-based education, and who values home and private schools.
Critics of Fox’s every action should be careful that they’re not soon dismissed as little boys and girls crying wolf.
Some of her moves are justifiable, such as hiring an ombudsman, though a controversial one, to field patrons’ complaints and firing two veteran staffers who had contributed money to her opponent. Few protested when Idaho Gov. Phil Batt cleaned house in the same way.
Yet, if the first four weeks are an indication, it’s easier to defend Fox’s ideals than her performance.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board