October 12, 2010 in Idaho

Idaho superintendent of schools race

The Spokesman-Review

The first non-educator to head Idaho’s public school system is running for re-election, and he’s being challenged by one of the state’s most prominent educators, the just-retired superintendent of the Boise School District, the state’s second-largest district.

The race between state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, a Republican businessman, and Stan Olson, the Democratic challenger who calls himself “apolitical,” is raising issues about what Idaho’s schools really need, from politics to professionalism. And it’s coming at a time when schools are struggling with huge and unprecedented state budget cuts.

Luna says he’s delivered on his campaign promises, from building a new student data system to launching a math initiative; he says student achievement is up. Olson decries Luna’s initiatives as “silver bullets” and says education in Idaho for the last four years has been a “rudderless ship.”

Idaho’s state superintendent serves a four-year term; the job pays $93,756, plus health care benefits.

• Tom Luna , 51

Incumbent Republican

Bio: Incumbent superintendent, elected in 2006; senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, 2003 to 2005; businessman, owner of Scales Unlimited; served on Nampa, Idaho, school board, including three years as chairman; attended Ricks College and Boise State University; online bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison University in liberal arts with focus in measurement science, 2002. Married, six children, five grandchildren.

Campaign promises: “My goal is to continue to change the culture of education to a customer driven system where we make decisions based on the customers of education and not what’s best and most comfortable for the bureaucracy of education. Idaho is now recognized as a leader in student achievement, and my commitment is to continue to fight for the resources and reforms to keep student achievement moving forward.”

Notable: Doing a combination of running and walking, Luna has completed three marathons in the past year and a half.

• Stan Olson , 60


Bio: Boise School District superintendent, 2002 to retirement on June 30 of this year; education career started as teacher and coach in 1971, included administrative posts in Michigan and Wyoming before Idaho; doctoral degree in educational leadership, Western Michigan University, 1983; master’s degree in education, Eastern Michigan University, 1977; bachelor’s degree in education, Central Michigan University, 1970. Married, two children, two grandchildren

Campaign promises: “Forty years of educational experience has taught me that collaboration with parents, legislators, students, educators, and business leaders to build a strategic plan is the best way to help every student in Idaho succeed. I promise to cultivate such relationships to produce verifiable educational results, guarantee adequate funding for top priorities, ensure post-secondary readiness, and focus on educational success for all children, not on political ideology.”

Notable: Olson is a competitive speed walker and has competed in 21 marathons.

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