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Thilo joins state education board

Chuck Oxley Associated Press

BOISE – Gov. Dirk Kempthorne on Monday announced the appointment of a northern Idaho resident to fill a vacant seat on the State Board of Education.

Sue Thilo of Coeur d’Alene is president of the North Idaho College Foundation and is leading an effort to raise $2 million for the college’s new Health and Sciences Building.

Kempthorne also announced the reappointment of Pocatello resident Karen McGee, though that information was revealed Sunday when McGee told her local newspaper.

Kempthorne spokesman Michael Journee said he did not know why McGee’s announcement was made public before Thilo’s. “We try to never scoop ourselves,” he said.

The Republican-appointed State Board of Education has become a political hot potato in recent years. As a strong advocate of charter schools, the board has clashed with traditional public education supports. Also, its GOP-members often oppose Superintendent of Public Instruction Marilyn Howard, Idaho’s only statewide-elected Democrat.

Thilo fills the seat of Jim Hammond, of Post Falls, who was named last week as the at-large member of the new Charter School Commission.

The terms of both McGee, first appointed in 1999, and Hammond had expired in March. The board has held two meetings without either member.

“She’s an advocate of all-day kindergarten, and that’s something a lot of people support. Maybe we can get all-day kindergarten passed next year,” state Sen. Gary Schroeder, the Senate Education Committee chairman, said of McGee’s reappointment.

Schroeder has previously clashed with McGee, who endorsed the controversial plan for computerized teacher certification program that allows would-be teachers in Idaho to gain certification after passing an online test and taking part in teacher “mentoring.” That plan was adopted last November.

Traditionally, teachers were required to complete a college degree, pass certification tests and participate in a student teaching program.

She has also been heavily involved with the embattled Education Leaders Council, the nonprofit agency that founded Idaho’s online certification program.

In April, she defended the council against charges of mismanaging money, and has said the resignations of 10 of its 18 members over the past year are more about infighting than financial problems.

In addition to her duties on the State Board, McGee also chairs the Governor’s Workforce Development Council, and formerly chaired the Governor’s Welfare Reform Committee. She also served on the Pocatello City Council for 14 years.

Thilo is a past member of the North Idaho College Board of Trustees and has worked on community volunteer projects for decades, Kempthorne’s office said in a prepared statement.

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