COEUR d'ALENE - The election day shake-up of the Coeur d'Alene school board means the next six weeks will be busy ones for the newly elected trustees: Tom Hearn, Dave Eubanks and Christa Hazel.
They each begin four-year school trustee terms on July 1.
"We need to hit the ground running, so I plan to meet with some members of the administration and begin talking with them," said Trustee-elect Tom Hearn.
Hearn defeated Bjorn Handeen for the Zone 5 trustee position now held by Jim Hightower, who was appointed to the seat last summer. Hightower did not seek election.
Hearn said he plans to continue attending board meetings, and that he will be looking closely at policies, the budget, teacher contract negotiations and other issues he will be confronted with once he's sworn in.
Challengers Christa Hazel and Dave Eubanks defeated incumbents Brent Regan and Ann Seddon in Tuesday's election.
Board chair Tom Hamilton said he's not sure what to expect from the trustees-elect.
Hamilton and Trustee Terri Seymour were elected in 2011 with the support of the Kootenai County Reagan Republicans and anti-International Baccalaureate activist Duncan Koler. By December 2012, three Republican activists, including Regan and Seddon, had been appointed to fill out the five-member board.
Hearn, Eubanks and Hazel were supported by Balance North Idaho, a new political action committee that does not align itself with any one political party.
"The business of the board goes on, and elections happen every four years," Hamilton said. "I hope they take the time to educate themselves on the issues, to learn the depth and complexity of the issues rather than handling things the way they did during the campaign."
Eubanks said that on Wednesday he had already placed a call to Hamilton, "to build some bridges," and visited six schools, to thank supporters and introduce himself to others.
"As trustees-elect, we have to be educated in trusteeship," Eubanks said.
There are materials the new officials must study, he said, and they will attend training with Lynn Towne, who serves as clerk of the board.
The current board's decision last fall to terminate the Primary Years Programme (PYP) at Hayden Meadows Elementary was an unpopular one among many community members and parents. The board decided to end the program permanently at the end of this school year.
Eubanks said he spoke with the Hayden Meadows principal and has the sense that the parents and teachers are ready to "move on," and won't be petitioning the board to bring the program back.
"With the coming of Common Core, I don't think PYP is on people's minds as much anymore," Eubanks said. "If the parents want to bring PYP back, we would listen, but I think we have bigger issues right now."
The "Common Core" is the new state-mandated education standards that increase rigor and elevate benchmarks for all students. They must be in place in schools this fall.
Hazel said it's her understanding that by the time the new board members are sworn in, the PYP materials will have been destroyed.
"If the parents of Hayden Meadows wanted to address a stay of execution, they would need to do that with the current school board," Hazel said. "I don't think the incoming elect board has anything to do with PYP."
Hazel and Eubanks each said they are deeply concerned about the finances of the district.
Hazel said she hopes to meet with the district's chief operating officer, Wendell Wardell, to evaluate the budget.
"I believe there's a disagreement between the teachers and the board as to what the numbers really are," Hazel said.
The board and administration and members of the teachers union are at odds over a $3 million budget shortfall the district has been talking about since last fall.
Eubanks said there is some question about whether the shortfall truly exists.
"We have to get to the bottom of that," Hazel said.
Hazel, who has been attending school board meetings for several years, said she will continue doing so before she's sworn in.
"I want to try to have as much of a seamless transition as possible. I want the business of the district to continue smoothly," Hazel said.
She said she thinks the incoming elected trustees need to examine whether the district is properly prepared for the Common Core standards to go into effect in September.
"We'll have to deal with it," Hazel said.
The transition to the new Common Core standards is a major one for teachers, students and the administration, Hazel said. "I want to do everything I can to avoid adding to that pressure with an unprepared or sloppy transition," she added.