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Opinion: Always learning

My wife and I are natives of Pocatello. Each of us grew up and attended public elementary and middle schools and graduated from public high schools in our community. We often talk about our childhood experiences and this time of year seems to bring more recollections to the surface. Perhaps it is the color of the leaves on the trees that surround our cities or maybe the cooler weather, but as the seasons change from summer to fall, we find ourselves sharing some of our fondest memories. For me, the memories usually include a new Saturday morning cartoon line-up, raking piles of leaves to jump in or a neighborhood game of kickball or football on the Greenacres playground. Many of my most cherished memories include my learning experiences with friends and teachers as a new school year began.

Fall also brings a plethora of candidate signs for those seeking to lead our community in local or state leadership positions. Layered like a cake on high-traffic corners or distributed across many yards throughout our city, one can easily determine we are in the throes of an upcoming election.

Throughout my adult life, I have observed that most candidates talk about public education in their list of priorities or perhaps even state it as their primary reason for seeking a public leadership position. Improving education is, indeed, one of many noble reasons to run for office. And rightly so, since public education provides a foundation for learning and ongoing personal growth. The current election is not any different as candidates highlight education as a priority.

One element that seems to have changed, however, is that some candidates may have you believe that public education today lacks rigor and is dysfunctional, and they have even gone so far as to present unfounded allegations of indoctrination. With regard to the latter, Idaho’s lieutenant governor established a committee to investigate these groundless claims. That committee was unable to find one legitimate example across the entire state. Even more recently, other unsubstantiated accusations regarding pornography in sex education have emerged. These false claims, too, were entirely discredited through investigative research conducted and reported by KTVB in Boise. The Pocatello-Chubbuck Board of Trustees and I assure you that the district does not use outside resources and that our teachers only use approved curriculum.

In true learning fashion, candidates who are concerned about critical race theory, indoctrination, pornography or other peculiar accusations, have an obligation to talk with local educators to address their concerns, which are very often easily proven to be misconceptions. As voters, please be educated and aware of any issues that seek to misrepresent, falsely accuse or instill confusion about public education or public educators.

I have a few suggestions I would like to share with you to learn more for yourself regarding public education in our community. First off, I invite you to visit and learn about the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District as presented on the “At a Glance” webpage (sd25.us/district/pcsd-25-at-a-glance) to see a few of the outstanding accomplishments our schools boast over the past year. I invite you to attend your child’s next program, performance, event or sporting activity to observe firsthand how children and young adults are involved in a well-rounded education with teachers, coaches and peers to enjoy a social learning experience. I cordially invite you to contact your neighborhood building administrator or teacher(s), to visit your child’s classroom(s) to observe and learn not only what is being taught, but how it is being taught by an engaging, inspired teacher that cares as much about their learners as the content they teach. Ask your child’s teacher about that content and I can assure you it is thought provoking and challenging and that it involves problem solving and critical thinking (NOT theory). On a daily basis, ask your child, “What did you learn today?” and I am confident with little probing they will be able to recall many learning experiences.

I have been affiliated with education all my life, whether as a lifelong learner in a formal setting, informally through personal reading and study and as a public educator serving in the roles of teacher, coach and administrator. I want to assure you that through my personal experiences, observed on a daily basis, one would be hard-pressed to find a more passionate and dedicated group of people devoted to learners, than the staff that make up the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District. Likewise, our Board of Trustees is committed to ensuring that high quality instruction and learning is paramount in our district.

Like me, each of you is a lifelong learner. Whether in your professional life, a home project, sport or hobby, we love to learn. It is truly at the core of who we are both as an individual and as a society. Please use that love of learning to set aside time to be informed about the upcoming election. Be confident that when you receive your ballot that the people you mark for state and local leadership positions will truly embody the ideals and values that benefit our community. Additionally, be confident that those you select for state level positions will represent our community at the Capitol in an ethical and stately manner.

Dr. Douglas Howell is the superintendent of the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25. He was born and raised in Pocatello. He attended Idaho State University and graduated in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education with a double major in health education and physical education and a minor in science. He completed an Education Administration certificate from ISU in 2001 and earned a Doctorate of Education in educational leadership from ISU in 2006. In a career that spans nearly 30 years, Dr. Howell has held various roles within PCSD 25, including teaching and administration. He has been superintendent since 2016.