The board of trustees for St. Maries Joint School District #41 could look different next year. In Zone 1 of the district, the southern part of the district that includes the UpRiver School in Fernwood, incumbent trustee Pete Dirlam is facing Beth Halvorsen in a regular board election this fall.

Halvorsen was a substitute in the district for 18 years, teaching every grade from preschool through seniors in high school, including special education students, and serving in every building in the district. She currently volunteers as a client advocate at the Palouse Care Network, a pregnancy and sexual health counseling and resource center in Moscow, and she is also bookkeeper at her husband Rod’s insurance agency in St. Maries.

She says all three elements of that experience--teaching, advocacy and business--will shape her approach to the school board, and so will her experience as a grandparent and former parent of students in the district.

“I have been interested in serving on the school board for many years,” she said. “However, I wanted to wait until I was at a place in my life where I could give the position the dedication it deserved. I now have seven grandchildren, five that live in the St. Maries Joint School District, and have a personal interest in promoting excellence in education.”

Dirlam has been serving on the school board since 2017, and served from 2006 to 2009 before that. He volunteers at Heyburn Elementary School and is also a coach at St. Maries High School, and was a teacher and coach on Long Island before moving to Idaho. His priorities in pursuing another term are fiscal responsibility and ultimately improving the district’s scores on standardized tests.

He is endorsed by all current board members, and he says the trustees have a good working relationship with the board as it is.

“I know Beth a little bit; she’s a good person and I have nothing against her,” he said. “I just want to continue to serve.”

Both candidates acknowledge that the district is facing difficult challenges, particularly with classes having switched to distance learning for the time being.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to normal and getting back to school,” Dirlam said. “Education boils down to the teacher in the classroom. We have a great faculty, and they’ve been through a lot.”

“During this extremely challenging time in our nation’s history, I believe we need to pay close attention to the direction we take,” Halvorsen said. “Core fundamentals and personal individual freedoms and rights should remain paramount. In confusing times, I believe it is important to look back to the basics to rediscover the path forward.”

In Zone 2, Jody Hendrickx is running unopposed. He says he wants to continue improving career and technical education programs in the district and also wants to prioritize keeping students and staff safe as the pandemic continues. Hendrickx is currently president of the Idaho State Boards Association and was honored as the school board chairman of the year in 2020.

The election for school board trustees will be November 2.

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