MIDDLETON — Sherawn Reberry, Middleton School District’s new superintendent, said she has seen only positivity as Middleton students finish up their second week of school.
Reberry visited every school in the district on the first day of school last week to meet school staff, students and parents.
“Everything was so positive,” Reberry told the Idaho Press in an interview Thursday. “It has been nothing but what I knew from my research — that so many great things are happening out here, and that the teachers really have students at heart.”
BACKGROUND IN IDAHO EDUCATION
Reberry most recently worked as a program director for the Idaho Digital Learning Academy. She lives in Boise and has worked in districts across the state.
Coming from the digital academy to Middleton, Reberry said she brings with her that same mission to give all students equity, opportunity and access no matter their situation.
“We need to make sure we are giving that to students across the board and making decisions based on what is best for kids,” Reberry said.
Reberry was born and raised in Twin Falls, where she got her start as a teacher.
Middleton’s superintendent search was facilitated by the Idaho School Boards Association, according to a press release after Reberry was hired. She was selected by more than a dozen applicants from Idaho and across the country.
She comes to Middleton with 26 school years under her belt. After teaching in Magic Valley, she went on to become assistant superintendent and federal programs director in the Caldwell School District, according to the release; she’s also been an associate director for the Center of School Improvement at Boise State University and has held adjunct faculty positions. Reberry has an educational doctorate from Idaho State University.
Since last November, the Middleton School District has faced a series of difficulties, including national criticism of teachers’ racially insensitive costumes on Halloween; community outrage when the board voted not to renew the high school principal’s contract in May; and the departure of then Superintendent Josh Middleton in June. He didn’t hold back in his resignation letter, saying: “To allow elected officials to create and foster a hostile work environment, not follow board policy, engage in discriminatory actions and disrupt the board and me from doing our job is why I submit my resignation.”
Reberry, hired less than two months later, said she’s ready to move forward from the last year.
This week, though, some of the unrest lingered. In Tuesday’s election, three Middleton school board trustees were up for recall. Though the votes for and against recall were split roughly 50-50 for each trustee, the number of pro-recall votes did not meet the threshold needed to remove any trustee from office. Overall, only 11% of registered voters in those zones turned out to vote.
Two of the trustees told the Idaho Press they were ready for the district to move forward.
“It closes this chapter,” said trustee Tim Winkle. “I am relieved that I did not get recalled and look forward to repairing the district and moving forward with our new superintendent.”
Reberry said a different challenge in Middleton is the growth of the city, district and surrounding areas. The district’s enrollment is roughly 4,000 students.
The population of the city of Middleton itself has nearly doubled in the last decade. Population estimates from the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho put Middleton’s 2019 population at 9,710, up from 5,524 in the 2010 census.
To respond to growth, Reberry said her goal is to continue with the procedures already in place, like the district’s strategic plan, now in its third year, and current curriculum.
“They have gone through curriculum adoption, that seems to be working very well,” Reberry said.
She added that test data from Idaho Standards Achievement Tests and Idaho Reading Indicator shows Middleton student averages are higher than the rest of the state.
“That shouts out to the work that we do,” Reberry said.
A JOB SHE ENJOYS
Reberry has never lived outside of Idaho and said Middleton reminds her of Twin Falls. Being a superintendent was always a goal of hers, she said, but no other superintendent openings seemed like the “right” fit, until the Middleton job.
“It felt right,” Reberry said. “This was the right timing, and I believe that things happen for a reason. Putting in for the job and going through the process, going through the meet and greets and listening as I go in and out of buildings and as community members have been visiting me, so far it has been a really good experience.”
Reberry said she enjoys “waking up and getting to work.”
The role of the superintendent is to advise the school board and manage the district. The Middleton School District, according to the June 2018 budget hearing, runs on a fiscal year budget of roughly $25 million and employs 51 people.
Reberry said after meeting with principals, teachers and walking through school buildings, she realized how much she missed the face-to-face contact after working at the Idaho Digital Learning Academy, adding that she had missed seeing teachers in action.
“Teachers are our biggest commodity,” Reberry said. “They are where it all happens. For me, getting back into the buildings and seeing that all happen is amazing.”
Reberry said she spent an hour at Middleton High School during the lunch hour and saw students interacting with teachers and staff.
“That is why we are here, that is why we educate,” Reberry said. “I am eager to keep that going.”