Eric Lee Stewart says he’s knocked on approximately 5,000 doors in his campaign for the Zone 3 seat on the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25 Board of Trustees, taking notes to record voters’ diverse opinions.
Stewart, a retired civil engineer who worked on water and sewer projects, is running in the Nov. 5 election against James Facer, a retired electrician who served on the board from 2012 through 2015 and has been an active Boy Scout leader.
While visiting with voters, Stewart learned the district’s teachers are generally well regarded. However, he’s repeatedly heard concerns about bullying in local schools. He’s found many voters also believe the school board should be more transparent in its operations.
One of the greatest challenges Facer perceives is enticing teachers to stay in the school district. He knows of teachers who have been lured away by the chance to work for better pay in surrounding states, such as Wyoming.
“We have some excellent educators in our schools,” Facer said.
Facer said he has a “great love for youth” and has been active as a youth leader since the early 1970s. He was originally appointed to the board but didn’t seek reelection after his first term finished because it conflicted with his duties as a Boy Scout leader.
“I think we’ve got a great board,” Facer said. “I enjoy the people on the board.”
Stewart vows he would be a “full-time” board member, spending his weekdays visiting schools and hearing voters’ concerns. His five children all attended District 25, and his grandchildren are now entering the school district.
Stewart believes much of the bullying he’s about occurs outside of the school setting, and many teachers and administrators are doing an excellent job of addressing the problem. But he’s also heard anecdotes from parents about teachers and administrators who have failed to act to their satisfaction.
“There’s a problem there,” Stewart said.
While he was campaigning, Stewart distributed his personal contact information, hoping he’ll have the opportunity to be a direct conduit between the district and the public. He said several voters voiced concerns about a perceived lack of transparency by the district’s leadership.
Stewart said he experienced poor transparency personally when he made a public records request for documentation to support a contract to pay the architect that designed the Pocatello High School renovation $581,000.
“I got one document. Most of the documents I never received,” Stewart said.
He said basic information, such as hours worked, rate of pay and an estimate of the renovation project’s anticipated cost, were all missing. He said the architect made no report analyzing the various options — documentation he always provided as an engineer.
“In the conversation about Pocatello High, (the school district) spent all of their time telling me why they were right doing what they were doing and spent absolutely no time addressing my questions and concerns,” Stewart said.
Facer has kept apprised of district news through his daughter, who is a teacher. As a board member, he enjoyed visiting schools and meeting teachers, students and administrators. He also witnessed “heartwarming” changes for the better in many students who had disciplinary problems.
“I think I’m willing to listen to people,” Facer said.