Editor’s note: This is the second of two articles profiling the finalists for the Bonneville Joint School District 93 superintendent job.
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Jon Abrams wants to come home.
After 14 years away from eastern Idaho, Abrams is seeking to replace retiring Bonneville Joint School District 93 superintendent Chuck Shackett.
Abrams, currently the superintendent of Laramie School District in Pine Bluffs, Wyo., and a former superintendent at Shelley School District, is one of two finalists in the running to replace Shackett, who’s retiring after this school year. The other finalist is District 93 assistant superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme.
Shackett, who makes about $156,000 a year, will remain employed with the district through Aug. 31. He will work as superintendent through June 30, eventually helping his successor transition.
The potential move to District 93 would serve as a homecoming for Abrams, who previously spent five years as the superintendent in Shelley and as a principal at Shelley High School.
He said his desire to return to eastern Idaho and help a community that shaped his career was the biggest draw to applying for the position.
“Number one: I was born and raised in Idaho. And I always knew that it would be my last stop in my career,” Abrams said. Abrams made $139,000 during his fourth year as Laramie County’s superintendent, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
“I love the area. I love Idaho Falls. It’s the area we call home,” Abrams said.
Though Abrams’ family went to Hillcrest, and still has local ties, Bonneville County has changed drastically since Abrams was in the area.
A Preston native, Abrams said he had two sons attend Hillcrest before the family moved to Wyoming.
Abrams studied business education at Utah State University before receiving his master’s in school administration at Idaho State University.
He said as superintendent, he wants to “get the right people in the right positions and let them do their job.”
“You have some absolutely wonderful educators in the district,” Abrams said. “I will empower them to do their job. I’ll make sure they have the resources, to the degree we can, to do their job and then I’ll empower them to do it.”
One of the fastest-growing school districts in Idaho, District 93 enrollment has increased by nearly 4,000 students since 2008, according to the district’s data.
The increased growth has led to multiple bonds passed in recent years, including $63.5 million to build Thunder Ridge High School and another bond, costing around $40 million, expected to be proposed in May.
The new superintendent will likely face pressure to keep the district’s levy rate — the state’s highest among its seven largest districts — stagnant.
District 93 property owners pay a levy rate of $580 a year per $100,000 of taxable value, according to the Idaho Education News.
“Obviously growth is an ongoing challenge. It’s an exciting challenge but it brings along with it a lot of different issues,” Abrams said. “I would spend some time making sure we’re providing the type of programs that the students deserve.”
Abrams said student engagement and dealing with Bonneville County’s growth would be his top priorities. Abrams stressed the importance of teaching students how to deal with social media.
“One of the other things that I think is so critical, is not just educating them in the academic core areas, but preparing them to be good citizens,” Abrams said. “Our youth, right now, is handling some monsters that I didn’t have to deal with and that’s social media.”
Regardless if he is selected for the position, Abrams said he hopes to continue his career as an educator, spend more time with his wife and go scuba diving — one of his favorite hobbies.
“I’m just a pretty normal guy. I have the same challenges as everybody else and I just happen to be fortunate enough to work in education,” Abrams said.
The Bonneville Joint School District Board of Trustees expects to announce Shackett’s replacement at its Feb. 13 board meeting.
“Every decision I make as an education is based on how we can serve the students,” Abrams said before stressing the importance of helping students prepare for “an ever-changing world.”