Wednesday, March 3, 2021
New Superintendent-‘I Can’t Wait to Write the Next Chapter With You’
James Foudy will start as Blaine County School District superintendent July 1.
Friday, January 22, 2021


Jim Foudy and his family will be moving from the mountain resort town of McCall to Sun Valley as the new superintendent of the Blaine County School District.

Blaine County School Board trustees voted 5-0 Thursday night to hire Foudy as superintendent to replace GwenCarol Holmes, who abruptly left a few months after a few tumultuous years at the helm of the district.

The board voted to offer Foudy a two-year $168,000 contract.

“This has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, and I’ve had some hard ones,” said Board President Keith Roark of the decision to pick Foudy. “There was a vigorous and very sincere pouring of support for (Heather) Sanchez in the last 48 hours. I was phenomenally impressed with her from the first interview through the final interview we conducted last Friday.

“A lot of the people who wrote on her behalf mentioned her ability to take us to the next level. I was not sure what that phrase meant. But I don’t think we’re ready for the next level because we have not succeeded in conquering this level, whatever that might be.”

Foudy and Sanchez were the finalists in a six-month search that started in August with the national search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates. Twenty-seven applicants were narrowed to five semi-finalists, and then there was two.

Both candidates were impressive in virtual introductions to the community. Sanchez, executive director of the Bellevue School District in Washington, touted her interest in equity work, which requires putting systems in place to ensure that every student, such as those for whom English is a second language, has an equal chance for success.

Foudy told of opening a full-day kindergarten program for at-risk students and of how his school district annually performs in the top 10 percent among schools in Idaho. Foudy added that he tries to cultivate a culture of respect in which all voices are heard and valued and that leaves room for people to make mistakes from which they learn.

“Last week was a blur,” he told board members as they offered him the position. “We walked the halls, we talked to staff. I talked from my heart, shared my experiences and you captured it, you captured the many facets I was trying to convey.

“The Blaine County School District has an incredible history of taking care of every single student and family and my entire being wants to continue that exceptional effort. I can’t wait to write the next chapter of the story with you. We can do this.”

Here are some of the thoughts the trustees shared as they made their decision:

  • Lara Stone

    I believe either would make an excellent superintendent. I found Mr. Foudy the best. Mine is not a vote against Ms. Sanchez but a vote for Mr. Foudy. He told us he never talks badly about anyone. I can’t think of a more critical skill to building relationships, especially in a small town like ours.

    We’ve received very positive feedback from teachers in McCall. He’s been able to close a significant gap for economically disadvantaged students in his district. His goal is to have people move here for the schools, then learn it’s a great place to live. His priority is to pull the district together after many tumultuous years, build trust with teachers.

    Helping students on the margins means understanding what each student needs ad providing what necessary to help that student reach full potential, such as addressing food insecurities. Mr. Foudy told us many times one of his core values to protect and help those on the margins.

    He has a humble, calm and reflective demeanor. His experience with funding in Idaho would be helpful in passing levy.

  • Dan Turner

    He ran a successful bond campaign. Someone told me to pass a levy in Blaine County you can bring in a consultant and get your levy passed with no problem. Nothing could be further from the truth. Have to build level of trust. He’s acutely aware of the financial vulnerability our district is in. He’s been called to testify before the legislature. The political capital he’s built in Boise is something we can bank on.

    His story of starting the Heartland Alternative High School especially inspiring. It’s a project that now meets needs of marginalized students. He walks the walks and that’s why McCall-Donnelly consistently places in the top 10 percent.

    He has the ability to empathize with multiple viewpoints. He’s intensely curious, asks lots of questions. He looks at data and says how can we meet the needs of everyone. He understands the dynamics of communication in a small-town environment. He understands the diversity of our district.

  • Gretchen Gorham

    I asked very difficult questions and he never backed down. I cannot express enough support for Jim Foudy as our next superintendent.

  • Amber Larna

I loved his approach and walking through the hallways, watching him get down on his knees interacting with the students. He’s so humble.

Keith Roark

I know what equity is all about and I’ve been impressed that the equity task force in this district was initiated by teachers, not imposed from above. I know the people who have served on this committee may be disappointed in this decision, but I saw the same concern by Mr. Foudy. We discussed that he’s going to have to be a master of that concept and working diligently with those people who have presented us with this new concept, and I think he will.

I recognize the possibility that this may be the wrong choice. Whenever you’re hiring someone you aren’t judging past performance so much as you are trying to predict future performance. And none of us know with certainty how that’s going to turn out. I looked at forums and Ms. Sanchez performed much better in those forums.

But the people who watched those forums didn’t get the opportunity to meet either candidate face to face. They didn’t have the opportunity to walk the hallways. They didn’t get the benefit of the interviews that we did using hypothetical incidents that occurred in this district and others. Mr. Foudy repeatedly said: Let me take another look. And that impressed me.

Mr. Foudy going to need everyone’s support. Without that even Horace Mann couldn’t succeed.



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