Online or in-person. Masks or no masks. Navigating back to school this year is no easy task and yet one man is eager to lead the largest school district in Idaho.
Dr. Derek Bub is not new to the West Ada School District. Before taking over as superintendent last month, he was the principal at Centennial High School and before that a vice-principal at Mountain View High School after moving his family to Idaho from Southern California.
Dr. Bub is committed to an open-door policy both internally and externally especially after this past year with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think with every set back there is plenty of opportunity and have there been setbacks? Yeah, there have been setbacks for West Ada. There have been setbacks for every school district across the United States, really almost every organization across the U.S. I think this is when we need people to step up and say I'm willing to take the lead on this," says Bub during a one-on-one interview with Idaho News 6's Michelle Edmonds.
I think any type of crisis like this of any type, I don't think it creates cracks in the foundation. I think it probably exposes those cracks in the foundation a little bit and we know that we need to do a better job. We, I think as a group, as an organization, we need to communicate better with our constituents. And this is an opportunity, right? This is that time where we say hey, how do we get clear messages out because people are paying attention more to schools were doing than anything else. So this is that opportunity not just communicate a one-way communication but really engage. Let's have some conversations. Where do we see education going in Idaho? How do we propel forward? How do we move past where we have been? And can we provide incredible educational experiences for our kids.
No education issue drew more attention at the Statehouse this past session than the discussion on critical race theory in Idaho's classrooms. Over 40,000 students are now enrolled in West Ada and Dr. Bub stands by the educators.
"I think our teachers do a phenomenal job when we talk about controversial issues, when we talk about different subjects. Our job is to show both sides of subjects. My goal is that kids walk out and say I have no idea where my teacher stood on that. That would be the goal."
House Bill 377 was signed into law, which bans forcing students to adopt or adhere to beliefs that one race is superior or responsible for acts committed by past members of that race. Dr. Bub says West Ada's board is working on policy to support that new law.
"We are working with our association. We are working with our administration to make sure that our teachers have a really clear understanding when we head into the fall."
But the new leader is also quick to share that mistakes will happen.
"I think that our teachers do a phenomenal job in the classroom. Do our biases come in at times? Yes, we're human and I think we just need to make, and I think that's where clear expectations and guidelines come along with that. I think teachers will be more aware this time than they ever have been before," says Bub.
Right now, Bub is also managing a back-to-school strategy that he says will continue to be flexible with the pandemic. West Ada Trustees gave decision-making power to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to the superintendent. At this point, Bub is only recommending masks be worn by all staff and students.
He is not requiring them, even though the CDC says everyone in school should be masked regardless of vaccination status.
On a tour of the new Owyhee High School, Dr. Bub talked about how the district's growth will continue to be one of the top issues. But at this point, Dr. Bub does not see a need to ask taxpayers for more money to build schools.
"My commitment is that we are not going to go to the community that we need this if it's not a need. We are going to do it when we need it. I am a taxpayer in this area as well," he says. "I think the nice thing for our district is we are going to take a deep breath for a little bit," he added.
That deep breath won't last long. Classrooms fill with students for a new school year, under his new leadership, on August 26.