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Idaho Education Loses a Strong, Smart Voice with the Passing of Doug Park

by Terry Ryan | Photo from Doug Park’s Facebook Page

I met Doug Park as part of Governor Brad Little’s “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force on education. Doug attended every task force meeting, and I suspect he was a regular at many if not all of the subcommittee meetings that took place as part of the larger effort.

As the guy in Idaho representing public charter schools on the governor’s task force, I was surprised when Doug reached out to me at one of the meetings and said, “let’s get coffee together.” Doug served as an at-large representative for the Boise School District Board of Trustees from 2013 to 2018.

Doug was a thinker, an idea man, and cared deeply about Idaho, its families and its children. He gave freely of his time and believed education was the key to a stronger and better state and nation. I was initially surprised to learn that Doug supported public charter schools and school choice more generally as many from the traditional school sector do not.

As I got to know Doug better, and to become his friend, I came to appreciate his background in business. Doug and I both came from the Midwest and both of us had worked in Rustbelt cities and witnessed up close the pain of economic, social and political change in places like St. Louis and Dayton, Ohio.

Doug appreciated Idaho and the fact that it is a state where good people can do good things. He also appreciated the power of competition and choice in improving public education. He understood that for school and parent choice to work well, the state needs to play a strong role in providing oversight and strategic direction, especially for students who don’t go on directly to college.

Doug recently wrote in an email that to improve schools for all Idaho children we “need to improve the governance of all public schools, and need stackable credentials that support employer needs in the area of passion and early career plans…and lastly some definition to broaden the metrics associated with the Go on Rate.” Doug was a passionate supporter of actionable metrics and using analytics to provide ongoing feedback for continuous improvement.

In my last meeting with Doug, just before Christmas, he shared with me that Idaho needs to keep pushing to improve its schools and how we do governance at both the state level and at the local level. Doug believed deeply in the power of self-government and that citizens need to engage as school board members for our schools to improve.

But Doug’s public service and his impact went beyond schools and schooling. He worked as a volunteer for, and was a legend at, the Ada County Board of Elections. He recruited me to serve as an election judge in 2020, and we sat together for 14 hours in August for a Boise School District board election. He talked politics, family, and ideas for improving opportunities for Idaho’s young people. Doug was the go-to-guy for questions about the polls and how to ensure the integrity of the election. He also worked hard to get high school students to serve as poll workers. He saw these young people and their experience at the polls as critical to the future success of our democracy and self-governance.

Doug Park will be missed. His service to Idaho and its citizens, its families, and its children is impossible to measure. I am sure I only know part of what Doug did for our state, but it is an honor and a privilege to say Doug was my friend and mentor. Rest in peace Doug.

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