Idaho Community Success Stories
In Caldwell, ID, Fire Chief Mark Wendelsdorf spoke about the revitalization of a daylighted stream that was previously running through a culvert under and through town. This act created a public space that encouraged downtown pedestrian use and boosted businesses via increased foot traffic.
Caldwell, ID is also employing technology to increase efficiency. The Fire station is using foam and injected air in water for fighting fires. This change costs an extra $8 for every 100 gallons, but requires less water and extinguishes fires more quickly, saving resources in the end. The town’s emergency responders are also working towards converting and combining their dispatch system from radio to computer for fire, police, or EMS/hospitals based on qualified unit, location, and other relevant information.
In Boise, we met with South Junior High School science teacher Aaron McKinnon. South Junior High has students from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, and Mr. McKinnon works to make science accessible and fun for all students. For example, early in his teaching career he searched through secondary and college-level science textbooks to identify important themes and subsequently developed interactive lessons for his own junior high classes. He also spoke of the benefit of student uniforms in schools, which help avoid income discrepancy and pop-culture distractions.
Teachers at South Junior High are actively encouraged to improve their techniques and knowledge. The school instituted a ‘look to learn’ program where several times per year, teachers spend 3-5 minutes observing other teachers classrooms while in action. Observing teachers are permitted to interact with students and ask them questions but not talk to or interrupt the teacher. This helps to improve teaching through observation and allows teachers to share advice/data with one another and adjust teaching styles accordingly. The entire Boise, ID, school district also employs a district wide professional development training for teachers. One day per week after school every teacher attends a training to continue their professional development.
In the past two years, the City of Boise responded to a high rate of suicides by funding and establishing a suicide prevention hotline program. This program is relatively inexpensive to run and is thought to have already saved dozens of lives as suicide rates have dropped. The City is also seeing development spike in their emerging downtown due to private investments from corporations like Simplot and public investments in transportation and entertainment and business districts.
City Council member TJ Thompson wrote a recently passed initiative to help improve children’s health by creating a rating scale for state-run child care facilities. The amount of TV time, physical activity, and quality of food would be rated and listed on a website available to parents so they can choose the best facility for their children. The cost to develop the program, about $500,000, is to be paid by the city. City Council Member Elaine Clegg also spoke about Boise’s 36 active neighborhood associations, which show great success at engaging communities and individuals.
Boise Schools Superintendent Dr. Don Coberly spoke to us about a number of school and city partnerships and student led initiatives.. Within the schools, the ‘One Stone Group’ is a student led initiative that turned an old fire station into a reading lab. Another group called OATHS works to acquire books for needy kids and renovate public facilities. The school and city parks and recreation department actively coordinate their work so that the gyms and facilities are open to the public for use.
The Mayor of Boise actively recruits students for every city committee. This encourages a different perspective for an otherwise higher average age committee and engages youth into city affairs. The Mayor also presents annual youth awards for exemplary accomplishments. Also in the civic arena, the School Board and Mayor meet quarterly to coordinate public bond measures in order to prevent overburdening voters in the ballot box.
We have seen a number of programs that have school resource officers, but the Boise School District along with the Boise Police claim credit for the first program in country to have one in every secondary school. This program helps parents feel safer abut their children and gives young students a positive perspective of the police in their community. Students are encouraged to look toward the future through a program called STRIVE. This before and after school program, in 25-30 communities across the nation, has businesses working to prepare students for the workforce and for college. Other business-student programs include the Treasure Valley Education Partnership and Idaho Business for Education.
Virginia Parsons, City Clerk and Treasurer spoke of Arco’s unique history as the first atomic powered city, and two recent accomplishments for which the community was proud. In the face of economic distress and lack of business development, the city, county, private non-profit organizations and USDA Rural Development cooperatively built and operate the Arco/Butte Business Incubation Center that is home to seven business ventures.
After the failure of the city's long deteriorated water infrastructure caused a day without water in Arco, the community, with encouragement and matching funds from the USDA Rural Development program, then passed their first water bond measure and is constructing new wells, reservoir and new waterlines.
Idaho Falls, ID:
Idaho Falls and its surrounding towns are known for their history of energy research and development, including the first nuclear power station (EBR-1) that created usable electricity. The region has always been ground zero for alternative energy research such as nuclear, wind, hydro, etc. Idaho Falls even operates its own hydroelectric power station. Mayor Rebecca Casper convened the National Intermountain Energy Summit in August 2014. The summit brought together leaders from across the country to leverage “the energy resources of the Intermountain West for sustainable power.”
Swan Valley, ID:
A unique collaboration of private ranchers, sportsmen and conservationists, non-profit organizations, state and federal government are reconnecting and restoring historic spawning grounds of the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout in Garden Creek through to the Snake River.