Viewers tuning into the regular December meeting of the Blaine County school board may have recognized a familiar face on the screen: new trustee Gretchen Gorham, who has filled the seat vacated in August by Kelly Green.
Gorham is not a resident of Zone 2, as Green was. She lives in Ketchum, where she can be found most days behind the counter of Johnny G’s, the sub shop she owns and operates with her husband. Under Idaho law, a school board vacancy for a specific zone may be filled by anyone in the school district if no one from that zone has filled the vacancy within 90 days.
Gorham, who was officially appointed to the board on Dec. 2, had “always been really interested” in joining the school board, she told the Idaho Mountain Express, but wanted to wait until her three children had all graduated from the Blaine County School District. Her youngest son, now a freshman at Vanderbilt University, graduated from Wood River High School in 2020.
“I really believe in public schools and I feel the BCSD provides an excellent education for students and prepares them for the next chapter,” Gorham said. “I cannot express how much I feel like the [Blaine County school system] has shaped my own children into becoming the young adults they are today.”
Here’s what Gorham had to say about her priorities as a trustee.
What perspective do you bring to the school board?
My unique perspective, I think, is that I have three children that have attended school in the BCSD. I have been very involved in every aspect of that. Education is the greatest gift you can give your child, and to support that and to support their teachers and the academic community only adds to that enrichment.
Having had a small business in the valley for such a long time, I feel like I’m approachable. I’m a working parent, and I have many, many peers in parenting who have very different needs and wants out of the district. I feel like I’m a good listener, and I am not afraid to stand up to a bully. And right now, I have so much optimism. The board is fairly new, we’re interviewing for a new superintendent. There’s just so much optimism about the future of the district.
What do you make of the BCSD’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Speaking only for myself, what I find to be trying about it is that we live in Ketchum, Hailey, Bellevue and Carey—four cities. Those city councils can’t come to an agreement on COVID protocol. So as one school board in one school district, I find it very challenging to be able to make the best decision for every single person. I think the school board is really listening, but as we know it’s a very controversial topic right now. There are very different approaches as to the best course of action.
I really think that everyone wants our children back in school. That is the goal of every teacher, every parent, every person on the board—that we want students back in school. Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a pandemic. So we have to really weigh the safety of students and teachers and the best interests of parents, and there is no easy answer. But I am willing to participate 100 percent in the conversation and take action on what I hear from teachers, parents and students.
What do you see as the most important non-pandemic issues facing the BCSD right now?
I think the most important issues facing the school district right now are communication and trust. I think the current board is working very hard and they’re very aware of addressing those two needs. I think they’re working very hard to be transparent and to bring in a superintendent that really exemplifies those characteristics of communication in the district, participation in the district, and trust in the administration. That is so important right now.
You’re joining the school board at a busy time, between COVID-19 and the search for a new superintendent. What has it been like jumping in?
It’s unnerving. The people [on the board] are so smart and they’re so dedicated. It’s crazy. I think the leadership of the board right now is incredible. [Chairman] Keith Roark is working tirelessly. I am so impressed with the dedication of the other board members to change the status quo, to steer forward in a positive way and to listen to the community.