To Jim Foudy, the Blaine County School District presents “the most fascinating challenge” he’s seen in his education career. It’s what drew Foudy—the current superintendent of the McCall-Donnelly School District and future superintendent of Blaine County schools—to the Wood River Valley, he said.
From Foudy’s perspective, the biggest challenge isn’t a perceived lack of trust and communication between the community and School District leadership, an issue frequently brought up in public discussions and forums throughout the superintendent search. He is “confident,” he told the Idaho Mountain Express, “that we’re going to work through that pretty quickly.”
Rather, Foudy said, he hopes to turn the community’s focus away from the adults running the district.
“What I know right now is that the spotlight is not 100 percent on the kids,” he said. “To use a bad sports analogy, if the kids are playing a game on a field, the cameras are all on the sidelines being focused on the adults. The first thing we need to do is put the cameras back on the kids.”
A native of California, Foudy first moved to Idaho to attend Boise State University after serving in the Army. At Boise State, he earned his degree in elementary education and “fell in love” with the nature and people of Idaho. He has stayed in the Gem State since.
Today, he lives in the McCall-Donnelly area with his wife, Alison, their two elementary-age daughters, Grace and Aila, and a shih-tzu named Prince Charming. Two grown sons, Austin and Marcus, have moved out of the house. In his spare time, Foudy said, he enjoys cooking and “everything about the outdoors that doesn’t involve adrenaline rushes.”
Foudy hadn’t been job-hunting when the BCSD superintendent position opened up, he said. But after looking into the role and the district, he decided to apply.
“Blaine County has so much potential and such an incredible staff that I feel like with the right kind of support and leadership, we can return the spotlight back onto where I personally and professionally believe it needs to be—on the kids,” he said. “And in doing so, I think what you’re going to see is we’re going to make progress in closing any kind of achievement gaps that there are.”
Identifying and narrowing in on those opportunity gaps is another priority for Foudy. He is familiarizing himself with the work of the Wood River High School Equity Task Force—a group formed by teachers in 2019 to identify and address racial inequity in Blaine County schools—and is currently reading research by Eric Toshalis, a Hailey-based education consultant working with the task force.
“If Blaine County can figure this out, we could potentially become a model for other school districts facing similar challenges,” Foudy said.
Foudy notes some similarities between the McCall-Donnelly district and the Blaine County district, both of which are, most obviously, located in resort towns. Both districts serve a diverse student body, and both include communities and schools with different strengths and needs. Both districts also face challenges linked to local housing shortages, as some teachers and school staff struggle to find or afford housing near their workplace.
“How can we stabilize the community so it’s possible for people to not only live in Blaine County, but thrive there?” Foudy said. “I’m in a fortunate position in terms of the compensation I’m offered, but for most of the staff I think it would be difficult to live in the area and thrive.”
Foudy and his family plan to move to the Wood River Valley at the end of June, he said, when his contract with McCall-Donnelly ends; he officially steps into his new role as BCSD superintendent on July 1. He said he doesn’t know yet where in Blaine County his family will live.
His first step, Foudy said, will be to gain a deeper understanding of the Blaine County community and each of its schools. While visiting the district in January, Foudy said, he was struck by the fact that “no two schools in the district are alike.”
“I need more depth,” he said. “That initial introduction, all it did was pique my curiosity. My instinct is that there’s a lot of value in our differences, and that those differences need to be celebrated. Beyond that, I’m curious to learn—what do the schools have in common? What are some things that everybody can agree upon?”