TWIN FALLS • After an hour-long interview, Liyah Babayan was selected Monday night as the new Twin Falls school trustee.
Babayan, 30, is owner of Ooh La La! consignment boutique in downtown Twin Falls.
The school board interviewed Babayan and Jason Beard at the same time, and the two took turns answering 10 questions.
About 15 people — mostly school administrators — listened during the open session.
At the end of the interviews, board Chairman Bernie Jansen told the applicants that both have talents and abilities that would benefit the board, and he wished he could flip a coin to make the decision.
There wasn’t any discussion before trustees voted 3-0 for Babayan. Trustee Bryan Matsuoka wasn’t at the meeting.
In response to a question about the biggest challenge facing schools, Babayan said it’s two-fold: a disconnect in dialogue between the school board and parents, and pressure from federal and state governments to enforce a certain kind of education.
“I do feel like something is broken,” she said, noting that education is crucial to the future of democracy.
Babayan said every outlet to reach community members needs to be stepped up.
“At this point, it may be silly to expect parents to come to board meetings.”
The board should go where community members are — physically and virtually via social media, she said.
After six years as a trustee for the Twin Falls School District, Dan King stepped down in July.
Babayan will serve the remainder of King’s term, which ends in June 2017.
Babayan was born and raised in the former Soviet Union. She and her family resettled in Twin Falls as political refugees in 1995.
Beard — a marriage and family therapist and co-owner of Preferred Child and Family Services — has five children, four of whom attend Twin Falls schools.
He also works as a domestic assault evaluator, custody evaluator and trained mediator.
Beard said he’s pleased with the education his children are receiving. “I’m not here because I have any complaints.”
As a therapist, he deals with complaints of bullying. He brought up other topics that need to be addressed, such as class sizes and use of technology.
It’s important to help students think and sift through “the misinformation that is so rampant from the Internet,” he said.
Babayan said her motivation to be a board member is partly personal, as her children — Dominic, 4, and Angeli, 3 — soon will enter the school system.
Also, Idaho is in a state of emergency with education, she said, and being a board member is a way to make a difference.
The board has a responsibility to the community and protecting its values, Babayan said.
Education should be custom fit to this area, she said, and should prepare students with the knowledge and skills to succeed.
Babayan said her good listening and people skills would be beneficial on the school board.
As a business owner, she pointed to her experience with budgeting and adhering to laws and codes.
Babayan said she’d also bring another female perspective to the board. Both candidates are bilingual.
Beard also said being a good listener is important. “Professionally, that’s what I do all day.”
On the topic of Common Core Standards, Babayan said everyone — parents and teachers alike — is getting to know them, but the standards’ complexity seems to be a challenge for schools and parents trying to help children with homework.
“I don’t know whether parents can even help their children.“
Beard noted the need for common standards and understanding. “There has to be a standard by which to measure success,” he said.
Asked if anything in the candidates’ past could embarrass the board, both said no.
“I take my opportunity here very seriously,” Babayan said about being in the United States. “There’s too much at stake in a free society to be reckless.”