Panhandle Alliance For Education Searches for a New Executive Director

Panhandle Alliance For Education (PAFE) has announced that Marcia Wilson will retire this summer after 16 years as executive director of the organization and the search is underway for her replacement. 

“I can’t imagine PAFE without Marcia,” said Georgia Simmons, a founding PAFE board member, “but we choose to look at this as an opportunity – an opportunity to bring in someone new with fresh ideas. It keeps the board vital and it will bring PAFE to the next level.” 

PAFE exists to promote excellence in education and broad-based community support for Lake Pend Oreille School District. Since 2006, under Wilson’s leadership, the organization has invested $3.8 million into LPOSD programs. At the same time, they have invested $2.3 into an endowment, ensuring the organization’s sustainability. 

“The success of Panhandle Alliance for Education has been my priority for many years and certainly a highlight of my professional career. But now is the right time for me to move on to my next chapter, said Marcia Wilson. “I’m proud to see PAFE get ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary while also achieving sustainability with the endowment. I’m ready to focus on hobbies and having free time, making way for fresh energy and leadership.” 

When Kelly Prior moved to Sandpoint with two school-aged children in 2002, people warned him about the quality of public education. They suggested he might want to consider a private school. “I come from a family of educators,” said Kelly. “I enjoyed public secondary and college education and wanted the same for my family. I’m proud to say our schools have come a long way since way I moved here. PAFE cannot take all the credit, but we certainly helped move the needle.”

PAFE’s programs help the school district where the Idaho funding formula falls short. Grant programs have sent students on field trips, supplemented equipment at schools like welding masks and CAD software. They’ve funded STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) summer camps and early childhood literacy programs to name a few. Millions of dollars in supplies and programs have been invested, so teachers have what they need to teach that wouldn’t otherwise be available to them through the state budget. In doing so, students get exposed to experiences that help them make choices for a successful future. 

During COVID, the organization worked closely with school leadership to provide teachers with learning communities to adapt to changing conditions. PAFE also funded full-day Kindergarten and social-emotional programs for students faced with new and unexpected challenges. 

“Having a local organization with the funds and flexibility to step in where our funding falls short is invaluable to us. We can do things few school districts of our size can do,” said Tom Albertson, LPOSD superintendent. “What’s more, their support provides an opportunity for our teachers to bring creative and expansive experiences directly to the students. I am appreciative to have an organization that supports funding our local education beyond what the State allocates.” 

“Marcia is synonymous with PAFE,” said Kelly Prior. “She took the mission seriously and kept the board focused on that mission. We had so many opportunities to do other things, but she ran it like a business, making sure we are not only living true to the mission but focused on growing our donor base and our programs back into the school.”

But, change is constant, and there is still much work to do. As they look ahead, Prior sees the need to invest in math and reading. The curricula are constantly changing, and with that comes the need for teacher training, new textbooks, and new supplies. 

Said Georgia Simmons, “Marcia has carried a great deal of responsibility and has managed diverse people with differing points of view, always with grace and respect. She knew when to push back and when to go forward. She did all this while keeping morale up and making sure donors are heard.

As a board and hiring committee, we are open-minded and flexible to new ideas. The executive director needs to engage well with the district and our donors. We will want to continue to grow the “business” to invest more. 

We are sad to see Marcia go, but we are excited by the possibility and the new ideas someone might bring to PAFE.”

Stay tuned for the announcement of our next executive director!