On June 2, local resident Lydia Nuttall interviewed with the Utah State Board of Education Nominating and Recruiting Committee at the State Senate Building. She was one of seven local residents who applied to fill the four-year State School Board District 1 position, and the only local to progress to the interview round of the process.
The seven Morgan residents were joined by three other candidates in the district, including incumbent Terryl Warner, who was recently appointed to the seat after Tami W. Pyfer stepped down. Of the 10 candidates, the nominating committee only interviewed four.
“I was honored and humbled that I was one of the top four names selected to represent District 1, which covers all the people in Box Elder County, Cache County, Rich County, Morgan County, and a small sliver of Weber County. That’s a lot of people, a lot of varying needs, and over 30,000 children in public education over whom I would have stewardship,” Nutall said. “I was happy that at least someone from Morgan County got selected to interview. However, I was disappointed there wasn’t at least one more of the seven of us from Morgan County to make it to the interview stage of the selection process, and wondered what criteria the committee used to make their selection. I also wondered how many people who volunteered to apply for candidacy were selected to interview vs. those who were selected to interview whom the committee had previously sought out and invited to apply earlier this year.”
The State Board of Education Nominating and Recruiting Committee appointed by the governor is responsible for vetting candidates. Per Utah code, the committee then forwards three to five names to governor for each district, usually by July. The governor then chooses the two names from each district that will be included on the November ballot.
Nuttall calls the interview experience an “awesome, doesn’t-happen-every-day experience.”
“It was awesome! Can you imagine interviewing in the State Senate building, and walking into the huge Beehive Room with a gigantic conference room table in front of you, and standing on the short end of the table with the chair of the USBE Nominating and Recruiting Committee sitting clear across the room on the far end of table with the 12 committee members sitting along the sides of the table all observing you?” Nuttall said in an email. “Imagine also seeing the sides of the walls lined with other seated people, reporters and other interested members of the public, who were also watching me. There had to have been 30 plus people in that stately room all focused on every aspect of Lydia Nuttall—what I looked like, how I stood and presented myself, how I sat down in the chair offered me, what I said, how I said it, my facial expressions, my mannerisms, how I reacted to unexpected questions, my concluding statement, how I left the room. It could have been very intimidating, but I recognized it as an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience to address such an amazing body of people who represented a broad range of entities in our state, and I loved it!”
Before the interview, the nominating committee sent Nuttall a list of potential questions she may be asked during the interview including topics on the roles and responsibilities of USBE member, state education budget priorities, and the role of the USBE in assisting youth for post-secondary education.
“I did a lot of research during those weeks, and felt I nailed the questions during my interview,” she said. She mentioned that the state should fund growth, “and not just on paper,” but in a way districts actually see and feel. She also addressed how charter schools fit in education and how to handle disagreements.
Of particular interest to the nominating committee was Nuttall’s “Forgotten American Stories: Celebrating American’s Constitution” that she authored with the encouragement of Ken Adams, former Morgan County School District superintendent and Jim Egbert, former Morgan City mayor. The stories were available around town in 2012 during the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution. Nuttall presented the stories to the USBE in 2012.
The nominating committee asked if Nuttall was going to make money off the “curriculum,” which is supported by the USBE and U.S. Office of Education.
“I never wrote the Forgotten American Stories to make money,” Nuttall said. “I wrote them originally for my community because I discovered a lack of resources for families to teach these forgotten stories and principles of freedom to their youth. I geared the stories so they could also be used in public education. But if I happen to make a little money as a result, isn’t that part of the American Dream?”
Nuttall said she started out three years ago as “a mom from Mountain Green” attending monthly USBE meetings, volunteering, serving, researching and “asking tons of questions” of USBE and USOE members. “It is amazing to me that I could progress in knowledge and grow in ability enough to be considered one of the top four names capable of representing District 1.”