Lewis-Clark State College graduate Cally Roach says she always had a passion for education.
Now retired, Roach has been on the Idaho Business for Education board of directors for a number of years and has been involved in various ways helping to improve Idaho’s education system.
Still, the Buhl area native was taken by surprise when she received a call from Idaho Gov. Brad Little last summer while on vacation in Sun Valley.
“Two weeks before he called I told my husband there is one board that I don’t think I want to be on and that is the State Board of Education (SBOE),” she said, laughing. “When the governor called and said he had a big favor to ask, I thought he might ask me something about the Idaho Parks and Recreation Board that I serve on.”
Instead, Gov. Little explained, because Debbie Critchfield needed to step down from the SBOE in order to run for state superintendent, and she lived in the same Region IV (Twin Falls area), he wanted Roach to fill the remainder of Critchfield’s term through June 30, 2023.
“I told him ‘Are you kidding me? There are so many other people,’” Roach said. But my husband and I are really committed to helping the governor so it’s difficult to say no to him when he asks you to do something. I told him I was 90 percent sure I would do it, but to give me a little time.”
Roach said she immediately started to contact people who know about the SBOE for information and the time involved. She discovered it would be a challenge, but one she was interested in taking on.
After saying yes and joining the board, the second challenge was somewhat easier.
“When I retired, I got rid of all of my work clothes so I pretty much just had casual clothes for fishing and camping,” she said, again laughing. “I had to go out and buy clothes and shoes again.”
In her near four months on the board, she said she has been trying to learn as much as possible about how the education system works and how to make a positive contribution. She gives credit to the SBOE staff for being so well organized and professional in helping her.
“Idaho is the only state in the nation where the SBOE is responsible for education as a whole for the state,” she said. “We oversee K-12 (potentially pre-K) together with higher education. This is a unique challenge because there is so much responsibility but also provides opportunity. We have the ability to bridge the gap between high school and higher education. For instance, we see the collaboration between high schools and higher education with regard to dual credit.”
It’s no surprise to anyone who knows Roach to see her thrive so quickly. That has been a common theme in her life – accepting challenges and turning them into opportunities.
Roach grew up in the Buhl/Filer area just west of Twin Falls where her grandfather and dad both had large farming operations. However, her parents divorced when she was 10 and she moved to Payette with her mother, who had accepted a teaching position.
Eventually Roach moved back to Buhl, got married, and accepted a job with an attorney in the area. She said he was a good mentor for her and that she had always had a drive to continue her education. She wanted to get her bachelor’s degree, but also wanted to keep her full-time job. That’s when she learned about Lewis-Clark State College.
“LC was one of the first colleges to offer distance learning,” she said. “I remember specifically they had a business management technology degree, which was a four-year degree. I could live and work in the Magic Valley, and then go to the College of Southern Idaho at night to earn my degree.”
Because current online technology did not exist then, LC State hired business professionals and leaders with master’s degrees from the Twin Falls area to teach those classes in person. Roach said the real-life experiences these instructors brought to the classes were invaluable. Roach said CSI also played a key role because she took any classes she needed there that were not available through LC State and those credits easily transferred for her degree.
As part of being in the distance learning program, Roach was required to come to Lewiston for two weeks each summer, stay on campus, and attend classes.
“It was so much fun,” Roach said. “That’s when I fell in love with the architecture on campus. The college has some of the most beautiful buildings. But it was really just a wonderful experience.”
Roach earned her bachelor’s degree at LC State in 1988 and not long after started a 30-year career with Clear Springs Foods in Buhl. Clear Springs Foods operates trout farms and sells white-meat trout to restaurants and vendors throughout the United States.
She started with just an office role but said the CEO of the company gave her more and more responsibilities over the years. Roach earned her master’s degree through Idaho State, also through distance learning. She eventually became the vice president of Corporate Relations and Organizational Development for Clear Springs Food. Also during that span, the small company grew to more than 400 employees and became employee owned.
Clear Springs took trout eggs and raised the trout to market through its trout farms, which used spring water. The company eventually started its own trucking fleet to make deliveries as far away as Boston and Washington, D.C. Some of the trout were also raised to supply fingerlings to various fish and game entities to stock rivers and lakes as well.
“We were always trying to establish relationships with chefs and we had pretty dedicated customers,” Roach said. “It was a really interesting business.”
Roach was part of the group that sold the company in February of 2020 and she retired. She and her husband Mike, who replaced her on the Idaho Parks and Recreation Board, make their home in Fairfield, which is about halfway between Mountain Home and Sun Valley. The couple does a lot of fishing and didn’t miss the opportunity on their last visit to Lewiston this fall.
The SBOE was scheduled to have their meeting on the LC State campus in October, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SBOE meetings have been virtual. Roach said she and her husband decided to come to Lewiston anyway and she participated remotely from the LC campus. She said it gave her a chance to visit with LC State president Cynthia Pemberton, and that she and her husband did get in a day of steelhead fishing as well. Both caught a native and a hatchery steelhead.
Even before her appointment to SBOE, Roach had been heavily involved with higher education in the state. She serves on the WWAMI/University of Idaho advisory board and is a former foundation president at CSI.
“The higher education institutions in the State of Idaho have risen to the challenge of our changing times,” she says. “For example, the colleges and universities are collaborating in a manner that was never imagined in the past. They are cooperating by providing online courses across the state of Idaho and reaching out to rural communities. The biggest challenge will be managing costs and resources while at the same time providing innovative solutions.”
As to what she would like to accomplish during her time on the board, she says the state’s go-on rate from high school to college and how it is currently calculated tops the list.
“The accomplishments of our young people are not being completely accounted for in the current go-on rate,” she said. “For example, a student who receives a less than one-year certificate of achievement is not included in the current rate. Secondly, I want to see us continually market the value of our educational system and how it benefits our lives. Thirdly, the continuation and growth of ‘Online Idaho’ is important and emphasizes our entire statewide educational system. This brings education to our rural communities. Fourth, to think strategically about where we want to be 10-20-30 years from now and what education looks like for future generations.”