After about a half hour of questioning, a Senate committee gave the thumbs up to Gov. Gary Herbert’s choice for a vacant seat on the state school board.
The Senate Education Confirmation Committee voted unanimously to recommend Heather Groom take over Craig Coleman’s spot on the board, which guides and oversees education in Utah. Coleman decided to resign recently due to time constraints.
Groom, who was nominated by the governor to fill the normally-elected spot, is president of the Utah Federation of Republican Women, a former board member at Renaissance Academy charter school in Lehi and former deputy campaign manager for Herbert.
"I believe right now we are on the cusp of an education revolution, similar to the technological revolution we experienced in the 90s," said Groom, of Highland. "It’s an exciting time to be involved."
She said her experiences in community service, owning a business and in education make her a good fit for the job.
Committee members asked Groom about her experiences on the charter school board, her view of the relationship between the state board and lawmakers and other issues. Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Holladay, the only Democrat on the committee, also questioned Groom about school vouchers and how she would work on a nonpartisan board given her leadership in Republican politics.
Groom said she did support an effort several years ago to implement vouchers to help send Utah kids to private schools —an initiative that was voted down in a 2007 referendum. But she said she supports all types of schools, noting that two of her children attend a charter school and one attends a traditional public school.
Groom also said she’s accustomed to working with people of all political stripes. She said she grew up in a Democratic family and her uncle is Tom Daschle, a Democrat and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader.
"I’ve had to grow up in a family where we haven’t always seen eye to eye but we’re able to communicate with each other," Groom said. "I’ve always been able to get along with all parties. I think if you have rational people that have good intentions they’ll be able to come together and find good solutions."
The full Senate must now vote on Groom’s nomination before she may officially join the board.
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