Hanging over the second-floor hallway of the Lincoln Center is a banner welcoming Superintendent Keith Beeman to Billings School District 2.
Beeman, whose first day as the head of the district was Thursday, said he was genuinely surprised by the gesture. He arrived in Billings on Sunday and, as he has gone around town and met with people in the district, he said he has felt welcomed.
“Everyone’s been greeting me,” he said. “They remember me, they remember my name.”
Beeman’s first day Thursday capped a search that began last winter when Jack Copps announced that he would step down in June. At the end of a monthslong recruitment and interview process, Beeman said he’s happy to finally be in Billings.
“It seems like a long time coming,” he said.
Most recently, Beeman was associated superintendent of human resources for the Chino Valley Unified School District in Southern California. He has moved to Billings with his wife.
His first visit to the district was in February with four other finalists who had applied for the district’s top job. Five months later, he is now camped in his new office at Lincoln Center, unpacking and dealing with district issues.
Scott Anderson, director of secondary education, quipped that he hadn’t let Beeman even turn on his computer before bringing in a matter that needed the new superintendent’s approval.
“We were talking about Office of Public Instruction stuff,” Anderson said. “He asked all the intelligent questions that he does.”
Beeman made his decision and then moved on to the next thing, Anderson said. He noted that Beeman at once seemed comfortable and ready to lead the district.
“He’s excited to be here,” Anderson said. “You can tell that.”
Beeman, who will make $160,000 a year, said he understands that he faces a learning curve as he settles into his new position. His first board meeting will be Tuesday afternoon when trustees meet to discuss the ballot language for the $12 million bond the district is pursuing.
The district is facing a number of issues. Officials estimate that SD2 will see anywhere from a $5 million to a $10 million reduction in funding from the state next year. District facilities have a $123 million backlog of maintenance.
But Beeman is ready. He trusts district staff and knows he’ll be able to rely on them as he comes up to speed, he said.
“Their commitment to the district hasn’t wavered,” he said.
He plans to spend the next few days visiting schools and getting to know principals and district staff members.
“Popping out to some schools just to say, ‘Hi,’ ” he said. “Very casual, very informal.”
District employees, meanwhile, are ready to work for their new boss.
“Our job is to make him successful,” Anderson said. “If he’s successful, our kids are successful.”
Contact Rob Rogers at email@example.com or 657-1231.