After almost four months at the head of Billings Public Schools, Superintendent Keith Beeman has worked to create more interactivity with the community and has found strong support from the school board as he runs the district with a no-nonsense leadership style.
He came to the district with an intense work ethic and expects district employees to work just as hard, said Barbara Bryan, board chairwoman.
“He has very high standards,” she said.
Some district employees naturally respond to that; others don’t, she said.
As standards and expectations evolve, some employees bristle at the change. But Bryan explained that just because a policy has been executed one way in the past doesn’t mean it will continue that way.
Beeman acknowledged as much.
“I know that change can be unsettling,” he said.
However, he said he hasn’t asked anyone to perform a task or undertake a project that he himself is not willing to do.
His hope is to strengthen the public and business partnerships that the district developed while Jack Copps was superintendent, open more lines of communication with the community and build trust with city neighbors.
The district’s first responsibility is to educate its students, he said. A strong relationship with the community will make that easier to do, he said.
Recently, the Billings Public Schools website has added new buttons on its homepage directing visitors to administrative reports that the board has received, links to an accountability section that will include the budget and a page where community members can give feedback on the district and offer suggestions for reducing the budget.
So far, the website has received two comments and one budget suggestion — that the district could save money by cutting down on travel expenses.
“I want our public, our community to have good information,” Beeman said. “One of the things that resonated pretty clearly (in meeting with community members) was communication.”
People want to be heard, he said. They also want the school district to be receptive. The increased interactivity on the district’s website is the first step to doing that, he said.
Copps excelled at building community partnerships, Bryan said. Beeman has been just as deft.
“It’s one of his real strengths,” Bryan said.
It is a strength he had to show early, she added.
Just as Beeman took over in July, school supporters were gearing up a campaign to get voters to approve $12 million in federal bonds to be used for school maintenance. Beeman was almost immediately spending many of his evenings, often accompanied by Bryan, with business leaders, service organizations, community groups and others talking about the bonds.
It allowed him to make connections with business leaders while he was still new to town and to spend significant time outside the education community early in his tenure.
That’s led to the creation of the Speakers Bureau, which will accompany SD2’s new website functions as another method of community outreach.
Through the Speakers Bureau, district officials will visit businesses and community groups that have approached SD2 requesting more information about a specific topic or program.
Eventually, Beeman hopes to stream district board meetings, which air on Channel 7 each month, on the district’s website.
“It will continue to evolve,” he said.
Bryan said Beeman’s transition into the district has been surprisingly painless, considering all the issues surrounding SD2, from the recently approved bonds to the rumored budget cuts at next year’s legislative session to the upcoming union contract negotiations in February.
“It’s gone as well as it could go,” she said.
Contact Rob Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 657-1231.