Trustees are a step closer to filling a vacancy on the Billings School District 2 board.
The seat, which will be vacated Sept. 1 by Mary Jo Fox and covers the west side of the Heights, has one applicant so far. District officials anticipate receiving a few more applications before the Aug. 12 deadline.
“It’s usually the last day,” said board clerk Leo Hudetz.
The one applicant is Greta Besch Moen, a parent who has had two children go through the district. Moen has a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Minnesota, a master’s degree in radiological science from the University of Wisconsin and a doctorate in human cancer biology from the University of Wisconsin. Her post-graduate work was in experimental immunology at the University of Iowa.
Moen has sat on district committees and on parent advisory councils and parent steering committees at Castle Rock Middle School and Skyview High. She was most recently co-president of the Skyview High School Booster Club.
She also has been a board member of the Yellowstone Soccer Association and a leader in Treasure Trails Girl Scouts, as well as a volunteer at ZooMontana. She is a past president for the American Cancer Society’s Yellowstone County and Montana boards, and was a coalition member for the Montana Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Project.
This isn’t Moen’s first time applying for a board seat. She applied five years ago, along with Fox, who was appointed at the time and has remained on the board since running unopposed in May.
Shortly after the election, Fox decided to move from the west side of the Heights to the Indian Cliffs neighborhood. For a time she hoped to change the boundaries of the zone she represents to include Indian Cliffs. Trustees voted in early June to leave the boundaries alone, so Fox submitted her resignation effective Sept. 1.
Regarding the vacancy, Hudetz said several other people have expressed interest in Fox’s seat.
Nearly a decade ago, School District 2 was divided into seven geographic zones, with trustees required to live in the areas they represented on the board.
The goal was to get to more participation from sections of Billings — such as the Heights and the South Side — that traditionally had been underrepresented on the board. However, many district officials have noted that those underrepresented areas still have trouble producing a candidate.
Both zones in the Heights struggled to get candidates on the ballot for May’s election this year. On the east side, no candidates filed in time to get on the ballot and Joyce Weber, the incumbent, won as a write-in candidate with 36 votes. Fox ran unopposed on the Heights’ west side. Lindy Graves ran unopposed for Zone 5, the area of Billings between the West End and downtown.
However, the South Side saw two candidates running for the seat representing that area. Travis Kemp, who had been appointed to the board two months before, won the election.
For board member Barbara Bryan, it’s an encouraging sign. She believes the move a decade ago to divide the district into zones was a smart one and needs to stay in place.
“I don’t think the point was to have hotly contested races,” she said. “It was to get representation.”
The board now represents each part of the city, she said. “We have a real cross section of people.”
Keeping that broad representation in place is key to building support for the district from all corners of Billings.
“If we want to have support for the school district citywide, we have to have representation citywide,” she said.
She acknowledged serving on the school board was difficult and time consuming. But one of the things she hopes to do with the district’s new superintendent, Keith Beeman, is to “streamline” much of what the board does in an effort to reduce some the pressure of serving.
“We want to make it more reasonable,” she said.
In the meantime, she encourages all sections of the city to find candidates and get them on the ballot. When a candidate runs unopposed or a zone has no official candidates, resident only have themselves to blame, she said.
“Those parts of town are making that choice,” she said.
Contact Rob Rogers at email@example.com or 657-1231