SD2 board mulls MTSBA membership, says goodbye to two trustees

2011-04-18T22:45:00Z 2011-04-19T08:45:27Z SD2 board mulls MTSBA membership, says goodbye to two trusteesBy ROB ROGERS Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
April 18, 2011 10:45 pm  • 

It was an evening of recognitions and goodbyes.

The Billings School District 2 board met for more than four hours on Monday night and discussed bonds and budgets, congratulated accomplished students and teachers and bid farewell to two trustees.

Trustees also discussed the merits of its membership with the Montana School Boards Association.

The district's membership with MTSBA is coming due, and trustees discussed whether it was worth the $15,364 that it pays to be a member.

"Let's see what we could do for ourselves," suggested Trustee Connie Wardell.

She spoke adamantly about wanting more representation from the MTSBA in front of the state Legislature. Wardell said the MTSBA favors small rural districts and "has never done anything favorable" in front of the Legislature for the state's large AA districts, including SD2.

"We need to make sure we're getting out of it what we're putting into it," said Trustee Teresa Stroebe. "Smaller districts are benefiting more."

Still, she said, it's important to remain a member of the MTSBA if only to be there to advocate for change from the inside.

"If we leave, we'd just be the voice in the parking lot," she said.

Guthals reminded Wardell that the MTSBA put together a AA Caucus for the big districts to allow them a venue to lobby legislators. Guthals has served in the past on the MTSBA board.

At that point Guthals became impassioned, telling the room that it is the Billings representatives in the Legislature who have the responsibility to address the needs of SD2 students.

Speaking specifically to the funding inequities faced by the state's large districts, he said Billings legislators needed to step up, represent their constituents and make changes to the state's school funding model.

"I call upon them to take action and solve those inequities," he said.

Trustees will decided next month whether to continue with the MTSBA.

Superintendent Keith Beeman spoke to the board on the latest funding issues coming out of the Legislature. At this point, he said, not much has changed.

The district is still facing a possible $11.8 million budget shortfall by the end of the 2013 school year, depending on the what legislators do this session.

Goodbyes were made to Guthals, who has served on the board for six years, and Joyce Weber, who has served for two year. The two will step down next month. Neither ran for re-election. They will be replaced by newcomers Travis Smith and Pam Ellis, respectively.

Also at the meeting, Qwest Communications presented the district with a $12,280 grant from the Qwest Foundation. The grant will fund the district's anti-bullying "Rachel's Challenge" program for a second year.

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

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