The Laurel School District has hired Patrick Cates, K-8 principal in Bridger, as its new middle school principal.
“I’m excited to be in the position,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of great things about the staff and the school.”
Laurel school trustees voted to hire Cates at a special meeting on June 30. A Helena native, he’s been the principal in Bridger for the last two years and taught at Canyon Creek School, between Billings and Laurel, for eight years before that.
Cates said that already living in Laurel with his family played into his decision to take the job.
“Having been out here for the last four years and having our kids already in school here, it made sense and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
District Superintendent Tim Bronk said that trustees interviewed a number of candidates and that Cates’ local ties and experience helped him stand out.
“He has experience at this level, which was very attractive to us,” he said. “Also, he’s been in the area, so he knows a lot of the community already.”
Cates replaces Andrea Meiers, who left earlier to take over as executive director of the Alliance for Curriculum Enancement consortium, a Montana-based group that works with participating schools to development and implement curriculum programs that meet state and national standards.
Earlier in June, a committee recommended the hiring of Michael Lister, of Colorado, but the trustees declined to hire him after a special meeting on June 23 that included a closed session.
The Durango Herald in Colorado reported that Lister was acquitted in 2012 of charges of false imprisonment and menacing, stemming from an incident in which he was accused of yelling at a counselor at the school where he was principal at the time and refusing to let her leave the room.
Bronk said he expects the trustees also to extend an offer to a candidate for the vacant Laurel High principal position, which has been open since Karen Fox resigned in June to take a job in South Dakota.