It was almost a surprise.
Skyview High Assistant Principal Deb Black learned Wednesday — a few hours earlier than planned — that she would take the helm at the Heights high school beginning this fall.
School District 2 officials wanted to surprise Black with the announcement at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Instead, as Black was making calls to the district's truancy center earlier in the day, she got a big congratulations from one of the staff members there.
So when the delegation arrived at the school, Black already had the news. Still, she said, it was really exciting.
"It's been crazy," she said.
Black will succeed retiring Principal Bob Whalen, who has led Skyview for more than a decade.
Many of the issues facing SD2 as a whole play out on a smaller scale at Skyview, so Black knows she'll have challenges ahead — like growth. Castlerock Middle School is packed and student growth in the Heights shows no signs of tapering.
"What's happening in the eastern parts of the state is going to have an impact on the Heights," she said. As the Bakken oil field booms, more families are moving to Billings.
There's also the district's pilot program that pushes back high school start times on Wednesdays this fall. Black knows that will take some work to get the buy-in she wants from the staff and community.
The school's relationship with the community is important to Black. If the school can be a good neighbor, conscientious of its impact on the community, then Skyview will have the support it needs, she said.
Within the school community, Black is aware of her new role as schoolwide leader. She takes on the mantle of "instructional role model for the students and staff," she said.
Black was hired as assistant principal in 2005 from Bridger, where she had worked as superintendent and principal of the high school there since 2001.
Before that, she had worked as an elementary school principal in Fromberg and a third- through sixth-grade teacher in Dodson.
Interim Superintendent Jack Copps, who visited Skyview to give Black the news, was excited about the change.
"She really is an exceptional choice," he said.