Members of the Billings Public Schools board discussed their voting process and nominees for board chair with all trustees who spoke making positive comments. They made a decision promptly, a good decision. For a brief part of the Monday special meeting, this board of unpaid community volunteers functioned the way the school district needs it to function all the time.
We commend all eight trustees for making time to attend this important meeting. Having lost a superintendent and board chair over the past few weeks, the school district needs leadership to move forward.
The newly elected chairwoman, Teresa Stroebe, summed up her new job well, telling a Gazette reporter: "At this point in time, consensus is important to me. The healing of this board is important to me."
"I really believe the chair's biggest responsibility is to run the meetings, not to run the district," said Stroebe, who served on Lockwood's school board for many years before joining the Billings board as a high school trustee.
Stroebe and the other seven trustees know that their job will be challenging, especially in the next few months as they must appoint a trustee to replace Barbara Bryan, who resigned, and replace Keith Beeman, whom they fired. We implore trustees to work together, build consensus and make decisions in the best interests of Billings' 15,500 students.
Due to unclear language in the board policy on filling empty trustee positions, the board Monday postponed formally opening the application process for candidates to replace Bryan. Trustees will start that process and appoint a committee of its members to review applications at the next regular board meeting, which is set for Nov. 21. The board then has up to 60 days to appoint a replacement.
However, any concerned citizen who is interested in seeing an excellent new trustee on the board need not wait. Please check with District Clerk Leo Hudetz at 281-5115 for information about the application, or encourage the candidate of your choice to apply. The applicant chosen must live within trustee district 6, which is a long swath of northwest Billings. A map of this district is posted with this Gazette opinion at billingsgazette.com. A trustee must have lived within the district he or she represents for at least a year.
The school district already is advertising for an interim superintendent, as trustees directed in an Oct. 17 vote. A help-wanted ad in Sunday's Billings Gazette said simply: "The Board of Trustees of Billings Public Schools is seeking an interim superintendent. Interested candidates should apply online at www.billingsschools.org/jobs."
According to Hudetz, the ad will run regionally in print newspapers and at an online job site through Nov. 7, the deadline for applications. The ad also was distributed through Montana School Boards Association and the School Administrators of Montana.
Billings needs a strong volunteer for its school board and a strong education leader for its superintendent.