Gazette opinion: Billings Public Schools looking for 5 good leaders

2010-03-22T00:10:00Z Gazette opinion: Billings Public Schools looking for 5 good leadersGazette staff The Billings Gazette
March 22, 2010 12:10 am  • 

The filing deadline for Billings school board is 5 p.m. Thursday. As of Friday, candidates had filed in only two of five trustee districts up for election.

Craig E. Hash, LaVonna Robinson and Connie Wardell have filed in Trustee District 7, a seat now held by Board Chairman Malcolm Goodrich, who has said he won’t run for re-election.

Lindy S. Graves has filed in Trustee District 5, a seat now held by Trustee Peter Gesuale, who was elected three years ago as a write-in candidate after no one filed in the district.

No one had yet filed in Trustee District 1, a seat to which Travis Kemp was appointed last week after he was the only person to apply for the vacancy created by Dawn Achten’s resignation.

No one had yet filed in Trustee District 2, a seat to which Joyce Weber was appointed about a year ago upon the resignation of Sandra Mossman.

No one had yet filed in Trustee District 3, a seat now held by Mary Jo Fox, who was unopposed for re-election three years ago.

Getting volunteers to run for the board of Montana’s largest school district has been especially difficult in recent years since the switch to single-member districts. All nine trustees are all elected from smaller, single-member areas within the school district. Interested citizens can only run when their district seat is open. However, this year a majority of the seats are open. If you’ve been thinking about running, this could be your opportunity. Seats are open this spring for residents of the Heights, North Park area, most of the West End south of Rimrock Road, the South Side and everybody living south of First Avenue North.

There’s no filing fee for school trustee. However, prospective candidates need to pick up forms (at the county elections office or from the school clerk in Lincoln Center) for gathering 20 signatures of registered voters within their trustee district. The signature form must be filed by 5 p.m. Thursday with the county elections office.

The candidates themselves must be registered voters in the district they want to represent and have lived in that district for at least a year.

If you are a strong advocate for quality public education who can devote several hours a week to Billings Public Schools, please consider being a candidate. The job includes no pay and requires hard work, yet is the most important local elected office in our community. Trustees are responsible for guiding the education of more than 15,000 students, for managing an organization with nearly 2,000 employees and a budget well over $100 million.

Every serious, fair-minded candidate and trustee who has stepped up to this job deserves the community’s thanks. Billings Public Schools need five leaders to fill the five open seats. Ideally, voters would have a choice of good candidates for each seat. We’re seven candidates short of ideal; time is running short.

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