Gazette opinion: School trustee applicants needed by Monday

2011-12-01T00:10:00Z Gazette opinion: School trustee applicants needed by Monday The Billings Gazette
December 01, 2011 12:10 am

Billings Public Schools is in need of an extraordinary volunteer -- a person who is willing and able to join the board of trustees later this month to fill the vacancy created by Barbara Bryan's resignation.

By law, the new trustee must be a person who has resided in Zone 6 at least since Nov. 21, 2010. Zone 6 takes in a long swath of northwest Billings, starting just west of Glenwood Lane and running (mostly on the north side of Rimrock Road) to the district's western boundary in the Ironwood and Yellowstone Country Club subdivisions and north along Highway 3.

One legally qualified applicant will be appointed by the board to serve until May, when that person would have to file for election to stay in office.

However, if recent trends continue, the December appointee is likely to remain on the board without election challenge until he or she decides to leave. Among the eight trustees who will select the ninth, only two had opposition in their last election. Three of the eight were initially appointed to serve the unexpired terms of trustees who resigned for various reasons.

The importance of good applicants can hardly be overstated.

In this column, we have previously called for reconsideration of the single-member trustee zones because the number of school board candidates has dwindled under this system. Voters no longer choose most trustees. Rather, they are elected because no one else filed or appointed by the board.

The state statute that allowed Billings to switch from at-large trustee elections to single-member zones is silent on how a district would switch back. Billings residents must work with the system we have, for now, and encourage the best candidates in Zone 6 to step forward.

Applications must be received by 4 p.m. Monday. As of Wednesday morning, no applications had been received.

It would be great to have multiple applicants who have skills in group decision making, child advocacy, education, finance or governance. It's crucial to have at least one.

Good marks from auditors

Billings school officials heard good news when the district's audit committee convened Tuesday in its first meeting this school year.

CPAs from EideBailly delivered their report of "a very clean audit." EideBailly has audited School District 2 for a decade and initially found problems with the district's accounting, but has seen steady improvement and few, if any, concerns for the past several years.

The latest audit covered the year that ended June 30.

The audit committee, which includes three trustees and three community volunteers with financial expertise, has prudently decided to retain EideBailly for consistency this year as the district's own finance staff changed over the summer.


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