The Billings school board will have two new faces later this month when Tanya Ludwig and Susan Layton replace Travis Kemp and Travis Smith.
It’s time to thank those retiring trustees for their years of service. As their successors will learn, leading Montana’s largest school district is big job that is time-consuming, often thankless, but always vitally important for this community and its children.
We also thank trustee candidates Virgil Middendorf and Eric Olsen for giving voters a choice in Tuesday’s election.
Voters gave a decisive victory to Layton, a PTA mom who operates a small business with her husband. Layton garnered 1,297 votes to 866 for Olsen. She will represent elementary schools districts whose students attend Billings public high schools, including Blue Creek, Canyon Creek, Elder Grove, Elysian, Independent and Morin.
Jana Hafer also posted a strong win with 1,204 votes to 657 for Middendorf. Hafer, a mother, grandmother and small business owner, was appointed to a vacancy on the board last summer and now is elected to a three-year term representing Downtown and the east portion of the Heights.
Ludwig’s name wasn’t on the ballot. She is the only person who stepped forward to fill the South Side seat being vacated by Travis Kemp, so she was elected by acclamation.
“I just want to be there for the South Side,” Ludwig said in a visit with The Gazette. “I’m a single, working parent and I’m concerned about the kids on the South Side.”
Ludwig, who lives in the Orchard attendance area, said Orchard and Riverside are great schools. But she has concerns about West High where her son is a sophomore. Lower class sizes, more help for struggling students and putting grades online promptly “like they’re supposed to” would be helpful, she said. She is interested in attendance boundaries, which the district is preparing to revise. She said the students in her neighborhood are assigned to West, even though they are closer to Senior. Ludwig also is very interested in elementary schools because she has a preschooler.
“I’ll be going right to the schools and talking to them in person,” Ludwig said. “If you want to be a school board trustee, you’ve got to have the parents’ trust.”
Asked what message, she wants to give her constituents, Ludwig said: “If they have any problems, notify me and I’ll try to find answers.”
That openness and willingness to communicate will serve our community well. All of our school trustees should welcome public conversation and comment. Anyone who wants to communicate with board members can find contact information on the board page at billingsschools.org.
We wish Ludwig, Layton and Hafer well when they start their new terms later this month. Their success on the school board will be success for all of Billings.