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BILLINGS SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION

Trustee candidate profiles for Billings Public School: District 4

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This is the second of four question-and-answer features on the candidates running for the School District 2 board of trustees. Each of the candidates in the four contested board districts were asked the same six questions with each response being limited to 100 words. The four features are running consecutively over four days.

The election will be Tuesday, May 3, and mail ballots will be sent April 13. The close of late voter registration is May 2 at noon.

School board District 4 candidates

Chad Nelson

Chad Nelson

Nelson 

Why are you running?

Last year while attending school board meetings I learned that Zone 4 of SD2 had no representation. It was at that moment that I decided to run. However, suddenly the spot was filled by an appointed trustee. Unfortunately, this is true for a majority of our school board. With our children in the balance along with budgets over $240 million, and 38% of every county tax dollar going to the school district, there is too much at stake to have appointed-versus-elected trustees. Children come first and then we need a voice and a choice for SD2.

What changes would you make to district curriculum or policy?

I am concerned about what we are seeing across the nation coming to our dinner tables. Recently, two controversial books were unanimously supported by our school board. By legal definition one of the books contained child pornography the other lewd sexual images. Every member of our board defended them, not one suggested even getting edited versions. Currently, a new math program is being proposed. Instead of focusing on how to make our children more confident in using math, the new program stresses political hot buttons and propaganda. I would have stood against these things.

What from your professional or personal background qualifies you to serve on the board?

The only thing our board members have in common, aside for voting unanimously for every controversial issue, is that most of them were never elected to this position. They were appointed. So, the first few things that qualify me are that I am willing, that I am not appointed, and that I am not afraid to stand up against things I disagree with. As a husband and a father, I will protect the values that promote safety and opportunity. As an insurance agent and former football official, I am particularly keen on evaluating risk, safety, and following the rules.

What are your thoughts on school choice?

I am all about parents getting involved and having a voice and a choice. So, even though I think we need to focus on first repairing and improving our existing system, I do believe that the competition that school choice would create would force everyone to improve.

What is the biggest issue currently facing School District 2?

That varies from home to home. Since going to school board meetings and talking with voters I have learned about many issues that should have created public action. For me, the issue that forced action was when the school board decided to take away my choice as a parent. I then realized that these decisions were being dictated by appointed officials that were not elected, who have been given the power over our children and massive amounts of our money. This, in my opinion, is not a recipe for solving but rather, creating issues.

What do you think the district got right or wrong in how it handled the COVID pandemic?

I do not envy the position they were in, and their decisions were guaranteed to create ripples one way or another. However, when in doubt fall back to the law, it can be a solid foundation from which to act. I believe they could have been even more effective, still have received the $54 million in relief money, and all without taking away parental rights. I am disappointed that the board turned over power to the superintendent and that he did not reject that option. However, this abuse may have been what gets our community involved, which I support.

Zack Terakedis (incumbent)

Zack Terakedis

Zack Terakedis 

Why are you running?

I am a parent that wants the best education for my kids. I believe in public schools and think that my time spent supports the system for all kids. The development of a public school system is what has set the United States apart for generations and we must work to ensure that a free, high quality public education is available to all kids in our community.

What changes would you make to district curriculum or policy?

At this point I hope to review all policies in the next two years to make sure that they are relevant to community needs at this point. Following a review of each policy, I think that it will then require feedback from the community, administration, educators and students to update/adjust policies where needed.

What from your professional or personal background qualifies you to serve on the board?

I have nearly 15 years experience working with youth-serving organizations. Coca-Cola C5 Youth Programs, Eckerd Youth Programs, Trio Programs have all been part of my professional career experiences post college. In addition, I have been a small business owner and currently serve as the director of one of the three Tax Increment Finance Districts in the city of Billings. In addition to youth development experience, I have financial and budgeting literacy to help with our decisions as they relate to taxpayer funded education.

What are your thoughts on school choice?

I have lived across the country and worked with youth in major metropolitan areas. Different states have had all sorts of school choice experiments with a huge range of success and failure. I think Montana needs to invest wisely in the system it has to serve all kids before we try to develop a new system that has no data to show it is a full proof solution to better education for every student in our state.

What is the biggest issue currently facing School District 2?

We need to retain and attract the best educators and administrators in the state of Montana. It has been a long few years for our schools and we need to show that we are invested in our staff and kids. We must invest in creating a school system that allows kids to find their talents, teaches about how to work and make a living, and has curriculum that supports an opportunity for academic excellence in today's world.

What do you think the district got right or wrong in how it handled the COVID pandemic?

We stayed open and kept kids in schools. The district made a quick pivot to allow parents options to keep their kids safe and to make sure they could go to work and provide for their family. Our entire community saw systems on the verge of breaking such as our labor market and the hospitals. Keeping kids in schools allowed continued learning through the pandemic and allowed parents to earn wages during such a time of uncertainty for everyone.

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