By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
School board member Kathie Newell is the first candidate to file for a three-year seat on the Havre school board.
"I believe that my years on the board and my experience in this district can continue to benefit the kids of our district," said Newell, who filed for re-election Tuesday.
Two seats on the eight-member board are up for election this year. The second is the seat now held by Jim Heberly. Heberly has not filed for re-election.
The deadline for filing is March 25, and the election will be held May 4.
"It's just a huge commitment, so it's not a decision I took lightly by any means. I never have," Newell said Wednesday. "It took a lot of soul-searching."
Newell has served on the board since December of 1991, when she was appointed to complete a term vacated by a board member who resigned. In April of 1992 she was elected to a three-year term. She has served four full terms since then. She is currently the vice chair of the board.
She also sits on a team of administrators, board members and teachers undertaking a review of district policies this year.
Newell said she has never campaigned and does not intend to this year.
She said she believes two things are crucial to being a good board member.
"An effective board member is someone who continually focuses on the kids and never loses sight that what we're doing and why we're doing it is for the kids," she said. "Secondly, an effective board member is always willing to continue learning because it's a nonstop learning experience, being on the board is."
She said she also feels an obligation to taxpayers as a board member.
"The taxpayers are who I'm accountable to, so I definitely feel a responsibility to the taxpayers. They are the ones who elect us," she said.
One of Newell's goals is to continue to work to implement No Child Left Behind, President Bush's sweeping education reform law. The law means schools that receive federal dollars must meet new testing, attendance and graduation standards or risk losing funding.
"I think that's a really big challenge for all public school districts, and it's going to take a lot of work. It's already taken a lot of work," she said.
Other issues that Newell would like to focus on in a new term are recruiting and retaining teachers, administrators, substitute teachers and other personnel.
She pointed to efforts by the Montana School Boards Association and the Montana Education Association to address that problem, and a lawsuit by the Montana Quality Education Coalition to require the Montana Legislature to define the quality education guaranteed in the Montana Constitution and then fund it adequately. The board voted in August to support the lawsuit, obligating it to pay about $5,000 for MQEC membership this year.
"I would like for our district to continue to be involved in those efforts," Newell said, including working to improve pay scales and benefits packages, she said.
Newell is public relations manager at Northern Montana Hospital.
She also serves on the Havre Education Foundation board, the Healthy Communities-Healthy Youth advisory council, the Montana Actors' Theatre board and the Salvation Army board.
She graduated from Helena High School in 1973 and graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in journalism in 1977. She came to Havre in 1980. She did some freelance public relations work and worked as a reporter for the Havre Daily News before starting work at the hospital in 1990.
Newell is married to Pat Newell. Her two grown sons, Nathan and Nick, went through Havre Public Schools from grades K through 12. One graduated from Havre High School in 1999, and the other graduated in 2000.
"I've enjoyed my time on the board up to this point and would like to continue to serve," Newell said. "I honestly believe this is the best school district in the state of Montana."
The deadline for filing for school board elections is March 25 at 5 p.m. in the Robins Administration Building. There is no cost for filing.