By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Three new candidates have filed to run for two seats on the Havre school board in May, bringing the total number of candidates to four.
Local business owner Bonnie Benson, Montana Department of Transportation employee Norman Proctor, and Mike Ley, a nontraditional-student recruiter at Montana State University-Northern and Stone Child College, all filed Wednesday.
The deadline to file for the election was Thursday at 5 p.m. Until this week, school board vice chair Kathie Newell was the only person who had filed. She filed on March 1, seeking a fifth full term on the board.
The four candidates will run for two three-year seats in the Havre elementary district. Incumbent member Jim Heberly is not seeking re-election.
The election is May 4. The two top vote-getters will win the seats.
Benson, 43, owner of PTL Barbershop in Havre, said her main motivation for running for the board was the feeling that the HPS administration and parents could have a better working relationship.
She said she knows from her own experience and from talking to other parents that HPS administrators can be defensive and unhelpful when responding to complaints from parents.
"I feel like they forget who they work for," she said. "It's the taxpayers they work for. They're there for the kids ... and I think they need to be reminded of that every now and then."
Conversely, she said, parents often aren't willing to believe that their children may have done something wrong.
Benson said she is concerned by the mill levy that will be on the ballot May 4, and that even seemingly small tax increases can be difficult for families trying to raise children. She said she's not opposed to trimming the budget to prevent tax hikes if necessary, and she wants to make sure the art and music programs and sports programs bear the burden equally.
Benson said she would bring to the board her experience working with a budget, learned from years of running her own business.
Benson, who describes herself as a supporter of the arts, said she thinks students involved in band, choir and drama are often not recognized as they should be. She said the music programs often play second fiddle to the sports programs when it comes to scheduling and travel opportunities, and that some students are forced to choose between being on a sports team and musical activities.
"I don't want to sound like I'm antisports, because I'm not, but I'd just like to see an even playing field" for students in nonsports activities, she said.
Benson is secretary of the Havre Friends of Music, a group that helps plan and raise money for HHS music programs. She has helped plan Senior Weekend events for the last two years and volunteers with the drama program at HHS when she's needed.
Benson, a Havre native, graduated from Havre High School. She attended barber school in Missoula and attended Northern Montana College for three years before buying her business in 1994. She has two children who have attended Havre Public Schools - Sarah Benson, who graduated last year, and HHS senior Joel Benson.
Norman Proctor, 54, describes himself as being "fairly tenacious" and also accepting of people and fair.
"I stick with something until I get it done," he said. "I generally like everyone and accept everyone for who they are."
Proctor said that having a wife who teaches at HHS, two children who graduated from HHS, in 1995 and 1998, and a daughter who is now a freshman there has given him insight into how the schools work. He has another daughter who attends first grade at St. Jude Thaddeus School.
"I can see from a student view and from a teacher's view," he said.
Proctor said he thinks the most important quality for a school board member to have is a willingness to "listen to the people's concerns."
He said he doesn't have any complaints about the board or the district and doesn't have an agenda, but that he would like to contribute to discussions on the board by asking good questions.
"Sometimes a good question gets people thinking on a different route, gets the collective brain thinking a little more," he said.
Proctor is area lab supervisor for MDT. The Dillon native moved to Havre in 1992. In 1995 he received an associates degree in water quality and environmental health from Montana State University-Northern.
The third candidate who filed Wednesday, Ley, could not be reached for comment.
In an interview earlier this month, Kathie Newell said she believes the biggest issues facing the district in the next three years are implementing No Child Left Behind and ensuring that benefits packages and salaries stay at levels that allow the district to recruit and retain teachers, administrators and other personnel. She said she would like to see the district continue to be involved in efforts by the Montana School Boards Association and the Montana Education Association to increase Montana's ability to attract new teachers to the state and keep the ones it already has.
"An effective board member is someone who continually focuses on the kids and never loses sight that what we're doing is for the kids," she said.
Newell, public relations manager at Northern Montana Hospital, has served on the school board since 1991.
Also on the ballot on May 4, voters will be asked to approve a tax increase of about 3.22 mills in Elementary District 16 and an increase of about 6.32 mills in High School District A. For someone with a $100,000 property inside the boundaries of both districts, that would mean a tax increase of about $22 a year. That is the maximum amount taxes would increase if voters approve the levy. The final mill amounts won't be calculated until August, and HPS Superintendent Kirk Miller has said the increase will likely be less than that.
The district has said it needs the increase to keep up with rising costs for items like utilities and supplies.
For those who aren't registered to vote, the deadline is April 5 at 5 p.m. at the Hill County Courthouse or at the Robins Administration Building.
Anyone with questions can call HPS election administrator Zella Witter at 265-4356.