Editor's note: This is the last of four profiles of candidates running for two seats on the Havre school board. The election is Tuesday.
By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
After nearly 20 years running a family ranch and 11 more working for the state Department of Transportation, school board candidate Norman Proctor said he's learned a lot about "making do."
"You have this and that's what you've got to work with," he said. "You live within your budget."
That's a useful skill for someone on the school board, Proctor said. Student enrollment at Havre Public Schools declined for the past several years before leveling off this year. Under the state school funding formula, fewer students means less money for schools.
If Havre's enrollment begins to slide again after this year, Proctor said, the district should get input from the public about where to cut the budget.
Proctor said listening is one of his strengths.
"I'm a fair person. ... I can listen to what people have to say and give it some thought," he said.
Three of Proctor's four children have attended or are attending Havre Public Schools. His daughter Molly is a freshman at Havre High School, and his daughter Hope is a first-grader at St. Jude Thaddeus School.
Proctor said his family decided to send Hope to St. Jude because he and his wife, a teacher in the business department at Havre High School, have to leave for work before the HPS bus arrives in the morning. St. Jude has early childhood day care, Proctor said, so Hope can be dropped off by one of her parents in the morning instead of taking the bus.
"I'm just not comfortable leaving a first-grader to get out of the house and catch the bus every day," said Proctor, adding that as soon as they feel Hope is old enough to wait for the bus by herself, she will attend HPS.
Here is a brief breakdown of Proctor's positions on some of the issues that have come before the Havre school board in the past year.
Proctor said he knows the school district has put a lot of time into implementing No Child Left Behind, President Bush's sweeping education reform law, and that it will take a lot of energy to continue that process.
Unlike some of the other candidates in the race, Proctor does not favor changing the law or repealing it altogether at this point. The law should be given ample time - seven or eight years - to work before its success is judged, he said.
"It's a nice theory," Proctor said. "We'll see how it works."
Regarding the lawsuit the Havre school board voted to support to force the state Legislature to spend more on public education, Proctor said he believes the Legislature has shirked its duty to the state's schools. As the state share of education spending has shrunk, he said, the cost of education is becoming a burden on local taxpayers, who have filled the gap with levies, he said.
Proctor said the state needs to fund schools better to allow students to compete for jobs when they're adults.
"I support ... forcing the Legislature to keep our children competitive," Proctor said. "We can't be lackadaisical and just stand by and hope that they turn out all right."
Proctor said he supports the addition of girls varsity softball and boys cross country at Havre High School because it would allow more students to participate in sports.
The cost of adding the sports could still be an issue, he said.
"It seems like we're going toward more parental supplementation of sports," he said. "Maybe financially the district will have to move more of the cost to the parents on these things."
Commenting on the board's efforts this year to monitor racism and ensure cultural sensitivity in Havre schools, particularly with regard to American Indians, Proctor said he is "pretty sure" the teachers integrate materials about Indian culture into their lesson plans, although he does not know if the district has directed them to do that.
Proctor did not have any immediate suggestions for how to reduce the dropout rate of American Indian students. He questioned whether the Native American students who don't complete their senior year of high school in Havre are actually quitting school or just moving to different schools.
"They're such a movable group of students that they're actually enrolling and de-enrolling in school all the time," he said. Proctor also said the SUNS Alternative High School is evidence that the district works hard to keep all students in school.
About 57 percent of American Indian seniors who began the 2000-2001 school year at Havre High School graduated, compared with about 91 percent of white seniors, according to statistics compiled by the district. In 1999-2000, 76 percent of American Indian seniors graduated, compared with about 97 percent of whites.
Proctor said he is not sure if he supports publicly funded schools for two local Hutterite colonies.
He said the issue would hinge on whether Hutterite children could be provided public education more efficiently by busing them into Havre and whether public schools for the colonies would violate the separation of church and state.
Proctor said he does not agree with candidate Bonnie Benson's criticism that district administrators don't respond adequately to parents' concerns.
"I'm not unhappy with them. I think they do a tremendous job," Proctor said. He said he imagines administrators spend part of every day dealing with complaints from parents.
"You can't please everyone all the time," he said.
On the issue of whether to encourage large, more efficient schools or defend the right of parents to choose to send their children to small schools, Proctor said he wouldn't like to see smaller schools forced to join larger ones, but that he is not opposed to offering districts incentives to consolidate.
"I'm kind of a believer in self-determination," said Proctor, whose children attended a rural school outside of Dillon at one time.
When asked whether creationism should be taught in Havre Public Schools during a forum for school board candidates last week, Proctor said he believes religion and creationism should be taught at home.
"Our kids will learn our religion at home and to me, that's the most comfortable way to be," he said.
Norman Proctor, 55
Education: Beaverhead High School, 1967; associate degree in water quality and environmental health, Montana State University-Northern, 1995.
Employment: family ranch operator, 1973-1992; materials lab aide, Montana Department of Transportation, 1995-1996; materials lab tech, 1996-1997; area lab specialist, 1997-2000; area lab supervisor, MDT, 2000-present.
Marital status: married
Children: Jeremy, 27; Allison, 25; Molly, 16; Hope, 7
Military service: U.S. Navy, 1969-1973.