Havre Daily News
Four people have filed for three open seats on the Havre Public Schools board of trustee - three incumbents and one newcomer.
HPS board chair Denise Thompson has filed for election to a third term, Teresa Miller has filed for a fourth term and Joe Marino to a second term. The fourth candidate is Mike Barts.
The election will be held May 3.
A tax levy may also appear on the ballot. Thompson this week called for a special meeting of the school board, scheduled for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., to consider setting a levy.
Next Friday is the final deadline for setting mill levies in time for the May election,HPS Superintendent Kirk Miller said.
Miller and the school board have been watching for the outcome of the legislative session to determine the effects on HPS's budget. A Montana Supreme Court ruling last year declared the state's school funding system unconstitutional, forcing the Legislature to deal with the problem this session.
The Legislature's most significant response to the court's decision, HB 63, passed the Senate and has come before the House for review.
"We believe we will know whether it has passed the House by Tuesday night," Miller said. The news could come in time for a last-minute decision regarding a mill levy Tuesday. Some of the funding provided for in the bill, which increases the state's funding to schools by $45 million over two years, may require approval by local voters.
"We called the special meeting because we believed that was the last moment available that would provide us with the best information," Miller said Thursday.
One of the central tasks for the school board will be to understand, simplify and implement the decisions that come out of the Legislature regarding school funding changes, Miller said.
"That's a monumental task," he said. "In the next two years, we're going to see a change in that funding formula."
The four candidates believe they are up to that and other school board tasks.
Thompson said staying current with developments in the Legislature is one of the main attractions to the job.
She first joined the school board six years ago after the death of her son, John, as a way to stay busy. She said she has since become committed to serving on the board and was awarded the Marvin Heintz Award this year by the Montana School Board Association for receiving a high level of training. She said she attends every training opportunity made available to board members in the state.
The Havre school board also received the Golden Gavel Award from the MTSBA for having each of its members certified - attending a set number of training opportunities.
Thompson works at Crazy Quilters and volunteers with Havre Youth Baseball.
She said she is proud of the board's ability to cooperate. "We agree to disagree, we vote, and whatever the majority is, everyone supports that decision," she said.
Thompson has been chair of the board for two years. She had four children go through the HPS system.
Marino said he is running again for the position out of gratitude to the Havre community and a belief in public service.
"I've really been accepted into this community with open arms," he said. "It's not every day a New Yorker gets to come here."
Marino is used to being busy. He is a podiatrist and a member of the Podiatric Medical Association as well as a New West Health Plan board member, chairman of the Montana State University-Northern Foundation, chairman of the Northern Montana Hospital Foundation, a corporate board member of Northern Montana Hospital and chief of staff at the hospital.
Marino said there is a quote he heard from a friend that he believes in: "Give a busy person something to do and it gets done."
"I think I do a good job on the board," he said. "There is a fantastic amount of work to be done and I like to not run away from that challenge."
Marino said he is particularly concerned that education dollars be spent on students and teachers first and then facilities.
Miller said that deciding to run again was at first a difficult decision because she's recently been promoted to a managerial job at Herberger's that takes up more of her time.
"I decided to serve again for a couple different reasons," she said. She said she has been told by her employers that they are willing to be flexible with her schedule so she can follow through with her commitments to the board.
Miller said the board is in the midst of reviewing its policies, a task she has found challenging, but also a lot of fun.
"I've actually had the most fun doing this," she said. "I'm not indispensable, but once you start something, it's kind of nice to finish it."
Miller said she also wants to be involved in negotiating another contract with the teachers as well as continuing to stay informed about and engaged with state funding issues.
Michael Barts hopes to join the board this year.
Marino suggested Barts run for the position when he learned that Barts' term as president of the Montana Association of Nurse Anesthetists ends this year.
Barts said he will have some extra time and he enjoys public service.
"I'm pleased with the educational results that my children have experienced," he said. Barts has one son at HHS and two who have graduated.
"I bring no personal biases," he said."I will approach every issue in a businesslike manner and I intend to be open to all opinions."
Barts said his position as president of a professional association gave him exposure to advocating on legislative issues, and his experience as a businessman, running a nurse anesthetist practice, has given him experience managing a budget.
Barts served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and Desert Storm.
Marino said he suggested that Barts run for the position before he knew that Miller had decided to run again, but said the element of choice is a benefit to the community.
"There's never a whole rush of people to come run for school board," Marino said. "It's a rewarding position, but certainly it's done for free."