Havre Daily News
Each of the candidates running for two spots on the Havre Public Schools board say they support efforts to educate students about American Indian heritage and culture.
Each of the four men, three of who spoke at a candidates forum Tuesday night, also said they supported raises for Havre teachers.
Incumbent Todd Hanson, local businessman, and newcomers Shad Huston, who works for his family's business, and financial planner Gus Sharp participated in the forum at the Havre Middle School assembly room. Montana State University-Northern education professor Curtis Smeby was unable to attend because he had a previously planned professional commitment. Smeby prepared a written statement, which was read at the forum.
Two elementary district seats with three-year terms are up for grabs. Incumbent Havre High School District A representative Aileen Couch, who did not attend the forum, is running unopposed.
A moderator asked questions prepared by the public and members of the Havre Education Association prepared questions. About 60 people attended the forum, including HPS teachers, parents and board members.
Huston has a degree in elementary education and taught at Havre Public Schools and MSU-N before taking a job with his family's business.
He has a 1-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old daughter. He also has eight nieces and nephews who attend HPS. Huston said he feels being a board member is the best way to be involved in education.
Sharp has seven children, which he called “kind of the Brady Bunch plus one.” Six of his kids have graduated from Havre High School and one is now a junior at HHS. He said he is running for a position on the school board for three reasons: He wants to ensure that Havre continues to do everything possible to benefit children, make sure HPS hires and retains the most qualified staff, and deal with funding issues.
Hanson was born and raised in Havre and graduated from HHS.
“Havre Public Schools made me what I am today,” Hanson said.
He has degrees in political science and education. Hanson has three children attending Havre schools, including two sophomores in high school and a fifth-grader at Sunnyside Intermediate School.
Smeby, who has worked at MSU-N for eight years, said he wants to make sure teachers have a “quality work environment.” Smeby's son attended Havre High School for one year and is now attending college inCanada. Smeby said he had a good experience while dealing with teachers and administrators in Havre.
Smeby said he wants to work to have a “seamless system between K-12 schools and Northern.”
“I believe this opportunity can be realized with leadership from the school board and could be accomplished by facilitating communication between the district and the college,” he said in his statement.
Smeby has a master's degree and is earning a Ph.D. in adult education.
When the candidates were asked how they view their role as a member of the school board, Huston answered, “mainly as a voice.”
He said parents and teachers need someone they can go to to voice their concerns. He also said he would explain to the public any budget decisions he would make.
Sharp said he would work as a “go-between” for the public, administration and school board.
Hanson said it is the board members' role to seek consensus. That can be a daunting task with the area's diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, he added.
When asked, “How do you think Havre Public Schools is doing in educating our students,” Sharp answered that he has been satisfied with the opportunities his children have had in the schools and he has heard from others that Havre schools meet and excel education standards.
Hanson said as a board member he gets to see another side of Havre Public Schools, which is “sometimes good and sometimes frustrating.” He said he is pleased with the work the schools have accomplished but “there is considerable room for improvement.”
Hanson said the schools' staff “do have the capacity, willingness and attitude to see where we are just doing an adequate job and make improvements.”
Huston said Havre schools have a great reputation among educators.
“The minute you say Havre, it's like you're a god to them,” he said.
All the candidates agreed that Havre needs to work at recruiting the highest quality teachers it can and then retaining that staff.
Hanson said it is sometimes hard to compete with larger cities that offer more perks.
Huston said he knows of those perks first-hand. When he was looking for a teaching position he was offered jobs in other states but “luckily, I'm a Montana boy and don't like any other states.”
Sharp said he doesn't think Havre needs to offer the highest wage because the area offers a great quality of life.
Hanson said the “most volatile question in teaching today” is how responsible teachers are for the results on standardized tests.
“As a professional, I welcome the opportunity to be responsible,” Hanson said.
Huston agreed that as a teacher, he did feel responsible for the results but added that teachers are “only capable of doing so much.”
Sharp said teachers cannot be accountable for students who don't want to learn and resist help.
Hanson said the issue of establishing schools at local Hutterite colonies has been one of the “most contentious” for the community and the board.
Huston and Sharp said they did not think they comment on the issue without researching the facts. Hanson said he is in favor of education at the colonies but is “not sure the mechanism is an attendance center run by Havre Public Schools.”
When asked what ideas they have on addressing Indian Education for All, all four said the mandate is very important. Smeby, a charter member of the district's Indian Education For All Committee, said he is a “strong supporter” of the state mandate.
Huston said the lessons required by the mandate will help educate students and eliminate a lot of “unfortunate misconceptions” about Native Americans.
Hanson said he is running for re-election in part to participate in the implementation of the act. He said he looks forward to the teaching of a “fair, authentic representation of Native Americans.” Hanson said information used by schools in the past was not authentic because didn't represent Indians' viewpoints.
All of the candidates said they support higher wages for Havre teachers and would make themselves available to public comments and discussions.
Hanson said bullying issues, which have been covered in the media a lot lately, are not new.
“What's new is our approach to deal with it,” he said.
Hanson said the challenge of making bullying policies is to make them all-inclusive or “one size fits all for an issue that is nothing close to one size fits all.” He said the community will have input in how the board deals with bullying.
Sharp said the best way to deal with bullying is to get high-quality people the proper tools and resources and “let them do their jobs” and use their “best judgement.”
Both Huston and Sharp said they have not attended any HPS board meetings.
After the forum, Havre Education Association president Karla Bolken said she was pleased with both the public turnout and the answers to the association's questions.
“Hanson had a little more background information but the other three are serious about their intention,” Bolken said. “Part of the reason for the forum was to see who had done their homework.”
School board chair Denise Thompson said she also was happy with the forum. Thompson said the candidates were asked some hard questions and faired well.
“I am going to go home, mull it over and pick the best candidates,” she said.
The election will be held Tuesday at the Havre High School gymnasium from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.