The Republican contender for state superintendent of public instruction was in Havre this week as she traveled the Hi-Line listening to concerns and telling people why she would be the best choice for the position.
Sandy Welch of Martin City, just east of Columbia Falls and Hungry Horse, said her experience as a teacher, administrator and private consultant would help her act as an effective state superintendent.
“I just bring a lot of different perspectives to this position, ” she said.
Welch is running unopposed in the Republican primary, and will face another former schoolteacher, Democratic incumbent Denise Juneau, in November’s general election.
She said her work as a math teacher and middle school vice principal, high school principal and private consultant give her a strong background.
In her consulting business, she said, she primarily worked with schools on the Flathead Indian Reservation as well as with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Salish Kootenai College. Her work included writing grant applications to federal programs, teacher training and program design and evaluation.
She said part of her reason for traveling the Hi-Line is to talk to schools in oil and gas producing counties.
Welch said she believes that the state funding formula generally works well.
“In general, I think that most of our schools are adequately funded, ” she said.
It is not working well for schools in oil and gas producing areas, and that is one area that needs to be adjusted, she said. Another is for the larger schools in the state, which also are having some troubles with the funding formula, she said.
Welch said one of her main reasons for running is because she wants to increase accountability and transparency. While increasing amounts of data are being compiled about schools, the public has little access to that data, she said.
The reports in Montana show how schools compare to the average statewide, rather than to each other, Welch said.
She said several models exist around the country that could be adapted to Montana, including the Colorado Growth Model, that directly compares schools’ performance.
Welch said she also believes more local control needs to be given to most schools.
“I think our schools are over-regulated. We have a lack of local control in our schools... there are too many decisions being made in Helena, ” she said. “It prevents our great teachers from innovating in their classrooms and innovating in their schools. ”
She said she agrees that common standards, such as the common core curriculum, should be used to evaluate all schools, but each school should be able to use its own approach to achieve those standards.
Welch said that schools that are not performing as well — there are a few of those schools in Montana, she said — might need to have more guidance from the state Office of Public Instruction, but that schools that are doing well should be allowed to have more local control.
“If they are performing well, let them innovate, ” she said.
The College of Insurance, New York, Bachelor of Science in actuarial science, 1986;
University of California, Berkeley, Calif. teaching credentials, 1989;
California State University, Hayward, Calif. administrative credentials, 1994, Master of Science in educational leadership, 1997;
1989-1994: Actuary working on defined benefit pension plans in New York and San Francisco;
1989-1994: Math teacher, Mission San Jose High School, Fremont, Calif.;
1994-1998: Vice principal, Fisher Middle School, Los Gatos, Calif.;
1998-2004: Principal, Ronan High School;
2004-2011: President, Sandy Welch Consulting;
2006-present: Online instructor in personal finance course for high school teachers, Heritage Institute;
Spring 2009: Long-term family consumer science substitute teacher, Columbia Falls High School;
Spring 2010: Teacher of remedial math students at Evergreen Junior High, Kalispell.