The five candidates for the three school board positions of the Havre District Board of Trustees answered questions in front of an audience at the Havre Middle School auditorium Thursday.
Each candidate was asked to give background information, what the would like to see happen differently with the way the school system operates, what they think the district is doing well and why they think they would be a good board member.
Voters will have a chance to decide who should take the three positions May 6 at Havre High School.
Cindy Erickson is one of the incumbents running for the school board, to which she has served five years and has been re-elected three times. She was an employee of Montana State University-Northern for 15 years and is semi-retired now. She and her husband own Erickson Insurance Group in Havre and she helps him out, she said.
She has two sons — one working as an architect and one going to Montana State University in Bozeman. She is originally from Harlem, but has lived in Havre since 1980.
Erickson said she does not think she would want the school district to operate differently.
“We’re on a good path,” Erickson said. “We’ve come through a lot of hard situations in the last five years, and we’ve been really fortunate to hire a whole bunch of good administrators.”
She said the school board is looking at ways to better retain good teachers and take a look at the mandated curriculum from the state. She added that they always need to keep an eye on infrastructure.
“We have to maintain doing things within our limits,” Erickson said.
She said the board is looking at retaining students as well. Kids are disappearing from the school district through transferring to different schools and the board is looking into the reasons why.
All in all, though, she believes the district is on the right track, Erickson said.
“We’re doing as well or better than most school districts in the state,” Erickson said.
Ericka Everly is from Great Falls, but lived in North Carolina in the last 12 years until she moved to Havre in November. She attended Duke University and is currently working at Northern Montana Hospital as an anesthesia provider.
She has a 14-year-old daughter in the school system and two sons, ages 3 and 1.
“Education’s obviously really important to me,” Everly said. “Just because we’re in a small town doesn’t mean the children shouldn’t have the same opportunity as a bigger school district.”
She said she wants to put an emphasis on extracurricular activities and retaining good teachers.
Everly said she thinks what the district is doing well is keeping the student-teacher ratio low.
“The students have great one-on-one attention with their teachers,” Everly said.
She added there is a very good music program within the district and many great administrators, principals and teachers.
Everly said she would make a good board member because she can bring a fresh perspective and motivate the school district toward achieving its maximum potential.
She said all the others running for the three positions are probably good candidates, but she has “fresh perspective and motivation.”
Timothy Scheele grew up in Fort Benton and has worked for BNSF Railways Co. for six years. He went to school to become an elementary teacher, but four kids later, he decided to work for the railroad for the higher pay. He has been married for nine years and his oldest child is in kindergarten.
Scheele said he does not know if he would like to see anything happen differently with the way the school board operates.
“I think the schools are run pretty well,” Scheele said. “They’re providing the kids with a solid education.”
Scheele said he does not have an agenda.
“There isn’t anything I want to go in and say this is what I want to see,” Scheele said. “They do a good job of talking to the community and getting the parents involved.”
Scheele said community involvement is one of the district’s strongest points. He said between the sports games and concerts, there is a lot of involvement.
He said he is a good candidate for board member because he is going to be invested in the schools for the next 18 years as his children make their way through school.
“It’s beneficial for me and the community for the schools to get better,” Scheele said. “If I’m a parent, I’m right there getting feedback from my kid.”
He said his former background as an educator will also help him make decisions as a board member.
“I know what goes into the schools, and I certainly want to see the schools at their best,” Scheele said.
Curtis Smeby has been a professor at Montana State University-Northern for 16 years and has been on the Havre School District Board of Trustees for six. He has two children who are adults living out of state. His daughter is a first-grade teacher.
This would be his third term if he is voted in.
“I believe we should be as transparent as possible and acquire as much community conversation and input as possible,” Smeby said.
Smeby thinks the board is doing a pretty good job with the challenges it has gone through in his time serving it.
“I believe the district is a high-quality district, but there’s always room for improvement,” Smeby said.
He said some of the school district’s strong points are being successful with acquiring state funds for improving infrastructure and having a great administration and staff.
“We’re going to see significant construction in the next couple of years,” Smeby said. “I think we’ve been very aggressive in looking for those opportunities.”
Smeby said every child in the district is important, and the school board’s job is go above and beyond to make sure it does what is important for them.
He said he is a good candidate for board member because he has “a high level of interest and commitment.”
“I think I’ve demonstrated it in the past,” Smeby said. “ … I believe firmly in public education across the board. It’s what made this country great and we need to cherish it.”
Bobbi Teasley is a service coordinator at Eagles Manor and has three children: one in high school, one in Sunnyside and one in Lincoln-McKinley. She and her family moved to Havre from Portland, Ore ., last year.
Teasley said she would not want to see anything dramatically different happen with the way the school operates.
“We need to get teachers where they need to be and get students receiving what they need to receive,” Teasley said.
Teasley said there are many things Havre’s school district has that Portland’s did not offer, especially the student-teacher ratio.
“I think the school district is very on top of the curriculum and what the kids are learning,” Teasley said. “The teachers are very attentive, and class size in part is something that was very important to us.”
Teasley said she likes that the classes in Havre are half the size of what they were in Portland and the communication between the schools and the community is better as well.
“Not just with each other, but with parents — which is very important,” Teasley said.
Teasley said she is a good candidate for the school board because she has three children in the school system and is invested in their education.
“I know what kind of experience I want them to have,” Teasley said. “Children are our tomorrow and if we don’t educated them, we’re in trouble.”